Dear Claire,

I have a recurring dream where an ocean wave is in my closet. Sometimes, in my dream, the ocean is also in my bedroom. I will open the door to my closet or my room and see this enormous wave in there. Sometimes, there are dolphins, whales, fish, and people swimming and playing in the wave. Usually, it is just a wave. After I open the door in my dream, I just stand there and look at the wave for a moment; then, I close the door. What do you think that this means?

Suppressed desires, emotions, and troubling issues will often seep into our dreams at night in order to force us to confront them and work through them. Recurring themes in dreams are usually due to the brain prodding the dreamer to deal with and/or recognize some suppressed or repeating issue in the dreamer’s waking world.

Waves and the ocean are usually symbols for life in a dream; however, due to their mystery and fluid nature, waves and the ocean can also be symbols for the unconscious world (a relatively uncharted place that, like the ocean, can take great courage to explore). The ever-changing physical nature of waves also allows them to become symbols for change and flow in life, as well as the interconnected “ying and yang” of life. Waves are also common representations for emotion as the waves can be calm and serene or turbulent and out of control. As a result, the relentless and overpowering physical characteristics of waves can become dream symbols for overwhelming situations, emotions, and forces in life—as in a “wave of responsibility” or a “tidal wave of emotion” crashing down upon us. As to doors presenting themselves in dreams, they are usually symbols of a transition from one state, quality, world, or realm of existence to another. Doors are also symbols of entrance and can represent the potential and opportunity for making new connections—as in a situation which “opens doors” for a person in life. However, doors can also be symbols of separation and prohibition—when, by shutting these doors, the dreamer shuts out situations, people, or emotions. Sea life, such as fish, whales, and dolphin, are often symbols of freedom, and seeing them in a wave in a dream may be a reflection of the need to “swim freely,” so to speak. Furthermore, ocean beaches—and people engaged in ocean and beach activities—usually symbolize that the dreamer is desiring recreation, vacation, and pleasure in life.

I would need to know from this dreamer what she feels the wave symbolizes for her—and why she believes that it is behind a closed door. It could be a symbol of overwhelming responsibilities or emotions she feels are about to crash down upon her and she is keeping it pent-up, behind the door, to protect herself or prevent herself from having to experience it or acknowledge that it is there (like the child who hides broken things, bedroom mess, or dirty clothes in his/her closet). Or it could be a symbol of the dreamer’s desire for freedom, recreation, and relaxation in life—a symbol for a  place where she would like to be but feels that she cannot go, and must, instead, close it off due to daily responsibilities and commitments. By shutting it out and keeping it closeted, hidden, and separate, she does not feel the pain of a “dream deferred.” I am inclined to believe that this dreamer just needs a peaceful and happy break from life, and that these dreams recur whenever she feels this need for recreation, relaxation, or a “break from it all”—but does not feel able to follow through and actually experience her desire. So, instead, she just takes a look at what she wants—probably longingly—and then shuts the door.

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