In my dream, I’ve just purchased this old, broken-down home that, once fixed up, is exactly what I want. I’ve always wanted a house that has a fireplace and stairwell leading upstairs in the kitchen. (The desire for this type of house is in my dream, not my waking life).
I’m overjoyed that I finally was able to purchase this house. I walk through the front door and realize how fragile the entire house is. I’m careful to step lightly and slowly. I’m standing about three feet inside the front door and we have an earthquake. There’s a hole in the ceiling, so when the house falls, I’m left standing, unharmed, with my house totally destroyed! I’m standing there, in total despair… then I wake up.
A little history: My ex-husband was very abusive to myself and our children. I was firmly set against getting married again. I had been divorced for almost seven years when I met my second husband. We’ve been married almost a year now. We are going through some really hard times. His 18-year-old daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome, just came to live with us, because she was pulled from her mother’s house due to abuse and neglect. We are going through court pursuing sexual abuse charges against my ex-husband, on behalf of my daughter.
My husband just got laid off from his job. Although I love my husband very much, he’s depressed and reminds me every day how much he’s hating life and being in my home state, rather than his own. I know he loves me!
What’s this dream mean? Is my life falling apart?
— jessica, Age 36, married, CA
Houses in dreams often serve dual metaphors. They can reflect our selves (the upstairs represents consciousness and the higher self, while the basement symbolizes the subconscious) and, if they are under construction, they can represent projects we are working on, and plans that we have made.
The fireplace in your dream house is a symbol of emotional warmth and security. The stairwell leading upstairs from the kitchen suggests easy access to your higher self. It is a comforting and inviting house, full of warmth and wisdom. Who wouldn’t want to live there, symbolically or literally?
Because the house is new (albeit rebuilt) it almost certainly also represents your hopes for your new marriage. You are filled with excitement as you anticipate living in your home, but unfortunately, the joys of ownership are short-lived. Just as you realize the fragility of your house, an earthquake strikes, causing it to collapse around you. A hole in the ceiling spares your life, but you are filled with despair nonetheless.
Earthquakes in dreams (and other natural disasters) are symbols of instability and uncertainty about the future. Given what you have told us of recent events, it’s easy to identify the recent “bumps” in the highway of your new marriage. Your husband’s 18-year-old daughter has moved in, and he has been laid off his job. Neither event was anticipated, and either alone would be sufficient to stress a young marriage.
Your dream reflects fears that plans made carefully in the wake of your first marriage — plans to repair both your self and your family life — may be collapsing around you. Anyone who is married, however, knows how early expectations evolve with time. Your dream shows your marriage has encountered unexpected stress, but I don’t believe it means it is in the process of collapse. Indeed, the most significant event in the dream is the fact that you emerge untouched from the rubble that surrounds you. The message of your dream is that you are a survivor — and survivors build homes that last.
Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.