One of many dream situations that occur as part of the territory of the middle passage (aka a “midlife crisis”) involves the loss of one’s wallet, purse or identification cards and papers. This has been a recurrent theme in my own dreams, and I’ve also seen it in many dreams of folks I work with individually, online and in groups. It betokens the perennial question, “Who am I, really?”
In such dreams, the dreamer may find herself in settings where “officials” request and require the display of proper “proof” of personhood in order to pass over the threshold. What might such dreams be indicating in relation to our created and accepted ideas about and experiences of identity? Might these dreams be understood as suggesting a review of where the true source of our “being human” arises from and what truly characterizes human personality at this time n our lives?
I’ll give a composite example of exactly the kind of dream I’m talking about…
In the dream, I’m traveling in a cityscape and I come to a checkpoint. The man who takes tickets and checks ID asks me for mine. I feel through my pockets and bags and realize that I don’t have any of the items he is asking for.
Most of us would perhaps agree that ID cards, passports and so forth are simply tools for identifying people under certain circumstances. However, when these forms and their apparent requirement appear to us in the dream world, they suggest that we may have accepted the generic, societal, across-the-board descriptions about who we are that are given, not made. For isn’t this what has actually taken place throughout the course of a human lifetime? Haven’t we all, by a certain point and on some very real level accepted that to be a person means fulfilling certain roles, expectations and other people’s ideas about who and how we ought to be? Don’t we even describe ourselves, and each other, based on our physical characteristics, our age, where we live and what we do, as well as where we come from? Often, our description of one another could be seen to be a mere elaboration of the information that appears on our driver’s licenses, resumes and passports!
The invitation, or summons of the psyche, especially at midlife and in our dreams is one of a much deeper sense of and creation towards identity based on spiritual and soulful sources of a timeless experience of being that asks us for belonging in the world. This is at least one reason why the dreamer no longer possesses the ID in the dream. It’s been “lost” or “misplaced” or “forgotten”. This is the psyche’s wise way of saying the dreamer is not to be confused with his or her “papers”, the map ought not be mistaken for the territory, and that, perhaps true identity cannot be contained on pieces of paper or cards and that the official requirements for self-definition, as also described by others, will no longer suffice. This is the dream’s language of metaphor and symbol in action suggesting that we develop and unconsciously maintain useful yet ultimately ‘flat’ forms of identity based on what is required of us as participants in society and culture. Yet when we come to the second half of our lives (at least), we are asked to go beyond these built up and cultivated forms, and to reassess our entire notion of where real identity comes from. Our dreams have much to say about this.
In the next installment, we’ll look at how “getting lost” in midlife and the dreamtime is another way of “being found”.