Dream question: Why do I dream I can’t swim in deep water?
When we talk about dreams it helps to think in metaphor. “Deep water” could imply that someone is “out of their depth”, (eg feels like they don’t know enough) or feeling like they’re about to get into trouble. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, just that we might worry it will.
When we say we’re ‘drowning’ in daily life, it usually means we’re feeling overwhelmed; for example, we might say ‘I’m drowning in paperwork’. So, water dreams like this can also be a sign that at the time of the dream we may be feeling overwhelmed at work or at home.
Drowning can also represent feeling like we can’t catch our breath; this may be a metaphor for not getting a moment to ourselves. However, since the COVID outbreak, and so much focus placed on our breathing, people may be having the drowning dream because they’re anxious abut their or someone else’s health, or them catching the virus. The dream doesn’t mean they have reason to be worried, just that the dream may be highlighting their anxiety.
In the same way, if we have a fear of water and specifically drowning, this may be an acknowledgement of that fear playing out in the dream. This is why keeping a dream diary can be helpful. It can assist with noticing patterns that may help us make sense of the dream when we wake. Some people may have dreams of drowning every time they’re feeling under pressure at work; a dream diary would help them notice it.
The size of the body of water and the context of the dream may make a difference to the interpretation. Depending on the setting of the dream (somewhere regulated like a swimming pool), it may reassure the dreamer that everything is as it should be. Alternatively, venturing out in to unknown territory, could be symbolised by the ocean. Swimming pools are also public spaces, so if in the dream it’s crowded, the dreamer may be feeling like there’s too much going on in their public life.
Where an ocean is calm and peaceful in the dream, that may be a reflection of what the dreamer is feeling – or wants to feel – in daily life. Because of COVID, most of us are missing holidays abroad. So the dream may also be a representation of the good times we miss, and a desire to be back in warmer, sunnier climates.
A waterfall is also associated with peace and tranquility, but can also represent passion due to the fast flowing nature of the water itself, or that something may feel out of control – like our emotions, or that something is moving too fast. Whereas a lake is another type of container just on a much larger scale and out in the open.
Like all dreams, it depends very much on what’s happening in the dream and how safe the dreamer feels. Again metaphor is helpful: we sometimes say ‘we’re heading for stormy waters’ which means we know there’s some uncertainty or difficult times ahead, perhaps with changes at work. This may be represented by crashing waves and stormy water in the dream. In the same way we sometimes say we’re in ‘deep water”.
Feeling stuck in the ocean may be a literal interpretation for feeling stuck somewhere in daily life. Having said this, standing on the edge of an ocean can be representative of how we feel at the time of the dream, perhaps on the verge of a change or transformation. It’s also common for people who are grieving, to dream of staring out to sea, representing that their loved one is now out of reach.
We will sometimes say we got ‘carried away’ by something, or be in ‘floods’ of tears and this may be symbolised by a tidal wave in a dream. It can also represent the intensity of emotion we’re feeling at the time of the dream; we speak about ‘waves of emotion’ which is why our feelings are often symbolised by water in a dream. Here is a link to a specific article about tidal waves.
Water can also suggest we’re going through a ‘cleansing’ phase, perhaps getting rid of something toxic in our life – especially if you’re drinking water in the dream. So how we feel at the time of the dream may be reflected by the content of it, calm water implying all is well, or how we’d like it to be, whereas stormy weather suggesting it’s been a difficult time.
Remember dreams can be literal, so if you’re thirsty, looking for water in a dream, when you wake up you may find you need a drink.
If you’re worried about your dream content, or have trouble sleeping, speak to a counsellor or your doctor.
Keeping a dream diary can help understand common and recurring dreams. I talk about this and provide a template in my book, Answers in the Dark.
Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021