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I am 26 years old. I have been living with my father since the last 15 years following my parentsí divorce. Though he has never neglected me, I don't feel any warmth in our relationship. He is caring but quite aloof. From my childhood, I have had nightmares that would be related in some manner to my parentsí marital problems. For the last 10 years now, I have often dreamt that I am falling off the terrace of a very tall building. I have woken up frightened many times and still get shivers when I see the same thing. What does this mean' Does this symbolise anything' Please let me know. Do I need to see a psychiatrist'

Rupa T, Calcutta

Any dream of the kind described ó where one sees oneself headed towards a terrible fate ó is likely to be an anxiety dream. Witnessing parental marital problems, especially of the intensity that leads to separation or divorce is extremely anxiety-provoking for a child. The anxiety has probably remained in you, and surfaces even now through dreams.

Since you havenít seen the problems occurring in front of you for many years now, your current dreams might be replacing the previous dreams about your parentsí marital disharmony. While dreaming, you feel the emotions of a person about to meet a terrible end, and it lasts for a while after waking up.

The need to see a psychiatrist for treating the dreams would depend upon whether they are distressing enough (your description suggests they are), and whether they are affecting your day-time activities, too. But the anxiety that is the cause of your dreams can hinder your personal life and growth. So, I recommend that you consult a psychiatrist to overcome that.

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