The intense and terrifying feeling of drowning is a fairly common dream that most of us have often experienced a few times, however there are a large and lucky number of people who have not experienced it at all.
While the feeling of drowning is intense and very unpleasant, it does symbolize a huge amount in regards to our mental and inner emotional state.
The feeling of being submerged by water without being able to swim out is one of the biggest fears for a lot of us, so it can make sense for the mind to linger on it while we rest.
However there are far more explanations for why this peculiar dream can occur that are well worth knowing since it can improve your wellbeing immensely.
We have taken a deep look into why exactly we dream of drowning, what it means and all other aspects around it to better understand all the fascinating aspects surrounding this unpleasant dream.
How Common Are Dreams About Drowning?
While the feeling of drowning is a major fear for many people, as a dream, while it is quite common to occur at least on the off occasion, it is actually not rated very highly as a common recurring dream.
In a survey taken from 2,000 people scattered across the US, while falling was reported as the highest recurring dream at 53%, drowning was actually the 23rd most popular with only 9% of people stating that they noticed it had been occurring for quite some time.
The reason for this is actually because the meaning for this overwhelming and isolated dream is more so related to sections of our lives where we experience emotions all at once rather than a worry or fear that can often last for much longer periods of our lives.
What Does Drowning Mean In A Dream?
There are a few specific meanings for why we can dream about drowning that are all very unique to your situation in day- to-day lives at the time and how happy you are about certain areas of your life.
The one general meaning that all of these meanings feed into however is the feeling of being overwhelmed or overpowered by emotions and elements that are specifically out of your control.
Water in dreams is known to represent emotions, and by trapping within the dream it is a reflection of our inability to control our emotions in a hectic period of our lives.
Some even believe that dreams like these are memories of our past lives that we are experiencing again through our dreams and that the dreaming helps us cope with these memories while also resolving any issues that were left behind by our past self.
There are however some more centered and specific meanings that can come from dreams about drowning and being submerged by water.
1) Feeling Helpless
When we have extremely passionate or strong feelings about something that is out of our control, it can often lead to a sad feeling of hopelessness and despair that shows itself through metaphorically drowning.
This can take the shape of many forms when we are awake such as losing a job and worrying about financial stability in the future or being physically unable to help a friend when they really need assistance.
The dream perfectly mirrors the feeling of not being able to act in a way we would like that can lead to an outburst of emotions that express themselves while we rest.
2) Losing Someone Close To You
This is most often the case when in your dream you are in a vast ocean with no one around you to support you and reflects the fact that in real life you feel as if you feel there is no one there to assist you, or that you had someone there who was incredibly important to you but they’re no longer there for you.
This also reflects a feeling of not belonging anywhere as the person’s absence makes it hard for you to remain stable and the pain (water) is drowning you in both a physical and mental sense.
3) Escaping From A Situation
A very common feature of some dreams will feature the person trying to save themselves from drowning, whether this be slightly paddling in the dream or finding something in the water to grab on to.
This is actually a much more positive type of dream and signifies that in your waking life, you are escaping from a situation, area or individual that was causing you to become overwhelmed with negative emotions.
This is a very freeing sensation and can occur for a variety of reasons such as escaping a toxic workplace that has been causing you stress for a few months or years, or even simply escaping from an individual who was causing you many unwanted negative emotions that you are ready to load off.
This dream is very positive and is a sign that you know good things are around the corner and that you’re ready to turn a page and escape from an overwhelming patch of your life.
4) Getting No Time To Ourselves
The feeling of isolation is also very present in the feeling of drowning and can be a metaphor for not being able to ‘catch our breath’ and get a moment to ourselves in our lives.
If we are constantly surrounded by people, or if we find that we have an incredibly busy week or month with no free time to rest or consume some hobbies, then this can be another common reason for a person to dream about drowning.
5) Fear Of Water
Of course our dreams are also deeply intertwined with our fears, and so if a person has a general fear of water in their waking life then it can make dreaming about this terrifying water involved situation much more common.
What is interesting is that a person does not even need to necessarily feel the regular pressures of overwhelming emotions to dream about drowning, a general fear of going swimming or of water itself is enough to induce this terrifying dream.
This occurs in a lot of dreams that prey on our personal fears and is commonly referred to as ‘Rehearsal theory’ where our dreams will practice what we would do realistically if we found ourselves in these situations that we are most anxious about and is the main reason why we can find anxiety inducing dreams so realistic.
Dreams Of Drowning That Involves Other People
Dreaming of drowning most of the time will only include the person who is actually experiencing the dream since it is based around their current state and emotions being reflected through the mind, however it can also involve other people that we have a very strong relationship with and hold strong emotions towards.
These types of dreams can sometimes have a slightly different meaning from dreams of when it is just us isolated on our own. Here are some of the most common dreams of drowning that involve other people and what exactly they mean.
1) Saving Someone From Drowning
Dreaming of saving or at least trying to help someone else from drowning represents how in our waking life, we are desperately fighting to help someone who may be struggling or that we have a responsibility to protect.
For example, it can be common for younger fathers to have this unpleasant dream about trying to save their child from drowning as the water desperately tries to surround them and push them back.
These are the overwhelming emotions that come from taking on new and demanding adult responsibilities.
This can also be the case with a friend or family member who we know is struggling and we’re giving everything we can to save them from suffering while the uncontrollable elements around us try to prevent us from doing so.
2) Observing Someone Else Drowning
If you find in a dream that you often watch other people drowning and struggling to stay afloat rather than yourself and are not trying to save them, this can often be our underlying fears of some similar unwanted situation happening to us very soon such as an accident or illness.
The fact that you cannot reach the person and save them indicates that the events and circumstances affecting them are entirely out of your control and reach.
3) Watching A Friend Drown
This is a very unpleasant dream to have which can make us feel quite uneasy about what we are actually thinking, however it does not mean that you have some malicious intent in your head or that you actually want to act this thought out, in fact it can be a great opportunity to reflect on your friendships in that current moment.
If you feel indifferent in the dream of a friend drowning or if you find you cannot physically reach or out to save them, it can be a major sign that you are becoming detached and distant from that person or are harboring negative emotions towards them that may be underlying.
This particular kind of dream can indicate that a relationship is becoming strained, however it can also indicate that you are losing a sense of yourself and how to connect with the people around you.
4) Loved Ones Drowning
This dream preys on our fear of losing a loved one to an accident or illness down the line, or the feeling that you’re becoming far more disconnected with a family member than you would like.
If you find this unpleasant dream is recurring, it can be well worth trying to spend as much time with that family member as you can and rekindle your relationship if possible to ease your underlying negative emotions that keep arising as you sleep.
5) Drowning Someone Else
This is another case of a dream that does not necessarily reflect a physical act that we would carry out, but is symbolic of the repressed deep negative emotions we can have towards another person, even if we do not realize it sometimes.
This can be a person we have recently distanced ourselves from, or a once good friend who has done something to make them resented and hated.
It can also however represent emotions about someone that we want to hide entirely which can be negative emotions such as hatred or jealousy, however it can also be because we feel we are falling for someone but can’t stand our emotions and want to ‘bury’ them away with the person.
6) Being Saved From Drowning
Sometimes we can have a dream about drowning where we get pulled out of the water onto some land or onto a boat by another person who we may know closely, or who could be a complete stranger that our mind has conjured up.
This dream actually has quite a positive meaning and represents the inner feeling that you will be able to overcome the obstacles that you are currently facing in your waking life.
While an arm is usually reached out by another person, this can also be seen as an extension of yourself and how you feel as if the troublesome patch of your life that has filled you with negative and uncontrollable emotions is finally being overcome.
This can often occur after an immense moment of relief in your day to day life such as successfully going through an operation that has been causing you stress for a few weeks or months, or presenting an important presentation at your work meeting which ended up going very well.
7) Being Drowned By Someone
This version of the dream is very similar to when we are watching a friend or someone we were once close to drowning, however rather than symbolizing a relationship becoming more distant, it means that you are actively in the middle of moving away from someone emotionally or that you are feeling overwhelmed by their presence.
This could be someone we were once in a romantic relationship with, or even someone we are currently in a romantic relationship with which is actually causing a lot of stress and buildup of negative emotions.
At the very same time it could be someone far less important in your life like a very loud coworker who just makes your day more troublesome than it needs to be.
This dream can also symbolize a general aggravation with someone that we have a sour or hateful relationship with.
This is not to suggest that this is the dreamer actually intending to kill the person in real life, it instead signifies a period of severe emotional stress which is directed towards one person metaphorically that we have the most animosity towards in our lives.
If the other person in the dream is your romantic partner, then it is very worth trying to take a look and understand where your relationship is headed and how you truly feel about your significant other.
Dreams of Drowning That Involve Objects
Some dreams of drowning can even involve objects or can be located away from the sea or a pool of water entirely, and these too can mean a few different things.
1) Drowning On A Sinking Boat
This is quite a common dream that can mean 2 different things. It firstly represents our hesitancy to delve into the deeper and more hidden parts of our emotions and our internal state.
If you are on a boat that is small and rapidly sinking into the sea, it can suggest you are allowing your emotions to get the better of you and that you are being forced to confront those deeper issues which you may be running from or wish to forget entirely.
If you find that the boat sinks incredibly fast and with no control, it can mean we are hesitant to delve into our emotions but are feeling the need to be forced into acknowledging them.
If you are sinking with a lot more control over the boat however, this is a positive sign that indicates you actually do not have any hesitancy to confront your emotions.
The second meaning of this dream is its significance of failure and how we feel we are lacking specific characteristics or traits that are needed for us to succeed, leading our ‘boat’ to eventually sink.
This could be a feeling of lacking self-esteem, confidence, organization or even passion.
2) Drowning In A Bathtub
This dream is much the same as other drowning meanings in the sense that it represents our emotions overwhelming us and causing us to feel helpless because of some circumstances in our lives that we barely even have control over.
The significance of the bathtub however is quite important as it is also a common representation of healing the mind and soul when you dream of just being present in one.
Dreaming of drowning in a bathtub can therefore indicate the need to escape from an abundance of exhausting emotions to truly allow your mind and body to heal.
Other Details In Drowning Dreams
While these are the different symbolic meanings that can come from dreaming of drowning, if you want to analyze these thoughts even deeper there are a few very precise and intricate details that can tell us a lot more about our current situation, feelings and underlying emotions.
The color, size and context of the water itself is one extremely significant component of the dream.
A wide open ocean with seemingly no land in sight indicates that we are in unknown territory, in other words we are in a situation or experience that we have no idea how to deal with or that we have not handled in the past.
It can also represent a sense of hopelessness that comes when our emotions overwhelm us to the point of leading us to have negative thoughts and believe that there is nothing else for us.
If the water is calm and very still while the person is drowning, this can symbolize what the dreamer is feeling, or what they are hoping to feel in their daily life.
If it is more choppy and the dreamer is fighting against the high waves, this would suggest that an occurrence has happened suddenly in their waking life which they are unsure how to respond to or deal with.
A very common occurrence that can happen in any dream with water is if the dreamer gains the ability to breath underwater during the dream.
This is actually a very positive sign that suggests that the dreamer is feeling confident that they will be able to get through this difficult patch in their waking life.
The context of where the dream takes place can also give a huge indication to our underlying feelings that we would rather neglect or not confront.
For example if you were to dream of drowning in a swimming pool that you were very fond of as a child, this can represent losing touch with a much more carefree and enjoyable part of your life which has now become impossible to get back.
How To Stop Having Dreams About Drowning
Dreams of drowning are certainly anxiety inducing and are very unpleasant to have on a continual basis, even if we are aware that they are recurring.
The main way to prevent these thoughts appearing in our sleep is to confront and stabilize our emotions that may be out of balance in our regular lives.
A great way to do this is a dream diary where you can record each detail of the dream you just had before you forget.
This is an especially good strategy because we forget our dreams in as little as a few minutes after waking because of the neurochemical conditions in the brain that occur during REM sleep, the phase of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements that produce our dreams.
Recording your dreams of drowning can help you accurately get an idea of what underlying feelings are causing them to appear, whether this be a straining relationship with a friend or loved one, our fear of imminent failure or simply just a phase of feeling personally overwhelmed with duties and responsibilities which we emotionally have not had time to adapt to.
Also make sure to look out for patterns, for example for some people they will have dreams about drowning when they are approaching a deadline at work or for school.
Noticing this in a dream diary can make the meanings of dreams much easier to spot and can signify us to take deep breaths and stabilize our emotions that are getting out of control.
If you find that the dreams do not stop however, even if you have tried confronting the feelings and emotions that are causing them to appear, you may want to get checked and treated for sleep apnea as this could be an underlying cause.
How Long Can You Have Dreams About Drowning?
Because these types of dreams are primarily associated with patches of our lives where we are surrounded by emotions or unpleasant situations that are affecting our mental state and inner emotions, dreams of drowning will more often than not only be repeated up to a handful of times within that patch, and so will subside once your emotions stabilize in your waking life.
The dream itself usually lasts no longer than 30 minutes but it can be longer depending on how deep you are in R.E.M sleep.
If you find however that these kinds of dreams centered around drowning have been affecting you for a few months and especially a few years, it can mean that there is a much deeper rooted cause within your conscience that is making you think such anxiety-inducing thoughts while you sleep.
If this is the case, it is definitely the best option to seek professional help and try and find the root of this pain as a lot of the time it can be something from our past or even recently that we just don’t want to acknowledge that has emotionally affected us as much as it has.
Is It Negative To Have Constant Dreams Of Drowning?
While they are called ‘dreams’ as an umbrella term defining how they work and what purpose they serve, many of these sleeping thoughts are usually more akin to nightmares that we would rather not see if we can help it.
This is not to say that these thoughts are completely pointless and should be ignored entirely. Dreams essentially work as therapy sessions that we never signed up for, shedding light on issues that many of us would rather put off when we are conscious.
The other side of this to always keep in mind is that dreams are always symbolic and do not match what you would physically do in real life in most cases.
Therefore dreams are very similar to intrusive thoughts that a lot of people have while conscious which can pop in our head and convince us that it is something we might plan to do, but in reality is something we would never actually act out.
If you do therefore have a dream centered around drowning, or if you have a dream about helplessly watching someone drown without doing anything to help them, try not to let your mind convince you that you would actually act this out with malicious intent in your waking life.
These images are purely symbolic and is the brain scrambling for a metaphorical situation that mirrors the underlying feelings of the dreamer and therefore does not reflect an actual violent desire.
Why Can’t I Swim In My dreams?
It does not matter how good of a swimmer you are in real life, whether you consider yourself an experienced swimmer or just a beginner, most of the time we find that we are just unable to even paddle at all when we are suddenly dropped in a pool of water in our dreams.
This is very similar to the phenomena of not being able to run in our dreams or barely move our legs even if we are being chased or are rushing to get somewhere quickly.
This signifies a major lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, and is the same reason we are often unable to swim in our dreams.
This very much connects with the symbolism of feeling helpless and like our emotions are getting the better of us and that despite having the ability to actually ‘Swim’ through our issues, we lack the confidence in our own abilities to actually do so.
What Does Water Represent In Dreams?
Water is actually the most common element within dreams that can appear in a number of different ways and contexts that can result in us feeling a whole array of different emotions depending on the situation.
A major flood is one such dream that is quite common and often includes you and others around you along with any personal possessions getting lost to an overwhelming flood of water.
In a flooding context, water is primarily recognised for its cleansing and purifying symbolisations.
Dreaming of us and others being swept away by a large flood can often mean that we need a major life change or are currently going through one and that we need to ‘cleanse’ ourselves to live a happy life.
Driving across some water or driving into a pool of water is also an uncomfortable dream that is centered around the feeling of losing control of our lives and emotions or being suffocated from everything going on.
This can also symbolize an underlying feeling of needing to be judged or punished which can commonly arise when we are experiencing intense feelings of guilt or shame from something that we have done in the recent or even distant past.
Falling into water is also a popular dream that is extremely similar to the jolt most of us get when trying to sleep where we fall and quickly wake up, except in this case the fall is cushioned by a pool of water where the dreamer will remain.
According to Freudian theory, falling into water symbolizes a person’s unconscious desires and fears, specifically feelings that have been ‘bubbling up’ to the surface of our conscious mind.
What Does Dying In A Dream Mean?
Majority of the time when we dream about being submerged by water, we will remain conscious throughout the entire thing to symbolize how we are going through a constant struggle.
Sometimes however the dream can end suddenly as if we had died in this psychological universe, which can symbolize the end of something and the beginning of something new.
If this occurs when dreaming about drowning, it can either mean that the underlying emotions are causing you too much pain and stress to where you feel as if they could consume you entirely, or on the flip side it can represent finally letting go of these horrible dreams after you have faced the underlying issues head on in real life.
How To Analyze A Dream
We may forget our dreams extremely quickly as soon as we wake up, however it can be incredibly important to try and remember and analyze each and every specific detail of our dreams since there is no part of them that is not a representation of some way we are emotionally feeling in our conscious lives.
Actually catching the dream and picking it apart can be difficult however as we can easily forget the exact details as time goes on.
Therefore, it can be a great morning routine to repeat every time the dream happens to see specifically if any elements of the symbolisation have changed, and what this means for the dreamer.
Journaling your dreams when you wake up is a perfect way to do this and simply requires some focus and dedication, here is the easiest way to analyze your dreams including thoughts of drowning.
Step 1 – Journal As Soon As You Wake Up
As soon as you awake from a deep sleep, immediately take out your pencil and journal and try to recall as many details of the dream as possible, this will be when your mind has the clearest image of the dream you just had.
Try and think of the overall picture but also as many smaller details if possible such as the calmness of the water, the weather and if any other people were involved in the dream.
Step 2 – Write Down Any Personal Associations
When writing down the details of the dream, try and focus on any features that have a particular personal resonance to you such as if it took place in a pool from your childhood, if there is a person involved in the dream who you have a close connection with or even any animals or objects involved that mean something to you personally.
Step 3 – Explain Your Emotions
Next you will want to write down exactly what feelings this dream gave you if you can remember the emotion and feeling.
Be as honest as you can, there is no shame in writing that the dream made you afraid, upset, weak or even giddy, dreams are all about giving you an insight into your current emotional state so any acknowledgement is positive.
Step 4 – Ask Yourself What Inspires These Emotions
Once you have a good idea of what emotions you felt from this dream and the small personal details surrounding it, ask yourself what inspires these emotions in your day to day life whether it relates to your job, a friend or personal insecurities.
The goal of this is to find what situation in our waking lives parallels the dream and where exactly these thoughts are coming from in our current situation.
Step 5 – Put Together All Your Findings
Combine all that you have written down into a single narrative including the personal details, the primary emotions and where you feel these emotions in your day to day life to seek out and uncover the root of your personal uneasiness within your consciousness.
Sometimes this will not be perfectly clear when journaling for the first time, however it is still worth doing as it will still grant a good insight into why these dreams are appearing.
A good idea to really nail down the symbolic meaning is to journal the same dream in the morning every time you have it and write down exactly what you experience each time.
If some of the details change quite drastically, then the meaning could have changed to reflect your new current emotional state, however if it is the same recurring dream, then recording it each time can just make its meaning even clearer and bring you closer to the roots of the thoughts.
Why Is It Important To Learn From Dreams?
More often than not dreams can be intense or bizarre, and the reason for this is because our painful or even sometimes traumatic emotions or memories are projected and let loose in a dream.
Recent research has suggested that vital emotional and memory compartments of the brain are reactivated in our dreams during REM sleep.
This would mean that a process of emotional memory reactivation is occurring in a safe environment, allowing some upsetting memories or fears to arise as we sleep.
In a sense, dreaming is a form of overnight personal therapy that can occur even when we don’t want it to.
This is not to suggest that these unpleasant dreams, such as drowning, can not be beneficial in some way, in fact they can provide some of the clearest windows into who we really are as people.
Gaining a better idea of what we truly feel about our current situation and what we do and don’t like about ourselves can majorly help people de-escalate emotional reactivity if it appears in real life.
We can better understand how to respond and react to these scenarios when we face them in our regular lives and understand their true meaning which definitely applies to the emotional feeling of drowning.
Can Dreams Be Useful In Therapy?
A person dreams are not only useful for personal improvement and self realization, but they can also be incredibly useful as a tool for monitoring your progress and current emotional state in clinical therapy sessions as well which is another reason for why it can be so beneficial to write dreams down in a journal to keep them for a later date.
Therapists will often use a person’s dreams to relate their progress towards their dreams in reality and how they view those dreams within their underlying subconscious emotional state.
Using dreams in therapy has been extremely common since the publication of Sigmund Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ in 1900 which led him to conclude that only with knowledge of our dreams can we better understand the unconscious activities of the mind and can therefore provide an incredibly useful tool to uncover our emotional state and stability at that time.
Dreams are not only useful for personal therapy, they are also incredibly useful in other therapeutic schools including client-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, family therapy, group therapy, psychodrama and even cognitive behavioral therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Normal To Wake Up In Sweats After A Dream?
Sweating while in our sleep and waking up with sweats is extremely common and is nothing to be majorly concerned about. It is most often caused by having a dream that is extremely anxiety inducing and causes us to become suddenly uneasy.
Any dream that is known to cause a ‘Sympathetic surge’, also known as a fight or flight response, triggers anxiety in our body, even if we are just imagining it, and can very easily lead to sweating in sleep.
Drowning is included in this, being a situation where we are trying to hold on while being pushed back.
It can be easy for us to get upset or disheartened after having negative dreams and especially if they are occurring repeatedly and leading to an uncomfortable sleep where we wake up in a sweat.
While dreams that involve drowning can come in a wide variety of forms with their own specifically details, objects and people involved, nearly all of them represent a severe lack of balance in our emotions which are becoming too overwhelming and leading to irritable feelings of sadness, numbness and a lack of care in our day-to-day lives.
Luckily these dreams are more often than not very temporary and only last to represent a patch in our life where we are trying our best to keep our emotions together but are finding it more difficult than usual.
Nevertheless remember that dreams, whether they be centered around drowning or anything else, should always be written down and analyzed so you can uncover the roots of what exactly the dream is trying to tell you.
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