The OpenBook Project
Dreaming of Falling
Dreams about falling are among the most common dreams. Thus your falling dream is analogous to a situation in your waking life where you are lacking or losing control.
You are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps in school, in your work environment, in your home life or maybe in your personal relationship.
Freud was the first to point out that you can’t apply one template to all dreams that have the same theme. Falling dreams are no exception. Not all falling dreams can be explained as 'hanging on too tightly' or 'fearing loss of control' or 'fearing being overwhelmed.' Ten different people can have the same falling dream and it can have ten different meanings, depending on the background and associations of each dreamer.
A young woman dreamed, 'I’m falling out of the sky and into a dark, burning pit somewhere in the middle of the earth.' She was raised in a strict religious household and had recently taken a significant step in her relationship that conflicted with her upbringing. During the experience itself, she felt wonderful, but afterwards, she said she felt 'doomed.' The burning pit in the dream represented her sense of guilt and fear of repercussions.
A psychologist had the following dream: 'I dreamed I fell off the balcony of my sixth-story apartment.' Upon waking up, she recalled standing on her balcony the day before, and while she was enjoying the view she held on to the railing and it felt shaky. However, she wasn’t paying attention to the balcony and it only registered in her preconscious mind. However, the loose railing was the first association that came to her mind when she awoke from the dream. The meaning of this falling dream was a warning; it alerted her as to the shaky railing that should be fixed.
A man dreams, 'I was on the Woolworth tower looking down. Suddenly I slipped and fell to the ground. My body made a hole in the ground as if it was smashed to pieces.' The man had suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder since coming home from a war. He had recurring dreams of falling in different ways and being shattered. People suffering from PTSD often have recurring dreams or nightmares that serve to discharge traumatic emotions. And when something frightens them in their present life the will be prone to having another falling dream.
A woman dreamed, 'I’m standing on top of a high building with my husband. He embraces me and tackles me to make me laugh. A woman nearby says, 'Watch out!' Suddenly I lose my footing and fall from the building tumbling and screaming. My body hits the pavement and shatters into a thousand pieces.' The woman is around thirty years old and suffers from acrophobia. She associated to a recent argument with her husband during which he had been aggressive. Then she recalled a memory of her father lifting her into the air and dropping her.
For this woman, falling and splattering alludes not only to the fear of annihilation by her husband, but also harks back to the trauma of her father’s actions, the memory of which lingers in her. It is this original trauma that remains as the source of her acrophobia, recreated in this traumatic dream. The woman who shouts, 'Watch out!' is likely her mother, who she wishes had protected her from this original fall.
Another woman dreamed, 'I’m falling in space, but it’s great. I’m not afraid.' She is a 39-year-old woman who suffers from generalized anxiety and arousal disorder. In therapy she has long been expressing her frustration about her inability to experience full emotional release. The dream is a wish-fulfillment dream—she fulfills her desire to let go and allow herself to experience emotional freedom.
The dream, 'My arm turned to stone,' might have two different meanings for two different people. One man, whose older brother used to pin him to the ground and taunt him, was never able to defend himself against this brother. This dream thus alluded to this trauma, which rendered his arm (power to defend) paralyzed. A woman who was waiting for the results of a biopsy of a mole taken from her arm, had the same dream and the meaning was that she was afraid her arm had a medical condition.
The above examples of falling dreams are but a few of the multitude of such dreams and the variety of their backgrounds and associations. Each dream has arisen out of a different source and therefore must be interpreted according to that source. No one broad notion with regard to the meaning of falling dreams can fit all dreams, perhaps not even most of them. In addition, dreams can have many layers of meaning, each going deeper into the unconscious.
Each falling dream represents a path to a core part of yourself. By understanding the distinct meaning of your particular falling dream you get closer to your core.