Dreaming LifeDreaming Life

Carl Gustav Jung, who lived from 1875 to 1961, is known for developing the concepts of the collective unconscious and the archetype .

Jung developed a method of dream interpretation that was influenced by his interest in spirituality and by his studies of the myths and beliefs of different cultures.

When he was a young man, Jung worked with schizophrenics in a psychiatric hospital in Zurich.

Jung believed that there was a relationship between dreams and the delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenics.

Modern neuroscientists such as J. Allan Hobson have also noted a connection between dreaming and schizophrenia, as they are both associated with dopamine production.

Freud, who was much older than Jung, acted as Jung's mentor at the beginning of Jung's career.

Jung agreed with Freud's theory that psychoanalysis could be used to uncover the meaning of dreams, and that understanding dreams was the key to understanding the unconscious.

However, Jung began to question Freud's belief that a dream was entirely the product of the dreamer's personal experiences.

Carl JungJung believed that the unconscious was an infinite storage place for images, some of which were personal and some of which were universal symbols found in the legends and myths of different cultures all over the world. He called these universal symbols archetypes. Examples of archetypes include:

The Hero - who goes on a long, arduous quest and gains new knowledge about himself or herself in the process. Hercules was a mythical Hero, as are the protagonists of many modern action or adventure stories.

The Shadow - the part of someone that is suppressed because it is perceived to be evil.  The Shadow is the creature that you could be if you allowed your darker nature to take over  - Mordred in the legends of King Arthur, Darth Vader in Star Wars or Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Jung believed that that your Shadow begins to develop in early childhood, when your parents begin to teach you that certain behaviors (such as defecating in your clothing) are wrong.

The Trickster- the unconventional character who succeeds by ignoring the rules - often a thief or a conman.  He encourages new ways of thinking.  Well-known Tricksters are the Norse god Loki and Ananasi the Spider of Ashanti folklore. The Joker in Batman and The Doctor in Doctor Who are modern examples.

Jung believed that everyone holds a collection of universal archetypical images in a part of the mind that he called the collective unconscious, which is distinct from the personal unconscious.

In his studies of foreign cultures, Jung examined the way that the Elgonyi tribe of central Africa looked at dreams.

The Elgonyi thought that there are two types of dreams: big dreams and ordinary dreams.

Priests and chieftains had big dreams, were believed to come from the gods and to have spiritual significance.  Big dreams were shared with others because they were thought to be important to the whole community.

Jung thought that big dreams came from the collective unconscious.

The contemporary evolutionary theory of dreams says that dreams are a way to teach us how to cope with danger, and that we have evolved to have dreams that  would have helped our ancestors to survive as hunter-gatherers  hundreds of thousands of years ago.  This would explain why the same symbols, or archetypes, as Jung called them, appear in the dreams of people in cultures all over the word.

Dream Interpretation

Jung believed that the story that makes up a dream can itself be meaningless, but that the images in the dream will have meanings as symbols.

He compared interpreting dreams by examining their images to solving problems by using words and language.

In waking life, when you want to solve a difficult problem, you take different ideas and put them together by using words in an internal dialogue.  Jung called this method of thinking directed attention.

To interpret a dream, you must allow the images in the dream to follow each other naturally, the same way that you let words follow each other when you try to solve a waking life problem.

Jung believed that dreams have both objective and subjective interpretations. The objective interpretation of a dream has to do with things that are happening in the dreamer's waking life.  The subjective interpretation has to do with things that are going on in the dreamer's mind, with every symbol in the dream representing some aspect of the dreamer. Thus, dream archetypes represent aspects of the mind that can be found in all human beings.

According to Jung, dreams are often compensatory and provide us with things that we lack in waking life. For example, if you are repressing anger at someone in waking life, you gain the opportunity to relieve your anger by expressing it in a dream.  A dream can be a way of telling you that something important is missing in your life or that you have chosen the wrong path - for example, by having placed your career ahead of your relationships or vice versa.

Jung believed that sometimes a dream symbol or a dream will repeat over and over because the dreamer has not understood the meaning of the symbol or the dream. However, dreams and dream symbols often recur simply because the same symbol can have many different meanings.