Cars show up frequently in my dreams, and I’ve come to look at them in several ways: as a symbol of how I’m moving through the world, as a symbol of myself in motion, and as a symbol of relationship. Of course, the question of where I am in the car will yield some information about whether I feel in control (comfortably in the driver’s seat) or along for the ride (elsewhere in the car) or in conflict (trying to drive from the back seat, for example). If I’m sliding with no traction, the dream may be telling me there’s nothing to do but ride this out, or it may be illustrating how very out-of-control a situation has become.

One image with cars has come up a lot for me in the last couple weeks, not in dreams so much as in thinking about my body and the pain that I experience there. The image is having one foot on the brake and the other on the gas. I’ve had this dream experience, so it’s easy to evoke, but I was experiencing it at a primarily intellectual level, thinking about how I have both the urge to move forward and the urge to stop myself. Then I tried an experiment, where I pushed against a piece of furniture with my left foot as hard as I could—the braking foot if I’m braking and accelerating at the same time. A sense of utter desperation flooded me—the primal urge to hang on to this moment of life, to stop the changes I see coming, to keep those I love close beside me when I know that time will inevitably take them away. The emotional response was profound, and at the same time cathartic, as I recognized that I can’t stop any of the change, so I might was well jump in and ride it.

Not that I think I’ve found the answer, but the moment was healing in that I recognized a mostly unconscious urge and now can look at it in the light of consciousness. Recognizing the contrasting impulses, and honoring the emotion behind them both, helps me sort out exactly what it is that I really want and how I’ll deal with what life throws my way.

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4 thoughts on “Cars as a metaphor”

  1. Well, I think you know what I have to say about that. Welcome on board the sliding, surging, unpredictable ride, and way to go in search of what is for you. Brave work, my friend. And well-stated.

  2. I’m so fascinated by your awareness of connections between physical and emotional feelings. That was brilliant, re-creating the dream in a physical way and paying attention to the emotional result.

    When I dream about cars, I often have this happen: I’m driving along a road that gets rockier and steeper, until it’s impossible to drive. I get out of the car, which becomes smaller and smaller until I’m able to put it under my arm and march forward on my own two feet. There’s a sense of frustration about going slow, but also a sense of self-reliance.

    My other recurring car dream involves being in the old 55 blue Chevy, and is always about childhood nostalgia. I had that image show up a few times when Mom was dying, but not since then.

    1. Thanks, Karen! I don’t know about brilliant, but I was grateful for the idea and amazed at how much information I got out of it. I like the sense of self-reliance in your dream, and for me, there’s a sense that the most important journeys can only be done by putting one foot in front of the other, especially when the way is steep and rocky!

      Ah, the old Chevy. I saw a car that was the same shape, but a different color, and all sorts of memories came back.

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