Have you ever had that dream where you need to go to the bathroom but experience all sorts of problems? Just about everybody has. Some of mine feature public bathrooms with several stalls in which all the toilets are stopped up and disgusting. Or there’s no toilet paper. Or all the stalls are being used. In others I’m searching for a bathroom with privacy. Sometimes there’s no door, or I enter and lock the door and there’s a window with no curtains, or the only toilets are in an open public room, or I’m mortified to realize I’m on a toilet in a public place where everyone can see what I’m doing.
I almost always feel the same in these dreams: pressure to urinate, a strong desire for privacy, annoyance, mounting frustration, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and fear of being observed and judged. Often I’m puzzled and feel undercurrents of self-criticism and/or self-pity: Why didn’t I notice the inappropriateness of my surroundings before I exposed myself? Why aren’t the people around me having these problems, whereas my efforts are frustrated at every turn?
Among Jungians there’s general agreement about the symbolic meaning of urination. Marie Louise Von Franz says, “Urinating is a symbol for expressing one’s innermost nature. The need to urinate is the one thing we cannot control.” The details and emotions of the dream speak to the personality and issues of the dreamer. Jung said, “Pressure of urine in dreams and also in the waking state is often an expression of some other pressure, for instance of fear, expectation, suppressed excitement, inability to speak, the need to express an unconscious content, etc.”
To get the most from these dreams I ask myself things like, “When did I recently feel the need to express my innermost nature but find it problematic to do so? If I was alone—perhaps writing or planning my day—what prevented me from expressing my nature? Did my Censor want to suppress a truth I didn’t want to admit to? Did my Orphan believe I needed to push myself to produce outer work to prove my worth even though I felt a strong need to relax with no agenda?
If I was with others, why couldn’t I express myself openly? Was it the topic we were discussing? The setting? The people I was with? Was I afraid my contribution wouldn’t be understood or valued, or that someone would be critical? Did I want to join in but feel frustrated because I didn’t understand my feelings or know how to express them?
Essentially, my bathroom dreams seem to be expressions of the aspect of my personality which is a sensitive, self-conscious, self-censoring perfectionist: especially when it comes to expressing my emotions and opinions. I assure you I’m not always this way. In fact, I often feel confident and utterly free to be myself. That I know and am increasingly accepting of both sides is a consequence of years of dreamwork.
I’ll never be completely free of tendencies that are more problematic for me, nor do I believe I should be. As Marie Louse Von Franz has said, “We all have a common man, or a common woman, within us with the reactions of the man in the street, and the strangest thing about it is that this is even an aspect of the Self, which is why in the Bible Christ is called the King of Kings and a slave.” I used to feel uncomfortable about my bathroom dreams, but now I’m grateful that they ground me in reality and show me my humanity!
“Man, like the other animals, is originally simply the puppet of instinct, just as the infant is. Unless he is moved by instinct, he remains