Now that I have pounded into your head that everything in dreams is symbolism, I’m going to tell you more about the exceptions. We began this discussion in Dream Symbolism Part 1 and it deserves a deeper look.

Sometimes I can look and look for the symbolism in a dream and not find it. I can’t decode the meaning. But the dream is neither precognitive nor literal nor induced by illness or drugs (prescription or recreational), which are the exceptions to the rule that “everything in dreams is symbolism.” There’s no apparent reason for the absence of symbolism other than the dream is just telling a story and the importance of certain details is their use in the story. The story is the bottom line.

I take that back. The experience of the dream is the bottom line. Dreams are experiences you give yourself. They are your inner world given shape and form. They can contain symbols that are meaningful, but the narrative and story structure don’t follow the formula I’ve taught in this lesson on dream symbolism.

Some dreams or details within them are most important to understand as a story or experience that has a point or lesson. You aren’t as likely to find the meaning and significance by analyzing the symbolism. Instead, analyze the story and the interactive experience it creates. Its details set the scene. They’re part of a scenario crafted in the deepest part of your mind, and the reasons why you subconsciously create the experience are tied in with why you dream in the first place.

The dream experience: from symbolism to outright surreal

All dreams are like virtual reality, but ones that lack traditional symbolism can’t be decoded using traditional means. Instead, the master dream craftsman created an experience that stretches beyond the conventional boundaries. The spectrum of what you experience in such dreams ranges from learning simulations in virtual environments, to out of body or astral experiences.

For example, Ian Wilson, who first learned how to lucid dream in the mid 1980s, reports being able to stay aware while falling asleep and observe how dreams form. It’s led him ever deeper into the mechanics of creating reality in dreams and in 3-D physical space, and he now teaches people how to create their dreams as if directing a movie. Dream reality and physical reality both appear to render raw information to create experience, similar to how a video game renders raw data to create a 3-D immersive environment, and the base-level data is drawn from your beliefs and expectations. Top-level physicist say physical reality begins as just information, too.

In other words: Virtual reality. A holographically-rendered experience.

Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?

Edgar Allan Poe

Life is a dream, but never “just a dream” because it’s so much more (the point E.A. Poe actually makes in his famous poem). The truth in that statement is eventually revealed to everyone who pursues it by exploring their inner world. Life is a persistent higher-level dream, say people such as Ian Wilson and Paul Levy, author of The Quantum Revelation.

Great analogy, right? Life is a dream. Or is it just an analogy, just a poet being poetic? If Ian, top physicists, poets, psychics, and mystics throughout the ages are correct, we live in a reality that’s built atop another one that’s pure information. Data. It’s like the universe is made out of thoughts that are given shape and form, the same as dreams are your inner world given shape and form and created by your thoughts and more (feelings, emotions, perceptions, instincts).

To understand these experience they must be approached by deconstructing the purpose for them. In other words, why are you given the experience of the dream?

One more thought for you before returning our focus of this lesson to dream symbolism. When I encountered the ideas presented above I was skeptical of them. I interpreted dreams conventionally and boiled them down to processes of the brain and body. I still take that same basic approach, but now I expand my scope of what’s possible. Some people interpret dreams almost the opposite of me, viewing them as metaphysical or spiritual experiences, and I advise you to first master the conventional approach to dream interpretation. Then, when you’re ready, the deep end of the pool is waiting. For me, the 25-year process of radically altering my perception began with the book The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot.

More dream symbolism examples:

In a dream you:

  • Spin your wheels.
  • Drive in circles.
  • Visit a mechanic.
  • Can’t see while driving.
  • Are a passenger, or have one or more along with you.

Think about it, then keep reading.

Spin your wheels is a metaphor for situations in life where your efforts get you nowhere. “Spin your wheels” is a common figure of speech, and dreams visualize and enact figures of speech.

Drive in circles metaphorically expresses its idea the same way as spin your wheels. You go round and round and end up back where you started. For example, you “argue in circles.”

You visit a mechanic when you need help with your vehicle, maintaining of fixing it. Your body is the vehicle that moves your life. Symbolically, the mechanic in your dream represents something in you that maintains or fixes your health. Now expand the idea of health to think beyond physical health. You might need a look “under the hood,” into your inner workings, to see what’s going on emotionally, spiritually or psychologically. Or you need getting your life moving.

Can’t see while driving means you don’t know where you’re going. Figuratively, seeing means personal awareness and vision. You are “in the dark. The headlights of your car in a dream might symbolize your ability to see into the dark spots within yourself. They can be like a spotlight bringing something into focus. Or they might symbolize your eyes.

Passenger in a car

A passenger in a car can symbolize the idea of “along for the ride.” Your life is moving along and the passengers are people who are part of that journey. The idea is reversed if you are the passenger while someone else drives. The driver is the person in control of the situation, or in general.

dream symbolism decode the meaning
A dream’s way of saying “lost your head.”

Example dreams

To further illustrate the idea, let’s analyze dreams that use driving- or- vehicle-related symbolism.

I’m driving in my car faster and faster with my boyfriend in the passenger seat. I see a wall ahead and press the brake pedal but it doesn’t work. My boyfriend pulls the emergency brake but it doesn’t work either, and we crash into the wall. Everything goes black, and I’m dead.

This dream occurred at a time in the dreamer’s life when she had too much to do and not enough time to do it. She drove herself hard to accomplish it all and reached a breaking point. That personal context of the dream helps us to understand the symbolism and meaning.

Her inner drive and the fast pace of her life are symbolized in the dream as the car’s high rate of speed. Her breaking point (after missing her “braking point”) is symbolized as the brakes not working and smashing into a wall.

jm debord
I’m RadOwl, the creator of Dream School

But why is her boyfriend a passenger? Because as an important person in her life, he is “along for the ride.” They are partners in life. Pulling the emergency brake is obviously symbolism when you consider that in reality the brake is not located between the driver and passenger seats, but instead is on the driver’s side floor. That discrepancy with reality has to be symbolism, and what it means is he’s been trying to get her to “put on the brakes,” to slow down and de-stress. That obvious use of symbolism is also a sign that the dream is not giving a warning that the dream could literally come true.

Now analyze this dream:

I’m at a friend’s house hanging out with him and a group of our friends, which is how I spend most of my waking time. I can’t stand it anymore and go to my mom’s car parked nearby, reach under the passenger seat and pull out a gun. I point it at my head and pull the trigger. Everything goes black.

The young man who had this dream has ambitions for his life but is unable to figure out how to make them reality. Instead, he wastes a lot of time at the house depicted in the dream, hanging out with the same friends. The feeling of helplessness to achieve his ambitions sparks thoughts of ending his life, an expression of hopelessness.

He grabs the gun from under the passenger seat of his mom’s car because she’s the person who gave him the idea that he wanted to do something more with his life than whittle away his time with other people who also can’t figure out what to do with themselves. But mom can’t achieve his ambitions for him. He can’t be her passenger for this ride. He has to figure out his own way.

In reality, his mom does not carry a gun in her car, so the discrepancy is obviously symbolism. Focus there while interpreting the dream. If you figure out what one part of a dream means, you can use it decode the rest. Why is the gun in mom’s car under her passenger seat? Because she has led her son’s life to this point. The dream is dramatically saying he needs to figure things out for himself, and if he doesn’t, it’s like suicide in the sense that he’s throwing away his life. The answer to that question unlocks the meaning of the dream.

That dream is a great example of how dreams amplify important messages by presenting them dramatically and powerfully.

Next up, another dream featuring the dreamer’s mom, this time with a different twist. The dreamer is a teenage son.

My mom is driving her truck and I’m in the passenger seat. She drives on a snowy road and misses a bridge. The truck ends up on a frozen lake and the ice breaks. The truck sinks. I rescue Mom, swim us to shore, then yell at her for her bad driving.

shared at reddit dreams

Being the passenger in his mom’s vehicle is a way of symbolizing this young man’s role and position. His mom is the decision-maker, the one who leads. As a teenager he’s like a passenger along for the ride.

The action of the dream dramatizes and symbolizes his observations about his mom’s decision-making. It’s bad, shown in the dream as missing the bridge and driving onto a frozen lake. He has to come to her rescue to save her from her bad decisions, like in the dream. Once you know the context of the son’s life, the symbolism of the dream is obvious because he’s always coming to her rescue and fixing her messes.

Think like a storyteller

Every detail in a dream is purposeful. Knowing that, you can reverse engineer the dream by asking why a dream uses a detail a particular way in the story, and gain clues to decode the symbolism. Any mode of travel can be used to describe movement in your life or the daily activity of it, but some modes are better than others depending on what a dream is really saying.

  • Driving a vehicle tends to be used by dreams to speak to the daily activity of your life.
  • Flying in a plane tends to speak to life’s more distant objectives and bigger goals, or the desire to get somewhere quickly.
  • Traveling by boat tends to symbolize the longer journeys of life and experiences with more depth, or the feeling of buoyancy.
  • Riding a motorcycle symbolically suggests ideas such as “go it alone” or “independence” because it’s a single-person vehicle. But I have helped to interpret a number of dreams where couples ride together, a way of saying “the two of us together on the road of life.”
  • Peddling a bicycle symbolically suggests ideas such as “leg work,” “effort,” and “hustle.”

The dream storyteller uses driving, flying, boating and cycling depending on what wants to say symbolically. It chooses the vehicle that best tells the story. You can reverse engineer a dream by questioning why certain details are chosen, and it helps you see into the mind that creates your dreams.

The following post explores this idea further:

Meaning of riding a bus

This introduction to dream symbolism provides a foundation for interpreting your dreams. Everything in meaningful dream is symbolism except as noted previously. By learning to decode dream symbolism you unlock the meaning of your dreams.

Next lesson

Now that you know why you dream, the three simple facts about dreams, and how to decode dream symbolism to find the meaning, you’re ready to explore the D3 interpretation process.


More Dream Symbolism Resources:

Death Dreams

Pregnancy Dreams

Penis Dreams

Snake Dreams

Kitten Dreams

And more:

Callous over heart in a dream shows that the dreamer’s self-harming has calloused over her emotions.

A partner shrinking during sex in a dream shows that the dreamer is getting less enjoyment from sex.

Two tornadoes in a dream symbolize two writing projects the dreamer is working on.

Go into great depth about dream symbolism in the book Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung and three of his main students.

Or watch this video for an audio version. Starts at minute 22, after the reading of the Forward.