As a baby, stairs presented a huge challenge. To deal with them we had to develop several major abilities, such as steady balance, confidence, control of fear of falling, strength of purpose. Therefore, stairs represent many feelings in connection with achievement, failure, climbing and falling. When these feelings also connect with work, relationship, social standing or sex, then we use stairs as a symbol of what we are feeling.
Taking steps toward something; going up or down in life in your own estimation; moving from one environment to another, so a shift in some way; gaining a new skill, or facing a challenge – stairs are difficult and dangerous when we are children, and so probably remain as a symbol of challenge, danger and achievement in adulthood. Many dreams of climbing stairs include feelings of high anxiety. This is either to do with avoiding a danger at the foot of the stairs, or arriving at something threatening or dangerous at the top. But the difficult feelings might not be due to danger, but to finding or realising things that radically change the way you see yourself or the world. The following example illustrates this.
Example: We move into a house and nobody but myself has really taken any notice of the stairs. Nobody has been up. In one dream I try to go up but the children are scared for me. They plead, “don’t go up Mum, just forget them.” Then I wake. In the next dream I wait till they are asleep. Half way up I can see there is a glass roof, the wooden frames painted green. I am terrified but have to go on. Then I wake. Next dream I got up there. It smells very musty. Lots of draw sheets
covering things. See Nothing Can Hurt You in Your Dreams
Going up stairs: Again, this is about a change of situation or environment, but going up frequently depicts greater excitement, awareness or discovery of new experience.
Going up shows you leaving the everyday, ground level or ordinary world of experience.
So it can be an escape from involvement with others or events, or also an ascent into greater vulnerability.
The example below shows how going upstairs can be an opening or widening of awareness to include areas of experience usually avoided. In fact Mrs. H. takes her awareness down to more everyday levels to escape meeting the light. This shows how we not only avoid unpleasantness, but also something wonderful or out of the ordinary.
Running up: Escaping from urges arising from lower down in the body – so a movement of attention towards the abstract or mental away from fears arising from unconscious or sexuality; lack of confidence, a fear of failing or not being capable is also a common feeling in connection with stairs; if running up with pleasure, then it suggests exuberance producing a change in your feelings and situation.
Walking down: Going down stairs, apart from a descent from a higher place, a more inclusive view, is also a controlled fall. This might suggest being in control of a changing situation.
Skimming down: This is a dream often experienced by children. It is almost like flying down the stairs, the feet just touching the edge of the stairs every so often, creating an exhilarating sense of pleasure. The reason for the dream is most likely that going down stairs as a young child is a difficult and dangerous skill. Most of us have fallen at some point. As we gain greater physical control and can run down stairs, a sense of greater achievement arises. Not only stairs, but other areas of our environment that were dangerous, are now a source of pleasure. The dream translates this feeling into the image of skimming the stairs.
Spiral staircase: The spiral staircase usually indicates – if going up – your personal evolution and positive change, and the change is one involving greater insight or wider view of yourself and life. It also involves the continuous repeating of experience, going around daily activities, facing the same again and again, but each cycle brings positive change.
The spiral staircase hints at a view of life you have, that you are in a process of continual growth, the spiral staircase of Life. So perhaps the change is part of your growth. The feeling of the house is usually a way of telling you something – probably that the house/you that you live in at the moment is not a good place to be – or the reverse. It is probably referring to your attitudes in life.
In most cases the ascent is, like the rising sun during the day or the summer, linked completely with the descent in the evening, night, or winter. Ascent is therefore part of a spiral which also descends, the cycle of birth, death, rebirth. Christianity tends to speak of a one time resurrection, whereas the ancients saw it as a continuing cycle.
Example: ‘I go up the first flight of stairs, then the next, and there is my ex husband’s Nan who is dead and whom I have never met. I don’t see her face but I know it’s her. She is a blinding white light and I run down the stairs.’ Mrs. H.