Book extract: What do my dreams mean?

It’s a fact that we spend around a third of our lives sleeping and dreaming. Our dreams range from being exhilarating, terrifying, moving and even life-changing. They offer us insights into our health, relationships, and overall wellbeing. But how do we know when our dreams have a message for us? And what do those messages mean?

There is a myth that if you dream of falling and hit the ground in your dream, you will die. This is not true. Most people dream of falling and actually hit the ground injured or just sore, but keep dreaming. Occasionally we may be sinking in water and in danger of drowning, but we don’t actually drown.

The dream of falling feels so physically real that it is the dream most often talked about. If you’ve ever woken up with a sudden jolt or felt one just as you’ve started falling asleep, you’re among seventy per cent of people who experience this sensation. It may have felt like a huge muscle spasm or shock sensation.

You know the feeling. You’re drifting off to sleep and all of a sudden you feel as if you’ve plunged into a bottomless pit. Startled by this feeling, you jolt back into consciousness before drifting back to sleep.

This involuntary twitching of the muscles is known as a hypnic jerk (a myoclonic jerk that you have when asleep). It happens in the hypnagogic state of consciousness – just when you are falling asleep – and causes you to wake up suddenly. This reflexive jump occurs because when we fall asleep, our muscles relax and lose their sense of function. Our brains send out alarm signals to reactivate our muscles when they sense the loss of strength and activity. Some people may actually fall from their beds during this type of dream.

Researchers have also attributed a sudden loss of blood pressure to the falling sensation in our dreams.

At a symbolic level, dreams about falling may be a reflection of insecurity, lack of confidence and fear of failure. If you are not feeling supported in real life or don’t have solid grounding, this dream will be triggered. Losing your job, being unable to cope with relationships or work demands, losing money or making a mistake – anything in real life that destabilises you – could prompt these dreams.

If you recognise a familiar landscape or place – a balcony or stairwell – that you are falling from in your dream, it may be possible that you’ve unconsciously registered a potential safety problem when you were awake. Carefully investigate the site when you wake up in case this is a precognitive dream of a potential accident.

Flying is a positive dream about freedom and escapism. It’s a dream that invigorates and enthrals. A wish-fulfilment and an exhilarating experience that many of us want to recapture in our waking lives. The excitement of flying is associated with something that has recently made you feel free, confident and successful. It happens more often to children, as they are able to access the joyous feeling of freedom without the restrictions that adults have.

Often during a flying dream you’ll feel as if you’ve always known how to fly. It is effortless. Another benefit, apart from the soaring sensation, is that you’re unhindered as you fly over mountains, familiar places, through the air. There is nothing that weighs you down and you have the freedom to fly without fear.

Many report their flying experiences as ‘fabulous’ and ‘exhilarating’. Often, flying dreams involve lucid dreaming, in which the dreamer is fully aware that they are dreaming and they are able to influence where they fly. If the lucid flying dream goes off smoothly without obstacles or fear, then it will leave you feeling empowered and ecstatic when you wake. This type of dream indicates that you’re feeling good about a situation and that you will overcome barriers that threaten you from reaching your goals. You are certainly ‘on top of your game’ and ‘on top of the world’.

There are, however, flying dreams that include some setbacks and obstacles. Understanding what these obstacles represent can help you work out any real-life issues you are struggling to overcome and the things that might be holding you back from achieving your heart’s desire.

Flying dreams interpreted
Having trouble taking off means someone or something is holding you back, keeping you from moving forward to the next step in your life. It could even be you!

If you’re having to avoid obstacles in your flight path, think about what your real-life obstacles are. What’s making you feel that you have limited control over your life? What’s getting in the way of your goals?

Afraid of flying too high? It may suggest you fear the changes success can bring; that you will simply get burnt if you fly too high. Remember the story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun? The wax on his wings melted and he fell into the sea and drowned. The message from this myth is not to dare to aim too high or there will be dire consequences. Icarus didn’t listen to his father, Daedalus, who had warned him of the danger. Is it any wonder we sometimes fear success even more than failure?

When you are flying upwards, you may be in the process of spiritual growth and striving to achieve a higher level of consciousness. Perhaps you are delving more deeply into your spiritual development.

Falling when flying indicates that you are losing confidence in your abilities in your waking life. You initially had that positive feeling of soaring and now you are about to crash or come down to reality or what you are normally used to being. If it’s a lucid dream, you will be able to change it by doing something like throwing out your arms to take control of your flying direction once again. But if you are a passenger in a plane, you are relying on other people and an aircraft (technology) to get you to your future destination.

Losing your teeth
Do you dream that your teeth begin to fall out when you open your mouth? Or that you discover broken, decayed or missing teeth? There are many possible interpretations about loss of teeth as so many people have this recurring and disturbing dream.

At a practical level, this dream reflects anxiety about appearance and how others perceive us. Teeth are a symbol of youth and strength. Bad teeth or lack of teeth are a sure sign of ageing. Are you afraid of being found unattractive? It’s common for menopausal women to have this dream. This important stage of life brings with it feelings of insecurity about ageing, loss of beauty and vitality.

The dream can also indicate a general loss of power in real life. Perhaps it’s due to ageing or life circumstances. It’s no coincidence that our most vulnerable are the toothless – babies and older people (with dentures). It is also interesting that the very young and very old are either unable to voice their opinion or their views are not taken seriously. Teeth in a dream are symbols of social expression and verbal communication.

Losing teeth suggests difficulty in being able to communicate a personal issue, or be understood. Consider whether you are lacking confidence in a social environment, such as speaking up in conversations or discussions, doing presentations or reports at work, or when meeting new people.

Dreaming that your teeth are crumbling or falling out until your gums are toothless and bare evokes a sense of helplessness and a long time of compromise. Are you getting what you want out of life?

Losing teeth may also be an omen that the dreamer is losing their life force and is beginning to be ineffective in their current role. Examine your home, work and social roles, and evaluate whether you’ve outgrown them. Perhaps they are now draining your energy and vitality. Is it time to let go of the old and begin something new?

A child’s fear of losing their teeth have been soothed by compensation from the tooth fairy and the promise of a new tooth to replace the old. As adults, those basic fears of losing parts of ourselves – other than those that regenerate such as hair and nails – create anxiety as we are aware that losing teeth is permanent and comes with ageing.

As mammals, teeth are essential to our survival – to eat – and can therefore be a sign of aggression as part of our natural instinct to survive. Think of the phrase ‘getting your teeth into something’ – are you floundering in life? Are you making wise choices?
Losing teeth in a dream may mean the dreamer is starting a new phase of life, or a physical death, depending on the personal association.

This book extract is from Dreams (Rockpool Publishing, $27.99) where best-selling author and dream expert Rose Inserra provides a comprehensive guide to understanding our dreams. Rose explains the common dreams and dream archetypes, the meaning behind dream symbols and the reasons why we have recurring dreams and nightmares. A fascinating insight into our subconscious, Dreams helps us understand why we dream and what we need to learn from them.

For more information visit Rockpool publishing or 
Do you ever dream about flying? What dreams do you regularly have? Join our conversation below: