I do not always have the same dream but it is always the same theme. I always dream I am falling into oceans or deep bodies of water.

I always know before I fall that I am going to fall. In my dreams I replay the moment right before I fall over and over again so that I can avoid falling, but I always fall. I usually am in a car although I have sometimes just appeared in the middle of deep water.

As a result of these dreams I am developing a deep fear of water. I can’t even enjoy the beach and I seldom go in pools, although I am fascinated with sea animals. I have been having these dreams since I can remember (as a child) but in the past few years they have taken their toll on me. I think it could be many possibilities. One, past life experience. Two, fear of failing or an unconscious feeling of current failure. Or perhaps it is my own way of letting me know I’m having or approaching a mood low. I do not have any mood disorders, or any that have been diagnosed. Please help. I would like to enjoy the beach again, and be able to go swimming or driving near water.

–nancy, age 27, separated, NY

Hi Nancy,

I agree that this is a crisis situation! If you aren’t able to enjoy water or the beach anymore, it’s time for a new dream life!

Falling dreams usually indicate uncertainty in our lives. When we are falling in real life, our main concern is “where we are going to land.” We also wonder if we will be hurt by the fall.

Judging by your dream report, it appears there may be enough uncertainty in your life (about the future) to explain these dreams, without having to concern yourself with past life experiences. Specifically, you inform us that currently you are separated from your husband. Separation, as you know, is an incomplete status. Your aren’t happily married anymore, nor do you enjoy the closure of divorce or reunion with your mate. What’s the result? Your personal life is on hold. You don’t know where you “stand.”

Water in dreams is a consistent symbol for emotions. Instead of thinking literally about this recurring symbol, may I suggest that you begin to think metaphorically? Being suspended in deep water suggests a state of being emotionally “in limbo.” Falling into oceans and other large bodies of water, similarly, is a metaphor for being in an emotional “free-fall.”

What’s the solution? It appears you have already noticed a correlation between the frequency of these dreams and periods of instability in your waking life (occasionally in childhood, and now more recently, during this difficult period of separation). Next time you have a falling dream, recognize it as a sign that you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. If you aren’t already visiting a relationship counselor, I suggest you start. The more control you assert over your future, the sooner these dreams will vanish. Then it will be time for a relaxing, and well-deserved, swim at the beach.

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.