Last week, I was giving a talk on nightmares and people in the audience were having a blast trying to outdo each other with the intensity of their dream images. There is nothing like the vast landscape of the dream world with which to play “I can top that!” There was scenario after scenario, each scarier than the other and the laughter of recognition as this group of individuals appreciated the variety of their dream experiences.
After ten or so minutes of this, one man sheepishly raised his hand. Almost apologetically, he said, “It doesn’t matter what I dream about or where I am, but I am constantly finding myself crawling out of a tunnel that closes in on me toward the exit, to the point where I have to squeeze myself out.” He went on to explain that he could be going from one room to another, or from outside going into a building (or inside one going out) but that he always seems to find himself trapped in some sort of narrow passage. Panic sets in, but just as the tunnel closes, he always manages to get through.
This dream is about transitions and changes in the dreamer’s life. Since he has had it many times throughout his life, it has become a very effective way for his unconscious to use the dream life to help him process the fears and challenges that come up when life is reflecting a big change.
A tunnel brings people from one location to another. In this way, a dream about being in a tunnel is going to symbolize the process of transformation that is occurring when you leave a destination behind and have not yet arrived where you think you are heading to. What is important to consider is that a tunnel is not an organic way of getting to one’s destination; it is a man made structure. The change that is taking place when a tunnel becomes the symbolic representation of that change is one that must be planned, engineered and then executed.
As an example, this dream might come up the dreamer himself must actually construct how he is going to change his life, as opposed to a change when all that really needs to happen is for time to pass, or for someone else to make a decision. Tunnels are also underground, so the transition in life that this dream represents are associated with things you want to keep hidden and out of sight – to occur below the surface so they don’t interfere with life on the ground above. The danger therein is that you could be crushed or squeezed as whatever transition you are undergoing is coming to a close – I am reminded of the phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn,” in the way that as you go through a big change, the longer and harder you have to work, it is always toward the end that you think you can’t take any more and feel the most squeezed. This is where the anxiety and panic come in.
It is important to notice with this dream that you always get through…just like in life. We are often terrified by change, feel we want to hide the impact of what is going on, keep our challenges below the surface of other people’s ability to see what’s going on and that we have to work so long on something, we might not make it all the way to our destiny. But we do. This dream probably helps you balance out the stress so you can wake up each day and face the next part of the tunnel you are making your way through.