Dream Interpretation in Jungian Psychotherapy: The Roadblock
I thought that I would try and say a little bit in this post about how a Jungian approach to dream interpretation might look like “in action”. Here’s a dream motif that appears sometimes in case studies, in one form or another. It’s one that at times will appear in the dreams of my clients. In rough outline, it goes something like what follows below.
A Dream MotifThe dreamer is trying to get somewhere. Perhaps the dreamer is in a vehicle, like a car, or on a bicycle, or possibly he or she is on foot. However, there is some obstacle. She or he might have to go down a narrow path in her car, and there’s a vehicle accident completely blocking the road. Or it might be that he or she has to climb an impossibly steep hill. However, when the individual starts to backtrack, something happens. Perhaps they are injured, or otherwise hindered. In any event, going backward to retrace his or her steps is well-nigh impossible.
The specific interpretation of such a dream would be unique for such an individual, to be sure. However, there are still a number of important things that Jungian case studies could say about its meaning.
1. The Individual is Not Going to be Able to Move Forward Travelling in the Current Direction
Very clearly, the dream is showing us that the dreamer cannot move forward. There is a barrier, either in the form of an insurmountable obstacle, or something that would take an impossibly large amount of energy to overcome. The dream is clearly giving the message that the direction that the individual is moving in, with respect to the situation that is being dreamt of, will simply not work. The individual may have been moving in this direction for a long time, or may have just started on this path. No matter: the import of the dream is the same. You can’t keep doing what you’re doing.
2. To Try to Go Back to a Previous State Will Only Cause Pain, Exhaustion or Loss of Vitality
However, that doesn’t mean that the dreamer can just go back to something that happened in the past. He or she cannot simply retrace his or her steps. There’s too much pain, or too many cuts of lacerations, too much loss of life-blood. The older way, the “regressive restoration of the persona”, as a Jungian would say, doesn’t work either. The person can’t do what he or she used to do. Life isn’t going to let him or her get away with it, at least not without paying a fearful psychological price. What may be recalled enthusiastically as “the good days” cannot be reproduced in the present moment. What is the individual to do?
3. Something New is Needed
A standard Jungian dream interpretation would be that the dream is painting a picture of a person in a dilemma. Something new is needed: a different way, or a different approach. This is not likely to come about as a result of the individual “just trying harder”. The individual is going to have to explore aspects of her- or himself that have been unknown and undeveloped. From the perspective of Jungian case studies, the answer will have to emerge from the unconscious.
Is There Anything Across Your Path?
Have you ever encountered a dream of this type? Have you possibly had such a dream recently? As I stated, this type of dream is not particularly uncommon. With the right kind of dream interpretation, the unconscious shows us quite an apt portrait of a person’s psychological situation. If you’ve had this kind of “blocked path” experience, I would really welcome your comments below.
Wishing you a deep wisdom to know the way forward on your personal journey to wholeness,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst
© 2010 Brian Collinson