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Jungian Dream Interpretation

"The dream is its own interpretation." -Talmudic saying

"Nothing is more your own than dreams! Nothing is more your own work!" -Neitzsche

Dream Interpretation and the Theories of Carl Jung

by David Baker

There are two names that are inextricably associated with the art and science of dream interpretation - Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. While Freud saw the unconscious as a wild place, Jung saw it as more refined and spiritual.

Carl Jung was born in 1875 and lived enjoyed a long and fruitful career until his death in 1961. Carl Jung originally studied under the tutelage of Sigmund Freud, and he learned a lot about the mind, the unconscious and the world of dreams during his role as a student.

It was their differing interpretations of the dream world, and their different views of the unconscious, however, that eventually led the two men to go their separate ways. Eventually, their differing views on what dreams meant caused a major rift in their relationship.

Just like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung believed that the subconscious existed in its own right. Unlike Sigmund Freud, however, Carl Jung did not view the unconscious as a wild, instinctual and animalistic place.

Instead, unlike Freud, Jung saw the unconscious on a more spiritual level. To Carl Jung, dreams were the best method for people to acquaint themselves with their unconscious mind. Carl Jung did not see dreams as a way to hide the dreamer's true feelings from the conscious mind, as Freud did. Jung saw dreams as providing a guide to the waking self and helping the dreamer achieve a kind of wholeness. To Jung, dreams were a way of offering solutions to problems the dreamer was experiencing in his or her waking life.

Jung and Archetypes: The most common facet of dream interpretation associated with the work of Carl Jung is that of archetypes. Jung believed that there are certain universal themes and universal images that were common to every culture and every civilization around the world. To Carl Jung, these universal archetypes were proof of what he called the collective unconscious - or memories handed down through the ages from one generation to the next.

Some of the most well known archetypes described by Carl Jung include:

The Persona - Jung described the persona as the image presented to the public by each person. In essence the persona is the public mask, the part of yourself that is shown to the world at large. The opposite of the persona is the shadow.

The Shadow - Whereas the persona represents the parts of the personality that are shown to the world, the shadow archetype represents each person's rejected aspects of themselves. The shadow is often seen as a symbol of fear, anger or weakness.

The Anima - Jung saw the anima as the feminine aspects of the male mind. The anima is the repressed female parts of the male psyche.

The Animus - The animus is the opposite of the anima. Where the anima is the feminine part of the male psyche, the animus is the masculine part of the female mind. Like the anima, the animus is most often repressed during waking hours.

The Divine Child - The divine child was described by Carl Jung as a symbol of the true self. The divine child is often seen to represent the sense of potential or the sense of vulnerability.

The Wise Old Man - Jung saw the archetype of the wise old man as a symbol of the self or of a powerful figure.

The Great Mother - The great mother is seen as a symbol of nurture, growth, or fertility. The great mother archetype is also associated with dominance and seduction.

These archetypes appear in every culture, and variations of them have occurred around the world and in many different times. Jung saw the appearance of these archetypes in dreams as highly significant, and he used these archetypal images in his dream interpretation.

About the Author
David Baker is the webmaster for www.dream-hits.com

   "...not the Freudian, "psychoanalytical" method, which dismisses the manifest dream-content as a mere "facade," on the ground that the psychopathology of hysteria leads one to suspect incompatible wishes as dream-motifs. The fact that the dream as well as consciousness rest on an instinctual foundation has nothing to do either with the meaning of the dream-figures or with that of the conscious contents, for the essential thing in both cases is what the psyche has made of the instinctual impulse. The remarkable thing about the Parthenon is not that is consists of stone and was built to gratify the ambitions of the Athenians, but that it is - the Parthenon." - C. G. Jung [CW 9 p2, Footnote 63 on par. 316]

   "The Analyst . . . must consider any dream interpretation invalid that does not win the assent of the patient, and he must search until he finds a formulation that does. . . . 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 on a particular theory, but stand ready in every single case to construct a totally new theory of dreams." - C. G. Jung [Dream Analysis]

One ‘Traditional’ Outline of Dream Interpretation *

1.State the dream in terms of structure, examine for completeness.

2.Establish the dream context, the situational material in which the dream is imbedded.

The context is composed of:

a. Amplifications of the dream images, which may include
(1) Personal Associations,
(2) Information from the dreamer’s environment, and/or
(3) Archetypal parallels;

b. Themes interconnecting the amplifications, and
c. The immediate and long-term conscious situation of the dreamer;
d. The dream series in which the dream occurs.

3.Review the appropriate attitudes to bring to dream interpretation:

a. Nothing can be assumed regarding the meaning of the dream or of specific images.
b. The dream is not a disguise but a set of psychic facts.
c. The dream probably does not tell the dreamer what to do.
d. Awareness of the personality characteristics of the dreamer and the interpreter.

4.Characterize the dream images as objective or subjective.

5.Consider the dream’s compensatory function.

a. Identify the problem or complex with which the dream is concerned.
b. Ascertain the relevant conscious situation of the dreamer.
c. Consider whether the dream images and the psychic development of the dreamer require a reductive or constructive characterization.
d. Consider whether the dream compensates by opposing, modifying, or confirming the relevant conscious situation; or
e. The possibility that the dream is non-compensatory: prospective, traumatic, telepathic, or prophetic.

6.Hypothesize an interpretation by translating the dream language in relation to the relevant conscious situation of the dreamer, test it against the dream facts, modify where necessary, and state the interpretation briefly.

7.Verify the interpretation

* [from Mary Ann Mattoon, Understanding Dreams, p48]

Your Dream Journal

   The important point is to - Write down your dreams. Set your alarm clock ten minutes earlier and have your dream journal handy. When writing your dream do not edit it in any way, write it as it happened. It is best to write out the entire dream right when you wake up, but if this is impossible make a few notes that will remind you of the dream, its plot and symbols. When you write down a dream, give it a title, write down the date and a brief statement about what is going on in your (inner & outer) life.

   It is important to write down your dreams not only so that you don’t forget them, but also to objectify the dream content, to give it a form that you can then analyze consciously. Another important aspect of this is to draw or paint the images (even if you "can’t draw"). Also draw or map out the aspects of the dream which are relevant.


   Even though your dream may have other people that you know in it, it’s your dream and so it is about you. In order to get at what a particular dream symbol means to you, you need to bring into consciousness your associations with that symbol. Though there are many common associations (i.e. bed => rest, sleep, sex, etc.) and this is where some dream dictionaries come from, you are better off creating your own ‘dream dictionary’ for each dream. Ways of doing this:

The Radial method: write down the name of the dream symbol and then, on lines radiating from the name (like sun rays), write what comes to mind in association. The Positive/Negative method: write down the name of the dream symbol with two columns bellow it. Draw a ‘+’ sign over one, and a ‘-’ over the other, write down positive aspects under the former and negative aspects under the latter.

Dream Mapping

   This is a very thorough dream analyzing method that I have put together from other methods. Use a large piece of paper and map out the flow of the dream. For example: you start at you house in your underwear, then go to work where no one notices. At the first point you would write down the description "at house in underwear" and also the associations you have of your house, your underwear, etc. Then you would draw a line to a second point where you would write the description "at work in underwear no one notices" and also your associations for work, the people you see in the dream, etc.

This method keeps the narrative, the symbols, and the associations together making connections easier to see. The next phase would be to actually map each point on the flow chart, however this would only be done if relevant, such as wandering through a city with an odd structure, or swimming in a lake in an old neighborhood on a hill in a city; Situations where the structure seems meaningful, and especially when you have a sense of the structure without having ‘seen’ it in your dream.

Compensatory & Archetypal Dreams

   By far the most common type of dream is the compensatory dream. This refers to its function, which is compensation by the unconscious for the conscious state - showing you ‘the other side of the coin.’ An example would be looking down on someone at work, and then seeing them elevated, literally or figuratively, in a dream.

More rare are the other types of dreams, such as the archetypal. These are the "big dreams" of indigenous cultures, they represent not a personal situation, but a transpersonal one from the collective unconscious. These can be both overwhelming and transformative, and it would be wise to write, draw, and bring as far into consciousness as possible.

Guide to Lucid Dreaming
Guide to Lucid Dreaming

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