Dear Cynthia: For many years, sometimes four or more times each year, I have the same unpleasant dream. I discover that my handbag--containing cash, credit cards, driver's license--has disappeared. I experience dreadful anxiety, and in desperation I retrace my steps in search of the missing handbag, but to no avail. Then I wake up, and my relief is tremendous.
PHYLLIS BOMHOF, Los Angeles
Dear Reader: A handbag, purse or wallet in a dream represents our identity. Without cash, credit cards and "ID," we are pretty much powerless in modern society. Your dream reflects times in your life when you are experiencing something of an identity crisis. You retrace your steps--but going backward doesn't recover your handbag or your sense of who you are.
The next time you have this dream, take a little time to define yourself. Answer those critical questions: Who am I? What is important to me? How many hats am I wearing right now?
We all play many roles in our lives: worker, adult, child, sibling, friend, classmate, etc. Sometimes we can lose track of what is really important. Writing your answers in a journal could reinforce your definition of yourself and help you hold onto it during stressful times.
Dear Cynthia: In my recurring dream, lavishly dressed women and men are mingling and drinking in an immense ballroom. Guests are announced at the top of a formal staircase and descend grandly. Halfway down, Queen Elizabeth (!) and I sit at a cabaret table. She is telling me hysterical, bawdy jokes and wickedly dissing each guest who passes by. We try to hide our giggles, but then she reminds me that she is the queen and can laugh if she wants to--which only sends us further round the bend. Finally, Prince Charles appears. Elizabeth really lets loose on him (just as he approaches our table, she makes a crack about his ears). I'm about to laugh in his face when I wake up. I always wake up laughing.
ANN L. GIBBS, Valley Village
Dear Reader: Waking up laughing sounds great! Sign me up for that! By seeing yourself as equal to the queen, when the queen is most definitely out of character, I suspect you may be justifying your own less-than-regal behavior.
You are sitting halfway down the stairway--a midpoint--indicating that you are capable of both extremes: regal and bawdy behavior. In your dream, it's OK to gossip, because the highest female role model is participating (even making fun of her own son).
Perhaps your upbringing didn't allow for such "misbehavior." Your dream is reassuring you that it's permissible to bend the rules of etiquette and that judging others is natural--as long as you don't let it interfere with appropriate behavior.
Celebrity Dream of the Week: In my dreams I often am on a freeway. It's strange, though: Everyone is in a regular car but me! Sometimes I am in a foot-powered car, like the Flintstones, and sometimes I am on a bicycle.
JENNIFER TILLY, Film actress ("Bound," "Liar Liar")
Any road in a dream is the path our life is taking at present. The freeway indicates that you are in the fast lane! But the foot-powered car is a sign that you think you have to run to keep up at times and are doing so on your own power. The bicycle, also a self-powered vehicle, requires balance. One would be unsafe traveling via bicycle on the freeway. You feel unprotected--vulnerable and anxious.
Whether car or bicycle, the lack of a motor indicates that you feel underpowered and not supported by those whose job it is to assist you. This feeling--that you have to proceed alone, and with great effort--could result from a lack of communication with your support team.
My suggestion is that you review the team. Whom do you trust? Who is there for you? Tighten up any loose ends and repair any communication flat tires. If you do that, my bet is that the next time you dream you're on the freeway, you'll be driving a Ferrari.