Common Dream Themes


Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration? Carl Jung

Dream symbols are very personal. Dreams have multiple meanings and only the dreamer truly knows the meaning of a dream. You and I may both dream about a “baby,” but because you are starting a new project, your “baby” might reflect giving birth to an idea you feel passionate about. Yet, because I am exploring the realm of my inner child, my “baby” could represent Jung’s “Sacred Child” archetype. So I avoid using “dream symbol books” to understand one’s dreams.

However, that being said, there are certain topics that appear more often than others. You may think you’re the only one dreaming of trying to find a bathroom or being pursued by a shadowy figure, but you are not. Dream research shows there are several types of dream themes that people experience at one time or another. How do dream themes lead to awakening? They reveal invaluable visual metaphors for our emotional and psychological development. Though they might appear universal in meaning, they possess significant value that is personal to you, the dreamer. A few of the most common dream themes encompass: vehicles, bridges, animals, baby, bathrooms, being chased, classroom and taking a test, death, falling, fire, Eros/sex, flying, houses/buildings, landscapes, nudity and water. Let’s address a few common themes starting with vehicles.

VEHICLES Image result for abstract vehicle images

Why are vehicles in dreams significant?

Vehicles are the way we move from one place to another. And in dreams, vehicles have the capacity to represent how our soul uses our body to travel through life. There are many different kinds of vehicles, but for practical purposes, we’re going to focus on those that typically appear.

Who is in the driver’s seat?

Regardless of the type of vehicle, it’s always important to notice who is navigating. Whether it is a sailboat, car, bus, or train, the driver in your dream is always the one in control. Being any other place than in the driver’s seat implies that you are not in charge of your life. Perhaps you are drifting aimlessly, or maybe you are allowing yourself to be controlled by another. The point is, you are meant to be the one driving your life. In fact, it’s really the only thing you have control over, your life, no one else’s.

When a vehicle appears in your dream, notice where you’re sitting. If someone other than you is in the driver’s seat, who is it? This person is the one presently in control of your life. This is true even if they are deceased. How can that be? Well, it can occur if you’re living your life according to someone else’s idea of how your life should be, or, if you’re operating in a way that subscribes to someone else’s belief system, standards and criticisms. This is often symbolized by an authority figure who was influential and controlling in your life — and still is — even though you may be an adult. This issue arises from the fact that we may have been criticized by adults while growing up. Our minds take that criticism and create the infamous and destructive Inner Critic or Bully.

If you’re not in control of the vehicle, your dream is bringing this fact to light so you can change. The dream will usually reveal who is in control. The type of vehicle shows you the area(s) and intensity at which it is occurring. For example, a student of mine once dreamt the following dream about being in a car with her family of origin:

I am sitting in the back seat of a large, crowded car. My childhood family members are packed in the car, sister, mother, and grandmother who is actually deceased. My older brother is driving and my father is sitting in the passenger’s seat.  We come upon a flooded bridge and the car cannot cross the river. Suddenly the car careens out of control and off the road! Everyone exits the car and we begin walking.

First, note that the dreamer recorded the dream in the first person and present tense. Writing down your dreams from this place keeps the dream vivid in psyche, body and soul. It places you inside the dream where feelings, perceptions, and sensory experiences remain alive. Archetypal psychologist, James Hillman, once affirmed: “When I look at a dream in the morning, it is like a picture…but when I am in the dream at night, it is like a scene. I’m actually in it, I’m moving around in it. The landscape is three dimensional, as though I am inside the dream.”  

Second, the dreamer is not driving, her older brother is. Her father is also sitting up front. Where is the dreamer sitting? In the backseat along with her family members including her grandmother. The dreamer might be allowing her brother’s beliefs and to a lesser extent, her father’s attitudes, to be in charge of her life. These attitudes and beliefs are causing her to feel out of control about her life. Perhaps she felt controlled by her brother and father in her family when she was younger, or maybe she experienced some trauma as a result from living in an environment that was out of control. Unresolved trauma will appear in your nightly dreams.

As we look more closely at the dream, we notice that the men are sitting up front which may reveal the dreamer is allowing more “masculine” beliefs and behaviors to run the show.  Masculine behaviors focus on doing, being assertive, making things happen, etc., while in the backseat are the females and a “feminine” set of beliefs which suggests being, listening, trusting, intuiting, etc.  The dreamer may be downplaying her feminine aspect so it is taking a “back seat” in her life. However, the masculine approach is causing her to feel out of control and in danger so the dream may be telling her to become aware of the imbalance in her life so she can reclaim her inner power.

Stay tuned for more helpful information on automobiles, boats, planes and buses in my next blog!


For a deeper exploration into your dreams, please click HERE.

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