I have been especially impressed with (a story) that concerned a colleague of mine in Zurich. He was a man somewhat older then myself whom I saw from time to time, and who always teased me on these occasions about my interest in dream interpretation. I met him one day in the street and he called out to me;
“How are things going? Are you still interpreting dreams? By the way, I’ve had another idiotic dream. Does it mean something too?”
He had dreamed as follows;
“I am climbing a high mountain over steep, snow-covered slopes. I mount higher and higher — it is marvelous weather. The higher I climb, the better I feel. I think: “If only I could go on climbing like this forever! When I reach the summit, my happiness and elation are so strong that I feel I could mount right up into space. And I discover that I actually can do this. I go on climbing on empty air. I awake in real ecstasy.”
After hearing this, Jung urges this gentlemen to not go climbing without a guide. A couple months later, this man dies while mountaineering. A witness reported to Jung that the man stepped right off a ledge into open air.
This example seems a bit too perfect, and Jung seems more than a little vindictive in his recounting, but regardless, this story highlights the pragmatic use of dream analysis. I’m naming this post part 1 because these posts are my thinking out loud on the matter and there will be plenty more. I’m convinced dreams are meaningful but even with my wide reading of Jung’s material, I am still trying to understand dream analysis.
I’ve just finished the first chapter of Modern Man in Search of a Soul. The opening chapter is about the pragmatic application of dream interpretation. Most of Jung’s works are transcribed from speeches he gave to peers. They aren’t exactly accessible to the laymen. The scope of these posts will be outlining his main points regarding dream analysis.
Each Individual is Unique
Jung is adamant. Do not bring your theory to dream interpretation.
It is imperative that we should not pare down the meaning of a dream to fit some narrow doctrine…The doctor should regard every dream as a new departure — as a source of information about unknown conditions concerning which he has as much to learn as the patient. It goes without saying that he should hold no preconceived opinions based upon a particular theory, but stand ready in every single case to construct a totally new theory of dreams.
Now he says this, but then adds;
We cannot, or course, dispense with theory entirely, for it is needed to make things intelligible.
Jung’s Theory of Dreams
His theory is simple and leaves room for the dream to expand as large as it desires. His three assumptions are that;
- Dreams are meaningful.
- Dreams are symbolic representations of the unconscious that act as a regulating function to conscious attitudes.
- Dream interpretation must “click” with patient.
Assumption one is simple enough. Assumption two needs some unpacking. Jung uses the word psyche to stand for the entirety of the psychological mind. He sees the psyche as the mental reflection of the body. Just as the body has a built in homeostatic function, so too does the psyche. Dreams act as the mental regulating function. The example he offers is a young man’s dream about his father.
My father is driving away from the house in his new car. He drives very clumsily, and I get very excited about his apparent stupidity. He goes this way and that, forward and backward, repeatedly getting the car into a tight place. Finally he runs into a wall and badly damages the car. I shout at him in a perfect rage, telling him he ought to behave himself. My father only laughs, and then I see that he is dead drunk.
Jung explains that this young man had a good relationship with his father, and after thoroughly explaining how a Freudian interpretation of the dream would damage this man’s psyche, Jung offers his analysis. The young man is still living a “provisional life.” He has not yet embarked upon what Joseph Campbell would call, “his hero’s journey.”
His father is still too much the guarantor of his existence, and he still living what I call a provisional life. He runs the risk of failing to realize himself because there is too much “father” on every side. This is why the unconscious seeks to manufacturer a kind of blasphemy; it seeks to lower the father and elevate the son.”
The unconscious is trying to show the conscious mind that his father is not perfect. The unconscious is like a plant sprouting through pavement. It will not be denied its destiny of becoming the tree. Our parents at best are a scaling system that aids in our individuation, at worst they are cement blocks we must break through.
Jung believed that the function of dream life was to aid the conscious mind in it’s Individuation Process.
The evolutionary stages through which the human psyche has passed are more clearly discernible in the dream then in consciousness. The dream speaks in images, and gives expression to instincts, that are derived from the most primitive levels of nature. Consciousness all too easily departs from the laws of nature: but it can be brought again into harmony with the latter by the assimilation of the unconscious contents. By fostering this process we lead the patient to the rediscovery of the law of his own being.”
I sincerely think learning how to understand our dreams improves the quality of our lives. I’m trying to understand our dreams.
As a parting gift, here are my favorite quotes from the chapter;
The dream is specifically the utterance of the unconscious.
The unconscious is not a demonic monster, but a thing of nature that is perfectly neutral as far as moral sense, aesthetic taste and intellectual judgement go.
The psyche is a self-regulating system that maintains itself in equilibrium as the body does.
Thank you for reading. Namastezzy.