The bottom drops out of your dreams, you start to sink and there's nothing
to hold on to. You're falling, falling, falling. Especially from a great
height, the sensation can be terrifying. Or, it might be quite an exciting
thrill. Even a short fall can be such a surprise that you jerk awake.
I suspect that loss of equilibrium became a critical problem for us, as a
species, when we started to walk upright. Some say that fear of falling is a
remnant of those times long past when remaining high in the trees was
necessary for our survival. We do seem to have a well-developed awareness of
the end of the bed, so that we don't tip over its edge every night. But that
could be learned behavior since infants and toddlers sleep surrounded by
barriers so they won't roll onto the floor. At its best, fear of falling
serves as a very useful system, warning us about lack of balance in waking
life. But if we take that fear into sleep, it can be detrimental to our
desire to fly.
A falling dream can, of course, be put through the interpretation mill to
find symbolic significance. But some falling dreams have no pictures
attached! I think this is a case where it would be advantageous to start,
not with the imagery, but with the feeling. After doing reality checks on
falling dreams, I've concluded that I really can't appreciate the "meaning"
of a particular falling dream unless I first track down whatever stimulated
Falling dreams can be due to a replay of a vivid feeling that occurred
during the day. Because of the sharp sensations involved, the intensity
might not dissipate by the time we go to sleep. It might be a sensation
occurring while we sleep. Or it can be anticipatory or precognitive of a
possible event to come.
Replay of An Actual Fall
Biking, climbing, equestrian and aerial sports have quite intense feelings
attached to them. Your falling sensation might occur if, during the day, you
tumble off your mountain bike when it slips on some loose gravel. The
experience is embedded in your body just like those pebbles are embedded in
In some cases, the memory of an actual fall can be so vivid that, when the
experience is called up again, even the sensations come along for a ride.
You fell down the stairs when you were younger. Today, when you find
yourself teetering at the top of the stairway, your warning system turns on
with a vengeance and doesn't turn off before bedtime.
Sometimes it's easy to link your dream with the fall, or its sensational
memory, because the previous day's experience is so vivid. But don't forget
the familiar sinking sensations of controlled falls. Did you ride an
escalator or elevator yesterday? The fall or its recall doesn't have to
impress your conscious mind much. It can be a peripheral event that is
repressed or a subliminal event that is not fully recognized. If your
attention is directed elsewhere when you quickly recover from a minor
stumble, the tactile sensation of falling and your emotional reaction to it
might not be allowed full expression. Until you go to sleep.
Replay of Feeling Due To Loss of Control
If you have an empathetic personality, you experience whatever feelings
would occur if you were in someone else's place. Whether you watch the
movies on TV, read a book, create imaginary tragedies in your mind or listen
to a lecture on a distressing topic, you can conjure up the feelings that
accompany the story.
But most feelings of falling are your own. A teenager dreamt repeatedly that
her car had no brakes. She went over a cliff and started to fall. She
associated the dream with her new drug habit. This was an emotional reaction
to a real experience, but one that had a sensation attached to it. Where
biochemistry is involved, loss of balance can be linked with feelings of
One woman had falling dreams after her husband received a promotion. He was
on the way up, but she didn't have the same feeling of security about the
situation. Quite literally, she "felt" the lack of the familiar sense of
bonding, not as a concept, but as a sensation of being set adrift. A
teenager with a Catholic background had a series of falling dreams after she
started sleeping with her boyfriend. Her conscience bothered her and she
felt uneasy. She was on her own, without the familiar "moral support." When
you're stripped of defenses or secure structure, you really can "feel" like
there's nothing to hold you up.
Often, such loss of self-control is linked with a sinking feeling. For the
child whose parents were in the throes of separation, the sinking sensation
came from feeling rejected. Another boy dreamt of falling down the school
stairs the night after he presented a poor report card to his parents. His
sinking feeling was guilt over past failings plus concurrent loss of
parental love and approval. The sinking feeling can also be associated with
loss of confidence, loss of status or fame, social mishaps, failure to
complete goals, financial and property loss and loss of either faith or
One woman dreamt she was entering her psychotherapist's office. As she
stepped inside, a trap door opened and she was suddenly falling down into
the sewers of Paris. When awake, she described the trap door as a kind of
ambush carefully planned by another person, which put the victim in a
completely different place. These ideas described her feelings about her
analyst and the type of work he was having her do. She wanted to have a
companion and guide to the dream underworld, rather than a person who would
ambush her and take her, without her consent, into scary places, with no
assurance of safety or security.
Illness, liquor, prescription drugs or changes in diet can induce interior
falling sensations while you slumber. You might react to a dip in blood
pressure, a glitch in the brain, the movement of fluid in the middle ear or
a vague awareness of breathing. Relaxation followed by quick release of
muscular tension, a downpour of previously repressed emotions or an orgasm,
especially just prior to sleep, can provoke a falling dream.
A subliminal sense of external physical movement or lack of gravity can
result in dream falls, too. My husband had a falling dream and awoke to find
his feet dangling over the end of the mattress. I had a falling dream during
When he was a boy, a dreamer was sleeping in a bunkbed when he had a falling
dream that ended with him bouncing off the ground. He awoke to find it
coming true. He reacted so vigorously to the dream fall that he hit the
bottom of his brother's upper bunk.
Par For The Course
Feelings of falling may occur while you're abruptly shifting your state of
consciousness. Don't be surprised if you experience these sorts of
sensations -- many people do. It's just a bump on the journey. A quick
switch from a lucid dream to the waking state can jolt you. So can a
surprising image that flies towards you while you're watching the hypnogogic
theater. You can come back from an out-of-body experience and land with a
thump. The myoclonic jerk can occur as you sink into slumber. After all,
it's called "falling" asleep!
Worries and Warnings
To fear criticism or failure or loss of status can invoke a sinking
sensation. Your job is in jeopardy or your marriage is in trouble. Because
you had a bad experience in the past, you have little confidence in the
future and the anxiety churns up similar falling sensations. The worry can
also be due to the fear of flying in an actual airplane or fear of falling
down an actual ladder or cliff. Sometimes you'll acknowledge such feelings;
sometimes not. Either way, your body feels it.
Dreamworker Ann Faraday dreamt of falling off the balcony of her new
apartment. After she woke, she examined the guardrails and found them
rickety and in need of repair. She'd seen the guardrails the previous day,
but had been too preoccupied to notice their condition. In this case, the
visual fact and the possible consequence registered on the back of her mind
and was reintroduced in a dream.
Space shuttle tragedies and all manner of airplane disasters have been
dreamt ahead of time; that is, the dreams were precognitive. Most of these
were clairvoyant views, with the dreamer as an observer watching the events
from the ground. I also believe it's possible to dream telepathically, from
the point of view of the terrified victim.
However, not all psi dreams are negative. I dreamt of a tandem hang gliding
flight several years before it came true. So did my sister, who was
responding to an article I wrote about that flying adventure.
When I was younger, I had repeating dreams of being a passenger in a car
that would slide across the road and fall off a cliff. That was the
sensation I felt whenever my parents went out of control. Nobody at the
So, I wasn't surprised when, later in life, I dreamt of sliding across 5
lanes of highway. However, this occurred after I'd been doing quite of bit
of psychological work to change parental programming. I'm happy to say that
the dream had nothing to do with past family problems. Instead, the next
day, as I was driving home, a freak storm came up with plenty of driving
wind and torrents of water flooding the road. Because I wanted to get home
quickly, I remained in the fast lane until I rounded a corner and came upon
a place where converging traffic temporarily created 5 lanes of highway. The
memory of the dream came rushing back. Immediately, I put on my blinkers
and, as soon as it was safe, moved over to the right side of the road. And
I consider this to be a precognitive dream. No, it didn't come true. Thank
goodness. I didn't slide across the road, because I acted to change my
future and control the drift. I was at the wheel of my fate.
You can be, too. Once you figure out what induces your falling dreams, you
can act to change the situation. What you do, of course, depends on what is
stimulating the sensation. Here's some suggestions:
The best way to handle falling dreams is to convert fear into fun or prevent
them from happening at all. Before you go to sleep.
- Shift biochemistry and bedtime habits.
- Pay attention to literal falling sensation during the course of the day.
- Prevent imbalance by being proactive. Fix your tires, buy new shoes, get new glasses, repair your home environment.
- Practice balance like children do. Walk a straight line on a sidewalk crack, fall backward into your bed, roll down a grassing slope or splash into a waterhole.
- Play with the intensity of emotions and sensations by allowing them to flow, then stopping, then starting once again. A movie house is a good place to practice being enspelled by the emotions of the story, then pulling out of the spell to look around the theater, then allowing yourself to be drawn into the drama once again.
- Process falling sensations by allowing yourself full memory of them just prior to sleep, then letting them dissipate.
- Change your negative mindset. Think of falling not as a problem, but as ride in your inner amusement park. Cultivate a sense of humor.
- Learn to fly by playing a video game.
- Re-imagine your falling dream with a new ending. Let yourself go and hit the earth. Convert falling into a delicious flying dream. Fly faster, slower, lower, higher.
- Look outward instead of inward. Imagine rescuing others who are falling. Make it less about you.
- Rehearse landings in your imagination.
- Induce lucidity.
- Use protective psi measures.
- Incubate a new dream in which you'll face your fears.
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