Dear Claire,


I have a recurring dream that I would like to understand better. Some things in the dream change, but certain parts never change. First, my brother (who recently passed away) asks me when I am going to visit him. Then, I am commandeering a boat on a lake, trying to find and rescue my daughter. I am nervous because I don’t know how to drive the boat, and it’s extremely windy. Then, my brother steps onboard and takes over the boat, and I feel so relieved. I understand why I am dreaming about my daughter so much. There are things going on in her life that have me very worried about her. But why all of the rest?


Unless the dreamer has recently gone fishing or on a cruise, dreaming of being on a boat, or navigating a boat, is usually a symbol for a journey, mission, or course in life—and can also be symbolic of our search for direction in life, or of the challenges we face as we make our way on our “voyage” through life. Added to that symbolism is the fact that boats travel through water, and, in dreams, water continues to be the classic symbol for life—not only do scientists inform us that water is the source of all life, but water also sustains life and, like life, is fluid and ever-changing.

Furthermore, boats are also a symbol for security, because they “carry” us/transport us through the water (life) to stable land. Thus, the dreamer’s recurring voyage to search for and rescue her daughter is merely a reflection of her attempt to navigate through this difficult period of her life—not certain that she knows how to do so on her own, and desiring assistance and guidance. It appears that the deceased brother is a symbol for this desired guidance—especially since he is taking over the navigation of the boat.

After communicating with the dreamer, it was learned that she had a close relationship with this brother—greatly valuing his opinions and advice and relying heavily upon him for support and instruction. As a result, when she feels, particularly in need of assistance with life’s difficulties, it makes sense that he would come through as a symbol of such in her dreams. In life, he had always “stepped onboard” and helped her to solve her issues. Therefore, his taking over the navigation of the boat is, most probably, a symbol for her desire for him to help her navigate her way through her current difficulties in life.

The fact that the voyage is “windy” is also significant in terms of symbolism. Wind is often a symbol for uncertain, unstable, and unpredictable situations in life due to its ability to change direction at a moment’s notice—and due to its ability to blow a vessel off-course. This sense of unpredictability and feeling of being unable to control or “drive the boat” is, most likely, a reflection of the uncertainty and instability that the dreamer feels over the situation with her daughter in her conscious world. As long as the dreamer continues to feel out of control and uncertain about this issue in her waking life, the dream may continue to surface (recur) as a means of working out or calling attention to this inner angst. However, the fact that the boat is sturdy and  hasn’t capsized—and the dreamer is still on the boat and “at the wheel” each time—are definitely positive symbols, showing that she is continuing to handle the situation and still has some measure of control. Her brother asking her to visit and stepping onboard merely reflects her desire for his company and leadership.

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