Interviewing a Dream

It’s not uncommon to dream about a car or a fire or getting chased or threatened. What are these characters and themes trying to tell you? If you become this or that dream character, you can learn a lot!

My Car Dies

Tell me a dream you remember.  It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you’re sure you understand.


I am with my mom at night. My car is parked by a lake on a slope. It is a four-door sedan. I get out of the car. It’s still running. Am I distracted by something she says? My car starts to roll. I get in and attempt to stop it but I don’t. It rolls into the lake! I arrange to call a wrecker service to haul it out. He comes quickly. Now my daughter is there and he asks her if she can swim. Why? He shows that he’s missing an arm; I figure he wants help attaching the cable to the underwater car.  She doesn’t want to volunteer. He takes her and throws her into some sort of vat of water, laughing. She gets out, unhurt but all wet. In the meantime he disappears into the lake and quickly returns.  He pulls the car out and it starts!

We get in the car to continue on. There is machine gun fire! We drive on; it happens again! Finally, we are surrounded at a dead end in a city by fifteen or twenty guys. They set my car on fire! It burns and they leave…

Why do you think that you had this dream?

I fell on my back on the ice the night we arrived here at Binz, Rügen, two weeks ago. It “adjusted” about four or five vertebra and knocked the air out of me.  While it has gotten better, the soreness has not gone away, and I was having difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep in last night. I was starting to wonder if it’s a chronic problem that isn’t going to go away. Dreams about cars generally seem to be dreams about my body. I would say it’s reflecting my fear that something serious is wrong with my body.

If this dream were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?

My Car Dies

These are the characters in the dream, beside yourself…

Mom, my daughter Kira, Car, Wrecker guy, his truck, cable, pond, small pool, bad guys, city, fire.

If one character had something especially important to tell you, what would it be?

Bad guys. They manage to both destroy my car and wake me up with a recall of this dream.

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are this or that character in your dream and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Bad guys, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

We are harassing, threatening Joseph and burning his car in order to make enough of an impression that he remembers this dream!

Bad guys, why do you want him to remember this dream?

We want him to take better care of his health so he doesn’t lose it!

Like what?

You have to be vigilant, on guard against health stealers -accidents, bugs, whatever. Take those vitamins regularly, get a yearly physical, get his back checked out.

OK, bad guys. I think I understand what you’re about. Now I want to talk to the Wrecker Guy. Wrecker guy, why do you only have one arm? You’re doing work that requires two!

I can do a better, quicker job with one arm than most people can do with two! I may have a disability, but it doesn’t affect me!

So Wrecker Guy, why are you in this dream?

Inattention caused this problem in the first place. But it’s easily fixed. But there’s a secondary problem – inflammation! It’s the issue!

Wrecker guy, what do you think I need to do about the inflammation?

Ice? I dunno! I’m just a wrecker guy! Ask Claudia! She’ll know!

Wrecker guy, do you know why Kira is in this dream and why you threw her in the water?

She’s about your resistance to doing anything about your back! I threw her in to get your attention!

One more question, Wrecker Guy.  What’s my mom doing in this dream?

Your mom is about your thoughtlessness, your tendency to get distracted, and you not remembering. You lose focus, and that’s when you get yourself into trouble!

Yeah. I’ve had that all my life, Wrecker Guy. Any recommendations?

You just have to be more focused, vigilant, and determined than you are comfortable with. It’s developing a new basic style or way of being that is not natural for you. You’ve felt it when you get angry. But you don’t have to get angry to have it; you can learn to separate out the two. It will improve your meditations as well.

This dream is an example of a number of characteristics of Integral Deep Listening.

Often you will wake up with a dream and think, “This is garbage!” or, “This isn’t worth writing down.”  Other times you will tell yourself, “Oh, I already know what this is about. I don’t need to look at it.” This was a car dream, and cars often deal with the physical body, as this one does, but is that all it is dealing with? What we discover when we do an interview, that there are layers of significance that were unrecognized. In this case, it had to do with the entire issue of inattention and lack of focus.

Another thing we commonly do with dreams is think, “I already knew that!” If a dream doesn’t give us new information we think it is not valuable. The problem is, since dreams arise out of your own awareness, on some level you will always know what comes out of a dream. Therefore it is not reasonable to assess their worth by how much comes up that you did not know. It is much more reasonable to ask, “What did I learn that is useful?” “What different priorities are being suggested to me?”

This dream also points out how you are never too old to keep putting pieces of your life together to understand why you are who you are and why you’ve made the choices that you have. In my case, I am sixty-one and have done a lot of close review of my scripting over the years, since I’ve been a psychotherapist by profession. However, this dream brought new, helpful understandings about how and where I still get stuck and where some of that may have come from.

It also indicates how the characters in your dreams are best assumed to be aspects of yourself rather than being about the people in your life they represent. This is clearly about the mother and daughter parts of myself, not about my actual mother or daughter.

Here is another example of the pervasiveness of the Drama Triangle in consciousness, in which I find myself once again playing all three roles, victim (car, Kira, myself), persecutor (bad guys, fire, water), and rescuer (wrecker guy, wrecker truck).

We hear again that the function of the drama is once again to get our attention so that we will pay attention, listen, and wake up, not just out of the dream, but out of the dream of the drama of our lives, of which the dream is merely one depiction.

We see how we do not have to do an entire interview using the formal IDL protocol in order to get a lot of benefit from a dream.

We see that there are specific recommendations given that make sense to the dreamer, are useful, and are practical.

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