What do stairs mean in dreams?

Two nights ago, I have some very vivid dreams.  The most prominent image that has stayed with me in the days since is of climbing a stairway.  This particular set of stairs had a peculiar attribute; they got more and more narrow as I climbed.  The destination, while unknown to me, was someplace I very much wanted to get to and I had the sense that the landscape above me was very special indeed and worth whatever challenges there might be in reaching it.

When I say the staircase got more narrow – I mean VERY narrow.  Like “I’m not sure I can squeeze myself through that space” narrow.  The kind of narrow that sparked my claustrophobia.  I pressed on and began to slip myself into the limited space that was before me and I woke before I managed to get through and to the other side.  I was no longer aware of where I was coming from and I lost all sight of where I was going.  All I knew was that I had to get through this difficult transition and that was what was getting all of my attention.

This image has lingered long after the dream because I think it is very emblematic of exactly where I am in my life.  The long journey up from the past has led to a moment of intense growing pains as I transition from what it is to be writing my first book and what it is to have my first book published and arrive at the next floor, ready to face the next chapter and all that it will entail.

In this spirit, I share the term Stairs from my upcoming book Dream Sight: A Dictionary and Guide to Interpreting Any Dream, available on February 8, 2011.


Universal Landscape:  Transitions in life, often directly connected to personal growth or assessment.

Dreaming Lens:  Were you climbing the stairs?  Were you ascending or descending?  Where were the stairs leading to and from?  How many steps were there?  What step were you on?  What shape were they in?  Were they steep?  Were they dangerous?  Did you slip or fall?

Personal Focus:  Stairs represent transition, change and personal growth.  When we use them, we make direct contact with our feet.  This makes them symbolic of change on a very specific, personal level.  Climbing up stairs should be interpreted as ascending to higher levels of consciousness.  Going down stairs connects to revisiting places you have already been or moving into lower levels of thought, such as anger and envy, or facing your own emotional development by revisiting old issues.

Where the stairs are is important to consider.  A stairway in a home is about personal transitions, whereas stairs in public environments reveal issues around how we operate out in the world, in full view of others.  There may be literal elements of this image in a dream as a dream that takes place on a stairway at your workplace will likely connect to issues that are work-related.  A stairway in a public park may reveal shifts that involve issues of relaxation and leisure.  Use the Dreaming Lens to focus your interpretation.

Your actual experience of climbing the stairs is the key to working with this symbol.  A treacherous experience may reveal fears attached to issues you are currently facing.  Running up and down stairs with ease may point to an ability to operate at different levels with grace if your life is calling you to do so.  Fear of where the stairs may lead correlate to investigations that lay ahead of you where the outcome is not clear.  The number of stairs, if known, can be considered using numerology (see Numbers).  Escalators indicate more ease in the transition, but must also be looked at in terms of the potential to gloss over the change that is occurring.  Remember that going down is as important as going up in life.  We must often revisit where we have been below before we can move upward effectively.  Eventually, we must be able to easily exist on many levels at once.