The Ubiquitous Bathroom Dream


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!

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0 Responses

  1. Thank you for your illumination! I will explore my bathroom dreams with more careful consideration given your guidance now. The exploration of them has always rather confused me in the past, but there was such a sense of ‘urgency’ that it frustrated me that I couldn’t speak the language!

    1. You’re so welcome, t2van! They confused me for a long time too. Now it seems so clear. Learning the language of the unconscious can take a lifetime, but I can’t imagine many better ways of using my brain power! Jeanie

  2. Love the images you choose Jeanie.
    The paradoxes in the toilet lineup are such treasures that I must surely print the image to grace the back of my loo door.
    The line of people turned into automatons by shared fundamentals is such a gorgeous contrast to the smiling girl. She has claimed her throne in joyful triumph. That her throne is not connected speaks volumes, as does the state of her clothing — you have made my day — again.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi, Qestra. Choosing the images was fun, and I adore your associations with the bathroom line! I hadn’t seen that picture that way, but I’m so glad I trusted my instincts to select it anyway. Somehow it just felt good and right although I didn’t know why. I suppose this is in keeping with the fact that my feelings and intuitions tend to lead the way and my thinking generally follows a ways behind! Thank you for your enlightening comments which have created more meaning for me! Jeanie

      1. The picture seems also about impeccably crafted and guarded personas. How easily we feel diminished by the need to publicly confess to basic animal needs.
        If only we could be like trees and transpire surplus vapours into the grateful air.
        On another note I have begun to use active imagination and wonder if you have previously posted anything on that — did search thru, but it’s quicker to ask you — hope that’s OK
        Thank you,

        1. Of course, that’s okay. I have not written about active imagination yet, but your request prompts me to write something about it, and I intend to do so soon! Thanks! And I really love your association with “impeccably crafted and guarded personas!” Thanks again. Jeanie

  3. Thanks for this! This is one dream I’ve usually more or less dismissed as not very interesting. Will take a closer look next time it pops up. Though it doesn’t for me nearly as often as it used to, now I can take that as a positive sign.

  4. The funny thing about my going to the bathroom in public dreams (which I have fairly frequently) are that it always seems totally normal in the dream. It’s not until I wake up and think about it that I feel any anxiety or weirdness about the “in public” part. I’ve never thought about the actual meaning of those dreams, funnily enough, but ‘not being able to express my innermost nature’ is extremely relevant as I’m not able to be myself at work for a number of reasons.
    Anyway, thank you for this post – I’m a frequent reader but don’t often comment. I enjoy your writing!

    1. Hi AlannahRose. I have the same experience with these dreams. I often experience these dreams the same way. Perhaps it means that this is an issue about which we have limited awareness and thus still haven’t resolved. That must be true or we wouldn’t keep having the dreams! Thanks for writing!

      1. Interesting – I need to pay more attention the next time I have one of these dreams! Thanks for the response! Enjoy your weekend.

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