Flying Fish or Feng Shui

Bev, 43 American

I have had repeated dreams where I am in varying situations and encounter fish swimming in air. They are very fluid, and do not seem to be in any distress although they are out of water. My response is one of concern and bewilderment in my dreams. One night they were beautiful, rounded, Asian-looking fish swirling around me in a candle lit room. I walked through a series of rooms with long windows and filmy curtains, candles lighting the way, and an elderly woman who was trying to tell me something that I could not understand.

I do not have any particular associations with Asian-type things. The fish were golden colored; rounded with long silky fins. The rooms were darkish, and candle-lit.

Last night I dreamed about fish out of water again, but it was not as airy or peaceful. The fish were out of the water, swimming in the air, and I could not figure out how to get them back into their rightful place. I do have fish and a turtle, a cat and a parrot, but the fish are not a major concern or even part of my daily regimen. This is all very strange to me!

I am an artist, and appreciate the beauty of the fish, so perhaps that is part of it. I am curious as to why I would continue to dream about fish. I am not particularly fond of them although I don't hate them either. Specifically, why are the fish out of water! Fish swimming in the air seem to be pretty weird to me!

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Flying Fish or Surrealist Manifesto

The metaphor "A fish out of water" is used to mean someone who feels uncomfortable in a new or unusual situation.

Your dream reminds me of the work of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Surrealism is a cultural, artistic and intellectual movement whose aim is to free the conscious mind by using the imagination of the unconscious mind. The movement is generally agreed to have been founded by Andre Breton, specifically in his 'Surrealist Manifesto'(1924).

From a different yet complimentary perspective, for Carl Gustav Jung, a spiritually-oriented psychologist, fish represent the "Self" (the spirit, if you will). The fish is also a Christian symbol, sometimes representing faith in the religion itself. Christ's disciples were "fishers of men," making believers their catch. In the miracle of the loves and the fishes, the fish becomes a symbol for sharing and caring for the welfare of others. The fish appears in the supporting mythology of many cultures and religions.

As an artist, no doubt you appreciate the creativity of the unconscious and the montages that it creates. Perhaps your dream reads that a surreal mixing of Christian and Asian art and mythology could be a creative leap. At first, I thought I would need more information about your art to provide a more specific interpretation, however I then realized which Asian art your dream may be speaking of. Shan Shui is a style of Chinese painting of natural landscapes, that is referenced by taoistic metaphors.

A recent Western fad, Feng Shui is an Eastern environmental and aesthetic psychology, where a nurturing sense of place of soulful constructions of balance and harmony is primary. Literally translated, Feng Shui means wind-water (much as your fish in your dream is an animated montage of wind and water). Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art of placement based upon a philosophy of natural energy patterns of yin and yang and the flow of chi, the vital force or energy inherent in the entire universe. As an ancient Chinese art it combines mysticism, science and superstition, to bring balance to universal forces. From a Japanese poetic perspective your dream represents "haiku" poetry which uses the juxtaposition of ideas (much like in your dream). 

On a final note, the poetic figure of elderly woman whom you do not understand in your dream may be the Jungian archetype of the wise old woman. The dream then reads that you are poetically searching for the feminine source of wisdom whose language you do not yet understand.

Other literature that might be of interest:

  • Carl Gustav Jung, "Psychology and the East"
  • Alan Watts, "Psychotherapy East and West"
  • Erich Neumann, "Art and the Unconscious"
  • Erich Neumann, "The Great Mother"
  • Erich Neumann, "The Origins and History of Consciousness"

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.