Paraskevas Kassinos (2003) Echoes From the Roots of the Psyche: A Study of the Oceanic Feeling in the Dreams of Young Adults

The overall aim of this paper is to examine the symbolic manifestations of the oceanic feelings in dreams. We will investigate the oceanic feeling in a developmental perspective and gain and increased understanding of its implications in psychic growth by a thorough examination of the oceanic feeling from the time it is first experienced in early infancy and also from the various expressions it finds in adult life. Manifestations of the oceanic feeling are not exclusive to psychotic or regressed patients; normal individuals can experience the sensations of the oceanic feeling as well, but there are some subjective differences between the two.

A whole chapter is devoted to the analysis of dreams from a Freudian perspective. A research questionnaire was administered to 26 young adults, requiring the description of their dreams. Since we all experience the sensations of the oceanic feeling in early infancy, I assumed that these sensations would find symbolic expression in dreams, which are the “royal road to the unconscious” (Freud, 1900).

The infant experiencing the oceanic feeling has no conception of the external world. He is undifferentiated with the primary object, the mother, with whom he feels to be one with-one with the Universe. The oceanic feeling is a blissful state of complete relaxation. The yearning for the experience of undifferentiated unity has been traditionally interpreted by psychoanalysis as a regressive wish for a preverbal condition that is either objectless – a condition of “limitless narcissism” characterized by an “oceanic feeling” (Freud, 1930) – or as representing a fusion of the self with the object of the nurturing breast.

Results revealed that young adults do have oceanic dreams. Specifically, 38% of the sample reported dreams with evidence of the oceanic feeling. Regarding the sample categories of gender, age, and relationship, significant difference was only found in the first category, which we will explore the possible assumptions for that. In general, the reasons that young adults have oceanic dreams are traced back to the young adult’s tension created, in general terms, by: the societal obligations, the hard and frustrating life outside the family environment, and the increased pressure for finding a new object other than that from the family cycle. The oceanic dream is an escape from the harsh reality. Oceanic dreams are not exclusive to the young adult group; we all have oceanic dreams at some point in our lives.