Caveat: Symbols have individualistic meanings which can differ from dreamer to dreamer. For example, dreaming of the color purple may signify spirituality for one dreamer, while for another it may represent the color of bruises. There is no such thing as one symbol fits all people. However, after literally working with 1000’s of dreams, there are some symbol meanings which fit for many people (but not all). The ideas associated with each dream symbol presented on this web site are meant to provide prompts and possible areas for exploration as opposed to being written in granite.
Simple Rules: A couple of simple rules to follow in terms of dream interpretation:
The most common mistake in dream interpretation is to view the dream as being interpersonal without first considering the intra-personal nature of dreams. Even when there is some interpersonal or predicative material involved in a dream, it is very rare for a dream to not say something about our inner world. We should view symbols more as different aspects of ourselves attempting to communicate with ourselves.
Dreams are inherently healing in that they frequently provide ways to approach problems which are beneficial to the dreamer. The difficulty is more in the nature of interpreting the dream because of the highly symbolic and metaphorical nature of dreams. Being able to interpret and decipher a dream is an important life skill to acquire. Like many things in life it takes considerable time and practice to develop.
A good way to approach dreams is to consider why those particular symbols appeared at that particular time.
Dreams almost always are a call to action. Insight alone rarely produces change and healing. Action is required as much as anything else.
The Water Symbol In Dreams
Water is one of those symbols which commonly appears in dreams. When water appears in a dream it is typically a symbol for the unconscious. Specifically it often refers to unconscious emotional content.
We might consider the nature of the water. Is it cold or turbulent or murky etc.? Ice in dreams often represents frozen emotions. Raging waters often refers to turbulent emotions and murky waters can mean unclear or ambiguous emotions. Rain can mean some type of regeneration is required. Equally though rain can be indicative of depression and stuck sadness.
Oceans represent the vast nature of the unconscious, with its primordial nature at the forefront. Swimming in murky ocean waters can mean that there is something emotionally powerful underneath the surface which we cannot quite make out.
Land often represents the conscious mind and the beach is the semi-conscious or liminal state where the conscious and unconscious meet. If a person is swimming in murky waters but is swimming towards land, it can very often mean that the person is seeking some conscious awareness related to their deep inner emotions.
Consider the following common dream snippet. “I am walking along the beach, when all of a sudden a large wave appears and it drenches me”. Walking along the beach signifies that dreamer is trying to sort out their conscious and unconscious issues. The beach is an amalgamation point for the unconscious attempting to reach the conscious. The wave drenching the dreamer can be viewed as a metaphor for being overwhelmed by big emotions.
The action component of that dream snippet would be to find better ways to manage emotions in real life. For example, some relaxation techniques may help the dreamer better manage their emotions and feel less overwhelmed by them.
Asking for a drink of water can often mean asking for emotional support. As pointed out earlier in the article, it is important to recognize the intra-psychic nature of dreams. Usually we might interpret that small snippet as meaning we need more support from our social networks (e.g. friends, family etc.). Indeed this can sometimes be the case. However it also important to recognize that we might well be asking how we can best support ourselves emotionally. Do we give permission to embrace emotions fully? If not can we find ways to do so?
Water appearing as swimming pools often refers to some type of emotional containment. For example, a swimming pool is a confined area which is man-made. The unconscious emotions are frequently along the lines of how society expects you to act emotionally. A person may be expected to react in one way but that way may not necessarily be the most beneficial way to process the emotion. For example, holding anger in may be the expected response (hence the containment), but the dream itself may pointing to a method which processes that anger constructively.
The location of the swimming pool is often telling. If it appears in our backyard or in our home somewhere it often signifies that the emotions are about how we feel about ourselves. If on the other hand, the swimming pool is at a friend’s house, it might be a pointer to how we feel about our friends. If we discover how we feel about our friends then we might also relate that back to how we might be cut off from similar aspects of ourselves. Always try and bring the dream back to self as much as possible.
Also consider the highly individual nature of dreams. For example, I may be washing my hands which may well signify some emotional cleansing needs to occur. But equally it could represent something slipping through my fingers emotionally. Perhaps it might indicate that my emotions are slippery and I have trouble connecting with them fully.
While the similarities may revolve around unconscious emotions, there can be a great deal of variance between one dreamer and the next and between one dream and the next. Which is why dream interpretation is a highly individualistic enterprise.