Dreams about swimming are a fairly common theme at bedtime. If you or a loved one has been covering this ground at night, you may have questions about what it all might mean. As part of a Huffington Post series on dreams and their meanings, we spoke to August J. Cwik, Psy.D., associated with the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, to get expert advice about the meanings of your or your loved one’s dreams about swimming. Note: While dream analysis is highly subjective, this post might provide some insight into why this dream occurred or is recurring.
What do dreams about swimming mean? According to Cwik, “Dream meanings really have to take into account the unique conscious attitude of the dreamer. A particular dreamer might associate swimming with a childhood trauma or bring up pleasant memories of a vacation. And there is also what is called a mythopoetic element to consider in which the symbol can effect change, connecting the dreamer to something larger than the ego.”
What can I learn about myself from dreaming about swimming? Cwik suggests that the dreamer carefully examine the context. He says, “While a backyard pool might refer to a place of containment, the ocean might reference the wider realm of the collective unconscious, a grander symbolism of depth and breadth as well as the watery aspect of the soul. Perhaps the dreamer is having a difficult time with the unconscious, and the dream is acting as compensatory, balancing a one-sided attitude in navigating the currents of life.”
Are there any tricks to avoiding or inducing dreams about swimming? From a Jungian perspective, dream manipulation is highly discouraged. As Cwik expresses it, “The role of the unconscious is to balance a lopsided conscious attitude, and dream images about a subject come up to help the dreamer comprehend an important message.”
Beyond analysis, what cultural symbolism can be found in dreams about swimming? Alchemy, the process of the turning common lead into precious gold, was often used by Carl Jung as a metaphor for the process of personal development and evolution. Cwik reminds us that a water dream is dealing with a primal alchemical element and possibly breaking down the rigid structures and defenses of the psyche into incarnating new, more adaptable ways of being. As Cwik describes, “There is an image from alchemy of the king drowning in water, which can be understood as the old rigid defenses dissolving to blend into something greater.”
Who tends to have dreams about swimming most frequently? Cwik suggests, "Dreams about water may be encouraging the dreamer who is too concrete, rigid and stuck to become more balanced in his/her consciousness, into dissolving some of that concreteness and rigidty. The swimmer is navigating in the water, flowing."
What if the dreams bring up feelings of fear? If the dreams about swimming are seriously disturbing, consultation with a competent analytical professional is recommended. Cwik advises, “Nightmares may indicate that one is very much out of harmony with his or her unconscious and other aspects of their life. But from a positive perspective, your unconscious may be calling you to a closer relationship to the unknown, to exploring a deeper life -- one closer to the unconscious and nature -- in order to experience all it means to be human.”
August J. Cwik, Psy.D., is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle, and holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He received his diploma from the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and is a member of the Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts and the Interregional Society of Jungian Analysts. Cwik was co-director of training at the Analyst Training Program and co-director of the Clinical Training Program in Analytical Psychotherapy at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago, and he is now in private practice in Chicago and Park Ridge, Ill. He has published articles on the structure of analysis, alchemy, supervision, dreams, active imagination and numerous reviews and additionally provides supervision and analytic psychotherapy in-person and by videoconferencing.