14 Things It May Mean If You're Dreaming About Water

All life on earth is connected by water. It's one of the primordial forces of life as we know it. And, because this symbolism is ingrained in the human psyche, its presence in dreams isn't to be taken lightly. Dreams are, after all, according to the influential psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a manifestation of the collective unconsciousness of humankind throughout the ages, when water as a symbol was an essential and imminent part of life.

Jung called such symbols archetypes — remnants of the primitive human brain we all share. And, of these, water is, perhaps, one of the most common dream motifs, but because beliefs, cultures, and symbols change over time, the original archetype of water gets transposed with other meanings and insights.

This is, perhaps, why a dream can mean many things to different people. We might see it as the distinguishing between the two layers of our mental awareness: the unconscious and the subconscious. The unconscious is part of our psyche that we aren't aware of nor can access — where the remnants of the primal brains stored our first notions of water. But, above this layer, in the subconscious, where we can navigate the focus of our awareness, we interpret different stimuli and experiences that give our unconscious interpretation of water new meanings. And, if we pay attention to these meanings of our dreams, Jung suggests we might get closer to revealing our health and even our true nature.

You're emotionally repressed

If, as Carl Jung suggests, dreams of water stem from a primordial part of the human mind, what better place to look for answers than the brain? The contemporary understanding, according to Frontiers in Psychiatry, is that our brains have adapted corresponding to internalized and external aspects of our environment. While we used to think that humans' brains had evolved from that lower species, such as reptiles becoming more complex, now it's understood it's more likely that we've simply adapted in ways that are different but not specifically more evolved than other species.

One of these adaptations, in particular, which is a system-wide function of our brain, is that of emotional processing. For instance, if we look at the cerebral cortex in humans compared to that of chimpanzees, the section of our brain which affects emotions, memory, and expression is three times bigger than that of our nearest relative.

With so much of our brain devoted to these tasks, dreams of water, which also appear frequently, could be a way for these ancient systems to communicate what the unconscious mind cannot. Emotional repression refers to the unconscious act of blocking or pushing down unwanted or uncomfortable emotions. Water being one of the most powerful evocations of raw and unconstrained human nature may indicate that these emotions are being repressed or ignored and that the dreamer needs to pay attention to their emotional state to achieve psychological balance and healing.

You're experiencing personal growth

If we continue along the lines of thinking about water as a symbol that gets interpreted through the lens of experiences and interactions with the world, one recurring theme you might notice is its presence in many fairy tales and myths. As a child, such legends help us understand the world, and so it makes sense that water dreams can echo some of the ideas we see in common folktales, as explained in the Journal of Symbols and Sandplay Therapy.

We say common here, but, of course, fairy tales vary vastly across religions and cultures, so you should keep this in mind when investigating the meanings of your own dreams. That said, in research, we know somewhat that the role of dreams is a shared phenomenon in humans as a species, designed to psychologically help us process the events of our waking life. In this sense, a dream of water might be thought of as a way to help us grow and work through whatever issues we're dealing with.

Consider some of the most famous archetypical water stories, such as Noah's Ark, the epics of Gilgamesh, or the Hawaiian creation story of Nu'u. All these stories across different cultures convey an individual going on a journey set amidst great bodies of water. Your dream may be some derivative of these feats, encouraging you to overcome your own limitations and access new levels of personal growth.

You have unexpressed creativity

Another popular interpretation of dreams made famous by psychologist Sigmund Freud in his book, "The Interpretation of Dreams," is that dreams represent unfulfilled wishes. If we combined this with the idea that dreams are a route for us to address these unresolved desires, what might dreams of water symbolize?

Thinking again of water as a symbol, across many religious texts, water is often a metaphor for birth and destruction, being the beginning and end of all things. This, in many ways, reflects the spirit of creativity, being that we have a blank canvas of opportunities in which to explore and immerse ourselves. As such, your dreams of water might be telling you to delve further into your own creative capacity.

This is especially true if your dream has negative overtones or is threatening, such as featuring a tsunami, drowning, or, perhaps, swimming endlessly. We should pay close attention to these themes and their frequency, as, according to a psychological study, they can indicate frustration from unmet needs. However, by working through different modes of creativity — whatever inspires or fulfills you — you may notice your dreams taking on more positive themes as a result.

You're experiencing a transition in life

Just as dreams of water can spurn us on to address certain parts of our lives, they might also be a response to how our lives are already changing. As we mentioned, it's not uncommon in many texts to see water as a force of life, death, and rebirth. Sometimes these symbols might be quite literal, inferring that the dreamer's subconscious is trying to adapt or make sense of new circumstances or developments in their waking life.

For instance, in his book, "A Dictionary of Dream Symbols," writer and symbol philosopher Eric Ackroyd explains that, sometimes, water can represent the "destruction of your old self or old lifestyle." As we move through life, similar to the flow of water, sometimes the things we've built must be knocked down to make way for better and more resilient structures.

Although dreams of being thrashed around by great waves or of seeing your beloved home flood with water can be distressing, they may actually be a positive indication that your mind is preparing for change. We should accordingly inspect what direction our life is taking and either brace ourselves for turbulent tides or embrace this destruction as a necessary step in moving on to something bigger and better.

You're experiencing a spiritual awakening

Water is cleansing in many ways, and, if we look at its use in ceremonial and spiritual contexts, it often has connotations of purification. For instance, the hindu vedic text "Rig Veda" says, "Hail to you, divine, unfathomable, all purifying Waters." In Christianity, Jesus is baptized in water in the "Book of Mark," and, likewise, in the Islamic text "Surah," paradise is described as a place of ever-flowing fresh water.

Purity in these contexts isn't simply about physical cleanliness but about enlightenment and reaching a state of spiritual awakening. Per Frontiers in Psychology, this is described as not only mental but physiological changes where we obtain a new sense of self (or absence/transcendence of self in some beliefs).

Other research also suggests that these dreams are powerful means of self-development. They may help us reach a higher state of being or wholeness. Based on such ideas, it's likely your dreams may contain elements of mysticism or otherworldly waters, which may be specific to your background or beliefs. You, therefore, might find forms of guidance in whatever spiritual doctrine you follow that can help explain the next steps on your personal spiritual journey.

You may feel a need for repentance

Just as religious and cultural symbols can inform the dreamer's perception of water dreams, as in the case of purification, another strongly associated symbol to do with water relates to seeking forgiveness or absolution. It's not necessary for you to have these beliefs yourself, but merely exposure to such ideas or concepts can affect the psyche. The symbolism of water may be a way for your brain to communicate the idea of repentance rather than requiring you to prescribe to any specific tradition or literal means of purification.

In such dreams, we might feel stuck, partially submerged in water, or trying to free ourselves from the lock of an uneasy tide. In other words, these kinds of water dreams can indicate a need for release. And, oftentimes, when we have a guilty conscience or unresolved issue, it can weigh us down.

In Buddhist traditions, for instance, water is one of the main ritual elements of appealing for forgiveness, according to a paper published by the University of the West. For many centuries, monks would perform water rites, but, interestingly, in many cases, the purpose of these practices was not to beg the forgiveness of a specific individual or god — it was for that person's own sense of harmony and liberation. This is a lesson we might also take when we encounter water dreams as a signal to practice compassion and to make amends with ourselves and others.

You need to get in touch with your feminine intuition

Ideals of femininity are associated with water for a number of reasons. In the history of both the East and the West, women were thought to not only be "watery" in energy but also in their physical nature. While this may sound strange, in the Middle Ages, the Western ideas of the human body were related to the humors, which all had a relation to an individual element. Per research from Queen University, phlegm, for instance, was associated with water, and women were thought to carry more of this humor. 

Meanwhile, in the East, the influence of Taoism made similar divisions between the masculine and feminine. As explained in the Taoist text, "The Tao Te Ching," water was a quality associated with Yin, a female energy, and yang, its counterpart, a male energy, was associated with fire. Both were part of a balance, with Yin closely related to intuition, calm, and the life force of the earth.

Because of this symbolism throughout the ages and across the globe, it may be that your dreams of water represent a need to get in touch with your feminine intuition. The idea here is less about gender and more about the qualities of femininity that water represents, such as needing to exert quiet strength and finding a sense of calm or grounding.

Danger and risk may be present in your life

While, so far, we've looked at how symbols of water can provide multiple answers to why dream meaning might vary from person to person, you may recall we established that shared collective unconsciousness is often the starting point when examining our dream worlds. These remnants of our brain, expressed through DNA, recall the lifestyles and experiences of ancient humans.

In fact, there's a theory that dreams are an evolutionary adaptation of the human brain to help us better respond to and process new information. For instance, imagine a primitive human facing wild and hostile terrain. The brain of this human runs various scenarios through dreams to help them tackle different situations. Dreams of floods, drowning, and torrential waters were certainly real possibilities for early humans, who had to respond appropriately to survive.

In modern life, many of us may be lucky enough to never have to face such difficulties, but these perceptions of water as a threat may hint at other sorts of dangers in our daily lives. Someone battling financial issues might see themselves sinking under the waves, or a couple on the verge of a breakup might dream that a spouse is drowning. In such cases, it's our mind's ancient call to consider what we can do in these situations to take action.

You're in need of healing and restoration

The healing quality of water has been the object of many studies. For instance, as research from 2022 explains, as far back as the 18th century, a common prescription for mental and physical worries was to visit the coast, but now there's also empirical evidence of its advantages. Life near water is associated with a high quality of well-being, emotional restoration, and stress reduction.

Interestingly, we see that, in some cultures and mythologies, dreams of water meant one was being called on by the gods to become a healer. In these dreams, the dreamer may be taken or may find themselves underwater, giving the dreamer secret knowledge of healing and ways to overcome illness (per an ethnography by the University of Rhodes).

While we may not be given such secret messages overtly in our dreams, it can be a way for our subconscious mind to signal that we need to take steps to evaluate and properly look at our health. This may relate to our physical or mental health, telling us we need to take time to rest or restore our bodies. For instance, it could be a sign of burnout or that we've been pushing ourselves too hard.

You're feeling ungrounded or disconnected

Take a moment to think about the last time you stood by the sea, looking towards the horizon. It might've seemed as if the waters expanded endlessly into the distance. Dreaming of ourselves afloat or abandoned on this vast expanse can make us feel small or insignificant. Relationships are a lot like the ocean in this sense — you can be surrounded by people and yet still feel totally alone.

Water is interesting as a metaphor for our connections with others, but it can also be quite literal in the sense that many societies revolve around this vital natural resource. For instance, some research exploring the study of water in society highlights that, over time, it has become ingrained into the fabric of social relationships as we know them.

Conversely, then, if one dreams of bodies of water that give off feelings of isolation or desolate waters, this may be a sign that something is missing in your social life. And it's also, perhaps, why we see in mental health surveys that people who live in closely-knit communities experience fewer mental health symptoms, while those in happy marriages are less stressed and depressed than singles or unhappily married people. In these cases, it's not the number of social relations we have that matters, but the "quality" they infer in keeping us grounded and connected to the outside world.

Abundance is on the horizon

In terms of the numerous allegories that dreams of water can possess, one interesting concept tied to various cultures is the idea of water and destiny. Consider first that water, at least its presence, has a literal connection to sustaining one's life. For instance, in times of drought, its absence can mean the difference between prosperous harvest and scarcity, profit and poverty, and, perhaps, life and death. As research on the topic published to the World Development Journal highlights, even being born at such times can have long-term impacts on one's financial income and opportunities.

Perhaps, because of this, in the ancient world, symbols of water had prophetic meanings that tied into the outcomes of a person's life. In one of the most famous examples, a "Dictionary of Dreams," written by the Arabic author Ibn Seerin in the 8th century, he details that many dreams involving water, whether it be images of bathing, wells, running water passages, or water wheels, all could indicate abundance and prosperity.

We see similar interpretations elsewhere in old religious texts (usually specifically on running water or some configuration of the dreamer washing) that these dreams mean the dreamer will soon benefit from receiving favor, honor, or glory. For instance, in the Judaic text "Berakhot," the Rabbi Hanina explains that if one dreams of well water, it means they will find peace and favor.

Some physical need is not being met

When thinking about the meaning of a dream, we should not forget that all dreams do not have deep meanings. For instance, as Sigmund Freud highlights in his book, "The Interpretation of Dreams," some water dreams can be more direct, pointing to a physical need such as dehydration or sweating from illness. As we've touched upon, there is both a physical and mental aspect of dreams. While we've looked extensively at the mind, dreams have also been used in ancient times as a way to make diagnoses for the body.

For instance, in ancient Greece, early early physicians such as Hippocrates suggested that water as an element in dreams meant that a person was unwell. And, some evidence in modern literature seems to agree — as one paper attests, those with poor physical health often had correlating dreams about injuries, death, and sickness.

What's harder to establish, though, in this research, is whether the sickness the participants experienced precipitated the dreams or whether the dreams forecasted them. In any case, dreams of treacherous waters, waterborne disease, or drinking murky waters may be worth taking note of, especially if you're already under the weather.

Your mind is helping you work through trauma

Why is it that one person's dream can be another person's nightmare? Well, based on what we've covered, we know that different people make different associations between certain symbols and waking elements, which get reorganized through dreams. Why our minds do this is still up for debate — it could be anything from evolutionary to emotional processing. But, what we do know is that dreams have a link between memory and recall.

For instance, one person's dream of a beach might be a peaceful and enjoyable dream. However, for someone who has had a traumatic experience at the beach, this dream could be more of a nightmare. According to a paper in the Journal of Research in Psychotherapy, the origins of such nightmares could be "endo-psychic situations." Put simply, this is where our brain focuses on specific terrors or fears to force the dreamer to confront the threat within their own mind.

Specifically, in the case of traumatic experiences, such as those that occurred around water, the mind recreates these memories because it recognizes to some degree that it's fragmented. The expressions of this fragmentation for the trauma survivor might surface in different ways, from memory loss to mood or personality changes. Thus, traumatic dreams of water may be a way to heal from this fractured state and make the mind whole again.