Sunday, September 18, 2011

the swimming pool dreams

Time for one of my infrequent dream blog posts!

Many years ago when I was nearing the end of a very intensive psychotherapy, I had a dream that I was in a swimming pool trying to swim. I couldn't do it. I kept going under. The emotional aura of the dream was vivid and real - I was truly in that pool, submerged in water that was deep and scary, and at some point I grabbed the side of the pool and refused to let go.

My therapist was also in the dream. He was sitting on the edge of the pool, talking to me about letting go, and that one could not swim without turning loose of that rounded, concrete edge, which was my safety net. I was gripping it with both hands.

I kept describing how I would go under if I turned loose. He got in the pool and showed me that he could stay afloat without holding on. He could dog paddle in place, or he could swim around to different parts of the pool. He pointed out that there was no way to learn to swim at all while holding on. That in order to swim, you had to let go. And in order to let go you had to trust.

Eventually I worked my way to revealing that I did not trust him to help me if I went under. I didn't trust myself to do what I needed to do to stay afloat.

The dream seemed timeless. We went on and on with this discussion. Finally, he convinced me he was trustworthy and that he believed I could do what I needed to if I would "let go."

The dream ended when I did let go, and he held me up for a moment as I found my arms and legs and began to swim.

It was an incredibly healing dream that represented in just one night's dream time what I had struggled with for several years. It was a turning point in my life, and was part of what pushed me to want to go to graduate school and become a therapist myself.

Over the years since that time I've had more swimming pool dreams. They always involve my unconscious processing something that relates to my psychological growth.

A few weeks ago I had a swimming pool dream that involved a trauma that happened a long, long time ago. It's been "resolved" in my mind for many years, but in this recent dream, a sort of final resolution happened - in a swimming pool.

Last night I had yet another swimming pool dream. In this one I was taking care of a little girl. She knew how to swim, and was bold and brave, but she still needed supervision in deep water. We were in a huge expanse of water that had been corralled in from a river, into a huge "swimming pool." The water was not clear - it was clean, but it was dark.

There were lanes, and there was a large open area. We chose to stay in the open area, outside the lanes where other adults were swimming vigorously back and forth.

The little girl immediately swam out in a straight line toward the middle of the water. I was behind her, swimming along but not helping - just being there in case she needed me.

At some point in the dream I wondered what would happen if I got tired, or had a muscle cramp. I started worrying about my ability to keep up with her. We got out of the pool and I went and got a pure white, very elegant and minimalist "skiff" - it was long like a kayak but it was nearly flat with a small curve - almost ethereal in substance. It floated/glimmered along beside us as we headed back to the water, and was there beside us as we swam again, just in case we needed it.

Later in the dream, I worried about one of us getting sick. As we swam back toward the edge, a priest walked up and offered me a microscope slide. It was square, and larger than the usual ones. He had prepared a purple flower on the slide, and said it would heal us if we ever needed it, and that if I wanted to study it more, I could use a microscope to see the smaller details.

I took the slide and put it somewhere safe for later, and we went back to swimming.

It seems fairly obvious that the little girl is me, and the woman is me, and I am processing the middle stage of life, looking back, looking forward, and finding resources for my Self. I love that the priest was benign in the dream - not affiliated with any one religion, not omnipresent. He came only when needed with a remedy, but also gave me the instructions to do my own further study.

It's difficult to describe the emotional ambiance of dreams in words, but this one was soft, and vivid, and very satisfying.  The water was big and deep, fed by a rushing river, so it had the energy of the natural world but the relative safety of being stilled by the structure of the "pool."

There were other swimmers there, presumably processing their own life stages. In a way it was like being literally in the midst of the collective unconscious!

I confess I am fascinated by these watery dreams. If I had more hours in the day, and lived simultaneously in another dimension, I'd want to do research to study the kinds of dreams people have and how they process similar life events and stages.


Jessica Keener said...

What a love about these dreams is your ability to give words to how they feel and even more--words to their sensibility, a sensibility that embraces something truly and (concretely) intangible.


billie said...

Thank you, Jessica. I try to express those intangibles but even my efforts to do so feel inadequate - the dreams are so fluid and have a context that simply has no words.

There have been a few dreams in my lifetime that were so perfectly in the feeling state they did not translate into the English language. I have always wondered if that is how infants feel things - I can remember clearly how those dreams "felt" and what they said to me, but it's impossible to put to words.

Máire said...

That takes me back to swimming dreams I used to have - always in a lake and now we live by one which is interesting.

Thanks for describing that dream. I find myself fascinated by the purple flower under the microscope slide.

billie said...

Maire, your lake dreams sound fascinating!

I have had dreams before where purple was said to be a healing color for me. It's always been my favorite color since I was very young, so I'm not sure how it all connects, but I feel quite sure it does!

ponymaid said...

billie - I must confess, all water except for the sensible quantity in my water bucket gives me nightmares. I just don't trust it.

billie said...

Sheaffer, I imagine donkeys would dream of lovely sand pits, slightly concave, soft, warm, as close a thing to a "dry" pool as there can be!