The Bridge: A Recurring Dream

By Last Updated: March 16, 2024Views: 182

The bridge is tall and narrow. It is made of metal constructed in a triangular pattern with rivets visible along its span. The suspension tower rises far into the sky, and the cables that keep the road suspended are thick, twisted cords of barbed steel as large as tree trunks. The bridge is patina green – the color of corrosion – and it reflects the churning water below so that it seems to ripple and sway in the half-light of dusk. The water below is dark and violent, ink black and viscous. And although I have never touched the water, I know that it is cold. I know that it is deep.

I strain to look across the bridge but I cannot see the other side. Halfway along the bridge’s span hangs a heavy bank of fog suspended in the air like a billowing wall. I stand on the bridge, I don’t know how long, afraid to cross. And then, steeling my nerves I begin to walk. Slowly at first, tenuous steps, and then faster and with purpose. The further along I move I begin to get a feeling of vertigo, as if I may fall at any moment but still, I continue to walk. When finally I reach the wall of fog I hesitate. But I know that if I wait too long I will lose my nerve, so I plunge forward into the grey cloud till I cannot see ahead or behind. I look down and I cannot see my feet or the road on which I walk. But still, I walk. I move forward into this haze of nothing hoping that there will be a destination. Trusting the road will come to an end. Hoping the bridge will carry me safely across.

All the while the dim light around me begins to fade…


This is one of three recurring dreams I have had throughout my life and by far the most common. The first time I remember having this dream I was in middle school, probably around 15, and the most recent was about a week or so ago at the time of this writing. It has never been something I’ve been afraid of – it’s not a nightmare – however, it can unsettle me at times. I don’t believe that dreams are prophetic or spiritual in any way, but I do believe they work on a subconscious level. That our brain is trying to tell us something. That we are symbolically trying to impart a message or a fear or a desire that our waking mind does not realize or acknowledge. Not all dreams do this mind you – sometimes a cigar is just a cigar after all – but recurring dreams recur for a reason. That is why when I have “the bridge” dream it can shake me. Because when I have this dream I know it is my subconscious mind telling me, something’s up brother. Pay attention.

So what does it mean to dream of a bridge?

Interpretations

The standard pop-culture dream analysis of a bridge is that it symbolizes transition. Perhaps you are moving from one situation to another – like getting a new job, moving to a new town, or a divorce – and you are feeling anxious about doing so. These anxieties and fears can be seen as a span to be crossed, literally moving from one place to another or one state of consciousness to another. If the bridge is spanning a river or a canyon, this can express your state of mind. How deep the canyon or troubled the water reflects your emotional state. Additionally, the type of bridge being crossed can indicate how emotionally secure you are. A rope bridge for instance would indicate an uneasy mindset rather than a bridge made of metal indicating a solid, secure footing.

This is a straightforward interpretation. It all makes perfect sense. But is there something deeper hidden underneath the symbol of a bridge?

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Sigmund Freud believed the bridge represented the male sexual organ. Because of course, he did. He wrote in his New Introductory Lessons on Psychoanalysis:

“The other symbol I want to talk to you about is that of the bridge… First, it means the male organ, which unites the two parents in sexual intercourse; but afterward, it develops further meanings which are derived from this first one. In so far as it is thanks to the male organ that we are able to come into the world at all, out of the amniotic fluid, a bridge becomes the crossing from the other world (the unborn state, the womb) to their world (life); and, since men also picture death as a return to the womb (to the water), a bridge also acquires the meaning of something that leads to death, and finally, at a further remove from its original sense, it stands for transitions or changes in condition generally…”

So to Freud, the bridge symbolizes a kind of rebirth. Using the bridge and the water as stand-ins for the sexual act, this in turn culminates in a new life. Note: I am being very generous in my reading of this interpretation.

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Carl Jung saw the bridge as a symbol of the unconsciousness. Again, of course he did. Walking across a bridge with ease was an indication of confidence and well-being, whereas having difficulty crossing the bridge indicated a mental block, the inability to connect with one’s “primeval past.”

In his General Aspects of Dream Psychology, Jung argues that dreams contribute to the self-regulation of the psyche by automatically bringing up everything that is repressed, neglected, or unknown. Jung believed that all symbols had redemptive significance and that a bridge was a symbol of reconnection.  A bridge is a union of opposites. It connects our past with our future, our conscious with our unconscious. It is a “re-membering” path that connects our split psyche back to wholeness.

Jung also talks about crossing back to our historical past and extending into the evolutionary depths of time, which is interesting but probably not relevant to this discussion.

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The last thing I want to mention – which also connects to Jung in a way – is the use of bridges in folklore and fairy tales. Often in these stories, you will find a bridge that needs to be crossed to get to a promised reward, to receive knowledge, or to save the beautiful princess. The bridge itself is typically dangerous to cross and more often than not guarded by a troll, a fairy, or even the devil himself. The hero must use their courage and guile to outwit the guard and cross to safety and achieve their goal.

There are many variations of this premise told around the world in almost every culture. These stories are told to us as children and imbed themselves – as Jung would say – in our collective unconsciousness. So that when we dream of moving on, of transition, of overcoming obstacles we inevitably use the metaphor of the bridge to represent that effort.

So what does this dream mean to me?

As I said I’ve been having this dream repeatedly throughout my life. And the idea of transition, of moving into an unknown future seems most apt.

When I was in my teens I was moving into becoming more independent, becoming more mature, and making decisions for myself that would affect my life in mostly small but sometimes large ways. I was insecure and afraid as most, if not all, teens are. I had the bridge dream.

In my 20s I was considered an adult (this conclusion has not been confirmed at the time of writing) and I was completely autonomous and responsible for my wellbeing. I was not exactly equipped to do this and made choices that in hindsight could be considered poor. I had the bridge dream.

In my 30s and 40s, I had become a husband and father. My responsibility level had increased significantly at this time. Being a husband and father comes with its own set of anxieties and fears. I had the bridge dream.

Now in my 50s, my child is grown, and I find myself single. As I ease toward retirement and put myself back in the dating arena I find myself in a shockingly similar situation as I did when I was in my teens. This is a horrifying revelation. I again have the bridge dream.

And the bridge is still large and imposing. The bridge is still shrouded in fog. The waters that it spans are still troubled. My destination still cannot be seen. This could, I suppose, be seen as a disappointment. I have lived so long, and done so much, and yet I still cannot reach the other side. I still cannot see what lies before me. My future is still uncertain. I have not reached my goal, nor do I even know what it is.

But there is a different interpretation. You see, in the dream, I keep walking. I am afraid. I can’t see the end of the road, or even the road itself. I don’t know where I am going, and I feel as if at any moment I may fall. But I keep walking. I walk with purpose, with determination, and with courage. I may never reach the end, and the fog may never lift. I may never learn where this bridge carries me. But I know I will keep walking.

I will keep walking.


Photo by Daniel Olah on Unsplash
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