In Your Dreams
Looking at dreams is often a part of Jungian analysis. Jungian analysis, along with other forms of depth psychology, maintains that dreams are meaningful, and that the dreams a person has are directly connected to what is going on in his or her life, both right at the present time, and over much longer periods of time.
Sometimes people are afraid of looking at their dreams, or sometimes they feel gullible or silly for looking at them, as if this wasn’t “practical”, or “down to earth” in some sense. However, it is interesting to note that this attitude toward dreams in our culture is at odds with the views of most other cultures, and even with our own culture in earlier periods of time.
The ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews certainly believed that their dreams were meaningful, and this attitude prevailed in the West throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and even up to and including the Enlightenment. It is only with the rise of “hard core” empiricism and materialism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that our Victorian forebears began to be sceptical about dreams, a trend reversed by that very hard-nosed and commonsensical empiricist and rationalist, Sigmund Freud.
Unlike Freud, who saw dreams as a mechanism for preserving sleep by keeping repressed thoughts and impulses from emerging during sleep, Jung believed that dreams represent an on-going commentary by the unconscious on the conscious position and attitudes of the individual. For Jung, the unconscious is composed of so much more than just repressed contents, and it has its own wisdom, which can sometimes greatly surpass the understanding of the conscious mind. If that is true, then we can expect to glean many important insights from understanding the contents of our dreams.
This is not to say that the interpretation of dreams is easy or straightforward. To be sure, at certain times it is undoubtedly easier than at other times. For instance, at a time of particular crisis or emotional stress, many of us have had the experience of a dream that speaks pretty clearly and unavoidably about what is going on at that moment in our lives — often through the use of very graphic or even disturbing imagery. However, as a rule it requires the help of someone well familiar with the vocabulary of dreams to really enable us to situate the dream properly in our lives, and to understand what it is trying to say to us.
Over time, dreams tell a story about the psychological growth and development of the individual. It can be extremely revealing to go back and look at dreams from six months, or two or three years previously. Often themes in common, “threads”, can be seen weaving their way through the whole pattern of our dreaming — and our lives.
If at all possible, it’s very valuable to write down dreams as soon as you have them. The conscious mind can’t be trusted to accurately remember our dreams, both because there seems to be a psychological mechanism that causes us often to forget our dreams, and also because the conscious mind tends to distort the dream into a form that is more compatible with our conscious outlook. Writing down a dream, and the date on which it occurs can help with seeing the evolution of our dreams.
There is another point that I think is fundamental to dream interpretation. That is, that there is no book which has ever been written, anywhere or at any time that can give you the key to the meaning of your dreams. There are common symbols which occur in dreams, yes, and they tend to have consistent meanings when they appear. However, dreams are intensely personal. The meaning of different images and motifs in dreams can only be properly understood by connecting them with your own personal life, in a very intimate way.
Opening up your dreams can be the key to a whole different perspective on your life. Integrating the insights from dreams into one’s personal life can lead to a whole different understanding of oneself, and a whole new adventure in living.
I wish you all, rich, vivid and meaningful dreaming!