Drowning2

Both dreaming and waking life are equally opportunities for us to grow into a greater identity through listening to and becoming potentials that are attempting to emerge into the light of consciousness. The following interview with a seventy-eight year old German woman about a near-drowning when she was six and the following repetitive nightmare of drowning provides an excellent example of how our inner compass does not discriminate between night time dreams and waking life the way we do. Ingrid was living in northwestern Germany at the beginning of World War II when she had her near drowning. Her dream of being submerged in the water merges with the waking conclusions drawn from almost drowning and fears of separation and emotional distance from those she most depended on during the terrors of the war years, when she was still a young girl.

This interview provides understanding not only of dreams of water, but how threat is often misperceived, the impact of enculturation, and how needless, avoidable fears can be carried around for decades because of a mistaken perception of life and dream events.

As a child, Ingrid thought her experience of almost drowning was punishment for disobeying her mother and sneaking out and going swimming. Until the age of seventy-eight, when she did this interview, Ingrid has been afraid of water, although she loved it before her childhood accident. After the interview, Ingrid was able to allow herself to learn how to snorkel, with mask and fins, taught by her own grown daughter. Here is Ingrid’s account of her drowning and her repetitive dream:

“When I was six years old I had started school. It was at the beginning of World War II in Germany. I liked to go swimming at a public swimming pool, but my mother didn’t allow me to go that afternoon, I don’t know why. I took my swimming suit and a little money and went alone; I always went there alone. I played tag in the water with other children and I was moving very fast. My feet slipped on the bottom of the pool and I fell over on my back. I couldn’t get my feet under me to stand up and I swallowed a lot of water. The girl that was after me in the game was the only one that saw that I was in trouble. She took me out of the water and put me under a warm shower. At home, during the night, I couldn’t sleep because I hadn’t obeyed my mother. I told her I almost drowned that afternoon. After that I often had the dream that I was lying on the floor of the swimming pool with clear water above me. I saw  my mother and sister walking past. I tried to stretch my arm out so that they could see me but the water was just too deep to reach out of the water. They never saw me. I repetitively had that dream. I forgot all about that story and that dream for years.”

“I think I had that dream because there was a feeling of being separated from my mother and my sister during the war years, when bombs made us homeless refugees, traveling across country, traveling from farm to farm, looking for food and refuge. When I fell in the water I didn’t have fear when I was drowning. At that moment I knew that everything was over, that it was the end. It wasn’t fear, but I was conscious of the end of life.”

 “I think I may have felt the near drowning was a punishment for disobeying my mother by sneaking off and going swimming. But I loved to go into the water before that. I was called “Water Rat!” After that, I thought everyone in the world knew how to swim but me. Before a holiday to Italy when I was a young adult I was wondering whether to get an inflatable swimming suit, so no one would notice I could not swim. But instead I decided to take swimming lessons before the holiday. I went there every day for several weeks. My teacher had me jump off a one meter board, which was very scary. All the men at the pool were watching me, so I forced myself to jump and swim to the edge. I thought I was the only one in the world that couldn’t swim! When I went to Italy I was not scared of the water and actually even went in when there were waves.

 If one character from your dream had something especially important to tell you, what would it be?

Water!

Water, are you a character in Ingrid’s dream and life?

 Yes! I only experience myself – liquid! I move to and fro. Sometimes there is wind and I’ll be a little higher and not like a mirror. I’m used to all these different states. Nothing disturbs that. My movement is very important to me. I can jump and move! I can take things away! I can make things like wood move. It’s like being in neutral. I’m not aware that fish need me to live. I haven’t thought about that until now. I don’t like that I’m getting polluted!”

I most closely personify danger, but not really…I have the power to separate. I am deep enough. There’s plenty of me. On a scale of zero to ten I would score myself an eight in confidence because I’m everywhere! When I evaporate I come down as water again! I don’t vanish! I am also an eight in inner peace because nothing upsets me. I am as I am! I would score myself a seven in wisdom because I have a lot of experience; I’m very old. All life comes out of me. That makes me proud but also powerful. I don’t care whether people get drowned…I would score myself a six in acceptance and witnessing and only a three in compassion, which is not very developed. Maybe I would concentrate more on my compassion for life around me. Ingrid’s compassion is higher than mine. You can only be happy if you’re one with yourself. People,  including Ingrid, can learn to care more about themselves. Drink at least two liters of me a day! Your body is mostly made out of me! I want to see the end of people polluting me. It’s important to me that the circle of life remains undisturbed and that humans stop stirring me up by putting all sorts of weapons and military systems inside of me.  I don’t like people treasure hunting in me. I want my peace, please! I feel separated from land. Sometimes I go and try to catch some. So people build dams.

Ingrid has had a fear of you in her life, Water. How would you handle that fear if you were her?

I could offer to have her try to be in me to gain confidence. I support her! I could show her that I am able to carry her. She has to try it first to gain that confidence. Ingrid can learn from me not to care so much; to be more neutral, to not have too much compassion. This turns into worry about things she can’t control.

Why do you think that Ingrid had those dreams when she was a child?

She wanted to be seen, to be acknowledged! It wasn’t about needing to be rescued! She likes me. She likes the sea, the infinity to the horizon. It has no limits! I can show her or give her that. Reflections of the sky and the clouds. I can show her a wider view.

 I think her mother and daughter did not acknowledge her in her dream because…

As a child, Ingrid did not feel loved by her mother and her sister. As water, I don’t care that much what’s happening around me. Water said that I want to have a relationship with it. I feel like water is trying to make for a relationship with me. It’s a difficult relationship, it seems because Ingrid doesn’t trust me. It’s a pity! All I can do is wait, be patient! You can’t force anything! Try and find out for yourself! If she comes to me I can show her I can carry her and support her. That’s the first step!

 Water, were you punishing Ingrid because she disobeyed her mother?

Definitely not! I’m neutral! I witness!

Water, why do you think Ingrid had a strong urge to tell her mother she had disobeyed her, gone swimming, and almost drowned?

Because she experienced fear and wanted to be comforted.

“I’ve always lacked confidence. Maybe the waking call is, “Go and try it!” The water is very clear. The water tried everything it could to support me and be clear. My mother and sister couldn’t see me. Maybe there is something wrong with them.”

Look at the cognitive distortions that Ingrid learned from her near drowning, reinforced by her repetitive dreams about it:

– that water is scary;

– that she couldn’t swim, although she loved the water;

– that she was being punished for disobeying;

– that there was no help, because there was none from her mother or sister.

– that people she wants and needs won’t “see” her.

Now think about the repercussions for one’s life from having these cognitive distortions:

– Years of fear of the water, even after learning to swim;

– Lack of confidence in oneself;

– A belief that life punishes you if you disobey authority, and therefore a resistance to disobedience;

– A belief that disobedience needs to be confessed so as to gain acceptance;

– The experience that such confessions do not bring acceptance but only make things worse,

– That one is basically emotionally alone in the world, with no help to be expected from those closest to you.

Now think about how Ingrid’s life, or that of any young child, who learns similar cognitive distortions, might have been affected if he or she had this interview when still a child:

– The water, when it spoke, was found not to be malicious or scary, but instead alive and wise, creating a positive personal relationship with water;

–  This would help Ingrid as a child to overcome her fear of the water, so she could return to the natural and joyful relationship she previously had with it;

– The water does not view itself as punishing Ingrid for disobeying. This would have exposed Ingrid, as a child, to other possible ways of seeing both the water and her responsibilities to herself and her mother;

– She may have learned that different people are helpful in different ways, and that instead of looking for her mother and sister for emotional support, she could look elsewhere, including to other interviewed dream characters and emerging potentials. This would have built both her confidence and her independence from a need to be loved and accepted by family.

– Consequently, Ingrid might have learned a lesson early in her life that many people never learn: your biological family is not your “spiritual” family. They may overlap, but each person has the responsibility and the ability to find and form their own family of like-minded, nurturing friends.

– A re-thinking of what it means to care. Ingrid would begin to ask, “The water doesn’t need to be as compassionate as I am. In what ways might I be too caring or too compassionate?”

– A re-thinking of personalization. Instead of thinking that the near-drowning and separation is because of her disobedience, Ingrid wakes up to the realization that perhaps the behavior of her mother and sister have a part to play.

Such thoughts and awarenesses are not taught by school and may not be available from one’s family or peers. Therefore, we grow up not knowing ourselves, not knowing what we need, and so not being able to articulate it to others. Integral Deep Listening interviewing objectifies interior conflicts in a way that allows children to see them, understand them, and explore better ways of defusing them. It does so in an age-appropriate way. The feedback a child gets reflects where they are in their own development at the time they do the interview, rather than what some parent, teacher, or counselor thinks that a child needs.

Interviews such as this one can be read over as statements that we are telling ourselves as a way to further objectify and listen to what we have been told. Here is an interpretive summarization of Ingrid’s interview. Read it over as if it was meant for you, too. Then, if you want to understand the original interview in more detail, you will find it below. Of course, an interview with your own water will have its own unique perspective and generate different recommendations, created especially for you.

“From the perspective of the water, the experience of almost drowning had nothing to do with punishment or disobedience. The water was not attempting to scare you or kill you either. It was simply being itself.”

“There is a liquid, flowing emerging potential that you are awakening to that you are separated from, that only experiences itself. It puts you in touch with infinity, nature, and a wider view of life. It is fluid and is constantly moving, and clear. Nothing disturbs this part of you. This is a neutral part of yourself.  It wants to stay clear and pure. Its power is to separate; it is abundant and very confident because it cannot die; it only transforms. All life comes out of this emerging potential.”

“This potential that is emerging into your awareness is not very compassionate. Perhaps you have to become less “socially” compassionate before you can recognize and create real compassion. To find life happiness and contentment it recommends that you care more about yourself and becoming one with yourself. For health, it encourages you to drink at least two liters of water a day.  It does not think about needing a lot of money but just having enough.  It recommends you focus on stopping doing things that pollute your body or mind. Consider the possibility of polluting thoughts, feelings, and relationships, not just actions, like what you eat. Avoid putting conflictual things into yourself, such as you do when you argue with yourself or waste energy feeling angry. Don’t disturb your inner peace with activities that take advantage of your open and supportive nature!”

“Since every character in your dream was created by your consciousness, they are all parts of you and you are a part of them.  There are two parts of yourself, your mother and sister, that don’t see you, according to your perception in the dream. Consider the possibility that the parts of yourself that are like your mother and sister are not recognizing or acknowledging  you. So instead of making this into a true statement about your relationship with your mother and sister (it may or may not be, but certainly it’s the way you feel), think about it as a true statement about the way you withhold love and nurturance from yourself in ways represented by your mother and your sister.”

“This emerging potential usually respects natural limits and boundaries and doesn’t waste much energy in feelings of separation. It recommends that you become it when you want to increase your confidence, because it scores higher in confidence than you do. Doing so will allow you to be more neutral and to have less compassion, which will allow you to focus on yourself and find your own inner peace. It considers itself worth your trust. It can, will, and does support you, but to know that you have to take the first step toward trusting it. Trust your daughter Claudia to help you grow in confidence to trust this part of yourself. (Claudia has years of experience in teaching people to be comfortable in the ocean snorkeling. She leads dolphin excursions to Bimini, in the Bahamas.)”

“As a child you did not feel seen, acknowledged, or loved by your mother or your sister, in ways that were critical for you. They weren’t there when you most needed them, or at least that was your perception/fear.”

What more would a child – or anyone, for that matter – learn from an Integral Deep Listening interview? Here are a few more implications:

– That your dream characters are aspects of yourself. That means that if you have a scary dream you are scaring yourself.

– That your waking life is like a dream, in that your dream and waking feelings are similar.

– That you create the needless dramas in your dreams and everyday life.

– That by listening to dream characters you can learn not only how you are stuck in your life but some ways that can help you get unstuck.

Here is Ingrid’s interview:

We start, as always, by making the questioning process as practical and useful as possible by asking Ingrid to share three life issues that affect her today.

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

Life happiness – contentment; to stay that way

Health for me and my family

Money – enough to take care of needs; not necessarily to be rich

Tell me a dream you remember.  It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you’re sure you understand.

When I was six years old I had started school. It was at the beginning of WW II in Germany. I liked to go swimming at a public swimming pool. My mother didn’t allow me to go that afternoon. I don’t know why. But I took my swimming suit and a little money and went alone. I always went there alone. We played tag in the water and I was moving very fast. My feet slipped on the ground and I fell over on my back. I couldn’t get my feet under me to stand up.  I swallowed a lot of water. The girl that was after me in the game was the only one that saw that I was in trouble. She took me out of the water and put me under a warm shower. At home, during the night I couldn’t sleep because I hadn’t obeyed. I wanted to tell my mother what had happened; I told her I almost drowned that afternoon. After that I often had the dream that I was lying on the floor of the swimming pool with clear water above me. I saw  my mother and sister walking past. I tried to stretch my arm out so that they could see me but the water was just too deep to reach out of the water. They never saw me. I repetitively had that dream. I forgot all about that story and that dream for years.

 

Why do you think that you had this dream?

 

There was a feeling of being separated from my mother and my sister. I didn’t have fear when I was drowning. At that moment I knew that everything was over, that it was the end. It wasn’t fear but I was conscious of the end of life.

 That’s interesting, because whenever you tell of your fear of water you tell that story!

I think I may have felt that I was punished for disobeying my mother. But I loved to go into the water before that. I was called “Water Rat!” After that, I thought everyone in the world knew how to swim but me. Before a holiday to Italy when I was a young adult I was wondering whether to get an inflatable swimming suit, so no one would notice I could not swim. But instead I decided to take swimming lessons before the holiday. I went there every day for several weeks. My teacher had me jump off a one meter board, which was very scary. All the men at the pool were watching me, so I forced myself to jump and swim to the edge. I thought I was the only one in the world that couldn’t swim! When I went to Italy I was not scared of the water and actually even went in when there were waves.

If one character had something especially important to tell you, what would it be?

Water!

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are this or that character in your dream and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Water, are you a character in Ingrid’s dream and life, yes?

Yes!

Water, look out at the world from your perspective and tell us what you see…

I only experience myself – liquid!

Water, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I move to and fro. Sometimes there is wind and I’ll be a little higher and not like a mirror. I’m used to all these different states. Nothing disturbs that. My movement is very important to me.

What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

 

That I can jump and move! I can take things away! I can make things like wood move. It’s like being in neutral. I’m not aware that fish need me to live. I haven’t thought about that until now.

 

What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

 

That I’m getting polluted!

Water, you are in Ingrid’s life experience, correct?  She created you, right?  Water, what aspect of Ingrid do you represent or most closely personify?

Danger, but not really…I have the power to separate.

Water, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

I would like to stay as I am. I have power. My power is to separate. I am deep enough. There’s plenty of me.

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

(Character), how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence: 8 Because I’m everywhere! When I evaporate I come down as water again! I don’t vanish!

Compassion: 3 My compassion is not very developed…

Wisdom: 7 I have a lot of experience; I’m very old. All life comes out of me. That makes me proud but also powerful. I don’t care whether people get drowned…

Acceptance: 6

Inner Peace: 8 Nothing upsets me. I am as I am!

Witnessing: 6

Water, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

I don’t think I’d be much different.

How would Ingrid’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

I don’t think she would be much different.

 

If you could live Ingrid’s life for her, how would you live it differently?

 

Maybe I would concentrate more on my compassion for life around me. Ingrid’s compassion is higher than mine.

 If you could live Ingrid’s waking life for her today, would you handle her three life issues differently?  If so, how?

Life happiness – contentment; to stay that way.

You can only be happy if you’re one with yourself. That she will care more about herself. It could be more!

Health for me and my family

With the help of drinking at least two liters of water a day! Her body is mostly made out of me!

Money – enough to take care of needs; not necessarily to be rich

As water I don’t have to think about money. Just having enough!

What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of her life?

1. Pollution of myself! Ending it!

2. It’s important to me that the circle of life remains undisturbed and that humans stop stirring me up by putting all sorts of weapons and military systems inside of me.

3. I don’t like people treasure hunting in me. I want my peace, please!

Do you feel separated from anything, Water? 

I feel separated from land. Sometimes I go and try to catch some. So people build dams.

If you were Ingrid, how would you handle this issue of separation. Like she does, or differently?

I wouldn’t do anything! I did everything I could towards it.

Ingrid has had a fear of you in her life, Water. How would you handle that fear if you were her?

I could offer to have her try to be in me to gain confidence.

Why should she trust you? You’re imaginary!

I support her! I could show her that I am able to carry her. She has to try it first to gain that confidence.

Do you think Ingrid could or should trust her daughter, who has taught many people to be confident in water?

Definitely, yes.

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Ingrid to imagine that she is you and act as you would?

Not to care so much; to be more neutral.  It would help Ingrid to not have too much compassion.

Why do you think that Ingrid had those dreams when she was a child?

She wanted to be seen, to be acknowledged! It wasn’t about needing to be rescued!

Why do you think that you are in Ingrid’s life?

She likes me. She likes the sea. It has no limits! The infinity to the horizon. I can show her or give her that. Reflections of the sky and the clouds. I can show her a wider view.

I think her mother and daughter did not acknowledge her in her dream because…

She did not feel loved by her mother and her sister.

What have you heard yourself say?

I remember that I don’t care that much what’s happening around me as water.  I don’t care about anything, really.  Water said I want to have a relationship with it. I feel like water is trying to make for a relationship with me. It’s a difficult relationship, it seems…

Water, do you think it is a difficult relationship with Ingrid?

Not for me. It’s because Ingrid doesn’t trust me.

Water, were you punishing Ingrid because she disobeyed her mother?

Definitely not! I’m neutral! I witness!

Water, why do you think Ingrid had a strong urge to tell her mother she ha disobeyed her, gone swimming, and almost drowned?

Because she experienced fear and wanted to be comforted.

Water, how do you feel about Ingrid not trusting you?

It’s a pity! All I can do is wait, be patient! You can’t force anything! Try and find out for yourself! If she comes to me I can show her I can carry her and support her. That’s the first step!

If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?

I’ve always lacked confidence. Maybe the waking call is, “Go and try it!” The water is very clear. The water tried everything it could to support me and be clear. Those two couldn’t see me. Maybe there is something wrong with them.