Dear Professor,

Last night, I dreamed that I was kissing an old high school classmate. It seemed like we were both welcoming of the affection, but tentative at the same time. Then the dream shifted, and I was driving a commuter train, only I didn’t know how to drive it. The train was moving rapidly, seemingly on automatic pilot. With quite a bit of effort, and in a standing position, I could successfully depress the braking mechanism with my foot. As each train station approached, I had to begin braking a good distance in anticipation, and I felt it my obligation to stop at the appointed places to pick up passengers, even though driving the train wasn’t my job, and I barely knew how to do it.  What does this mean?

Thanks, Professor!

My Dear S,

To some it might seem odd that a dream of kissing a former classmate, certainly a wish fulfillment, should metamorphose into a dream of responsibility for a nearly out of control train, but The Professor thinks the metaphor is quite a nifty one.  Trains have long been associated with sexuality in dreams (my colleague, Dr. Freud, believed that dreams involving train travel indicate a latent desire for sexual intercourse, but then of course he believed that about most things).  Certainly this association is clear in your case.  A moment of desire followed by a runaway train indicates that expressing such a desire made you feel, on some level, out of control.  Your dream is interesting in that you are not truly out of control, as you might be if you were a passenger on the train, but rather you have taken control of the train (which represents your sexuality) as the driver, albeit a reluctant and unprepared one.  The fact that you can control the train only through a contortion indicates you feel a certain awkwardness regarding the position you are in, and yet you have resolutely assumed it out of a strong sense of obligation that you must do so.  You feel responsible, as you say, to keep the train on schedule, keep the commuters safe, and make the appointed stops on the line.  The Professor would venture to guess that this dream represents an ongoing struggle to manage your sexuality, a struggle that you feel is both necessary and obligatory.  Although you do so with some difficulty, you manage to “put the brakes on” in anticipation of maintaining the train’s routine, indicating that you are able to consciously impose some sense of order and responsibility over your sexual expressions.  Such a struggle between anticipation and obligation is a great challenge, and it is no wonder that you feel somewhat out of control in this driver’s seat.  The fact that you maintain control, however difficult it may be, is indicative of a monumental effort on your part to be true to your best and most honest intentions.  Such a burden of responsibility is never easy, but it is necessary if one is to avoid a train wreck.  Bravo, my dear.

I remain your faithful servant and dream interpreter extraordinaire,