DREAM ADVICE COLUMN: RECURRING CAR CRASH DREAM
So I’ve had somewhat of a recurring dream for the past few years. The exact situations are always a little different, but it always ends in the crashing of my car and waking up. In the last, I was driving down a winding, dark, foggy road. I was driving my car alone and I felt drunk or disoriented; I couldn’t focus my vision and was frustrated. I began to lose control of the car and the last thing I saw before I swerved into a ditch was a mailbox. And then I immediately woke up. I didn’t tell anyone about the dream, but a week later my mom dreamed I was in a car accident and died, and she was arranging my funeral. She said it was so vivid that it bothered her for days.
I’ve spent the past 4 years, on and off, traveling around the world. I was just in Asia for 6 months before returning to the States this fall. I haven’t had a real job in over a year and I think it’s safe to say that I’m officially a starving artist — I paint and shoot film. I’ve always chalked these dreams up to inevitably getting into a fatal car crash one day, and especially now that my mom is having them! I’ve always had a very strong intuition but I’m not exactly sure what this means.
Hope to hear your thoughts!
Recurring dreams can be so unsettling! I used to have an on and off recurring dream that I was drowning in a whirlpool. Then years later, the whirlpool became a tidal wave. Then eventually, years after that, I started surfing the tidal wave over top of a city and landing safely. Recurring dreams can be imagined as the psyche’s way of illustrating a task that will keep presenting itself until it’s mastered. So let’s look at what your car crash dreams could be communicating to you.
If you took Psych 101 you may remember learning about Freud’s id, ego, and superego. The id is the drive toward instincts and pleasures, the ego is conscious sense of self or “I-ness,” and the
superego is the severe, punishing, “should-ing” voice. Freud wrote, “The poor ego…serves three severe masters and does what it can to bring their claims and demands into harmony with one another. These claims are always divergent and seem incompatible. No wonder the ego so often fails in its task. Its three tyrannical masters are the external world, the superego, and the id.”  So let’s imagine that your car crash dreams are a way of your psyche expressing that the ego is under such strain from all three areas of pressure that it can’t drive.
This might sound funny, but I actually think your car crash dreams are a good sign. Your ego/driver sounds resilient in that it keeps driving off on its own, which is also mirrored in your outer life via your traveling adventures. But maybe the demands of the outer world — like work, time, and money — are becoming more acute as you’ve returned from traveling, making it hard for you to “focus your vision.” And on top of that, maybe you feel a pressure about what you “should be doing” coming from your superego, your family, or looking around at your peers. Feeling drunk as you’re driving down a dark and windy road sounds like a drive toward id. And to crash into a mailbox? What a symbol of the mundane! Could this illustrate a collision between the id and the ordinary? A mirror of your experience of returning home from Asia?
Maybe find a therapist, or at least journal about it to start, mapping out the demands coming at you from these different internal and external forces. It sounds like you have a powerful vitality and “drive” that you’re learning how to live with. I wouldn’t worry about this being a prophetic dream about a literal car crash. Yet a part of you may have to be mourned in order for the car to stay on the road.
 Freud, S., & In Strachey, J. (1971). The complete introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. London: Allen & Unwin.
*DISCLAIMER: Dreamwork is a collaborative process that relies entirely on the associations of the dreamer to create a dream meaning. Without the dreamer’s input, I can only describe my personal associations and amplify the dream images as they exist symbolically on a cultural level.