Dreams about cars and other vehicles can reveal something about the driving forces in our lives. Sometimes car dreams say something specific about how we carry ourselves, and at other times, they say something about what might be carrying us.
Our driving forces change with various stages of our life journey. There are times when we feel as though we are firmly in the driver’s seat. We have a clear view of our path and we know exactly where we are going. Other times things are not so clear.
The forces which drive us in life can be conscious or unconscious. While we might be conscious of what is driving us, for example, a steadfast mindset that compels us to succeed at all costs or to be the best at our jobs, we may be unconscious of the full effects of that mindset. Maybe our relationships or our health suffer because of that one-sided mindset.
We may be totally unconscious of who or what drives us. Some people think that their willpower drives them through life; however, anyone who knows themselves well enough is aware that despite our greatest efforts, our will power often fails us.
Other people feel as though they have no power whatsoever to steer themselves in the right direction. So, let’s a take a look at the many possible meanings of dreams about cars and the various life conditions under which these dreams come to us.
Dreams about Cars: setting up your interpretation
As I talk about in my introductory post on dream interpretation and meaning, when trying to unravel the meaning of a car dream, we have to look, not only at the whole context of the dream itself, but also the context of our current life situation.
Carefully examine all of the images in your dream. Take note of your emotional reactions to the dream images, including having no emotional reaction to the images.
Next, compare all of that to your current life situation. Only when you have done all of that can you come close to what your dreams about cars illuminate about your life.
And finally, when you feel that you have touched on the meaning of your car dream, then you have to integrate that meaning into your conscious life. That’s always the tricky part.
Dreams about cars: overview
Below you’ll see some example questions you can ask yourself in regard to your dreams about cars.
Everything in the dream, from the style and condition of the car and how we’re driving it, to where we are going gives us insight into the meaning of car dreams.
And as I say in every post, keep in mind that the dream shows you something you are not aware of.
Dreams about cars: an image for our general mindstate and the direction we are moving in life
Car dreams are different from dreams about traveling by trains, planes, or buses. When you dream of traveling by public transportation, the dream is indicating some kind of collective or conventional pattern.
Think about how public transportation works. It follows a specific schedule and travels along well-laid paths.
In car dreams, both the car itself and the direction it travels represent a specific aspect of our current psychic atmosphere and the direction of psychic movement. For example, are we in a crappy old banger that’s barely chugging along, or, are we in a sports or luxury car? Is the car functioning properly or is it broken down or out of gas? Are we traveling forward, i.e., moving forward in life, or, are we moving backward, i.e., regressing in in life?
The type of vehicle in a dream illustrates the kind of movement or the manner in which the dreamer moves forward in time—in other words, how he lives his psychic life, whether individually or collectively, whether on his own or on borrowed means, whether spontaneously or mechanically.Carl Jung, Psychology and AlchemyIf I go back through my own dream journal, I can see that dreams about cars are some of the most frequent. Sometimes I am driving, and at others, I am a passenger. Sometimes my trip feels easy, and at others, I am totally lost and confused. All of these changes in scenarios change the meaning of our car dreams.
During times when I was uncertain about my place in the world, my dreams about cars involved losing my car or having trouble driving it. Whenever I was unconsciously drifting into old patterns of habit, then my car dreams were either of me driving an old car from my past or of me being driven around by someone else.
Dreams about cars: Dreams about your own car
Dreams about cars we own often say something about how we carry ourselves through life, whether or not our driving style is working for us, or if we are headed in the right direction.
If we dream about being in the driver’s seat, then we know the dream is saying something about what we are doing and how it affects our lives. We have to pay attention to the dream imagery: are we driving with confidence, navigating in the flow of traffic or in conflict with it, traveling with a good sense of direction?
For example, two women had the following car dreams:
These two dreams about cars make it clear that something is going wrong for these two women. When we have warning dreams such as these, we should stop and reflect about our current life situation. For example, if you have a car dream where you are moving against the flow of traffic, close your eyes and really feel yourself in this dream space. You need to step into the emotional space of the dream.
In each of us is another whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves.Carl Jung, The Meaning of Psychology for Modern ManConfronting ourselves with these questions can be challenging for the ego, but this is the point of dream interpretation.
We are submitting ourselves to something greater than the ego, to that Other within us who sees what the ego cannot see. Your ego will find all kinds of excuses for why you should keep doing what you’re doing.
You can easily fall under the spell of “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” The dream symbolically shows you what you are doing. If you fail to take heed, something will eventually happen to force your hand. Watch for signs of this, such as small accidents or other dreams which reinforce the message.
Dreams about Cars: in what direction are you moving?
When the dream gives us a clear indication of the direction we travel, it’s showing us a specific aspect of psychic movement. In order to understand what I mean by movement, think of it this way: going to college, graduating, and then getting your first job is forward movement in life.
Sometimes as we move forward in life, we hit an obstacle that sets us back. If we continue to regress from that setback, for example we fall into a depression, that’s backward movement. Not all backward movement is bad because very often, taking a step back is necessary.
Dreams often symbolize patterns of movement in our lives. For example, traveling uphill or northward can symbolize that you are coming out of a situation or that something new is coming into your awareness. Traveling downhill or southerly can be an image for going into a more reflective state or slipping into a state of unconsciousness.
Again, take note of the particulars about your dream, most especially your relationship to the mechanics of the car and your situation. Are you speeding downhill without any brakes? Do you stop yourself just before an impact or do you crash?
Many times dreams about cars show you in precarious situations:
The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate.Carl Jung, Aion, Christ, a Symbol of the SelfI have seen many dreams similar to the one above! The dreamer is in a very dangerous situation, but has no emotional response in the dream.
So many people think, “but I wasn’t worried!”, not even realizing the dream is a warning about that lackadaisical attitude. If you have such a dream, you should ask yourself: what would I do if I were really in this situation?
In these cases, the car dream is saying, “You are in a dangerous situation, but you don’t seem to notice!” Throughout his writings, Jung shares story after story of people who did not listen to their warning dreams. Many of those people died because of it.
Dreams about cars: what does it mean when we are lost or disoriented?
There are many dreams about cars that involve us driving in circles, missing our exits, having trouble entering the highway, or losing our way altogether.
We often have these dreams during times of crisis or confusion. When this is the case, keep in mind that the dream is not just showing you a snapshot of what you already know.
The dream always attempts to show you what you cannot see. So, again we have to ask ourselves what is this dream telling me about my situation that I’m missing?
Pay attention to the scenario. Where are you? What other characters are involved? Write down as much as you can about each image. If the dream takes you back into your past, then you need to look back at that time in your life for answers. Here’s another example dream from my own dream journal:
Interpretation of car dreams where we are lost or confused
Let me start by pointing out something important because this happens often. Dreams #1 and #2 are connected, even though I recorded them as different dreams.
In the first dream, I am lost and cannot find my way. But in the second dream, I’m drawing a map, with an outstanding color is blue.
The second of half of this dream pair shows the possibility of orienting myself; it’s a positive symbol for my outcome.
The meaning of place in dreams
The dream put me back in the DC area, a time in my life where I was very unhappy, totally lost, and confused. So, the psychic atmosphere at the time of my dream was something like the DC area. When a dream makes a statement about a specific place, you need to put yourself there.
Sometimes the place in the dream says, a part of you is psychologically still here. This can mean either that a part of you is stuck in your past or that your current psychic situation is similar.
My challenge at that point in my life was to discover who this injured construction worker was. Something in me had been mutilated to the point of not being able to stand on my own two feet. It’s a terrible image, but even mutilation is an archetypal image pregnant with meaning. Mutilation and dismemberment is a state in the process of rebirth. This is a widespread theme in mythology and religion, for example in the stories Dionysus, Osiris, and Jesus.
I had to work out what that construction worker symbolized for me – what part of my personality he represented. I had to ask myself, did I lose something of myself in DC? What do I think about construction workers? Sunburn? A red Chow?
The appearance of the couple (P and S) , who were old friends of mine that I’d lost touch with, also has something to do with orienting myself. Did I need to integrate or disintegrate some aspect of those two? Everything in those two dreams was a clue, both about my suffering and the path to my healing.
Dreams about cars crashing: are you on a collision course?
Can a dream be more obvious than dreams about cars crashing? When we see dreams like this, we should be on the look out for the possibility of a collision in our lives. To be sure, collisions are scary, but they can also be a wake up call.
Sometimes a collision in our lives is absolutely necessary in order to break things up or to stop us in our fast tracks to nowhere.
As with any dream, dreams about cars crashing can be tricky to interpret because we do not always know whether these dreams are an image for a collision with the external world or a collision with the internal world.
Here are two dreams about cars crashing from two different women:
The woman in the first dream was reminded of her father, who used to let her ride on the hood of his car when she was a child. While it was great fun for her at the time, when she thought about it, she realized how reckless that was. She could have easily slide off and been run over.
Her cousin, who was driving, lived a reckless, meaningless life. The dream let her know, you need to get off the hood of this car and start driving!
The second dream is a different image. This dreamer had lived most of her life in constant fear and self-doubt. She had finally started to see how life could work out for her. Things were looking great. This kind of change in attitude will often constellate an old pattern in the psyche, as if something rises up to keep us from moving forward.
At the time of the dream, she had fallen into an old pattern of not trusting her life because she couldn’t yet see how her future could unfold. This dream was a beautiful reminder that sometimes, unseen driving forces and helping hands are in control. It is psyche’s way of saying: Fear not; there is no crash coming. Something else is in control of your Fate.
Dreams about cars: what does your car mean to you?
People can project a lot or very little onto their cars. To some people, cars are a status symbol, while to others, cars are just something practical – a means to get from A to B.
Cars are a source of stress for anyone who can’t afford one that is reliable. There are people who treat their cars like a baby or a lover, and then, some people don’t care at all about their cars.
Think about what your car means to you. All of your associations figure into the part of yourself that the car dream symbolizes.
… cars are an avatar. Cars are an expansion of yourself: they take your thoughts, your ideas, your emotions, and they multiply it.Chris Bangle, ex-Chief of Design for BMW Group
For example, if you say your car means “nothing”, then dreaming about your car breaking down could say, “You don’t put enough energy into how you move through life. You’re stalling.”
If your car is a status symbol for you and you have a dream of crashing it, then the dream could be saying that your self-image is too attached to a persona, i.e, you are not authentic and eventually, you will crash.
Dreams about cars: what kind of vehicle is in your dream?
In car dreams, the type of car and its condition says something about your current situation, your state of mind, and the way you carry yourself in life.
The following dream is from a woman who’d had to fight for most of her life in order to survive. Because of this, she unconsciously approached everything in life as a struggle, even though in reality, she was long past needing to fight. Even taking care of mundane things like going to the grocery store felt like an ordeal!
She always felt that she needed to be working in order to make something of herself. Taking time off, much less just being herself, was not even in her realm of possibility.
Her Jeep was an old Wrangler Sahara with big gnarly wheels that could climb over just about any mountainous terrain. That car could get her up and down hills, even in deep snow. Something about it made her feel safe, as though nothing could keep her from getting where she needed to be. It also gave her a sense of independence. However, the Jeep wasn’t practical for everyday use. Even driving it around for fun took a lot of effort.
The Jeep was a symbol for an attitude that could get her out of difficult situations. However, as with the Jeep, that attitude isn’t for everyday life. The dream came at a time when what she really needed to do was stop trying so hard. This short dream had a huge impact on her! She could finally laugh at herself and see what she had been doing all along.
Dreams about cars: who’s driving and what that means about your life
If you are not at the wheel, then take a good look at who is. The dream could be saying something about a driving force in your life, one that can help steer you in the right direction or one that takes you off track completely.
For example, maybe you dream about being in the car with one of your parents driving. You would need to ask yourself, have I regressed into an old family pattern? Sometimes, strangers are driving us around, as we can see in this strange car dream below.
Now this kind of dream is very complicated because it’s an image for a deeply unconscious process in this woman. She had come from a tortured past, one that almost killed her will to live. Something of her spirit still burned bright, but her past had left her impotent to make a place for herself in the world. She had absolutely no trust in her own ability whatsoever, even though she was highly intelligent and wise beyond her years.
There are several important pieces to this dream: the white van, the serial killers, her feeling special to be in the company of killers, and this naive woman and the fact that they end up in the serial killers’ apartment.
Here are her associations to the dream:
- the white van reminded her of a childhood incident where a white van slowly followed her as she rode her bike home. She got a bad feeling and found a place to jump off of her bike and hide, as the van drove back and forth for several minutes, as though they were looking for her.
- the naive woman she recognized as a part of herself who tended to get involved with people who were no good for her.
- the serial killers reminded her of people who have a morbid fascination with them, like the woman in her dream.
- an apartment in an apartment complex almost always symbolizes a psychological complex (click the link to read more about psychological complexes)
So, the question for us to explore was: what was her unconscious, morbid fascination (imaged by the other woman) that linked her to these serial killers? She admitted to me that any time she fell into depressive states about her lack of ability to make a place herself in this world, she often watched documentaries about serial killers. That was an interesting dynamic to both of us. What we realized is that the serial killers symbolized a self-destructive dynamic in her: an abject lack of self-worth kept her from taking the driver’s seat in her life.
Any time we are fascinated with strange things, whether in our dreams or in our lives, we should explore the symbolic nature of it.
Not all dreams of other people driving us point to something destructive or regressive. Sometimes, we need to let others take the wheel.
Now, for those of you who are worried that this is a dream about cheating, I suggest you read this article so you can get a better understanding of what those dreams typically mean.
In this situation, the dreamer was a woman in the process of setting up several businesses. During that time, she was financially supported by her husband. For some people, this may sound a a great situation, but for this woman, it severely challenged her sense of self-worth. She was on the verge of huge success in her, but at the time of the dream, she did not know this. As a matter of fact, she completely doubted herself.
Many times, a male figure in a woman’s dreams is an image for her ability to make her own way in life. Both male figures in the dream are parts of her own psyche. The image of her lover in the dream was in the form of a highly successful man, whom she very much admired. That he is her lover in the dream is a very good symbolic indication of her future success. The image of her husband being upset in the dream was an image for that disgruntled masculine in her – the one that kept telling her she was a loser for being in her situation.
What was important about this particular dream about cars is this: for the time being, she needed to let her husband drive. His financial – not to mention emotional! – support allowed her get to know this inner masculine, something which would eventually lead to her success.
This dream brought tremendous relief to this woman! She was able to let go of her feelings of guilt and worthlessness and focus on the golden opportunity she had.
Dream about cars dying, breaking down, or running out of gas
If your car dream involves your car dying or breaking down, then something about your way of moving through life isn’t working. In order to figure out what that is, you need to establish the context of the dream. Where are you going in the dream? Who is with you?
If the dream about your car breaking down was only a single image, then it could speak to your general way of interacting with the world around you.
If there is more imagery to the dream, you need to lay that out and take a look at it. For example, how do you get yourself through life? Are you timid or aggressive? Do you stay within the lines or do you cross boundaries?
If you are aggressive or too timid, the dream could say, “This way of moving through life isn’t working”. Once you get all of that down, then reflect on how it fits into your current way of moving through life. Whatever that it – it’s not working anymore. Something needs to change. Either you know this already, or, it’s coming your way.
In some cases, dreams about cars breaking down indicate a need to take a different approach to life. For example, in many car dreams the car breaks down and we end up walking or riding a bicycle to our destination.
Whenever we end up going from our car to using our own momentum, it’s often a signal that we are moving through life to mechanistically. Below I have shared the end of a long dream where a woman had all kinds of issues driving her car. At some point in the dream she said, “I think it’s best to ride my bike.”
Sometimes, we driver our cars so mechanistically, we do it unconsciously. This is a pretty good indication that we go through life in a similar fashion. When we travel on foot or by bicycle, we have to use our own force to get things going. In the above dream, this woman realized that she’d gotten too complacent in her life.
Dreams about cars: what it means when you can’t find your car
Not being able to find your car in a dream is another common theme. We’re walking around in the dream, searching to no avail. When you have a dream about losing your car, it’s a symbolic image for being unable to drive yourself where you need go. You’re unable to access that energy to carry yourself forward.
Sometimes it’s frustrating. Other times, we move on and start walking. In order to get at the meaning of these car dreams, we have to look at all of the dream’s components.
If losing your car is a recurring dream theme, then that says something about the manner in which you carry yourself through life. You cannot drive. What is the emotion of the dream? If the emotion is fear, then where in your life do you feel fear about your ability moving forward? When frustration is your main emotion, then you have to ask, where in your life do you feel frustrated?
Dreams about losing your car: Dream Examples
Below are two snippets from longer dreams, both depicting the dreamer unable to find her car, but with completely different meanings.
Losing your car: a real dream interpretation
Here’s what makes this car dream interesting. The woman woke up with a feeling of a breakthrough. Here are her exact words about the dream (shared with permission):
The feelings most associated with this dream are of feeling lost in a place I am familiar with. I knew where I was, but could not orient myself. This is what I do to myself in general. I get clear on a path, but lose my way. The last two days were psychologically unsettling because I got myself caught in great expectations. I had resolved last night that this path David and I are on together is dark and adventurous. We will not be given a solution/map of the path. The point is to enter this way. We can only do it for our sake, “without assurance and without sanction. There is something comforting in this dream.
The easy way home was not an option in this dream. I think I had gotten myself trapped into believing we had already done the hard work and that our payoff would be now. I keep desperately trying to consciously see the way that it is going to happen for us. The path before us is dark. We do not know the way. We have to find it as it emerges.
This reaction to not having her car was totally different that she would feel about not having her car. Her car was a symbol for being in control. Here, for once in her life, she felt okay about not being in control. It was the image of being in this spiritually minded place, looking for something symbolic that offered her comfort.
At the end of the dream, the dreamer is walking barefooted through downtown, again feeling comfortable. A city is an archetypal symbol for herself – her true Self. That is why she feels oddly comfortable.
Now you can see why it is so important that you really examine the psychic atmosphere of the dream. It shows you something about the situation that your ego doesn’t see. The dream gives you the full psychic picture, which includes both consciousness and the unconscious.
Now, from the same woman, here’s a totally different kind of dream about losing your car:
The dreamer woke up feeling “stranded” and “abandoned.” This was a woman with a terrible history and relationship with her mother, but she was unconsciously pretending that it had no effect on her. At the time, the dreamer thought that everything was fine with her mother – that she had worked out her childhood issues. This dream opened her eyes to the fact that something about her relationship with her mother had left her stranded and abandoned. She had her identity in tact, but she had trouble moving through her life, so to speak.
These kinds of dreams tells us where we need to do our psychological work.
Dreams about cars running out of fuel
Fuel is liquid energy. It is absolutely necessary for the life of the car. Our cars need fuel in order to get us to our destinations.
Throughout this post we have talked about the car as a symbol for the forces which carry us through the various stages of life. If we translate car fuel into psychological language, fuel simply means the energy of our life force, something Jung called psychic energy.
Psychic energy isn’t only that stuff which propels us forward or moves us along at rocket speeds. Psychic energy manifests in many different forms. Sometimes it is slow and steady. Other times it comes in the form of steadfast patience. It can move upward or downward, inward or outward. So, when you dream of running out of gas, then you have to ask yourself, what type of energy is appropriate for this stage of my life?
Dreams about cars running out of fuel are symbolic of the possibility of not having enough life force for whatever situation the dream symbolizes. Again, examine the atmosphere and general mood of your dream. Where are you going? What does this place symbolize for you? For example, if you dream about trying to get home and running out of fuel, the symbolic implication is that you don’t have enough energy to get Home to yourself – to that place within.
Want to learn more about working with dreams or Jungian Psychology?
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