Carl Jung on Dreams
Dreams figure prominently in Carl Jung’s psychology, and he has a great deal to teach us about them. The quotation that follows builds very well on my earlier post in which Jung reflects on the position that many people find themselves in at mid-life.
“Through scientific understanding, our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had a symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor in lightning his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no tree means a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom, and no mountain still harbors a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things, like stones, springs, plants and animals…. His immediate communication with nature is gone forever, and the emotional energy it generated has sunk into the unconscious.
“This enormous loss is compensated by the symbols of our dreams. They bring up our original nature, its instincts and its peculiar thinking. Unfortunately, one would say, they express their contents in the language of nature, which is strange and incomprehensible to us. It sets us the task of translating its images into the rational words and concepts of modern speech, which has liberated itself from its primitive encumbrances — notably from its mystical participation with things….
A realistic picture of the human mind reveals many primitive traits and survivals…. The man of today is a curious mixture of characteristics acquired over the long ages of his mental development. This is the man and his symbols we have to deal with, and we must scrutinize his mental products very carefully indeed…. Such are the people who produce the symbols we are investigating in their dreams….”
Carl Jung, Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams, Collected Works, volume 18, paras. 585-588, Princeton: University Press
Jung’s idea that dreams are a form of communication with our original nature is very powerful indeed. Following his lead, Jungians are very careful to examine the meaning of dreams for the individual, functioning from the understanding that dreams are a kind of comment by the unconscious of the dreamer on the conscious stance that the dreamer’s ego takes in his or her waking life. This is an activity most successfully done with the help of a thoroughly trained Jungian therapist or analyst.
My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,
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