Water has long been symbolic of what lies beneath the surface, especially when it comes to feelings. If you follow astrology, this is exactly why the zodiac’s water signs are said to be particularly in tune with their inner worlds and emotions. These themes and connections translate over to our dreamscapes, too. According to dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg, author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, dreams about water typically reflect your current emotional state “because emotions are very fluid, as is water, and what you’re going through shapes your emotional state just as water takes on the shape of whatever it’s in.” But understanding the specific emotions fueling your watery dreamscapes depends a lot on the context.
Common meanings of dreams about water
Dreams about water are not inherently “good” or “bad,” says astrologer and dream interpreter Stephanie Gailing, author of The Complete Book of Dreams. Because water can appear in so many different ways in dreams, exactly where and how it manifests is intrinsic to its meaning. Dreaming about sipping on a cool glass of water, for example, likely conjures very different feelings and associations than dreaming of your house getting washed away in a flood.
To that end, understanding how the water in your dream made you feel is a key way to start understanding its meaning. “Water is very significant and primordial, and there are so many ways water can show up in your dreams, so you can split into two categories,” says Gailing. “Ask yourself, is the water life-affirming or life-threatening?” Loewenberg adds that how you feel and exactly what you’re doing in the water “makes all the difference in the meaning of the dream.”
Within the “life-affirming” category, there are still a few different potential scenarios. For example, if you’re in a body of water and having a great time, such as swimming at the beach with friends, at a pool party, or in a hot tub, Gailing says this means that your relationships and emotions are in harmony and they you feel quite secure in your social bonds. Floating or being submerged in an ocean or lake points to calm and serenity, say both Gailing and Loewenberg. If you find yourself with heightened abilities in the water, such as being able to swim to the lowest depths with ease, that’s a signal from your subconscious that you’re capable of conquering whatever it is you’re currently wading through.
“Water is very significant and primordial, and there are so many ways water can show up in your dreams… Ask yourself, is the water life-affirming or life-threatening?”—Stephanie Gailing, dream interpreter
On the other hand, a calming shower or waterfall with gentle water can be symbolic of closure and cleansing (Alexa, play “Clean” by Taylor Swift). “It’s a good sign that progress is happening with whatever you’re doing, whether you’re naturally getting over something or you’re actively working to cleanse yourself of something upsetting or negative,” says Loewenberg. (On the flip side, dreaming about torrential rain is generally thought to symbolize tears and sorrow. “Think about what is going on in your real life that’s gut-wrenching to the point that you’re crying a lot,” adds Loewenberg.)
Dreams about water that feel more life-threatening point to emotions and forces that are out of your control. Dreaming about drowning, for example, is a signal that there’s something in your life that’s either overtaking you or threatening to, says Loewenberg. “In the act of drowning, you’re struggling to stay up and something is pulling you down, so with that action, ask yourself what does it reflect? What in your real life is causing you to struggle or stay up emotionally?” she asks.
Meanwhile, Loewenberg says dreaming about flooding symbolizes a situation that’s getting increasingly worse, and that your emotions are building to the point where they threaten to cascade over. And if something is leaking in your dream, Gailing says it’s a sign that your boundaries aren’t holding firm and that “your [emotional] scaffolding isn’t strong enough.”
How to determine the meaning of your dreams about water
Both Gailing and Loewenberg say it’s key to consider the context of the events of the dream as it’s happening and your feelings when you wake up to ascertain its meaning. If you felt scared or anxious because of the water’s presence in the dream, that’s a clue to take a look at your life and see how you can connect the dots to some event or entity in your present that evokes similar emotions.
If you’re having trouble parsing out your emotions, thinking about the water’s activity in your dream might provide some helpful hints. Tranquil water typically means calm for most people (although some people may find themselves unsettled by it) and boiling water or hot water can signal a situation that’s coming to the surface or that you’re in some trouble or about to be. If the water is muddy, it could point to something being unclear or negative, while clear or sparkling water has a more positive meaning and can symbolize calm or harmony.
Take note if you have a recurring dream that involves water, too. If water appears in your dreams several times, it’s a sign that whatever it symbolizes is still present and relevant and requires resolution soon. A more positive repetitive connotation signals something good or that’s working.
What to do if you dream about water
Loewenberg says it’s best to look at dreams as an honest representation of what’s happening in your waking life, and to heed their warnings accordingly. Once you understand the dream’s possible meaning or symbolism, dedicate some time to solving or contending with whatever turns up.
Because water is so linked with emotions, it’s important to take a hard and honest look at how you handle your emotions and how they drive your thoughts and actions. “If the water is overwhelming or threatening, the emotional thinking is getting you in trouble somehow in real life so it’s time to take the emotion out of [the situation] and handle it in a rational, logical way,” Loewenberg says. “If the water is working for you and it feels good or it’s cleansing or beautiful, then the emotional side is working well for you.”
If you have trouble keeping track of your observations and notes, dream journaling is one helpful way to keep all your thoughts organized. Note down your thoughts and feelings about your dreams so you can start having this life-giving force mostly appear in positive, supportive ways in your dreams.