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  • Jungian Psychotherapy, the Dream and the New Year

    Depth case studies such as Jungian analysis knows that it’s not at all uncommon for the psyche to be particularly active with dreams at the end of the year, and at the beginning of a New Year.  Years are divisions of time which are artificially and, to some extent, arbitrarily created by humans.  Still they form important divisions in time, that the unconscious often seems to recognize in some form or other.  Individuals can sometimes have astonishing dreams at this time, or other experiences which show that the inner depths of the person are active, as we look forward into the open New Year, which waits like a newly painted room for each of us to fill it with our lives.

    I think most of us find ourselves thinking about the year, and in a broader way, about our lives, at this time of year.  I certainly find myself thinking about what’s really important in my own life, what really matters to me as I move forward into the rest of my life.

    Finite and Precious

    Now that I’ve reached a certain age, each passing milestone, like the successive New Years, is a reminder that life is finite, and that it is precious,  SUch times are a confrontation with questions about what is truly meaningful in my life, and about the nature of my true identity.  As I think back over the year, and over all my years, I find myself asking, “Am I more aware of myself than I was?  Who am I, in the light of what I’ve experienced now?”

    The Archetype of Renewal

    However, there is even more than this.  As Stephenson Bond has shown in his book The Archetype of Renewal, the New Year’s season is deeply associated with the the archetypal theme of renewal, expressed through the mythological association of the New Year with the death and renewal of the King in traditions such as that of ancient Babylon.  As individuals, at the New Year are confronted with the problem of the death and renewal of our own conscious attitude, with the very deep level question of “What is meaningful for me now?” and “On what foundation can I base my life, as I move forward into it?”

    Toward An Individual Foundation

    There was a time when the answers to these questions were ready-made for many in our culture.  In our time, for many — and I certainly include myself in this number — pre-made answers of the kind afforded by organized religion or other social institutions will not suffice.  I need my own connection to realities that will sustain me through the journey of the rest of my life.  Often this individual foundation is only found through /a-midlife-transition or Jungian analysis.  It’s always found through in-depth confrontation and exploration of the self.  As Jung himself put it:

    All coercion ultimately proves to be nothing but an obstacle to the highest and most decisive experience of all, which is to be alone with [one’s] own self.  The patient must be thus alone if he is to find out what supports [one] when [one] can no longer support [oneself].  Only this experience can give [one] an indestructible foundation….  The way to the goal seems chaotic and interminable at first, and only gradually do the signs increase that it is leading anywhere.

    C. G. Jung, Collected Works 12, Psychology and Alchemy , paras. 32-33

    What Is the New Year Bringing to You?

    Have you had a dream this New Year’s? Or another experience in which you really encountered yourself or the unconscious?   I’d be very interested in your experience and would really welcome your comments, either below, or via confidential email.

    Wishing you a deep and lasting foundation on your personal journey to wholeness, and a very happy, prosperous and soulful New Year.

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst



    PHOTO CREDIT:  © Melissa King |

    © 2010 Brian Collinson

    1. jamenta


      January 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm -

      The hard part for me has been trusting the direction of that often unseen force of the unconscious – that we can get glimpses of in our dreams and through synchronicity.

      I have been brought up to believe the ego is everything. Although the ego does have an important role to play, it has become way overemphasized in current Western culture.

      1. Brian C
        January 3, 2011 at 11:49 am -

        Thanks very much for your comment, John. I don’t think that it’s just you who was brought up to believe that the ego is everything! That is a pretty universal belief in our society, which tends on the whole to believe that “that’s all there is”. However, there is a great deal beyond the ego in the unconscious. Even on the level of the empirical medical and neuroscience that our society is so in love with, this is becoming readily apparent. As Lakoff and Johnson documented in their work Philosophy in the Flesh over 10 years ago, “most of our thought is unconscious, not in the Freudian sense of being repressed, but in the sense that it operates below the level of cognitive awareness, inaccessible to consciousness and operating too quickly to be focussed on”. Jung yearned for the day when laboratory experiment could establish the nature of the unconscious. Well, in our time, it’s here! Uncomfortable as it might be for those locked into the thought of Rene “I think therefore I am” Descartes and the Enlightenment, we are not just the knowing ego: that’s only where we begin…

    2. jamenta


      January 4, 2011 at 2:25 am -

      Thanks for the reference Brian – I have ordered that book! Regards.

      1. Brian C
        January 4, 2011 at 7:31 am -

        Thanks for your comment. I’m glad if the book looks interesting. Personally, I think it’s fascinating. It’s not strictly a Jungian book, but it’s full of fascinating insights from contemporary neuroscience, and their philosophical and psychological implications. Well worth a read, I think! I’d be grateful if you’d let me know what you think of it, after you’ve read it, John.

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