Vehicles and Motion



Means of transportation have different symbolic characteristics:

  • They are symbols for the coping with life. The symbols of the transportation shed light on how we get along in life and if there are problems and obstacles. In nowadays life, people only use technical transportation. If they ride horses it is more about the emotional relationship with the animal then about the actual locomotion. As a result one has to stand back from a simple classification such as animal = ”vital” and technology = ”logical problem solving”. Due to our unilateral lifestyle the familiar transportation stands for all aspects. A more specific classification has to be made by analysis of the details or the environment through which we move.

  • They are Threshold Symbols. When we are in a state of transition from one state to another (f.e. from sleep to wakening, from the here and now to the world beyond, from conscious to unconscious) the transition period can be bridged with the stay in a vehicle. That means that the journey is a threshold symbol only if the imaginative trip goes from one city to another or from a city to the countryside.

  • They can also be an aftereffect of the past day. This has no symbolic value.

Note that we should also think outside the box and be open for the unexpected:

“Me and my father drive down an alley in a car. He drives and I sit on the front passenger seat. As I look to him I see that the car is not responding to his intense steering movements. We dash along the road. I see the shadows of the trees flash past us. Once we are far right and then nearly on the left lane.” (Ant.)

Commentary: Now as I read these old dream notes I realize that this was the same alley where my father had a bad accident one and a half year after the dream. He collided with a tree.

Types of Locomotion and their symbolic Meaning

by foot: go the way by one's own effort

by car: moving the regular way (by using one's mental, emotional and vital abilities)

  • drive by oneself: finding of the path due to own decisions
  • somebody else drives: the future perspectives are determined or influenced by somebody else

“Me and my family were spending the day in a mountain village. In the evening me and my grandparents drove home. My grandpa drove up a mountainside and the car was refusing to work properly. As we reached the top of the hill we left the road and dashed towards a fence.
Me and my grandma screamed with one voice: “Brake!”
But instead of braking my grandpa was complaining about us: “I won't be dictated to. I know which side one's bread is buttered on!”
I replied: “We didn't address reproaches but we are also here with you in the car and we want you to drive carefully. It is about our lives and not about your pride.”
The car seemed to split in two and suddenly I found myself driving the car and my grandma was sitting on the front passenger seat. For a moment I was wondering where my grandpa had gone but then I was too busy driving. Meanwhile, it had become dark outside, the hills were very sheer and the road was located near an abyss. I had not been driving for quiet a while and the gear box seemed really complicated having several gear sticks. I was very concentrated. My grandma helped me and we reached a hilltop. On the right hand side were cliffs and on the left hand side lay a small forested area and behind it the abyss. On this serpentine mountain road a lot of other cars rushed by. I just wanted to get us home safely.
I thought: “I don't care how long it takes, there is no point in rushing and then falling over the edge.”
So I wanted to drive slow and safe. As I came to this conclusion I woke up.” (Seth)

  • using tram, bus: living in accordance with general norms and treat the path that the others use

by boat: The ship moves over the water surface, which symbolizes the contact area of conscious and unconscious. As a threshold symbol the ship helps us over an ocean or lake (threshold) to another shore.

“V., S. and I sit in a boat. We are out on a huge lake that seems like a sea to me. We gain more and more distance from the shore. We fish out different objects made out of copper and brass which lay on the seabed. Every object had a specific and special meaning. The meaning of every object was based on the previous ones. It is very quiet – a divine silence. The only thing I can hear is the sounds of the gentle boat movements. It is like an initiation.” (Ana.)

spaceship: Space is a totally different area of existence. Often it is a religious or otherworldly sphere.

"The journey to the realm of death": "I see a weeping willow into which an image is carved. I look at it and suddenly the tree trunk disappears and I see the following scene: There is a massive, wooden boat floating through space very close to the earth. There are many people sitting in this boat but their faces, clothing and heads are pale and ashen. They look like the dead. Only one old lady, who is sitting on the bow, wears colorful garments.” (Ana.)

expedition: venture into the unknown


Single Symbol Elements of the Vehicles

  • Car

fuel: symbol for the inner energy (power), vitality, pep and faith regarding the coping with life

wheels: symbol for the body-based aspect of progress

lurching: dynamic emotional influences which hinder a clear path finding

slow, arduous movement: physical exhaustion or lack of assertiveness

barriers: barriers in life

bad sight: intransparent situation

not able to control (f.e. car or horse cannot be steered): the situation is getting out of hand

  • Boat

storm: strong emotions closing in

fog: a) unclear perspectives or b) intermediate region (twilight)

shallows: unknown, invisible dangers

iceberg: dangers of petrified emotions

sea monster: threatening, powerful, unconscious content (term “content” after C.G. Jung)

high seas: being pushed around by life or by own feelings

leak: collapse from the unconscious

capsize: incapability to deal with life (regarding emotions)

rowing boat: getting forward by own force

sailboat: being transported by the wind, this means by mental powers

motorboat: the emotional sphere is dominated by vital and mental energy

passenger ship: The path is in accordance with society (going by boat with the others). The ship is a complex symbol of the personality:

    • captain: inner leader, core of the personality

    • crew: The vital forces, which control the inner forces and mechanisms. On the one hand the crew executes the captain's commands and on the other hand it is responsible for the proper shipping.

    • machines: mental or vital driving force of the human

    • upper deck: area of the conscious

    • lower deck: area of the unconscious

submarine: exploration of the unconscious, entrusting the unconscious


© Alfred Ballabene (Vienna) translated by Seth