Contrary to what most dream sites say, dreams about being lost are NOT about your anxiety or stress. Dreams about being lost show that you have gone astray somewhere in your life. They symbolize a disconnection between your true nature and your current life situation.
When I say true nature, I mean your fundamental instinctual nature, in the way that Carl Jung meant it, and as I have mentioned in several articles. Your instinctual nature is an innate drive to live an authentic life. When you are separated from it, it will let you know through symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and even physical illness.
But before any of that happens, you are likely to get a dream letting you know that you have strayed from your path, and often that is a dream about being lost.
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Introduction to Dreams About Being Lost
While it is certainly true that some dreams about being lost constellate anxiety, the angst itself is not the message of the dream. Many dreams, such as those about losing your teeth or dreams about cheating, make you feel anxious.
Anxiety is not the problem in these dreams; anxiety is a symptom of a deeper problem in your life. I say more about this below.
The conditions under which you are lost in your dream will give you an idea about where in your life you may lost or disconnected.
Consideration for your dream about being lost
The questions concerning anxiety in the dream are:
- How is the anxiety and stress in your dream about being lost related to your current life situation?
- How and where are you lost?
- Do you even realize that you are lost?
In order to find out the answers to these questions, you have to look at the entire dream situation, as well as all of the other imagery, and not only the fact that you are lost in your dream.
Are you on a busy freeway and taking the wrong exit? Maybe you are on an old country road that reminds you of your grandmother. You could be somewhere completely unfamiliar. Every detail of the dream is important. Write all of it down and then compare that to what you feel in your current situation.
Next you have to relate – symbolically speaking – all of that imagery to your current life situation. Always keep in mind that you may or may not feel like you have gone astray. And above all, remember that the dream always gives you a perspective on life that you don’t see yet.
For instance, I know people who have had dreams about being lost on the their way to work, but in their conscious life they feel no anxiety or sense of lostness about their jobs whatsoever. So, in these cases, the dream is an image for something in the unconscious that feels lost or disconnected from conscious life and it is related to their job.
Dreams About Being Lost: Setting up your dream interpretation
As I just said, first and foremost, the problem in these dreams lies in the particulars around the dream image I am lost.
Here are some considerations for your dream interpretation:
- Where are you going in the dream?
- What are the conditions of travel?
- Who is you with?
- What is your means of transportation?
- How does it feel to be lost?
- Are you lost or is someone else lost?
- How does the dream end?
Answering all of these kinds of questions establishes the underlying psychic context of your dreams about being lost. Once you have answered these questions, then you have to make your associations to each dream image. Only then can you start to build a bridge between your conscious situation and the underlying unconscious reaction to that situation.
Here’s an example dream:
Dreams About Being Lost: Answering the Important Questions
In order to give you an idea of how to work with a dream about being lost, let’s take a quick look at the dream above.
Where are you going in the dream?
- Our dreamer is looking for a place “she and her father used to visit”. But this is a dream place, not a real place. So, we know she’s looking for an inner place where she can feel calm and clear-minded.
- She is seeking a volanic lake, which calls to mind the goddess Pele. In Hawaiian mythology, Pele receives and regenerates the souls of the dead. This woman was in a profound state of transformation at the time of this dream. And as with any process of transformation, the fire of emotion was intense. In essence, she seeks a place of regeneration and healing.
- The father symbolizes many things: our conscious attitude, our ability to make our way in the world, and our authentic perspective on life, just to name a few. This lends insight into where her problem lies: finding her own place in the world, something which can cause immense suffering in a person.
What are the conditions of travel?
- The dreamer is alone and drifting. She has no gas and keeps getting distracted – forgetting to fuel her car. So, the dreamer should explore where in her life she runs out of life energy and where she gets distracted in relation to establishing her place in the world.
Who is you with you in the dream?
- Sometimes she is with her mother and her husband follows her. I have spoken many times about the inner masculine of a woman and what he symbolizes (you can see the articles where I mention it by clicking the link). He is an image for a woman’s passion and purpose in life. In this dream, he’s following a lost woman, so they are not in alignment.
- Now, in the case of this dreamer, she also had a profound negative mother complex, something I have written about in many articles (again, click the link to read them). Both the mother- and the father-complex play a role in this woman’s sense of being lost in the world.
What is your means of transportation?
- This woman is in her car, so that lets us know that she is the driving force of this problem. So, in a case like this one, the dreamer can reflect on what she’s doing in her life, which includes looking at her general attitude about life.
How does it feel to be lost?
- She is distracted and adrift; however, she knows there is a place where she will feel clear-minded and comfortable. I consider this a good sign.
How does the dream end?
- In this case, the dreamer finally drifts off the main road. Without her cell phone, she has no connection to the world outside. When she wakes up, she feels unsafe.
- The dreamer here was definitely not a conventional woman, so it is not surprising that she would drift off the main road.
- The hoodlums, are they bad news or simply unknown qualities of this woman? Don’t make any assumptions. They could be helpful figures for this woman. At the moment, she fears the unknown.
Dreams About Being Lost: What is Your Destination?
Your dream destination is important because it tells you something about where in your life you are unconsciously lost. Are you driving to work? Can you not find your way home? Or are you aimlessly driving around with no destination?
Each one of these scenarios in dreams about being lost would point to a different psychic situation.
Remember, the dream imagery is symbolic. It’s trying to show you something about your life and your attitude that you are not aware of.
Dreams About Being Lost: What’s the feeling tone in your dream?
The feeling tone in your dream is very important. You have to compare that feeling to your current attitude. Remember that the dream is responding to something in your life. In your dream, do you feel anything like:
Obviously, these are only a few examples.
Now imagine yourself in that dream state, but see it in real life. For example, what if you were driving home and really could not find your way? Would you panic?
Likewise, you if felt ambivalent about being lost, what could that mean? Would your ambivalence in a similar situation get you into trouble?
Once you have gotten yourself into the feeling tone of the dream:
- Describe that feeling
- Pay attention to the language you use
- See if you can use that language to describe yourself or your current life situation
Whenever I listen to my clients giving their associations to their dreams, I can hear them speaking about themselves – only they don’t realize it until I point it out to them. Write everything out and then read it back to yourself as though you are talking about your own life.
Dreams About Being Lost: The Real Meaning of Anxiety in Dreams
Let’s talk a little bit about anxiety in dreams about being lost, for the very reason that it’s a really common theme.
As I said in the introduction, most dream sites say that dreams about being lost symbolize your anxiety.
To repeat myself, anxiety dreams do not symbolize anxiety. That is a literal interpretation of the dream, not a symbolic interpretation. You can read more about symbolic meaning here.
Remember, a dream symbol points to something you do not know. I have said this many times, but I’m going to say it again: most dream sites copy and paste the same material. It’s journalistic incest and I have a hard time seeing how people don’t see through that.
If you are already anxious in your life and you have a dream where you feel anxious, the dream is not speaking about what you already know. The dream is an image for what’s behind the symptom of anxiety.
Dreams About Being Lost: Conscious versus Unconscious Anxiety
Sometimes the unconscious feels something we do not feel. Carl Jung called this an unconscious conflict, something I wrote about in my introduction to Dream Meaning. You might have a dream about being at a time in your life where you think everything is fine.
If this is the case for you, then the dream is an image for an unconscious problem in your life – a problem which may or may not cause you to feel anxiety in your waking life.
The dreamer doesn’t feel anxiety, so what then does the dream mean?
If you are in this situation, I would suggest that you reflect on this dream. Be open to the idea that the dream says, “you are lost and you have no idea that you are lost.” I see so many people who push themselves beyond all extremes in their jobs and suffer all kinds of anxiety and other illnesses over it.
They talk about how important their job is to them, yet they cannot see that their job makes them miserable. They cannot see that the source of their misery is a job they actually do not want to be doing.
Dreams About Lost on the Way to Work
It seems like, whether we want to admit it or not, all of us have a need to find our unique place in the world. We want to be appreciated, respected, and seen. Our dreams about work or working often depict problems with finding our authentic place in life.
If your dreams about being lost involve you trying to get work or working in general, then they could be saying something about finding or losing your place or position in the external world.
If you are in this situation, some questions you could ask yourself are:
- What are you really doing with your life?
- What is your unique contribution to the world?
- Does your job fulfill your destiny?
I realize that not everyone recognizes the value of asking and answering these kinds of questions. Some people are just chasing money or power. Others only want a job where they don’t have to think. And others still, don’t want to work at all!
My advice to anyone who has a dream about being lost on the way to work is to do some serious reflection on your place in the world. The dream could indicate that you have something to contribute, but you simply haven’t found it yet.
Sometimes we have dreams about lost at work. For example, in my younger years when I was still desperately searching for my place in life, I had the following dream about being lost in a confusing office complex.
Dreams About Being Lost in an Office Complex: Interpretation
How many dreams have you had about being lost in a complex of some kind? The word complex has a very specific psychological meaning. Our dreams often speak specifically about our complexes by using that word.
I have spoken at length about psychological complexes in another post, so I won’t go into detail here.
In this particular dream, we see two complexes at work in my psyche: an office complex (stated in the dream) and a money complex (the Porsche). The office for me symbolized my place in the Collective, in particular, my lack of place in the Collective. I was unfulfilled in my work and, like our other dreamer, adrift.
I was also constantly worried about not making any significant financial contribution to the household, so money was always an issue for me. That fear and worry had trapped my inner masculine: the fat man and the business man trapped under the car. You can see that dream says, “let someone know we are trapped under here”. My potential (the business man) was trapped by my fear and worry (the fat man pleading for help).
The office complex was an image for the underlying structure that kept me trapped, while the other images told me how I was trapped by my own attitude. Of course, realizing all of this is only the beginning of the work. Resolving such a complex takes time and a lot of conscious effort.
Dreams About Being Lost: Lost in a Vast Complex
In the dream below, you can see yet another manifestation of a dreamer lost in a complex. This is the dream of a 39 year old man, whose thinking function was extraordinarily complicated. Even the simplest of tasks were excruciatingly difficult. It was not that he was incapable. His mind was brilliant, only he couldn’t seem to access it.
Dreams About Being Lost in a Vast Complex: Interpretation
This dream was actually quite long and its ending was brilliant: the man ends up at an enormous tree, face-to-face with his true Self, a wise and beautiful man – “someone who’d always been there”.
Now, if you read this dream language with the idea in mind that this man was absolutely lost in his life, the dream makes perfect sense.
Remember the dream shows you the underlying psychic processes, that is, all of the undercurrent of our conscious situation.
The dreamer actually had no awareness of how lost he actually was, even though he was clearly suffering. He couldn’t get out of this kind of thinking, even to the detriment of his marriage. His complicated thinking had robbed him of his ability to relate to his wife authentically.
The feeling of “not belonging” was deeply embedded in his psyche and it manifested itself in many ways, such as social awkwardness, fear of taking action, and addiction.
All of his issues are in this dream; and, the end of the dream spoke of his potential to be that wise man. All he had to do, was follow the woman – a representation of his capacity to feel his way through life, instead of getting trapped in complicated thinking. This woman is also the key to this man overcoming his fear of life, but first he has to become aware of his pain and suffering.
Dreams About Being Lost in a House
Here is yet another complex theme: many corridors, doors, pathways, always in some kind of confusing place.
Sometimes we are lost in a house. It can be our own home,where we discover new rooms or floors, or, it can be an unknown house, as in this dream example below:
These dreams typically symbolize that we have entered an unknown aspect of our personality. The rooms and floors in which we find ourselves are important. For example, if we are in the upstairs portion of the house, then we could be developing a new conscious attitude toward life.
When we find ourselves in an attic, then perhaps we should consider looking at old attitudes which are no longer of any use to us. The attic could also symbolize the opposite. Maybe we have kept an important part of ourselves stowed away in the attic and it’s time to dust it off and put it to use again.
Dreams About Being Lost: When Can’t Find Our Way Home
Our dreams about trying to get home and not being able to find our way is another common dream theme. Here’s a typical scenario:
The problem of a dream like this is that you cannot find your way home. The meaning of the dream lies in the symbolism of home and your inability to find your way to it.
The Symbolism of Home and Your Conscious Attitude
Our home symbolizes our whole situation in life, meaning our entire system of adaptation to life: our relationships, our motivating forces, and in particular, our dominate attitude. By attitude I mean it in the way C.G. Jung defined it:
- our habitual point of reference toward life
- how we respond to typical life events without even thinking about it
An attitude is similar to an unconscious expectation about life and its meaning
I bold that statement because our unconscious expectations about life lead us down a path of conventionality and habit. In other words, unconscious expectations lead us down the well-trodden path of life and not the way to our true nature. Our path should be our own and not someone else’s.
The dreamer above also cannot find his train. A train is a collective mode of travel. In psychological terms, we might explore whether his attitude is too much in the collective and not enough a part of himself as an individual.
If this is so, then the dream could say, “You are not yet in your true home”. Maybe he knows this or maybe he doesn’t. If this man does not consciously experience the anxiety of leading an in-authentic life, then the unconscious is feeling that anxiety.
This would be a dream that falls into Jung’s category of an unconscious conflict. If the unconscious presents you with such a dream, then it is a gift from beyond. At the very least, it presents you with an opportunity to widen your perspective about your life.
Dreams About Being Lost on Your Way Home: Exploration of the Dream
So, if you have had dreams about being lost on your way home, you should take some time for self-reflection:
- Start with your current state of mind: how do you feel about your life?
- How are you relationships?
- What are your motivating forces?
- Are you fulfilling your life’s purpose?
- What is your current attitude?
- Can you define it?
- Is it really your way or is it something you have inherited or adopted?
These are the kinds of questions to explore.
Maybe you already know you’re not at home in the world, which ultimately means that you are not at home in yourself. If so, try looking at how you may not be following your instinctual path. Perhaps you don’t even know what your path is, yet. If this is so, the dream could say: this feeling lostness is your state right now and this is why.
Dreams About Being Lost on Your Way Home: Conclusions
Ultimately, you must find your way home. It’s an existential problem, whereas dreams of losing your car have more to do with driving forces in your life.
If you feel anxiety in your life, then now you know where to look for the problem. It has something to do with home and finding your your way into yourself. If you do not feel anxiety, then the unconscious says, “Okay, there’s something wrong here and you don’t see it. You haven’t found your way home yet.”
This dream image of lostness is an archetypal image: lost in the world. It’s part of the Hero’s Journey. Anyone who takes the road less traveled will certainly find themselves in this lost state. It’s the only path to your true self. If this is you, then be happy that you have lost your way, even though it’s scary.
Want to learn more about working with dreams or Jungian Psychology?
- Dreams of Father Dying: A Symbolic Rite of Passage - February 15, 2020
- Dreams About Dead Fathers: It’s Time to Re-Think or Update Your Conscious Attitude - February 14, 2020
- Nightmare Meaning and Nightmare Disorder:A Jungian Perspective - January 22, 2020
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