What Does It Mean to Fly in Your Dreams?

5 min read

Last Modified 18 May 2022 First Added 5 October 2021

By Liam Porter

The dream:

Step after step, you begin to feel lighter.

Before you realise it, your feet are no longer touching the floor and as you look down you realise you’ve taken flight and are leaving the terrestrial world you know.

The sound that is so loud in everyday life is muted as you soar through the air, looking down at the world below, a world you’re no longer a part of.

You feel separate, thrilled, freed from shackles that have bound you to the ground, and you loop and glide, feeling the wind in your hair in a moment of absolute liberty.

Still, it’s only a dream – right?

Variations of the dream:

Dreams of flying are one of the core cross-cultural archetypal dreams. They are experienced by people worldwide and have been throughout recorded history. As such, the variations of flying dreams are extensive – they include dreams of powered flight in vehicles, flying in a clear sky, over calm or turbulent water, dreams where flying is joyous and where it’s terrifying. As with all dream interpretation, however, the dream itself is less important than the elements of it.

Meaning(s) of the dream:

The meaning of a dream of flying can vary hugely –and so can the experience of the dreamer. Some people will experience dreams of flying as joyful, some will experience them as an anxiety dream accompanied by falling in your dream or failing to fly. Both of these, according to Carl Jung, can be answered by the same interpretation:

The dream compensates for the deficiencies of their personalities, and at the same time it warns them of the dangers in their present course.

Jung believed that the psyche uses dreams in an effort to achieve balance. So, dreamers that experienced dreams of rising above were, in their waking lives, bogged down in the mundane (in its original sense of ‘earthly’) problems of their day-to-day life.

As ever, Freud links these dreams to sexual arousal. He did however link dreams of flying to a more literal overcoming of gravity too. He also suggested that they could be links to childhood experiences of being playfully thrown into the air or rocked by an adult.

Modern analysis of dreams tends to link positive dreams of flying with a dreamer’s yearning for freedom, with the brain attempting to find novel ways of overcoming our problems. These positive dreams can also indicate a need to find a broader perspective – to literally zoom out on your problems and not be bogged down by the minutiae of life, or that there is a transition or substantial change coming.

Negative flying dreams share much with dreams of falling – they can indicate loss, or losing touch with friends and family, or anxiety that we have taken on too big a task and, like Icarus, are flying too close to the sun.

Common takes on dreams which involve flying:

From flying in a futuristic vehicle to flying over water or just simply through the sky, Superman-esque, there are meanings behind each. Let’s explore some of these in more detail:

1. Flying in a vehicle:

Flying in a plane or other vehicle can indicate that you have the tools available to overcome your immediate problems and may be interpreted as an unconscious need to take the risk with a challenging situation.

2. Flying in a clear sky:

These dreams can represent an unconscious desire in the dreamer to free themselves from their problems, but the act of flying indicates that the power is there to do so, requiring the dreamer to reflect on new approaches to old problems.

3. Flying over turbulent water:

In these dreams the water represents an unacknowledged emotional problem that you are not addressing and calls on the dreamer to analyse their waking life for signs that they are ignoring some inner turmoil.

Answering the dream:

Dreams that stay with us may not always hold a secret meaning. But as our brains use sleep to process our day-to-day existence, it pays to offer especially vivid or troubling dreams closer attention than we do. For that reason, looking at dreams of flying with historic analysis in mind can help dreamers to focus their self-reflection and find solutions that might not otherwise present themselves.

For those that dream of flying, that means identifying issues that we may be putting off but have the tools to deal with or to look for new approaches to issues that have been with us for a while.

Notable appearances in popular culture:

The way to fly, according to Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is to ‘throw yourself at the ground and miss’ – simple really. Surrounded by birds and other flying creatures, it’s no wonder that flying has played a part in the human dreamscape since pre-history – it became such an obsession for Leonardo Da Vinci, that he designed the first helicopter and glider and features flying machines in many of his paintings.

Flying dreams, as such, occur from time to time in popular culture, but are more likely to present themselves as the fantasy itself – whether that’s Superman or Icarus or in paintings such as William Blake’s O, How I Dreamt of Things Impossible.

For more dream meanings, take a look at what being chased in your dream means, or what dreaming your teeth are falling out means. 


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