“when spirit becomes heavy it turns to water” – Carl Jung (Collected Works, Vol 9, p.1, para. 16)
I started my research into the symbolic meaning of flooding as a result of a series of dreams of invading water. Gigantic waves crashing over me or my home would startle me awake. The more I learned about it, the more I realized flood dreams are a common occurrence for many others.
My intention in this article is to offer a starting point of inquiry into dreams about flooding. I will include a number of questions to consider with each potential interpretation. I hope these questions will create curiosity into further exploration of the psyche.
Dreams are multidimensional images and their meaning is dynamic, not static. Their function is to make conscious what is unconscious. Some dreams are only personally relevant. Other “big dreams” carry meaning both on a personal and a regional or collective level.
The personal aspect of a dream is unique to each individual. It often reflects memories and lived experiences. For example, water can mean joy for someone who spent time as a child enjoying the pool. And it can mean dread for someone who nearly drowned.
To further examine the personal meaning of flooding I offer the following questions:
- What are my personal associations with flooding or floods?
- What’s the first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the word flood? Second? Third?
- What does water mean to me?
Flooding as a Symbol of Being Overpowered by an Emotion
Have you noticed how we often use the same words for feelings as we do for nature and weather?
I was FLOODED with love. Peace WASHED over me. He was washed of his sins. She turned the WATERworks on. Grief always comes in WAVES. They STORMED into the room. Her voice THUNDERED. The wind raged outside as my anger RAGED inside. He ERUPTED into a long tirade.
Weather patterns are often used as metaphors for emotional reactions. When flooding happens in nature, it comes during very strong storms, winds, and rain. Flooding usually means a sudden and enormous amount of water that comes all at once. Most people feel scared, overwhelmed, and powerless when faced with mother nature’s power. People who dream about flooding say they have a similar experience of helplessness during their dream.
Emotional overwhelm can illicit similar sensations. Repressed feelings emerge with great force, surprising us and those around us. Powerful emotions can flood us making us feel scared and unprepared. Like a flooded city, they take over the roads of our minds, the houses of our hearts and they keep us stuck. When they recede, they leave everything soggy and damaged.
Is it time to build a dam? Or an ark? Or create a less destructive path for our emotions?
Looking at a flood as a metaphor, here are some questions for further exploration:
- Am I feeling overpowered by a particular emotion?
- Do I feel helpless in the face of my fear, anger, sadness or grief?
- What is taking me over?
- What washes over me?
- Am I unsuccessfully trying to stifle a big emotion?
- Where in my life do I feel powerless in the face of a seemingly larger force?
- Am I repressing any feelings that end up emerging with unstoppable force?
Water as a Metaphor for the Unconscious
Dreams and visions often emerge spontaneously. Both Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud believed that the unconscious is the place of origin of such images. According to Jung, “water is the commonest symbol for the unconscious” (Collected Works, Vol 9, p.1, para. 40). The unconscious is how we maintain the ability to surprise ourselves and to do things we didn’t know we were capable of. In the unconscious, we store what is unknown to us, which is still a sort of mystery. It is a vast part of the psyche where we host both powerful and shadowy parts of us.
A flood is massive, intimidating, and overpowering. A dream about a flood could be pointing out an aspect of life that is outside of the control of the conscious.
Questions to consider:
1) Is my unconscious overpowering my consciousness?
2) Is something I’m unaware of invading my consciousness?
3) Is an inner complex taking hold of me?
The Collective or Regional Meaning of Flooding
Let’s consider the meaning of flooding on a larger scale. Terrapsychology teaches us that our dreams can reflect the nature around us. For example, terrapsychologists believe that places communicate with the locals through meaningful dreams.
With this in mind, I offer a few questions for understanding the regional aspect of flood dreams:
- Is the flooding in my dream encompassing other people, and places near me?
- Is there some massive aspect of my ancestry or genealogy that is washing over me?
- Is there something happening in my region that seems to be sweeping over like a flood? Again, remember the multidimensional aspect of dreams. Some aspects to consider are: political, energetic, statistical, health-wise, weather-wise, geographical, etc.
- What is nature trying to tell us through frequent national and international floods?
- Is nature trying to remind us to honor its abilities to take us over?
- What is my relationship with the things that are stronger than me?
Regional dream example:
Carl Jung was one of the founders of depth psychology and a pioneer of dream analysis. He had a series of dreams and visions that included flooding. He interpreted these dreams to have predicted WW1. They drastically impacted his life and work. (click here to read more about it).
Both personal and collective dreams could be premonitory. Journaling, dating, and revisiting dreams can be very helpful in receiving their meaning.