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Dreaming Waves of Emotions

A very good male friend and I are walking on a familiar beach. We are having a discussion, and although I can’t now remember the content, I know it was intense. We stop walking to face each other. The ocean is behind him and to the side of us. As we talk, I look over to see a tidal wave forming to the side of us. I become very nervous and scared, while he stays calm and collected. He keeps trying to calm me, while I keep assuring him we will die.

Then I notice another tidal wave forming behind him, seeming to come from a different source than the first. He doesn’t notice this second one until I point it out to him. At the moment he sees the second tidal wave, he turns around to embrace and kiss me. The dream then comes to a close with him and me kissing on the beach with two different tidal waves looming near us. I see this almost as if a camera has panned back to show the whole scene, like in a movie.

The background of the situation is that I have had to keep my friendship with my male friend a secret because of a close female friend of mine. I have explained to her that we are only friends, but she still doesn’t like us to be friends. This friendship has remained a secret for over a year, and has more recently become more important to me. Now I do struggle with the possibility of there being other (more romantic) feelings involved.

–Cara, age 29, single, Montreal, Canada

Hi Cara,

It’s a good thing that “tidal waves” aren’t as common in real life as they are in our dreams. Otherwise, we’d all be sopping wet!

Water in dreams is a universal symbol for emotions. Accordingly, when we dream of tidal waves, or of “rising water” in general, we are encouraged to look for areas in our lives where our emotions may be “running high,” or even threatening to overwhelm us. Given the background you have provided, it would appear that your dream is no exception.

You have told us that currently you are being pulled in two directions. Your feelings for your male friend are growing, as recently you have begun to think of him romantically. At the same time, you also are aware that your close female friend will become jealous — and perhaps even angry — should she learn of this blossoming attraction.

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Given the sequence of events in the dream, the first wave most likely represents your increasing feelings for your male friend. You are having an intense discussion with him when you see the tidal wave approaching in the background. It is also significant that, at this point in the dream, you are convinced you both will “die.”

Death in dreams almost never should be interpreted literally. Rather, it is a common symbol for change. Accordingly, your dream awareness that you both will “die” most likely represents the transition you already perceive occurring in your relationship. As soon as you recognize this change, however, another tidal wave looms in the distance, “seeming to be from a different source than the first.” Do we need a map to locate the source for this wave? It is your female friend’s emotional distress should she learn of your blossoming romance.

It’s natural for friends to be jealous, and even possessive, with their close friends. Unfortunately, it also is immature and short-sighted. Even though it means her relationship with you will change, your girlfriend needs to recognize the inevitable and give you her blessings, no matter what you decide. It’s the only way you two will weather this “storm” together.

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 Waves of Emotions

Charles McPhee

APA Reference
McPhee, C. (2020). Dreaming Waves of Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 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
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