Q: I’m driving in a car and a Mercedes SUV pulls up next to me at a stop light. The driver, a Japanese man, asks me for directions. In the next scene, we are out of the cars and I am trying to show him how to get somewhere. I am very aware that he is Japanese, and I am not sure what language we are speaking, it doesn’t seem like English, but we are able to understand each other. As I’m trying to show him how to get where he wants to go, he receives a phone call, and takes the call and tells me to wait while he is talking. I am a little perturbed that he is making me wait while I’m doing him a favor.
A: Interesting. In this very simple dream, there’s a great deal of important information, and a surprising twist. From our short dialogue about this dream, I know that the figure of a Japanese man does not hold strong personal associations for you (a white, American woman), so the central image is rather a mystery. You also mentioned that the image of being asked for directions in a dream seemed particularly interesting to you. I thought so too…
Let’s start our exploration with the image of Japan, this man’s country of origin. The particularity of the country is important. Japan, a country that is a significant distance from the US, is still part of the industrialized First World. It’s similar to our culture in many ways, yet in the East, opposite us. (In contrast, if this were a dream about a man from Cuba or from Myanmar, near by or in the East but quite poor, the way we would understand this character would be quite a bit different.) This man is also clearly well-to-do (a judgement I’ll have to make about the Mercedes SUV without your own associations), but he’s not in his own land and he’s lost. His character is therefore one that is in many respects familiar, “civilized,” related to you culturally, yet foreign. And he’s in your territory and he’s lost. He pulls up next to you and asks you for directions. Fascinating! Why? Because, in the realm of psyche, where every dream character is a part of you, it is typically the “I” character, the conscious ego self, that is in some way lost and disoriented. Here, it is in the position of strength and orientation and something else is in need of support.
The elements of this dream suggest two primary things: one, that you have a strong and dependable, integrated ego that has the capacity to lead even in the the unconscious dreamworld, where it is more commonly not too comfortable (other aspects of your psyche are seeking orientation from “you” your conscious ego-self); and two, that your Animus, your inner masculine, the part of you that provides much of your strength and creativity, is disoriented at the moment. He’s in unfamiliar territory and is looking to you for guidance. (There’s not enough space here to explore the important figure of the Animus in a woman’s psyche, but we’ll keep digging in the future!). The fact that this part of you is disoriented in your dream probably means that you, in your waking state, are feeling a bit disoriented too. You’re having to take a lead in life, but much of the energy and resources you once relied on are a bit out of sorts at the moment.
In the dream, you have stepped outside of your cars in order to meet; figuratively speaking, you’ve disrobed, put down your masks and your armor. And as neither one of you are speaking your native language, it seems you’ve found a third language with which to communicate. Fine work! Unfamiliar elements of your psyche are finding ways to dialogue, a sign of self-development. You’re on the right track to getting yourself fully oriented again. Now, a word of warning: make sure to watch your temper and stay rested. The disorientation (and disractibility) of this Animus figure is clearly testing your patience. Give him the benefit of the doubt, or explain to him calmly why you need his full attention. It’s to both of your benefit that you stay present with him until he finds his way.
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Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com