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Dreaming of Being Cast Away

My life is awful. When I was pregnant with my second child, and my daughter was just one year old, my husband had an affair with another woman. I don’t want to divorce him because I still love him so much and I want a family, no matter if it is good or bad.

He has been working in a foreign country since this thing happened three years ago. Although he rarely calls us and rarely comes back, he still pays the bills and gives us money for living. Recently, he wants to divorce me, but I don’t agree. I still love him.

In my dream, the ocean submerges everything. I and another person climb to the top of a building, but the water is still getting higher and higher. I see people say good-bye and hug each other. Some people have already sunk. Some of them cry and some of them smile. I grasp a floating object but I don’t have a chance to use it before I wake up.


Your dream reminds me of being trapped on a sinking ship at sea. As the dream ends, you are being forced to abandon ship, with only a floating object to help keep you alive.

Water in dreams is a consistent symbol for emotions. (Some people speculate that our first emotional memories are created when we’re still floating in our mother’s wombs. This may explain the correlation between water and emotions.) Accordingly, floods, tidal waves and other dream visions of rising water usually are associated with periods of “heightened” emotion in our lives.

In the dream you climb a tall building to escape a rising tide. Once you reach the top, you encounter a scene of departure and transition. Some people already have sunk in the water. Others are saying good-bye. Just before you awaken, you know that you, too, must jump from the building, and try to stay afloat.

I am sorry to learn of your continuing marital difficulties. Despite the lack of communication and contact with your husband, it is clear that you prefer to remain married, and keep the remainder of your family together, rather than traverse the difficult waters of a separation and divorce.

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Your husband’s recent overture regarding divorce, however, appears to have sounded bells of alarm. Given the background you have provided us, your dream appears to represent feelings that you are about to be cast away into an ocean of uncertainty, including doubts for your survival. The support you currently cling to (your marriage — represented by the building in the dream) may be “going under.”

There is no easy answer to your marital difficulties. Because your husband has expressed his desire for a divorce, your dream appears to be encouraging you to look ahead into the future, to the possible reality of his intention. If he does decide to leave the marriage, you will want to be as prepared as possible. It would be nice to step off that sinking building onto a safe piece of dry land, wouldn’t it?

Your dream is a call to action! If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to visit a marriage counselor. Learn what your legal and financial rights are, and begin to prepare for a transition in your life. The sooner you face these troubling issues, rather than hope they will go away, the quicker this emotional tide will recede.

Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.

Dreaming of Being Cast Away

Charles McPhee

APA Reference
McPhee, C. (2020). Dreaming of Being Cast Away. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.