The Symbol of the Tidal Wave
The story of The Last Wave brings the issue of our relationship to the Unconscious realms of life into focus through a symbol that appears in many modern dreams. The Tidal Wave is an appropriate image of the vast sea-change our world is headed into. Since the movie came out in 1977, the world has experienced two horrific examples of a tidal wave’s destructive power. Images of the tidal waves’ devastation overwhelmed me with compassion, but it was the movie The Perfect Storm that had me feeling the immense power of our ocean’s waters. My heart was in my throat watching that wave build and build. Overwhelming does not begin to describe a tidal wave’s power. This is the force we have to contend with now - the power of the Waters to overwhelm both our shores and our fragile psyches – or to heal us.
The tidal wave perfectly represents the power of the aroused ocean. Something arises from the depths, displacing the waters that cradle our lands, dissolving our sense of ourselves. The waters rush into shore, overwhelming it and often claiming it for its own. On a symbolic level, ocean represents the power of our collective emotions. These emotions are being stirred up right now due to the breakdown of our society, and unless we tame and transform them when they appear within us, our world could be subject to the destructive power and frenzy of a mob mentality caught up in emotional rage. We’re already seeing the rise of hate groups in America. The only way to balance extremists is to stay centered and aware, constantly making small adjustments to our own emotions to maintain an inner balance of peace and centeredness. Our dreams can help us do this.
Many friends and clients come to me with tidal wave dreams and are by turns fascinated, afraid and intrigued by them. Why do we dream them and what do they say to us about our life and our world? Tidal waves are not only a force of Nature, they are archetypal by nature. By archetypal I mean that this image of water’s power to overwhelm and destroy is part of our human psychic makeup. R.J.J. Tolkien wrote about his tidal wave dreams, which he believed were memories of drowning Atlantis. The tidal wave lives within us.
One woman dreamed of three consecutive tidal waves coming into shore. None of them overwhelmed her. Since three symbolizes the energy of process, the dream seems to indicate that she’s becoming aware of the process this sea-change is making in her life. She’s becoming conscious of how her old beliefs are still urging her to go back to an old way of perceiving and living; conscious of the patriarchal constraints and notions about how to live her life. She knows some big change is coming, but her rational mindset keeps pushing her to revert to old habits. She is in the process of learning how to trust Spirit and let those waves sweep her into her new life.
Another young woman had a few tidal wave dreams after learning that she had cancer.
First Dream: I’m up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I see the motor boat I rented moored below me. I see the wave take the boat. The waves get higher and higher. I retreat to my house but the waters come up against the windows and finally break through. But I am safe.
Second Dream: There’s a huge jetty and wall down by the water. I see a giant wave coming and I try to get people to safety. But the waves crash into the wall and buildings and destroy them.
These two dreams came at a time when her ‘friends’ told her that they couldn’t live with her while she was going through her cancer treatments. Abandoned by people who she thought were her friends, she had to find ways to deal with her illness alone. And she did, coming through the crisis stronger than before. Tidal waves of emotional stress, of facing betrayal and unkindness, of facing death alone (we all face death alone), of letting go of everything familiar, are the types of crisis that are prefigured in tidal wave dreams.
I’m walking down by the beach and look to my left at the water. I am amazed to see giant tidal waves hanging in the sky. They do not break, they just hang there. I notice people swimming in them and having fun.
I used to have tidal wave dreams all the time. In the first dreams, I observed these giant waves just hanging in the sky, but later on I began to have dreams where the tidal waves broke and flooded around me, although I was never in danger. Having never experienced or seen a tidal wave, I was amazed by these dreams, until I came to understand a bit about the human psyche and Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. These dreams were showing me the power of the collective unconscious, a powerful energy that needs to be played in if we’re to work with it. Not everyone is overwhelmed by the tidal waves of change. Becoming a dream analyst and storyteller is my way of playing in the waves.
Since symbols contain many layers of meaning, tidal wave dreams can show us both destruction and creation. It can indicate a person whose ego-identity is flooded by archetypal material or it can indicate a collective movement, such as the Occupy Movement, which has the power of an overwhelming force of nature. The rejected aspects of life are returning to collective consciousness in a powerful way. It’s up to each of us to meet it with integrity.
The Cosmic Story: Neptune Returns to the Sign of Pisces
With the Sun now moving through the astrological sign of Pisces, I was drawn to begin this series of blogs with an ocean story. And with the entrance of the planet Neptune into Pisces for the first time in 165 years, the image of a tidal wave resonates with the energy of both Neptune and Pisces. Both are associated with the Earth’s oceans as well as the watery realm of the Collective Unconscious. This watery realm connects us to each other, to our creativity and to our spiritual heritage. It is a gateway to other realms of being, to other dimensions of life that are just as real as our tangible world but which have been rejected as ‘unreal’, ‘irrational’ and ‘primitive’. Pisces and Neptune symbolize the mysteries of life which defy definition, the ‘unseen real’. The collective unconscious contains humanity’s ideals, wisdom, dreams and hopes. Because it is an unconscious realm, it also represents the feelings and knowledge that have been rejected by our collective consciousness.
The return of Neptune to the watery realm of Pisces indicates that mystical, spiritual waters are rising up within us, just as Earth’s oceans are rising with the melting of our polar caps. We are entering a time when our ability to understand life on a more symbolic level will be enlivened and enhanced. When we dream of or make movies about tidal waves, it reflects an uprising within our collective heart, a vast sea-change that can destroy our old world while it gives rise to a new world that is washed clean by the longings of our hearts. The image of the tidal wave is an archetype of our times, symbolizing the uprising of the unseen realities. It is up to each one of us to face the Wave and survive.
At The Bard’s Grove,
I’d love to hear from you about any tidal wave dreams you’ve had. And please take the opportunity to go rent The Last Wave and see this marvelous movie for yourself.