The concept of divine retribution – that is, being punished by a force greater than ourselves – suggests a judgemental god. Spiritual punishment is much more, however, the idea of self-flagellation for not having achieved what is required of us. When in dreams we are punishing another, the inference is that we are standing in judgement over them.
Psychological / emotional perspective: When there is conflict in our lives, if we cannot resolve it we will often dream of being punished. This may be the only way out of our particular dilemma. We would rather suffer pain than resolve the difficulty. Inflicting punishment suggests that we feel some aspect of our personality is out of alignment.
Material aspects: When a child recognizes that he or she is not conforming to what is expected, the threat of punishment is often present. In later life, when there is fear of retribution from an external source, we will often dream of being punished when there is no evidence of such. Self-punishment occurs when we have not achieved the standards we expect of ourselves and in many ways might be considered self-abuse.