Jung on Dreams: Part I

Part I: Definitions, Components, Functions and Features

“Dreams are neither mere reproductions of memories nor abstractions from experience. They are the undisguised manifestations of unconscious creative activity. As against Freud’s view that dreams are wish-fulfillments, my experience of dreams leads me to think of them as functions of compensation. When, in the course of analysis, the discussion of conscious material comes to an end, previously unconscious potentialities begin to become activated, and these may easily be productive of dreams.”[1]

“… it would never do to foist our conscious psychology upon the unconscious. Its mentality is an instinctive one; it has no differentiated functions, and it does not “think” as we understand “thinking.” It simply creates an image that answers to the conscious situation. This image contains as much thought as feeling, and is anything rather than a product of rationalistic reflection.”[2]

“… the dreams stand in strict contrast to his conscious behavior. They move along a progressive line and take the part of the educator. They clearly reveal their special function. This function I have called compensation. The unconscious progressiveness and the conscious regressiveness together form a pair of opposites which, as it were, keeps the scales balanced. The influence of the educator tilts the balance in favor of progression.”[3]

“Dreams that form logically, morally, or aesthetically satisfying wholes are exceptional. Usually a dream is a strange and disconcerting product distinguished by many “bad qualities,” such as lack of logic, questionable morality, uncouth form, and apparent absurdity or nonsense. People are therefore only too glad to dismiss it as stupid, meaningless, and worthless…. So difficult is it to understand the dream that for a long time I have made it a rule, when someone tells me a dream and asks for my opinion, to say first of all to myself: “I have no idea what this dream means.” After that I can begin to examine the dream.”[4]

In 1983, when my life fell apart and I felt like I was losing my mind, I sought advice from a wide variety of counselors, psychologists, psychotherapists, even the psychiatrist at the hospital in Bangor. They all told me the same thing: if I was having all sorts of dreams and wanted to deal with them, I should find a Jungian analyst. This uniform advice reflects just how closely Jung and his analytical psychology are associated with dreams.

Two years of searching led me to the lone Jungian analyst in Maine,[5] and I have been in analysis, working with my dreams with four analysts since July of 1985. Nearly four decades of experience with dreams (my own and my dream students’ dreams), immersion in Jung’s writings, and work with my analysts have made me aware of the centrality of dreams in Jung’s own work with his patients, as well as how insightful and enriching dreams can be. In this two-part essay, I will consider how Jung and his followers defined dreams, the components and functions of dreams, and some of the features of dreams (Part I); then I consider the ways Jung worked with dreams and some of the assumptions that undergirded that work (Part II). An examination of the value and usefulness of dreams concludes the essay.

How Jung and Jungians Define Dreams

Jung himself posed the question “What are dreams?”[6] directly in a succinct definition: “Dreams are products of unconscious psychic activity occurring during sleep.”[7] As “a product of psychic activity,”[8] a dream is “highly objective,”[9] and offers us “nothing less than self-representations of the psychic life-process.”[10] Being both “an autonomous and meaningful product of psychic activity,”[11] and “the expression of an involuntary, unconscious psychic process beyond the control of the conscious mind,”[12] dreams are “susceptible, like all other psychic functions, to a systemic analysis.”[13]

Jung regarded dreams as “a product of nature that enables us to know the truth about ourselves.”[14] Dreams provide true pictures because our conscious minds do not create them (nor should they try to control them, as proponents of “lucid dreaming”[15] argue). Jung recognized that our egos lust for control, and the last thing he would encourage is the intrusion of the ego into the psychic realm. It is just because dreams are beyond our conscious control that they offer us “diagnostically valuable facts”[16] and “symbolic statements of deeper realities in the mind.”[17]  Jung admitted that a lot of the time dreams show up as “mysterious processes,”[18] but this did not deter him from regarding them as “normal events”[19] which “are not pathological but quite normal phenomena.”[20]

Dreams are mysterious because they arise spontaneously “from the independent activity of the unconscious… far removed from our conscious control.”[21] Dreams provide us with “the reactions of the unconscious”[22] to “all the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings which consciousness has not registered because of their feeble accentuation.”[23] Dreams can tell us about the unconscious while being “the purest product of the unconscious.”[24] Unlike Freud, who felt dreams were “disguises,”[25] Jung saw them as “the undisguised manifestations of unconscious creative activity,”[26] and not as “wish-fulfillments.”[27]

In one particular, Jung agreed with Freud: dreams are the via regia to the unconscious.[28] More than this, Jung regarded dreams not only as a conduit to our inner depths, but also as “a valuable source of information [and] as an extraordinarily effective instrument of education.”[29] As “an organ of information and control,”[30] the dream is “our most effective aid in building up the personality,”[31] thanks to its compensatory function (more on this below).

Some Components of Dreams and Dreamwork à la Jung

Dreams “contain images and thought-associations”[32] which “arise spontaneously,”[33] but we should not assume by “thought-associations” that the psyche thinks “as we understand ‘thinking.’ It simply creates an image that answers to the conscious situation.”[34] Often a dream image contains symbols, which, like the dream itself, is not something “devised by conscious intention and willful selection.”[35] Jung took pains to state repeatedly that dreams and symbols are “not invented but happen to us.”[36]

Such components of dreams “are not immediately understandable,”[37] but Jung knew from his six decades of dreamwork that these psychic gifts could be handled with “careful analysis by means of association,”[38] but not the free association used by Freud.[39] As will be explained in Part II, Jung had very different ways of working with dreams from Freud, and he rejected free association because it took the focus away from the dream.[40]

In addition to images and symbols, dreams can offer up complexes, archetypes, inner figures like the shadow, animus/anima, and mythologems–mythological motifs. Jung listed some of these:

“Typical motifs are falling, flying, being chased by dangerous animals or men, being insufficiently or absurdly closed in public places, being in a hurry or lost in a milling crowd, fighting with useless weapons or being utterly defenseless, running and getting nowhere, and so on. A typical infantile motif is the dream of growing infinitely small or infinitely big, or of being transformed from the one into the other.”[41]

Many of these motifs Jung found “mirrored in myths, fairy tales and folklore,”[42] and he would bring his wide-ranging knowledge of these products of the collective unconscious to bear in interpreting dreams (more on this in Part II).

Other common dream components include “ineluctable truths, philosophical pronouncements, illusions, wild fantasies, memories, plans, anticipations, irrational experiences, even telepathic visions, and heaven knows what besides.”[43] Clearly Jung had encountered a huge range of possible dream contents!

Dreams can arise which contain “important feeling-values,”[44] which might have “their origin in the impressions, thoughts, and moods of the preceding day or days.”[45] This then requires input from the dreamer, who is the only person who would know about the “day residue”[46] which the psyche might be using in cooking up the dream. Such “residue” looks back, but Jung knew that the psyche operates without our sense of time, so it can present dream materials with “teleological or prospective significance”[47]–content that looks ahead or hints at an aim or goal.

To handle all these components, Jung laid out some desiderata for the person seeking to interpret his/her dreams:

“… the actual interpretation of the dream, is as a rule a very exacting task. It needs psychological empathy, ability to coordinate, intuition, knowledge of the world and of men, and above all a special “canniness” which depends on wide understanding as well as on a certain “intelligence du coeur.”[48]

To this set of qualities Jung would add knowledge of the repository of human wisdom, i.e. the world’s mythologies, legends, fairytales, spiritual traditions and religions.[49]

The Functions of Dreams in Jungian Analysis

In analyzing thousands of dreams in his many decades of practice,[50] Jung identified multiple dream functions. Dreams provide information and educate; they help to diagnose conditions and foster healing; they problem-solve and protect us; they can help us plan for the future, and, most of all, they can restore and maintain psychic balance, thanks to their compensatory nature.

As a psychotherapist, Jung used dreams “as a first-class source of information,”[51] “first-class” because they present us with “unfalsified material”[52] and go beyond what our ego mind can figure out, because “they are invariably seeking to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand.”[53] Dreams can also help the conscious mind “relearn the forgotten language of the instincts,”[54] since the psyche remains in touch with our instinctual nature.

Dreams help the doctor diagnose physical conditions (especially the “prodromal” type of dream) because they provide “the psychic material”[55] that acts “as the intermediary between unconscious and conscious contents,”[56] serving as a “bridge that spans the gap between consciousness and the ultimately physiological foundations of the psyche.”[57] As we assimilate the unconscious contents a dream reveals, our consciousness “can once more be brought back into harmony with the law of nature, from which it all too easily departs.”[58] The result? Jung saw that “the patient can be led back to the natural law of his own being.”[59] Working with our dreams can foster not only physical healing but positive emotional shifts, because “the dream rectifies the situation. It contributes the material that was lacking and thereby improves the patient’s attitude.”[60] Jung and his fellow analysts saw this was true even when a dream is not recalled fully or worked with: “the waking-ego” can sense “a change in its own attitude or mood,”[61] perhaps because, while the ego “has a limited view of reality, …the dream manifests a tendency toward enlargement of the ego,”[62] as it functions “in the service of the individuation process.”[63]

When Jungians begin working with a new client, they pay particular attention to the initial dreams–those that the client had around the time of the phone call to set the first appointment, or the dream(s) of the night before the first meeting. Why? because “the initial dreams which appear at the very outset of the treatment, often bring to light the essential aetiological factor in the most unmistakable way.”[64] and these early dreams can give the therapist

“not only the aetiology of the neurosis but a prognosis as well. What is more, we even know exactly where the treatment should begin: we must prevent the patient from going full steam ahead. This is just what he tells himself in the dream.”[65]

In other words, dreams will diagnose, provide clues as to the outcome, and help the analyst pace the process. Dreams can also help us with problems by making us aware of “all the aspects and consequences of a problem in order to find the right solution.”[66] They can also give us warnings: “Dreams prepare, announce, warn about certain situations, often long before they actually happen.”[67] How can dreams do this?

There is no distinction of past/present/future in the unconscious, so what the ego regards as an unknown future is not so obscure to the Self (our inner divine wisdom). James Hall, a Jungian analyst, reminds us that, while “the ego has no choice as to whether it will acknowledge and interact with the archetypal Self, … it does have a choice in terms of the quality of the interaction.”[68] We can ignore or flaunt the directions of the Self, but we do so at our peril. I know this well: When my voice-over dreams began in 1983, I refused to believe their directives and, as James Hall warns “the ego can be forced through illness, disruptions of ordinary consciousness” [like car accidents and plans falling through]… to give attention to the unlived aspects of individuation….”[69] In my own experience, the Self was calling me to a whole new way of life, work, values, and identity. Once I (my ego) gave in and started respecting the guidance the dreams were giving me, I found truth in the old adage that “man proposes, God disposes.”[70] I could suggest a course of action or a plan, but then, as the alchemists did, I would say deo concedente,[71] and wait for reactions. This could take a variety of forms: sometimes other dreams, sometimes synchronicities (the most attention-getting being, for me, the appearance of one or more cardinals, the bright red bird).

A core function of dreams for Jung was how they act as compensatory to the one-sidedness in conscious life. Jung felt that “the vast majority of dreams are compensatory. They always stress the other side in order to maintain the psychic equilibrium.”[72] In this way dreams are “the natural reaction of the self-regulating psychic system.”[73] Dreams seek to “balance … disturbances in the mental equilibrium by producing contents of a complementary or compensatory kind.”[74] They do this by offering up “a totally different point of view”[75] from our ego’s perspective, or they seek to remind us that “this also is true,”[76] if we seem focused on a half-truth. Dreams also compensate if we are neglecting or repressing something. Jung was explicit about this function: “Dreams, I maintain, are compensatory to the conscious situation of the moment.”[77] If we are really way out of balance, dreams will “break through when their function demands it, that is, when the compensatory contents are so intense that they are able to counteract sleep.”[78] I have witnessed this function of my dreams when I have been living in my head too much (perhaps an occupational hazard of the college professor): the psyche shows up with dreams that have me playing my harpsichord, singing, socializing with friends, engaged in sensate activities like cooking, sewing or cleaning. James Hall sees compensatory dreams as being “in a dialectical relationship to the waking-ego.”[79]

Note that, in distinction to Freud, Jung did not see dreams functioning as disguise, nor as “wish-fulfillments.”[80] Jung was explicit:

“a dream … must be taken seriously, and one must also assume that it means what it manifestly says, since there is no valid reason to suppose that it is anything other than it is.”[81]

Jung had very different ideas about the functions and roles of dreams than Freud had.

Some Features of Dreams

Language was one way Jung and Freud parted company. Jung felt that, while dreams often use language that “appeals directly to feeling and emotion,” the dream “expresses exactly what it means.”[82] Dreams speak in “concrete and realistic language,”[83] with the word often having “not just one meaning, but many meanings.”[84] This did not mean the dream was a disguise.

Purpose. When we work with dreams, Jung would have us ask not why we “had this dream but what its purpose is,”[85] because he knew, from his 60+ years of working with dreams, that the dream is purposive or teleological:[86] the psyche has a point, aim or goal, for both the dream and for our life. Some dreams reveal to us our “real intentions.”[87] Others compensate our “blind one-sidedness,”[88] while others work to “undermine effectively a position that is too high,”[89] by offering up “pitiless criticism and … devastating material containing a complete inventory of”[90] our weaknesses (this, if our ego gets inflated). Jung provided multiple examples of patients puffed up with their own importance who produced dreams of embarrassing situation, e.g. where they fall into “cowsheds”[91] or manure piles. Jung and his fellow analysts saw repeatedly how “the unconscious can show a harsh and apparently negative face when the ego continually avoids a necessary step in development.”[92]

History is replete with examples of dreams working to solve problems. One of the most amazing examples of how dreams can solve a puzzle is Otto Loewi’s discovery of acetylcholine. Loewi had been working for years on nerve action and one night he had a dream in which the idea for a key experiment was given to him. He woke up with the idea at 3AM and wrote down the dream, but in the morning, he could not decipher his handwriting! The next night he had the dream again, but this time, at 3AM, he got up and went directly to his lab and did the experiment. For this work he (and Sir Henry Dale) won the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology in 1936.[93]

James Hall found that, when the ego is recalcitrant–resisting the Self and its goals–dreams may arise where malevolent forces break into the house where the dreamer lives.[94] Other dreams may hint at a physical illness or a psychic problem, because they present “very interesting sidelights on the inter-functioning of body and psyche.”[95] These are often called “prodromal” dreams, which is one type of dream.

Types. Besides prodromal dreams, Jung identified anticipatory or prognostic, initial, anxiety, lucid, recurring, and “big” types of dreams, as well as the dream-within-a-dream. Because the unconscious is not time-bound, a dream can present us with information or insights about what is to come. Jung would not label this type of dream

“prophetic… because at bottom they are no more prophetic than a medical diagnosis or a weather forecast. They are merely an anticipatory combination of probabilities.”[96]

By “initial dream”[97] Jung meant the type of dream that occurs at or near the beginning of an analysis. From analyzing hundreds of patients over the years, Jung know that “initial dreams are often amazingly lucid and clear-cut,”[98] and they often assist the analyst with both diagnosis (the problem) and the prognosis (the likely result of the work).[99] With each of the Jungian analysts I worked with, I was told to be diligent in writing down any dreams I had from the time I called for the first appointment to the day of our first meeting because they knew the dreams at the start of the analysis can be especially helpful–as if the psyche knew it was going to be heard, respected and supported in the shared endeavor of my healing.

Anxiety dreams are common (perhaps more so now, given our fraught outer reality), “but they are by no means the rule.”[100] Sometimes this type of dream shows up when we are pressed for time, failing to give ourselves enough R&R, or when we are living in too narrow a life (“anxiety” deriving from the Latin angustus (narrow, constrained, tight,[101] the basis of  German angst as well as our English word).

Jung encountered patients who had “lucid” dreams, i.e. dreams in which the dreamer is conscious he/she is dreaming.[102] He warned such patients to resist the temptation to interfere with the dream, as he knew of the ego’s lust for control–a lust we all too frequently try to satisfy. The whole point of dreamwork, for Jung, was to allow the psyche to speak, so as to glean its wisdom and perspectives.

The dream-within-a-dream, where “one dreams that one is dreaming,”[103] may signal an “awakening,… changes in the tacit ego structure that are more complex than usual.”[104] In my own dream life, when I have this type of dream I wake up feeling good, as if my growth has been fostered in some way.

Sometimes faithful dream students notice a recurring theme or motif. We do well to pay attention to such dreams, because “such dreams usually compensate a defect in one’s conscious attitude, or they date from a traumatic moment that has left behind some specific prejudice, or they anticipate a future event of some importance.”[105] Both Jung and I have experienced this last possibility.

Jung recounts his experience with the recurring dream that foreshadowed his years-long absorption in alchemy:

“I myself dreamt of a motif that was repeated many times over a period of years. It was that I discovered a part of a wing of my house which I did not know existed…. towards the end of this series of recurrent dreams I discovered an old library whose books were unknown to me. Finally, in the last dream, I opened one of the old volumes and found in it a profusion of the most marvelous symbolic pictures. When I awoke, my heart was pounding with excitement.

“Some time before this dream I had placed an order with an antiquarian bookseller abroad for one of the Latin alchemical classics, because I had come across a quotation that I thought might be connected with early Byzantine alchemy, and I wished to verify it. Several weeks after my dream a parcel arrived containing a parchment volume of the 16th century with many most fascinating symbolic pictures. They instantly reminded me of my dream library. As the rediscovery of alchemy forms an important part of my life as a pioneer of psychology, the motif of the unknown annex of my house can easily be understood as an anticipation of a new field of interest and research. At all events, from that moment thirty years ago the recurrent dream came to an end.”[106]

In my experience with an anticipatory recurring dream, much like Jung, I had dreams of additions to my housing. This was early in 2005. At first, I discovered a new room in my house that I had not known was there. A few weeks later, the dream recurred with a whole new wing on the house. A month or so later, the dream produced a whole new house alongside the house I was living in. My analyst and I observed all this, knowing how this can mean something new coming into one’s life. When the psyche served up two new houses, I got really concerned. And then, in a series of dreams in one week in July of 2005, the psyche laid out everything about the Jungian Center: the five paths of the curriculum, the mission, the values, and my life was redirected into this all-consuming “assignment.” Just as with Jung, when the new “addition” to my life appeared, the recurring motif stopped.

Recurring dreams are significant, but they are not the only significant type of dream. Jung also speaks of “big dreams,”[107] those dreams we are likely to remember for years, to speak of with awe or joy for their numinosity and intensity. Jung described these dreams at length:

“People often hide such dreams as though they were precious secrets, and they are quite right to think them so. Dreams of this kind are enormously important for the individual’s psychic balance. Often they go far beyond the limits of his mental horizon and stand out for years like spiritual landmarks, even though they may never be quite understood. It is a hopeless undertaking to interpret such dreams reductively, as their real value and meaning lie in themselves. They are spiritual experiences that defy any attempt at rationalization.[108]

“I think a dream like this will help to make clear the difference between an ordinary, personal dream and the “big” dream. Anybody with an open mind can at once feel the significance of the dream and will agree with me that such dreams come from a “different level” from that of the dreams we dream every night. We touch here upon problems of vast import, and it is tempting to dwell on this subject for a while. Our dream should serve to illustrate the activity of the layers that lie below the personal unconscious….” [109]

By “the layers that lie below the personal unconscious” Jung is referring to the collective unconscious, the lowest layer in his schemata of our psychological identity. This deepest layer connects us as individuals to the whole heritage of humanity and Jung took pains to illustrate how anyone, regardless of his/her education, background, culture or religion, can access the wisdom and creativity of this layer.[110]

Myths and symbols. Key elements of the collective unconscious which are often found in “big dreams” are the “mythological motifs,”[111] or “mythologems”[112] that reflect humanity’s mythic stories, legends and fairy tales–all of these containing symbols and archetypes (patterns of behavior). Few dreamers have knowledge of this rarefied material, but Jung discovered that prior study or familiarity does not matter. Jung met men who had

“… never encountered it [a myth or image] anywhere in [their] conscious life, and who or what it is that thinks such thoughts and clothes them in such imagery – thoughts which, moreover, go beyond the dreamer’s own mental horizon. In many dreams and in certain psychoses we frequently come across archetypal material, i.e., ideas and associations whose exact equivalents can be found in mythology.”[113]

Repeated discoveries like this with hundreds of patients led Jung to conclude “… that there is a layer of the unconscious which functions in exactly the same way as the archaic psyche that produced the myths.”[114]

The psyche will often serve up dreams that remind us of myths, legends or other historical facts, which is why Jungian training for would-be analysts involves years of study of these legacies that contain our collective human wisdom. But not all dreams with mythic elements would be what Jung would consider a “big dream.” The “big dream” tends to be “an unusual event which only takes place under special conditions.”[115]  “Such dreams occur mostly during the critical phases of life, in early youth, puberty, at the onset of middle age (thirty-six to forty), and within sight of death.”[116]–in other words, at “important junctures in life.”[117] When they appear, we remember them.

In discussing “big dreams” we mentioned archetypes, symbols and myths. These are other key features of dreams. Jung defined the “archetype” or “primordial image” as

“a typical basic form of certain ever-recurring psychic experiences…. it is a psychic expression of the physiological and anatomical disposition.”[118]

… a condensation of the living process. … [giving] a co-ordinating and coherent meaning both to sensuous and to inner perceptions, which at first appear without order or connection, and in this way frees psychic energy from its bondage to sheer uncomprehended perception…. It releases unavailable, dammed-up energy by leading the mind back to nature and canalizing sheer instinct into mental forms.”[119]

Some common archetypes are “mother,” “father,” “child” (puer), “old person” (senex), and trickster.

Jung defined a “symbol” as “the best possible description of an unknown fact, which is none the less known to exist or is postulated as existing.”[120] Jung stressed that symbols are different from signs. A sign has a definite meaning: “An expression that stands for a known thing remains a mere sign and is never a symbol.”[121] The shortcuts used in calculus mathematicians call “symbols,” but Jung would consider them as signs, like a red, six-sided metal image is a “stop sign”–something with a fixed, unchanging nature. By contrast, symbols have multiple meanings, as they are “expressions of a content not yet consciously recognized.”[122] Some symbols help us deal with the tension of opposites, resolving the tension by acting as a transcendent function.[123] Examples of symbols include the cross, the sun, the moon, and all the glyphs used in astrology (which is one of the most powerful symbol systems).[124]

As I explained in depth in the essay “Jung on Myths and Mythologems,” when Jung used the word “myth,” he was not using it as we do in colloquial parlance to refer to something false. Jung regarded myths as “original revelations of the pre-conscious psyche,”[125] and part of the universal heritage of humankind. In his work with dreams, Jung found his knowledge of myths, legends and fairytales very useful in interpreting or making sense of the dream. In my nearly 40 years of working with my dreams in analysis, I have found the mythic elements in my dreams widen my sense of myself and my place in history, linking me to the past and its wisdom.

Structure of dreams. Not all dreams have a structure: some are but a single image, others little more than what Jung termed “word salad.”[126] Among my dream students I have one fellow who fairly consistently comes up with a bunch of words, e.g. blue, bugs, grapes, a bicycle–none of it relating to any other word. Sigh. We work with what we’ve got.

By contrast, other dreams seem plotted almost like a drama, with the dreamer as “the scene, the player, the prompter, the author, the public, and the critic”[127] of his/her dream. The dream presents

“a Statement of place, … Next comes a statement about the Protagonists,… Statements of time are rarer. I call this phase of the dream the Exposition. It indicates the scene of action, the people involved, and often the initial situation of the dreamer. In the second phase comes the Development of the plot… The situation is somehow becoming complicated, and a definite tension develops because one does not know what will happen. The third phase begins the Culmination of peripeteia. Here something decisive happens or something changes completely. The fourth and last phase is the lysis, the Solution or Result produced by the dreamwork” (which is not always present). [128]

When there is a solution, it shows the final situation, the solution “sought” by the dreamer. Jung felt that most dreams have this four-phase structure.

            Qualities of dreams. Those dreams with less than this drama-type structure still may reveal a “remarkable sequence in the dream-images,”[129] some “logical coherence”[130] and/or a “hierarchy of values,”[131] as “the unconscious in its ‘deliberations’ proceeds in an instinctive way rather than along rational lines.”[132] This lack of rationality and linearity may be part of the reason so many people find dreams “irritating and misleading,”[133] “fantastic,”[134] “irrational and incomprehensile”[135] in their nature, full of “many ‘bad qualities,’ such as lack of logic, questionable morality, uncouth form, and apparent absurdity or nonsense.”[136]

Jung admitted all these undesirable qualities as features of dreams, but he also noted that “dreams are only apparently fortuitous and chaotic,”[137] “irritating and misleading … because we do not understand them.”[138] The dream “does not think as we understand thinking,”[139] so it appears to be “absolute nonsense and therefore one depreciates it.”[140] Jung did not do so. Instead, he took the time to work with dreams, to spot the archetypes and symbols, amplify them, link them to possible myths and legends, and associate them with the patient’s day residue. He had the patient reflect on the dreams’ emotions and feelings, so he began to see that dreams have “an inherent meaning of their own”[141] since it is “a combination of all the perceptions, thoughts and feelings”[142] of the dreamer.

Mysterious and “futile”[143] though they may be, dreams can tell us a lot about ourselves, what is really going on with us and within us, and what might be coming, because it is a “product of the total psyche,”[144] and thus partakes of its wider, deeper insight. How we get to this insight, and the methods Jung used to build his dreamwork system are the subjects of Part II of this essay.

Sue Mehrtens is the author of this and all the other blog essays on this site. The opinions expressed in these essays are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Jungian Center faculty or Board members.  Honesty, as well as professional courtesy, require that you give proper attribution to the author if you post this essay elsewhere.


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[1] Collected Works 17 ¶184. Hereafter Collected Works will be abbreviated CW.

[2] CW 7 ¶289.

[3] Ibid. ¶182.

[4] CW 8 ¶s 532-533.

[5] That was in 1985; in the ensuing decades 18 others have established practices in Maine; see the web site of the International Association of Jungian Analysts (www.IAAP.org) for details.

[6] CW 7 ¶113.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. ¶210.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] CW 16 ¶304.

[13] CW 4 ¶65.

[14] CW 17 ¶112.

[15] E.g. Stephen LaBerge, founder of The Lucidity Institute in Palo Alto, California. I attended a workshop some years ago where LeBerge and others advocated lucid dreams for the myriad ways they can improve our lives. All the while, I thought of how appalled Jung would be, if he were there to hear these men detail ways they would control dreams.

[16] CW 16 ¶304.

[17] Hall  (1986), 95.

[18] CW 18 ¶179.

[19] Ibid. ¶427.

[20] CW 17 ¶191.

[21] Ibid. ¶113.

[22] CW 7 ¶501.

[23] CW 8 ¶488.

[24] CW 18 ¶1809.

[25] CW 7 ¶490.

[26] CW 17 ¶184.

[27] Ibid.

[28] CW 4 ¶334.

[29] CW 7 ¶174.

[30] CW 16 ¶332.

[31] Ibid.

[32] CW 7 ¶210.

[33] Ibid.

[34] CW 7 ¶289.

[35] CW 18 ¶432.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] CW 8 ¶505.

[40] Ibid.

[41] CW 18 ¶477.

[42] Hall (1983), 32-33.

[43] CW 16 ¶317.

[44] CW 17 ¶198.

[45] CW 8 ¶444.

[46] Jacobi (1968), 70.

[47] CW 4 452.

[48] CW 8 ¶543.

[49] CW 18 ¶481.

[50] Jung had 61 years of experience interpreting the dreams of himself and others, beginning with his work at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital in 1900. Bair (2003), 55.

[51] CW 18 ¶748.

[52] Ibid. ¶1809.

[53] CW 17 ¶189.

[54] CW 18 ¶474.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] CW 16 ¶351.

[59] Ibid.

[60] CW 8 ¶482.

[61] Hall (1983), 24.

[62] Ibid., 37.

[63] Ibid., 51.

[64] CW 16 ¶296.

[65] Ibid. ¶305.

[66] CW 8 ¶469.

[67] CW 18 ¶493.

[68] Hall (1986), 127.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Thomas à Kempis (1959), 35; in other editions, this quote is found in Book I, chapter 35.

[71] The Latin means “with God conceding,” an idea comparable to the Arabic Inshallah, “if Allah is willing.”

[72] CW 7 ¶170.

[73] CW 18 ¶248.

[74] Ibid. ¶471.

[75] CW 8 ¶469.

[76] This is the phrase my analyst uses when she is reminding me that my dream might be compensatory.

[77] CW 8 ¶487.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Hall (1986), 101.

[80] CW 17 ¶184.

[81] CW 18 ¶435.

[82] CW 17 ¶189.

[83] CW 18 ¶470.

[84] CW 8 ¶539.

[85] CW 16 ¶336.

[86] CW 7 ¶210.

[87] CW 17 ¶185.

[88] Ibiid.

[89] CW 8 ¶497.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid. ¶469.

[92] Hall (1986), 125.

[93] Asimov (1982), 645.

[94] Hall (1986), 125.

[95] CW 8 ¶502.

[96] Ibid. ¶493.

[97] CW 16 ¶296.

[98] Ibid. ¶313.

[99] Ibid. ¶305.

[100] CW 8 ¶535.

[101] Lewis & Short (1960), 119.

[102] Jung (1984), 263.

[103] Hall (1983), 89.

[104] Ibid.

[105] CW 18 ¶478.

[106] Ibid. ¶479.

[107] CW 17 ¶208.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid. ¶209.

[110] CW 9i ¶3.

[111] CW 17 ¶209.

[112] Ibid. ¶210.

[113] Ibid. ¶209.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Ibid. ¶210.

[116] CW 8 ¶555.

[117] CW 17 ¶210.

[118] CW 6 ¶748.

[119] Ibid. ¶749.

[120] CW 6 ¶814.

[121] Ibid. ¶817.

[122] CW 16 ¶339.

[123] Hall (1983), 13.

[124] On astrology as a symbol system used by Jungians, cf. Barz (1991), Greene (1976) and Howell (1987).

[125] CW 9i ¶261.

[126] CW 3 ¶190.

[127] CW 8 ¶509.

[128] Ibid. ¶561.

[129] CW 17 ¶114.

[130] CW 18 ¶532.

[131] Ibid.

[132] CW 18 ¶545.

[133] CW 17 ¶189.

[134] CW 8 ¶445.

[135] CW 17 ¶262.

[136] CW 18 ¶532.

[137] CW 17 ¶114.

[138] Ibid. ¶189.

[139] CW 7 ¶289.

[140] CW 18 ¶176.

[141] CW 8 ¶446.

[142] CW 7 ¶520.

[143] Ibid. ¶489.

[144] CW 8 ¶527.