What’s your dream-flying style?

How do you fly in your dreams? Do you flap your arms like a bird taking off, stretch your arms to each side like a gliding eagle, do a kind of swimming breaststroke, point a determined finger skyward and launch like Superman, hover just above the treeline, get trapped in the powerlines, or do little run-hop-skip-jumps with the occasional airborne balletic Grand Plié? What’s your flying style?

And how often do you dream of flying – in your body, not in a plane!

Did you dream more of flying when you were a child than you do now?

Children often report flying in their dreams, and many adults lament the lost joys of dream flying, which led one ABC Radio presenter, Helen Shield, to invite me onto her show to talk about why we might fly less in our dreams as adults. (You can listen to the whole fifteen-minute interview here.) Helen had been interviewing a guest earlier in the week who happened to mention that he missed his childhood flying dreams, and Helen wondered if there was a reason why we might lose our wings in adulthood. As you’ll hear, if you listen to the interview, Helen still flies in her dreams, and her style is breaststroke.

Over the years I have consistently heard people bemoan the loss of their childhood flying dreams, but I don’t have any statistics on hand. I’d say the evidence is anecdotal. On the other hand, many adults still fly in their dreams. For myself, although I remember a lot of my childhood dreams, I don’t remember flying (and I think I would!) until I reached adulthood. I still dream-fly from time to time.

My first flying dreams were of the just-hovering-above-the-ground variety or taking big springy steps that had me balletically flying through the air but needing to touch down to push off again. I loved the sensation but didn’t fly very high. In other dreams my body would be lifted gently off the ground and placed elsewhere, as if I were a windblown seed, and I felt quite safe with these otherworldly relocations. But I didn’t fly high.

My high-flying dreams took off when I started to get creative projects off the ground: more than off the ground, more than hovering, more than isolated balletic leaps, but really off the ground and happening.

Look at your flying dreams as possible metaphors reflecting your conscious and unconscious experiences. The dramas and storylines around my high-flying dreams helped me to understand my experiences and conflicts around my creative projects ‘taking off’. My earlier, hovering dreams reflected the conflicting mix of faith and doubt that kept me from really taking off but gave me a taste of the possibilities. You might say that my intentions were hovering, like a finger poised over the ‘enter’ bar on a keyboard: the indecision, the moment of choice. Again, the dramas and storylines of these dreams helped me to see the deeper, unconscious beliefs and patterns that kept me in hovering mode.

When you look at your own flying dreams, what metaphor or conflict might they be reflecting?

Do you spend most of your dream trying to convince others to fly up and join you? (Here you might be getting to know the parts of yourself that remain unconvinced.) Do you get tangled in overhead powerlines? (Might you feel limited or trapped by your beliefs about power – yours or other people’s?) Do you fly to escape a predator, or to remove yourself from an uncomfortable dream scenario? (What might you be trying to escape or not look at in your life?) Or do you fly to get a fabulous bird’s eye view of the land below? (Might you be looking for a higher perspective, or a wider view, or wanting to compare where you’ve been in the past to a range of future possibilities laid out symbolically on the map beneath you?) Do you fly for sheer enjoyment? (Might you be experiencing new freedoms in waking life, or experimenting with living a less restricted life?) Or do you have a sense, during your dream flight, that you are discovering new talents and abilities? (Might you be ready to reach a higher potential?)

There’s no dream dictionary approach for flying dreams, just as there is no dream dictionary approach for any dream if you are serious about understanding your own, unique, individual dream.

You can begin by asking yourself the kinds of questions I posed above. They will help you to begin to relate your flying dream to your life, and from there you can use my other dream interpretation tools and techniques to get to the full meaning of your unique dream.

Our dreams reflect our waking life experiences, both conscious and unconscious.

Children have waking life flying experiences! Think about it! Here’s a partial list:

Parents ‘fly’ their babies and young children through the air for play. I know I tossed my children momentarily (and safely) into the air, so they would have an airborne feeling for a microsecond or so. They loved it! Or I’d lay on the floor and balance my children on my feet, gently holding their arms, giving them a flying sensation. Or listen to them chuckle when I placed one hand beneath their belly and one hand on their back and ‘flew’ them as I danced a few steps. These are all common games parents play with their children. Parents might hold their child’s hands and lift them from the ground, flying them in circles as they turn on the spot.

Children experience flying when they play on the swings at the park, feet off the ground, hair flying in the breeze, reaching higher and higher.

Perhaps children experience flying when they learn to swim: feet off the ground, flying in water rather than in air. If you fly in breaststroke style, your dreaming mind may be drawing on this memory.

A little more subtly, but, I believe, extremely likely, is that we may draw on our childhood experiences of growing, especially for those dreams where we fly above the landscape, looking down on the land. Think about it: as children we grew, sometimes in leaps and bounds, and we must have experienced the sensation, some mornings, when we stood up after a night’s sleep and the ground was ever-so-slightly further away than it was the night before. It might not have felt like flying, but it might have been experienced as a shift in perspective, seeing the ground from a greater height.

Childhood is also a time when we develop fast, learn new things, step out of our comfort zone over and over again, discover new talents and abilities (walking, running, riding a bike, reading, writing, doing maths), and reach new potential. Reaching up into these higher potentials may be reflected as flying dreams, and our success or otherwise with our dream flying may reflect our success or hesitations in waking life.

Children who experience pain and trauma in waking life may find ways to dissociate from the pain, to distance themselves from it, to escape, and this may sometimes result in dreams of flying to escape. Other children may dream of flying to escape when they are processing the everyday fears and scary thoughts that all children encounter.

Listen to how a person – child or adult – describes their dream. Ask them how they felt in the dream. Gather the clues you need to gain a little chink of understanding before you delve deeper to investigate the full meaning of the whole dream.

By now you might have some ideas about why some adults no longer dream of flying. If you fly in your adult dreams, I hope you now have some ideas about what your dreams may mean and a little insight into your flying style.

Flying Dreams ABC Hobart Jane Teresa Anderson

Click image to listen: opens in new window


Jane Teresa Anderson's Books

Jane Teresa Anderson

Graduating with an Honours degree in Zoology specialising in developmental neurobiology from the University of Glasgow, dream analyst and dream therapist Jane Teresa Anderson has been researching dreams since 1992, and developing and teaching dream alchemy practices that shift perspective and reprogram unconscious limiting beliefs. Jane Teresa is a multi-published author (her latest book is BIRD OF PARADISE), and appears frequently in the media on television, radio, and in print. She is also host of the long-running podcast, 'The Dream Show with Jane Teresa Anderson', and offers her online study and certificate courses through The Dream Academy.