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By "Today" contributor
updated 1/27/2005 11:18:48 AM ET 2005-01-27T16:18:48

Q: I often dream that I am falling. I’ve heard this type of dream reflects feelings of insecurity — and I certainly have those, since I’m worried my partner will leave me. To gain more insight from my dreams, what should I look for?

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A: You’re correct in thinking that dreams of falling reflect feelings of insecurity. Such dreams might be prompted by a sense of failure or impending failure in a love relationship.

Dreams, of course, have a logic all their own, and can be quite disturbing. But they reflect our wishes and conflicts, and can be a tremendous source of information.

Dreams can help you decipher the messages you don’t even know you are sending yourself.

There are six common dream themes. Along with dreams of falling, these include dreams of:

Being naked.
Clothes conceal. Without them, you’re exposed. So this dream symbolizes feelings of shame or vulnerability. Whether or not you are hiding something, you might be feeling that people can see through you. Or you might fear showing your true feelings in a relationship.

Problems with teeth.
In a dream, are your teeth falling out? This symbolizes rejection. Or you might be feeling powerless, unconfident, inferior, unattractive and unable to hold on to someone important to you.

Being chased.
You might be trying to avoid something. Can you identify the chaser? This might clarify what you’re trying to avoid.  If the person or thing chasing you is identifiable as a part of yourself, the dream might involve a fear from within, such as an unhealthy relationship or unhealthy behavior.

Flying.
Some flying dreams are terrifying; others are exhilarating. Dreams of flying can reflect a sense of control. This includes wishing you had control over something you don’t, struggling to stay in control or fearing you wield too much control.

Test-taking.
This is a classic anxiety dream — that you are taking a test you haven’t studied for, playing an unfamiliar instrument, or forgetting your lines in a play. You could be worried you aren’t measuring up to your own or others’ expectations. You might feel unprepared for a challenge or unsure of your abilities. On the other hand, a pleasant test dream could mean you have overcome a challenge or exceeded an expectation.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: By viewing your dreams as a tool, you can further your understanding of yourself and your relationships with others.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” This column was adapted from her new book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back.”  For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2004 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.

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