I have a couple of recurrent dreams when I’m under stress. They are always disturbing, anxiety producing, and linger with me for days afterwards – but I’ve had them so often now that I understand that they are a sign. My brain is trying to tell me something and, if I was wise, I would listen.
One of these dreams always has to do with my car and driving. It will start out innocuously enough – I may be driving down a country road or on the way to party or meeting – but then I’ll start to go down a hill and, when I try to slow down, the brake pedal slams to the floor but the car doesn’t respond. In fact, since I’m going down the hill, it will speed up – careening towards certain doom. Occasionally I’ll be driving up a hill and then the car will lose power and I will start to roll backwards down the hill, unable to stop myself because my brakes are again not working (this dream is worse than the first, as I can’t see my demise coming, but I know it’s there). Sometimes I’ll try to turn the wheel and nothing happens – I continue to hurtle towards the cliff or the wall of rock – unable to save myself. Then there is the dream where I hit something because I can’t stop or turn, and I can’t get the dents out of the car. No matter how much I pound or pull, those dents remain – and they distress me!
I know now that when I have a car dream, my brain is trying to tell me that my life is “out of control” or “in need of repair.” It’s a cue for me to take a good look at what is happening in my life and try to change things. Often times, I already know what the problem is – I’ve just been in denial or avoiding the issue, as that seemed easier than dealing with it. I think my brain steps in when I’m being unreasonable and cowardly and tries to motivate me before I totally go off the deep end.
The other night, I had a car dream that I’d never had before. I was driving on a horribly rutted and narrow dirt road through a dense forest. The track just kept getting worse and worse – and I knew that I had to find my way to a better road right away if I wanted to make it home safely. I spotted a well maintained road just below me on the mountain – it wasn’t very far and I knew it was imperative that I get to it now, before the roads diverged and it became impossible to make my way. The only problem was – there was no road connecting the two. The only way I could get to the safe road was down a barely visible path that was scarcely wide enough for my car. I gingerly turned off the dirt road and onto the trail, driving slowly and carefully as I tried to avoid holes, stumps, and fallen trees.
I was almost there! But as I went over a slight rise, my heart dropped – because in front of me the path narrowed, with two enormous trees on either side, their large trunks intertwining about ten feet from the ground to form an arch of sorts. There was no way around – and I couldn’t turn around and go back. Trying to back the car up the way I came wasn’t possible or even an option, given that the dirt road was so dangerous. All I could do was to push forward and hope that my car would fit through the narrow opening.
I crept forward, wincing as branches scraped along the sides of my car. The nose of my vehicle began to pass through the arch, but my side mirrors made my car too wide! At this point, I started to panic – I was feeling horribly claustrophobic – but I knew I had to keep going. I stepped on the gas, giving the car more power and it lurched forward with a horrible grinding sound as the side mirrors were crushed against the body of the car. The squealing and grinding continued as I moved inch by inch – but I kept moving forward – I had to if I wanted to be safe!
Then it happened. The car stopped moving. I downshifted and gave it even more gas – but I was well and truly stuck between and under those giant trees. Just feet away from the road that would take me home! Worse yet – I couldn’t get out. Both the front and back doors were wedged tightly against the bark, with not even a quarter-inch of leeway. I was trapped.
I woke up gasping and sweaty, my heart pounding. Still feeling claustrophobic, I threw off the covers and lurched to my feet. It took me long minutes to calm myself and days before that sense of doom finally lifted.
With the stuff that is currently going on in my life, there isn’t a doubt in my mind about what my brain is trying to tell me this time. Now – am I going to listen?