“when spirit becomes heavy it turns to water” – Carl Jung (Collected Works, Vol 9, p.1, para. 16)
After having recurring dreams or visions of large waves crashing over me, or my home, as well as real-life occurrences of flooding in my city and even neighborhood, I decided to do a little bit of research into this phenomena. It turns out this is a common occurrence for many people. The meaning we give things is very personal, so whatever water symbolizes for you personally may be very different than what it symbolizes for anyone else. My intention in this article is to offer a starting point for a personal exploration of what this symbol may hold for you. For this purpose, I offer a number of questions to consider with each of these potential interpretations. I hope they stir curiosity for you and invite you to look deeper into your own mind and heart.
Water as a Metaphor of the Unconscious
Dreams and visions often emerge spontaneously. Both Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, the fathers of depth psychology and psychotherapy, believed that the unconscious part of the mind 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 the part of us that is unknown to us, which is still under a sort of mystery. Because of the unconscious, we maintain the ability to surprise ourselves every now and then, we do things we didn’t know we were capable of, we say things we later don’t know where they came from. Because the flooding is so massive, intimidating, and overpowering, we could therefore see it as a symbol of our consciousness being overpowered by our unconscious. What we are unaware of in ourselves is invading our consciousness. This could mean that an inner complex is taking hold of us and that further inner work is necessary.
Water as a Symbol of Human Emotion
Have you noticed how often feelings and emotions are compared to elements of nature and weather?
Here are some examples: He ERUPTED into a long tirade. My heart is FROZEN. She STORMED into the room. Her voice THUNDERED. The wind raged outside. The man RAGED inside. I was FLOODED with love. His forgiveness WASHED me of my guilt. OR Peace washed over me. OR She was washed of my sins. She turned the WATER works on.
If weather patterns can be compared to patterns of emotions, then what could the phenomena of flooding mean? Flooding is often accompanied by very strong storms, winds, and rain. These phenomena act just like challenging feelings: anger, rage, grief, sadness, pain, fear. For many people who have dreams or even real-life occurrences of flooding, there is a strong feeling of helplessness that is associated with these experiences. Flooding usually means a sudden and enormous amount of water that comes all at once. So now looking at it symbolically, could it be that we are feeling overpowered by our emotions? Do we feel helpless in the face of a particular emotion? What is taking you over? What washes over you?
Water flooding seems to replicate the symptoms of emotional overwhelm… just like water, when we have denied and repressed our feelings for a long time, trying to pretend they are not there, there comes a moment when they explode, pouring out of us with a force that is beyond our control. When we are too disconnected from our emotions and remain unwilling to feel them, then they often end up flooding us. They take over the roads of our minds, the houses of our comfort and they keep us stuck in that outpouring for a while, where we are until they release. Then they naturally begin to recede, leaving everything either soaked or damaged, allowing to finally tend to repairing and rebuilding.
This symbolic interpretation may mean that our compulsion to deny or numb our challenging feelings may be forcing them into our conscious world. Our lack of awareness may be damaging the goods in our lives. Should we offer our anger, our grief, and our fears the grace, the time, and the respect they deserve, so they are not forced to overcome us?
Perhaps if we’re willing to be present with our feelings as they first show up, they won’t have to show up like a hurricane, a flood, or all at once.
I’d like to invite a look at a large scale meaning. Terrapsychology suggests that often places that are in danger will cause meaningful dreams to come to the people who live there. What could our geography be trying to tell us all through the frequent incidence of national and international floods? Is nature trying to remind us to honor its abilities to take us over?
And if we consider it symbolically, is there some massive collective emotion or unconsciousness that may be washing over you as an individual?
Flooding as a Symbol of Being Overpowered
Either in a dream or in real life, whether is water or a strong feeling, when we are being flooded we feel small and powerless in the face of an overwhelming force. There is nothing more our Ego detests than to feel powerless. And yes, we so often are. Destiny, nature and even parts of ourselves are stronger than us at times. What is your relationship with the things that are stronger than you?
Diana Deaver is an emotional health life coach practicing since 2015. Her work is based on depth psychology principles and she encourages a process of “peace making” with all aspects of the Self, no matter how terrible they may appear. She offers one on one life coaching sessions via phone, zoom or Facebook messenger. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your session centered on you and your emotional healing.