Most activities which underlie our physical and mental life are beyond our awareness. Occasionally something—an ache in the chest, a strange emotion which unsettles us—may emerge into consciousness, then disappear. The sea, with its surface and hidden depths, lends itself to depicting this human experience of known and unknown regarding self. The enormity of the sea is also a visible image of the enormity of our own inner world, most of it unknown, and also the relationship we have with the universe, which we exist in yet know so little about. The sea holds vast treasures, curiosities, and our history—not simply because life emerged from the sea. or our blood is as salt as the ancient sea, but because so many ships and shorelines are now beneath the waves. Sometimes these can be recovered, and this depicts our remembering or making conscious.
Example: ‘My husband and I were standing looking at the sea’s surface. It was just falling night. I saw a mass of dark shapes, thought it would be a school of fish. Then we were looking at water birds, maybe ducks, again dark shapes as the light had almost gone. Then there was a hole in the sea, like a belly button, I was wondering what it was, how was it being made, was there something under the water? Something very big was coming up to the surface very close to me. It shot me to wake (Ginny Q). Ginny and her husband had been exploring the content of their dreams. The image of the sea shows Ginny sensing there are enormous depths to her own being, and something big—a previously unconscious complex of insights and feelings—is becoming conscious.
So, generally the sea represents the boundary between unconscious and conscious; our processes of life and the ongins of our life; the wisdom, still unverbalised because locked in process rather than insight, of our existence; source of the huge life drives, such as that which urges us towards independence, mating and parenthood, a symbol of infinite energy or consciousness, in which human existence is only a tiny pan. Example: A small speed boat was at sea. But the sea dissolved anybody who fell in. One man fell in but held himself together as a blob of water and jumped back to the speedboat. I remember the words “The sea is a great solvent” (Tim P). Tim is aware of his unconscious sense of being a pan of the huge sea of life or energy. In it one might lose one’s sense of identity. In the end, identity is ‘held together’ by one’s own belief in oneself.
Going under the sea: bringing internal contents to consciousness; remembering the womb expenence; letting our ego surrender a little, looking at death. If there is a sense of hugeness, depth: going beyond the boundaries of experience usually set up by our conscious self or ego. Waves: impulses, feelings and emotions, such as sexuality, anxiety, anger. Tide: rising and falling of feelings such as love, pleasure or sexuality; may refer to aging when going out; tide in our affairs. Example: *l am either standing at the edge of the sea or near, when suddenly enormous tidal waves appear in the distance and are coming closer. I know they will engulf me, I turn and run away. Sometimes they do overtake me, other times I wake up’ (Mrs AV). We can run from pleasure and wider insight, just as much as from pain or fear. Idioms: all at sea, plenty more fish in the sea, lost at sea. See beach; fish, sea creatures.