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What Your Dream's Action Reveals About You

by Gillian Holloway, Ph.D. (Dream Discoveries Newsletter, Spring 1995)

Recurring dream action is a powerful clue about the challenges and pressures of your waking life, your typical style of response, and may reveal childhood conditioning that still impacts you as an adult. Here are some common recurring themes and the waking life situations that frequently accompany them:

  • Being Chased: This action suggests the dreamer is carrying fears from childhood forward into waking life. These fears become reactivated with each new problem or challenge, and are often played out on the screen of life through pressures and threats in current situations. It may help to consider what the greatest threat or source of pressure was during early years. (If a child feels pressure because of poverty, abuse, criticism, or the expectation to compensate for parental unhappiness he or she may internalize that pressure and carry it forward like a personal monster into adulthood.) Check for residual inner tension around that old issue, for that tension can cause each new situation to appear as the old familiar threat. The recurring dream replays in much the same way the dreamer experiences old fears in waking life.

  • Falling: The fear of falling represents a fear of loss-of-control. Falling is a symbol most common to people who exert personal effort to control circumstances: working harder, planning more, avoiding hazards, and anticipating events. Falling dreams recur when the dreamer feels an overload of events and variables and senses all of the details cannot be controlled through effort. They may feel compelled to try to control circumstances that cannot be controlled, but can only be responded to. When overloaded they have a sense of the bottom going out from underneath them. These dreams may be relieved by practicing a more responsive, less controlling style, first in relaxed situations, and then in more stressful arenas.

  • Flying: This image comes to people with some exceptional ability.The dreamer is able to soar over ordinary circumstances in some respect, and often achieves elevated states of consciousness through the work they do, or their life perspective. The challenges experienced during dream flight usually represent inhibitions that occur in waking life, such as disbelief in one's powers, interference from external authority, or the fear of success that can take hold when one begins to go higher in life. Flying dreams can serve as excellent reminders of innate capacities the dreamer may be overlooking - as well as recognition for accomplishments and the joy of liberation from constraints.

  • Climbing: This action reflects the effort required to meet a challenge. An upward incline almost always depicts a challenge, the effectiveness of the dreamer's movement up the incline reflects the subjective sense of success in meeting the challenge. The waking life challenge can be anything from a relationship to college completion. It may also be a metaphor for a passage in life that is simply more arduous than expected, or something that feels more like an "uphill climb." If the present circumstances will remain the same for some time, repetitions of the climbing dreams can be expected. Use this dream to be aware of how much effort is being expended, even during normal operations, and pace yourself accordingly. Climbing is a gradual, long-term process, so strategy, pacing, and gradual progress should be employed.

  • Unprepared Performance: The more preparation your job requires, the more likely you are to have variations on this theme. One reason this dream appears so often is the fact that no matter how well one prepares a performance or presentation, spontaneous events cannot be predicted. This anxiety dream also is most common to people who never allow themselves to be unprepared. The people who have it are generally successful, competent professionals who excel at their work and prepare as much as humanly possible. Take Heart. The dream is not predicting public humiliation - it is processing anxiety.

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