Ever had a dream about going to the bathroom somewhere strange and wonder what it meant?
Dreams about our most primal daily functions—such as urination and defecation—are fairly common but seldom talked about. Are these dreams just a cue to wake up and take care of business? Doubtfully. Dreams, like all thoughts and acts of imagination, have multiple layers of significance beyond the obvious, and this includes dreams of finding relief.
To break the ice, here’s a recent dream I had:
I really have to pee. I’m in a familiar house, and I find a place to relieve myself. I start to pee directly onto the keyboard of my computer. This seems to make perfect sense. The only problem is I have to make sure not to overflow the keyboard and make a mess, as it is absorbing the urine at a slow but steady rate. This requires an act of focus and deliberate holding back to sustain the right balance. Then, I think “What am I doing? I need a toilet!” I find a toilet and continue to pee. After a while, I still feel like I have to go. I realize I’m dreaming and I immediately wake up.
Epilogue: When I woke up, I did have to pee in real life, so I got up and took care of business.
The next morning, my first thought was that the dream reflected a true biological state, my need to void the bladder. After all, I did drink a beer a couple hours before bed. But why did I pee on my computer keyboard in the dream? It’s totally irrational, but I know that dream images are seldom “random.”
I reflected upon the role of the keyboard in my life. It’s how I type words into the computer. As a writer, I get a lot of use out of this thing. The keyboard is how I make my living, from my freelance work as well as my books and articles. And don’t forget all the time I spend writing those countless emails, as well.
My first inclination was to interpret this dream negatively. Piss on that! Urinating on my keyboard is a sign of disrespect, the ultimate expression of ruination. Maybe I’m fed up with being tied to my computer all the time, I wondered. Maybe I don’t respect my own work.
When I told this dream to Amy she had a different take. “Do you know how a lot dreamworkers interpret urination dreams?” She continued, “Peeing is the most authentic thing you can do. It’s the original self-expression.”
Her suggestion made me laugh, and I instantly saw the image of a dog and a fire hydrant. However, her suggestion had an immediate dream logic that felt right in my bones, especially because in the dream I was peeing on my keyboard, precisely the tool that channels my self-expression and creativity.
More metaphors came up around the concept of urination: Making your mark. Claiming your territory. Writing your name in the snow.
I then reflected back on the curious detail of this dream, how “I have to make sure not to overflow the keyboard and make a mess, as it is absorbing the urine at a slow but steady rate. This requires an act of focus and deliberate holding back to sustain the right balance.”
This “slow and steady rate” is an excellent metaphor for the writing process. The act of creation is time-consuming and requires first just showing up and making a habit of putting words down. Try to “get it all out” at once in a Romantic writing binge by candlelight just leads to burning out, “making a mess.”
The role of the unconscious in writing is here, as it speaks quietly and must be finessed into the open. One of my creative writing mentors from college, the award-winning author Sterling Watson, used to discuss this creative process as pulling string from the wall, a little at a time. “Don’t pull too much too fast,” he’d say, “or it all falls apart.”
Urination as a metaphor for the creative writing process especially applies for writing longer pieces, such as chapters and books. Currently, I am gearing up for several long assignments like this, so perhaps the dream is cautioning, “Take it slow, let it absorb, don’t make a mess.”
Amy had a different take. She was drawn to the carefulness of the flow too, but suggested that perhaps (if it were her dream) it might be a good idea to find some creative outlets that can really take what I put out.
I see her point, and have to admit that I don’t have any “free and easy” creative outlets these days. As with all dreams, both of these interpretations could be “true” simultaneously. Dreams showcase possibilities, and it’s up to the dreamer to continue to notice how these energies play out in future dreams, as well as in waking life.
Interestingly, I realized I had this dream “peeing on the keyboard,” once before, over four years ago. At the time, I was working on my Master’s thesis, another demanding long-term project. I had completely forgotten this. So peeing on the keyboard is a repetitive theme for me, one that perhaps naturally is released from the imaginal floodgates when I need to get the job done.
Dear creative process: your alluring message received, thanks. Just in case, I’ll refrain from having a beer before bed for a while too.