7 Meanings of Dreams About Elevators—Including Impostor Syndrome

Updated on April 9, 2019
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Aisling is the author of Dog Funeral Evangelism. Her articles on dream interpretation and Jungian psychology have over 2.1 million views.


Elevators in dreams often stand in for actions and emotions that are very similar to the actions of elevators in waking life. In simple terms, dreams about elevators symbolize the times we feel we are ascending in life as well as the times we feel we are descending into the depths of despair.

But elevator dreams are much more than simple metaphors for life's ups and downs.

For example, on a deeper, more complex level, rising in an elevator can represent:

  • Progress on a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level.
  • Rising above your life circumstances.
  • Coming out of a period of depression.

Descending on an elevator also carries more complicated connotations, such as:

  • Feelings of powerlessness.
  • Feeling trapped.
  • Bravely descending into the unconscious to confront its contents.

In this article, we'll cover not only elevators that go up and down, but also elevators that are stuck, dilapidated or out of order, and those that repeatedly stop on the same floor.

So let's hop on the elevator and take a ride into its symbolism to help sort out its meaning in your dream.


Where Is the Elevator in Your Dream?

Before analyzing the direction in which a dream elevator is traveling or even if it is functioning properly, it is helpful to pay attention to the place in which the dream elevator is located.

Consider whether the dream elevator is in a place that actually exists in the waking world or is it in a purely dream locale. Whether it is a dream location or a place you know in the waking world, consider if the place symbolizes:

  • Work, like an office building or your actual workplace.
  • Knowledge, like a library.
  • Spirituality, like a church.

The locale of the elevator is important because it gives us vital information regarding the area of life where we are ascending, descending, stuck, or in need of repair. If the place is a purely dream location, the dream is likely revealing spiritual or emotional issues. If the location is one known to us in the waking world, the dream may be directing us to more tangible issues we're facing in daily life.

Once you have your dream elevator's location, move on to pairing the symbolism of that place with the actions covered below to get an accurate idea of what your elevator dream is trying to communicate.


1. Going Up?

Traveling up in a elevator does, on the surface symbolize a time of progress, a time of easy ascent, or an elevation in emotions.

If your elevator is traveling upward in a normal fashion, that is, if it is behaving as a waking life elevator would, neither ascending too quickly nor too slowly, this can mean that your ascent is a natural, effortless one and can symbolize the payoff for previous hard work.

However, if your dream elevator is moving upward far faster than any normal waking life elevator could, your dream may be positive or negative.

On the positive side, a dream of a rapidly ascending elevator may indicate a pleasant surprise, a sort of unexpected blast off, a sudden, unexpected rise in your situation or standing.

On the negative side, however, when we dream of an elevator rising beyond what is natural can symbolize impatience with our current circumstances or a desire for an easy fix, for a quick solution for difficult problems that requires no diligence on our own parts.

Also, rising too quickly may also symbolize instability or ignoring warning signs that one is taking on far too much far too quickly without having the necessary foundation to support growth. We all want to rise as quickly as possible, but traveling upward without any roots, presents a dangerous situation conducive to a catastrophic fall.


2. Going Down?

On a simple level, descending in an elevator dream metaphorically symbolizes something that brings us down. That something can be a situation or person. It may even be a sign that we're struggling with depression.

Start by looking at the location of the elevator for clues as to what or who it is that is the source of sinking feelings or a depressing outlook on life.

However, on a much deeper level, descending in a dream elevator can symbolize that we are undergoing a perilous, but courageous journey into our own psyches, plumbing the depths of that which is hidden in the unconscious in order to attain a greater level of psychic wholeness.

Rarely do we ever want to make a descent into the unconscious because rarely is the unconscious a pretty place. The unconscious is the place of the Shadow archetype, the place where we put everything unpleasant about ourselves, everything we want to distance ourselves from because of the pain involved in confronting it.

However, the rewards of taking a dream elevator down into the dark recesses of the mind where only the stout-hearted tread, are priceless because, as Jung states, "in the Shadow lies the gold." What he means is that confronting the Shadow and all its unpleasantness lead to the gold of psychological integrity.

We only gain psychic wholeness when we look for the root of our imbalances and tend them, rather than simply allowing them to fester deep underground thereby permeating our existence with rot.

Traveling into the unconscious is not a task we should undertake alone. It is a place where we need support whether that support comes from a trusted friend, a therapist, or a priest.

The person to who we go to for support during such a descent needs to be one with whom we are certain we trust, who we are sure will accept us, and who we are confident will see in us the gold inside obscured by the temporal darkness of the Shadow.

Are We Gonna Let De-Elevator Bring Us Down?

3. Trapped in an Elevator

For some of us, being trapped is our top fear and dreams of being trapped in an elevator can be perfect expressions of that fear. Sometimes dreams of being trapped in an elevator indicate feelings of intense claustrophobia, but the claustrophobia need not be literal.

In dream parlance, the claustrophobia can be a way of articulating that there is something in the waking world that makes us feel trapped. We might feel trapped in an unfortunate family dynamic, in a career that we once loved but which now feels like a dead end, or we might even feel trapped in a relationship that once fed us emotionally, but which we have now outgrown.


Never Forget to Consider How a Dream Makes You Feel

One of the most important aspects to consider when interpret a dream is how that dream made you feel—not only in the dream, but upon waking.


4. Feelings and Elevator Dream Symbolism

The feelings we experience, both in a dream and also the ones we're left with upon waking from that dream, are vital to helping us analyze the message a dream has for us.

We should pay particular attention anytime we find ourselves having emotions counter to those we would normally have in the waking world when we encounter a similar situation in a dream.

For example, if, in waking life, we get on elevators without a thought outside pressing a button to get to the correct floor yet find ourselves petrified to get on one in a dream, it behooves us to look closely and identify what it is about the dream elevator that is so different from the ones we encounter in waking life to lead us to such a state of terror.

Alternatively, if, in waking life, elevators scare us enough that we'll gleefully take the stairs no matter the number of flights to climb to reach our destination yet we're joyfully hopping into an elevator filled with folks, finding out what is so different about that dream elevator from the ones in our waking world is of utmost importance.


5. Elevator Floors

Look at the floors in your dream, especially if you keep getting stuck on a particular floor or if you find yourself repeatedly getting off on the same floor. Getting stuck on a particular floor or stuck between floors can indicate feelings of being unable to completely transcend a particular situation or, alternatively, a feeling that we're able to only proceed to a certain point after which, no further progress is possible.

To try and sort out what this issue might be, first look at where the elevator is located, then pay attention to the number of the floor on which the dream elevator is stuck.

Numbers in dreams can carry significance such as standing in for an anniversary or an age at which something important happened. Getting stuck on a particular floor might symbolize a core problem to which the dream is trying to direct our attention. For example, when we find ourselves stuck on the first floor, this may indicate that there is something basic holding us down.

Again, consider where your dream elevator is and see how that symbolism might correspond to that which prevents ascent and/or progress. Is the symbol emotional, physical, or mental? Answering that question helps us hone in on what needs repair so we may rise above it.

Dreaming about elevators that refuse to stop to let you off on your floor can indicate a profound dissatisfaction with where you are in life. Again, look at where the elevator is to get more information.


6. Broken Elevator

A dilapidated or broken elevator can reflect our own feelings of brokenness or severe depression.

Dreams of broken or dilapidated elevators can be particularly distressing because an elevator is something outside ourselves—it is a powerful force that we typically employ to assist us and that force, that power that we typically depend upon, feels, for us, as though it is not functioning.

As always, it is imperative to remember that feelings are just that—feelings. About the only thing that is completely true and real about our feelings is that we are feeling them. Feelings are not fact. Feelings are not prophecy. Feelings are not even synonymous with intuition.

Feelings are emotional reactions to situations, they are coping mechanisms we use to navigate our lives. Sometimes our feelings function as a positive response to life events, others, our feeling are completely dysfunctional reactions that serve no purpose other than to exacerbate an already volatile situation.

The reason it is important to keep this information in mind is because our normal reaction to disturbing imagery and/or disturbing feelings is to panic or to view the feelings as confirmation that everything we feared was true actually is true because our feelings say so! Remembering that our feelings are not necessarily reality helps us confront that which is unpleasant in our lives without assigning it more meaning than it actually has.

If you are dreaming of a broken elevator and feel as though everything you rely on, right down to that source of power that is greater than yourself has abandoned you or that you yourself are broken beyond repair, it is wise to look at the feeling, recognize the seriousness of it, and to speak honestly and openly about it with someone or consider going into counseling.

Fear, distress, and despair not only thrive on isolation, but those emotions grow there. As dangerous as it sounds, when we feel broken, that is the time when we are most likely to need brave our vulnerability and reveal those feelings to someone we can trust. Recurrent dreams of broken elevators might indicate that now is that time.

Willy Wonka's Great Glass Wonkavator

7. Falling in an Elevator and Impostor Syndrome

When we find ourselves in the terrifying nightmare of falling in an elevator, this dream can symbolize a fear that our lives are suddenly out of control or that we're in danger of crashing after a spectacular rise in life.

To ascertain whether this dream is a reflection of a possible waking life reality or simply neurosis requires us to be abjectly honest with ourselves.

Have we climbed to where we are honestly, with due diligence or have we cut corners or cheated our way to the top? Is there something we have done which could be found out, leading us to ruin?

If we have made our way to where we are honestly and with hard work, our dreams of a spectacular fall in an elevator might simply be a reflection of "impostor syndrome."

Impostor syndrome is a pervasive neurosis wherein no matter how hard we work, no matter how faithfully we execute our duties, we feel that we are frauds, falsely believing ourselves to be liars and deceivers, no matter how much evidence to the contrary there is in the outer, waking world.

Impostor syndrome is a learned, maladaptive, psychological behavior. It often appears in people who grew up feeling that love was predicated on performance rather than something one had a right to simply be virtue of who one is.

Look at your falling elevator dream closely because it might offer you a chance to step out of false feelings of being an impostor and into an authentic place of being!

Help Combating Impostor Syndrome

Last Words

Whether you are going up, going down, or crashing in your dream elevator, never forget that dreams don't typically exist to warn us about unavoidable events about to transpire in the waking world.

Rather, dreams exist to alert us to the conditions our psyches and what may transpire if we continue following that path we are currently on. If we're traveling in the direction we're trying to go, then we can look at our dreams as delightful confirmation that we're going the right way.

Sometimes, however, we take the wrong path or press the wrong button and find ourselves heading toward a place we never intended to go. Our dreams, even our nightmares, can help us see where we went wrong and show us the way to get back on track.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Aisling Ireland


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