Jungian dream interpretation
Jacob’s dream of a ladder of angels, c. 1690, by Michael Willmann
Carl Jung (1875–1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and contemporary of Freud, although 19 years his junior. He began studying with Freud in 1907. Their relationship developed to the point where Freud chose Jung to carry on his
psychoanalytic activities, and called Jung his ‘son’ and ‘crown prince.’ However,Jung was obviously independently brilliant and creative, and ultimately developed a more positive view of the unconscious.
They also disagreed on the nature of God. Freud maintained that God did not exist and was created out of reaction formation.
Jung saw the development of God images in all cultures as a kind of proof of God’s existence.
By 1914, their split was so divisive that, although Freud lived 25 more years, they never spoke to one another again. Jung’s written works were always designed for sophisticated audiences.
Less than two years before his death, he was approached by the British Broadcasting Corporation for an in-depth interview.
The program was seen by a book publisher who thought it a shame that Jung, intensely fascinating, humorous,Jungian dream interpretation and charming, had never been popular with the masses.
Jung’s writings were considered too difficult to understand for the average reader.
The book publisher approached the TV interviewer about having Jung write a book for the average person.
The TV interviewer thought it was a great idea and approached Jung.
Jung listened to a two-hour presentation while in his garden and then firmly
The TV interview had reached people with whom Jung would not normally have come into contact, and he was quickly inundated with letters from all over the world.
However, that alone did not change his mind. He went to sleep one night and had a dream.
In the dream, instead of his customary sophisticated audience, he saw himself in a public place addressing a huge throng of people. They were not only listening to him carefully, but they also understood him!
Because Jung’s psychological theories were intimately tied to dream messages, he could hardly refuse to listen to this prophetic dream. A short while later, he agreed to do the book, called Man and His Symbols.
The book had two conditions attached to its undertaking: it was to be a collective effort by Jung and his closest colleagues; and the TV interviewer would serve as the arbiter between the authors and the publishers.
Jung planned the structure of the book, chose his colleagues and their topics, and wrote the main and first chapter, ‘Approaching the unconscious.’
He died on June 6, 1961, just ten days after he had completed his chapter and had approved the drafts of the other authors.
Although seemingly impossible, Jung probably believed in the power of the interpretation of dreams even more than Freud. I once opened a fortune cookie that read, ‘A dream of happiness is real happiness.’ In a way, this sums up Jung’s philosophy of dreaming: dreams are as real as any other psychological phenomena. Furthermore, dreams are intensely personal. They cannot be decoded by any standard glossary of meanings. Thus, you cannot buy a dream interpretation dictionary, look up dreams about lobsters, and read that it means your father was a callous person. Jung thought that dreams were messages from an individual’s unconscious, and, even though all people share a collective unconscious, the messages are, nevertheless, personal and individual. A person’s dreams cannot be interpreted by a glossary, codebook, or dictionary. On the importance of dreams and these messages (in an anthology of his writings published in 1970, Psychological Reflections), Jung wrote the following:
The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far
our ego-consciousness extends. (p. 53)
Nobody doubts the importance of conscious experience; why then should we doubt the significance of unconscious happenings? They also are part of our life, and sometimes more truly a part of it for weal or woe than any
happenings of the day. (p. 53)60 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique Dream psychology opens the way to a general comparative psychology from which we may hope to gain the same understanding of the development and
structure of the human psyche as comparative anatomy has given us concerning the human body. (p. 54)
Freud vacillated somewhere in between standard meanings and personal meanings for dream symbols. Freud clearly rejected strict decoding methods for interpreting dreams, yet he found fascinating ancient dream interpretation approaches as in the Oneirocritica. As noted earlier, the Oneirocritica used a combination of both standard meanings and also the circumstances of the dreamer, such as the dreamer’s occupation.
Freud also noted that dream symbols are as old as language itself. He wrote: Dreams make use of this symbolism for the disguised representation of their latent thoughts. Incidentally, many of the symbols are habitually or almost
habitually employed to express the same thing. Nevertheless, the peculiar plasticity of the psychical material [in dreams] must never be forgotten. (Freud, 1900; p. 387)
Only 12 pages after this firm warning, Freud entitles a section in The Interpretation of Dreams, The Genitals Represented by Buildings, Stairs and Shafts. Personally, I think Jung’s approach to dream symbol interpretation makes more sense. Although the dream of a key going into a lock might be tempting for Freudians to interpret as a sexual act, it seems intuitively more reasonable to vary the interpretation for a prisoner, locksmith, or treasure hunter. In Man and his Symbols, Jung wrote:
It is plain foolishness to believe in ready-made systematic guides to dream interpretation, as if one could simply buy a reference book and look up a particular symbol. No dream symbol can be separated from the individual who dreams it, and there is no definite or straightforward interpretation in any dream. Each individual varies so much in the way that his unconscious complements or compensates his conscious mind that it is impossible to be sure how far dreams and their symbols can be classified at all. (Jung, 1968; p. 38)
It is for this reason that I have always said to my pupils: ‘Learn as much asyou can about symbolism; then forget it all when you are analyzing a dream.’ (p. 42)
The compensatory nature of dreams Jung thought symbols represented more than their obvious meaning, and he thought this wider ‘unconscious’ meaning could never be fully understood. HeJungian dream interpretation traveled throughout the world examining the symbols of various cultures, but he felt that all people produced symbols ‘unconsciously and spontaneously’ through their dreams. He also viewed consciousness as a recent and slowly developed process, and he thought that dreams were transmissions of unconscious impulses and reactions to consciousness. Freud called them archaic remnants that could not be explained by anything currently in the dreamer’s life, and he thought they might be the ‘aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind.’ However, Jung objected to the idea that they were simply remnants. The word ‘remnant’ has the connotation of a scrap, a leftover, or being unused. Jung thought that these unconscious messages were far more important than that. He felt that dreams served a compensatory function; that is, dream messages were attempts to compensate for ‘a particular defect in the dreamer’s attitude to life.’
Jung stated two fundamental points of dreams: First, the dream should be treated as a fact, about which one must make no previous assumption except that it somehow makes sense; and second, the dream is a specific expression of the unconscious.Jung noted that dreams do have a definite and purposeful structure which usually indicated an idea or intention. Jung felt that this purpose was not always understandable but nevertheless very important. Thus he said this about a dreams and its intention:
Its dimensions in time and space are quite different; to understand it you must examine it from every aspect just as you may take an unknown object in your hands and turn it over and over until you are familiar with every detail of its
shape. (Jung, 1970; p. 64)
Jung believed that consciousness had a natural tendency to fear and deny the unknown. This tendency, called misoneism, Jung borrowed from anthropologists. It described a fear of new things, a fear of novelty. Thus, Jung was not surprised
that people resisted the meanings of their dreams, even when dreams were trying to strike a balance. It was this latter tendency, the compensatory nature of dreams, that Jung felt was so important. However, Jung did not want us to view
dreams, necessarily, as friends, or guides, or as moralistic. Dreams simply strike
a balance between the ‘lopsided nature of …conscious mind’ and the unconscious. Dreams are not moralistic. Jung wrote:
Our actual knowledge of the unconscious shows that it is a natural phenomenon and that, like Nature herself, it is at least neutral. It contains all aspects62 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique of human nature – light and dark, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, profound and silly. (Jung, 1968; p. 94)
One cannot afford to be naïve in dealing with dreams. They originate in a spirit that is not quite human, but is rather a breath of nature – a spirit of the beautiful and generous as well as of the cruel goddess. (Jung, 1968; p. 36)
About the necessity of the compensatory nature of dreams, Jung wrote: For the sake of mental stability and even physiological health, the unconscious and the conscious must be integrally connected and thus move on parallel
lines. If they are split apart or ‘dissociated,’ psychological disturbance follows. In this respect, dream symbols are the essential message carriers from the instinctive to the rational parts of the human mind, and their interpretation
enriches the poverty of consciousness so that it learns to understand again the forgotten language of the instincts.
(Jung, 1968; p. 37)
One example of this unconscious compensatory nature of dreams I saw in the dream of a 19-year-old college freshman. She was my patient for ten weeks at a campus counseling center. She was an outstanding tennis player, tall, blonde,
and buxom. Her presenting problem, she said, was her weight. Although she did not appear overweight by any means, we never missed a session without at least some reference to her ‘weight problem.’ Then she had this dream:
I had this dream where I went downtown and I wasn’t dressed. I was naked, and there were all these people looking at me.
I immediately thought of Freud’s wish-fulfillment principle and his interpretation that this dream was an old childhood wish to run about carefree and naked. I gently suggested to her the idea that the dream might contain a secret wish. She almost immediately and cheerfully agreed and suggested that she felt overwhelmed by her first year of college and all the work. She thought that the dream might be telling her that she did wish to be free of her studies and responsibilities, but then I remembered Jung’s advice: …explore the content of the dream with the utmost thoroughness. and his injunction:
Let’s get back to the dream. What does the dream say?
I asked her what other kind of message the dream might be sending her. I was Jungian dream interpretation 63
also direct. My intuition told me she was secretly proud about something. I remembered Fritz Perl’s idea that, behind some secret we are ashamed to tell anyone, there is an aspect of that shame that we are secretly proud of. ‘What are
you proud of about in this dream?’ I asked her. She thought about it only briefly and said, ‘My breasts.’ It was the first time in therapy that I heard her say anything positive about her body. She then got quiet, and, as if in response to her own thoughts, she said, ‘Well, I can’t very well go about bragging about them,can I?’ We both agreed that she probably could not, but I offered her the explanation that perhaps it was the one-sidedness of her complaints about her body that made her unconsciousness force a compensatory balance. This example also provides support for Freud’s idea that a single dream element may have been condensed from more than one dream thought or latent issue.
Jung’s patients were frequently in their late thirties to early fifties and economically successful. Just as frequently they often had a similar complaint. Despite their material successes, they were bored. Jung interpreted this boredom as a symptom of the split between the conscious and unconscious parts of the psyche. Boredom was a symptom that this person had cut off their unconscious mind and that this person had ignored the rich symbolic history presented by their dreams. No wonder material successes brought little satisfaction. Their ultimate and most satisfying treasure was within.
However, once again, do not be misled by dreams. For some patients, Jung did not discuss dreams. Remember my master’s student who thought his patient had come to him but ‘not because she was afraid?’ Even in their first session, he was
interpreting her dream about her hands on fire, offering her his rich and learned insights from his voracious dream readings. I learned she was unemployed, on welfare, single, and about to lose her two children to social services for neglect. Yet he wanted to talk about her dreams! I was certain that this was a situation where she was already overwhelmed by her unconscious thought processes, and I was correct. My student told me that she believed in dreams, the power of crystals, and followed zodiacal advice like a religion. I explained to my student that this woman was already in contact with her unconscious, in fact, she was overwhelmed by it. In a case like this, Jung might have advised driving a wedge between her unconscious thoughts and impulses, and her flimsy consciousness.
Her therapy needed to consist of developing her conscious autonomy in very specific ways, like how to get a job and how to keep her children. Instead of therapy homework like bringing in a dream, she should be thinking of ways to
get a job. If that was too difficult, then she might even be asked to bring into therapy the classifieds section of the newspaper, and together she and her therapist might go over the job advertisements. Further therapy might consist
of checking bus routes, how to go shopping for food for her children, etc. Apparently, Jung was a masterful and intuitive therapist, and he realized that one can teach others the knowledge and skills of therapeutic techniques, but
there still remained the art of therapy, which could not be taught. When a Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique patient came to Jung complaining of insomnia, Jung sang a lullaby and put his patient to sleep. When a patient said they felt cut off from their religion, Jung asked for a Bible, and they did Bible readings.
Fortunately, however, most good therapists believe that practice, time, and experience does make one a better therapist. There is a popular sports story that a famous sports figure player, after making a great play or sinking a great shot, heard a critic say that he was just lucky. The player is reputed to have said, ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ I think this practice principle also holds for dream analysis.
Dreams as a spontaneous self-portrayal As early as more than 2500 years ago, in India’s holy book, the Upanishads, came this quote about dreams, ‘There are no [real] chariots in that state, no horses, no roads but he himself [creates] chariots, horses, and roads…He indeed is the maker.’ Jung continually hammered home this fact. He viewed that dreams may be a reflection of:
ineluctable truths, philosophical pronouncements, illusions, wild fantasies, memories, plans, anticipations, irrational experiences, even telepathic visions, and heaven knows what besides. (Jung, 1970; p. 57)
More importantly, Jung saw them essentially as a spontaneous self-portrayal in a symbolic form. He wrote:
…[Dreams] are nothing less than self-portraits of the psychic life-process. (Jung, 1970; p. 56)
The whole dream-work is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer,the author, the public, and the critic. (Jung, 1970; p. 66)
I think that there is ample evidence, highly obvious, ancient, and logical, that dreams are an entirely spontaneous self-product. Jung, in particular, thought that every image in a dream potentially contained a useful self-reflection. If you falter or begin to doubt in your examination of any aspect or image in a patient’s dream, remember that Jung felt that all of these images might be spokes of a wheel. Ultimately, any of these spokes may lead us to the patient’s center. What might be at the center? If we use dreams as our vehicle, then we may come into contact with the most ancient wisdom of our own psyche. Jung envisioned this wisdom as a two-million-year-old person within us. It is the accumulation of two million years of purposeful, intelligent, and wonderfully creative evolution. He wrote:
Jungian dream interpretation Together the patient and I address ourselves to the two-million-year-old man that is in all of us. In the last analysis, most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us. And where do we make contact with this old man in us? In our dreams.
(Jung, 1970; p.76)
The archetypal nature of dreams
Jung believed that the psyche consisted of all of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, and had three major parts: the ego, which functions on a conscious level; the personal unconscious, which contains forgotten, suppressed
experiences or experiences that fail to attain a conscious level; and the collective unconscious, an inherited part of our psyche whose contents may never have been conscious. This idea of the collective unconscious was one of Jung’s most controversial hypotheses and, perhaps, the most fascinating. The personal unconscious for Jung contained complexes. These are clusters of thoughts, feelings, and memories that may have been conscious at one point, but now have been relegated to the personal unconscious by suppression or repression. Also, in the personal unconscious are fleeting thoughts or feelings that, for a variety of reasons, did not attain consciousness. However, these
complexes have ramifications for the ego, because we will avoid, hesitate, or postpone actions that arouse our complexes. All of the latter actions will occur without our conscious awareness of the reasons! Jung once said:
A person does not have a complex; the complex has him.
Although the present day usage of the word ‘complex’ does originate from Jung, his idea about an inherited unconscious has probably created greater interest. Freud had earlier called the symbolic images in dreams ‘archaic remnants.’ Jung
strongly objected to the notion that dream symbols had any connotation as being ‘lifeless’ or ‘meaningless.’ Jung viewed dreams as a kind of bridge between the ancient pictorial and symbolic language of the instinctive world and the
conscious rational world. It is important to remember that Jung viewed the unconscious as a repository or museum of human evolutionary history. Jung wrote:
Just as the human body represents a whole museum of organs, each with a long evolutionary history behind it, so we should expect to find that the mind is organized in a similar way. It can no more be a product without history than
is the body in which it exists. By ‘history’ I do not mean the fact that the mind builds itself up by conscious reference to the past through language and other culture traditions. I am referring to the biological, prehistoric, and unconscious66 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique development of the mind in archaic man, whose psyche was still close to that of the animal. This immensely old psyche forms the basis of our mind, just as much as the structure of our body is based on the general anatomical pattern of the mammal. The trained eye of the anatomist or the biologist finds many traces of this original pattern in our bodies. The experienced investigator of the mind
can similarly see the analogies between the dream pictures of modern man and the products of the primitive mind, its ‘collective images,’ and its mythological motifs. (Jung, 1968; p. 57)
In dreams, Jung believed that symbols occurred spontaneously, and they always stood for something more than the superficial meaning. However, their origins are hidden so deep in our past evolutionary history, that Jung believed they had no human source. At some level, Jung agreed with Freud about their nature: aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes. Jung called these images ‘archetypes’ or ‘primordial images.’ Jung cautioned against interpreting them as the simple equivalent of a mythological image. The actual dream symbol was a conscious representation of the ‘ancient, involuntary spontaneous manifestations of the collective unconscious.’ It is a collective unconscious, because all humans have universally inherited relatively similar archetypes.
Jung’s arguments for these tendencies to form images come from animal instincts. He thought that it was not logical to assume that each newly born human would have to learn every specific way that humans behave. He argued that the ‘collective thought patterns of the human mind are innate and inherited.” Could it be he asked, that only humans are devoid of their evolutionary past in their psyches?
In fact, he argued that the evolutionary development of human consciousness might have been caused by an archetype. He gave the example of a bushman who killed his son out of frustration and anger while fishing, and then remembers this ‘moment of pain’ forever. Jung thought that this emotional pain had the effect of waking people up and making them pay attention to what they are doing. If this awakening put someone at an adaptive advantage, then that person’s genetic information was more likely to get into the gene pool in subsequent generations. In the case of the angry bushman, Jung even felt that there may have been an ‘archetype at work for a long time in the unconscious, skillfully
arranging circumstances that will lead to a crisis.’ Thus, Jung saw archetypes as dynamic factors, making themselves known through impulses. As long as modern people protected themselves from the recognition of these archetypes, Jung
thought that they would never be masters of their own souls.
The five major archetypes of the psyche According to Jung, five of these archetypes have evolved to the point where theyJungian dream interpretation exert a greater influence on the psyche.
They are (i) animus, the male side of our personality; (ii) anima, a female side to our personality; (iii) persona, the many roles we play for society’s sake; (iv) the shadow, a dark, passionate, murderous, yet creative side of our personality; and finally (v) the self, an integrating force that attracts all other archetypes in a holistic, beneficial, unifying way. The archetypes are not inherited as specific ideas or symbols. Jung proposed that they
are more like inherited predispositions to think in certain ways or to think about particular cross-cultural and universal themes, like God or mother. They are, as Jung said, ‘forms without content.’
In dream interpretation, I have found it useful to examine these archetypes in a patient’s dreams. However, I have found it the most useful to concentrate, at least initially, upon animus and anima, and interpret all male and female
characters in a dream as the male and female sides of the dreamer’s personality. Thus, even though a patient dreams about their mother, I would interpret this character as the mother side of their own personality. However, the five major archetypes do interact with and influence each other continually.
Animus and anima
Jung thought that each of us, regardless of gender, has both male and female psychological and physiological sexual characteristics. Although present research leads us to believe that the single strongest component to our adult
sexual identity is inherited (Coolidge, Thede, and Young, 2002), our environment also impacts on the expression of this sexual identity, and our environment obviously contains both male and female influences.
Are there any symbols for the Jungian idea of our inchoate bisexual nature?
Indeed, there are. Ometeotl was the first god to exist, according to the Aztecs. Ometeotl means ‘two-god,’ and Ometeotl was not only self-created but was also male and female. Interestingly, Ometeotl governed heaven at its highest level. This place was called Omeyocan, which means ‘place of duality,’ and, as a couple, Ometeotl produced four of the Aztecs’ great deities. Hermaphroditus of Greek mythology is, of course, a classic archetypal symbol of bisexuality. Hermaphroditus rejected the love of a water nymph, and when he later bathed in her pool she clung so tightly to him that they became one person with a woman’s breasts and a man’s genitals.
Jung also proposed that the psychological sexual component of masculinity, animus, is typically repressed and unconscious in females, and the psychological sexual component of femininity, anima, is repressed and unconscious in males. There is also an archetypal duality in these gender archetypes, that is, they both have positive and negative attributes. Anima’s positive female attributes are characterized by feelings, emotionality, sentimentalism, finding the right inner values, kindness, romance, gentleness, and wisdom. When a man pays attention to his anima, he may express himself creatively through ‘writing, painting,68 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique
sculpture, musical composition, or dancing.’ Jung ascribed the common stereotypes in our society for his gender attributes. A very popular positive anima symbol is Mother Nature. We could add Magna Mater (a Roman mother
goddess), the Blessed Virgin Mary; Sita, Radha, and Parvati from the Hindu Mahabharata; Aphrodite and Hera from Greek mythology; the Egyptian mother goddess, Neith, goddess Isis and the sky goddess Nut; Nu Gua, creator and protector of humanity from Chinese mythology; Glinda the good witch of the north from the Wizard of Oz; Princess Leia from Star Wars; and Goldberry, Lady Arwen, and Lady Galadriel from the Hobbit Trilogy.
The negative side of anima involves seduction and betrayal, being irrational or illogical, being overcome by emotion, irritability, depressed moods, insecurity, and a plethora of fears. According to Jung, the negative aspects of anima have been symbolized in many cultures by witches, the Germanic singing Lorelei who enticed men to their death, Greek sirens who also sang men to death by hunger, Kali, the murderous side of Parvati with her earrings of corpses, Jezebel and Delilah from the Bible, and the evil Baba Yaga in Russian folklore. The positive attributes of animus are strength, rationality and logic, action, courage, truthfulness, and ‘spiritual profundity.’ Its negative attributes are brutality, recklessness, silence, stubbornness, emotional coldness, dogmatism, and inaccessibility. Positive animus can be symbolized by Tarzan, Hemingway, Spock the Vulcan and Captain Kirk from Star Trek, Bilbo, Frodo and Strider from the Hobbit trilogy, Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jesus, and Buddha.
Jung thought the strength of these attributes in an individual came from our parents; a man receives his individual attributes for better or worse from his mother, and the woman’s animus comes from her father. For example, an
unloving, uncaring mother may imbue a man’s unconscious anima with a mean, ‘waspish,’ ‘poisonous’ attitude according to von Franz, a Jungian disciple.
Animus and anima are also influenced by the persona archetype. The persona is a mask or role that we provide for society’s sake. The persona is likely to consist of many different masks, and almost all of them operate totally without our awareness. For example, at home I may play the role of good husband with my wife, stern father with my youngest teenage daughter, professor at the university, and then rock star when I play music in nightclubs. These roles actually help me to be more efficient and thus promote my adaptation and success in my dealings with society, because I do not have to reexamine how I am going to act in every new situation or interaction with others. However, there is a danger in over-identification with one’s persona. For example, medical doctors, perhaps involved in daily life-or-death decisions, may over-identify with their doctor’s mask of confidence. Many times, they may be quite unsure of the outcome ofJungian dream interpretation their decisions in a hospital, but they cannot act as if they are unsure. Acting unsure would upset the patient, the patient’s family, and the hospital staff. However, it is possible that some MD’s carry this ‘act’ or persona home where they confidently espouse family advice with the same surety, officiality, and dogmatism. Typically, this style of parenting and spousing does not create happiness or engender love in family members. Politicians may also over-identify with their smiling, glad-handing personas.
Potentially, under-identification with persona is also a problem. Who has rejected personas in our society? Some of my students propose that rebels, like bikers, have rejected society’s demands for a persona. However, they are as guilty
as professors in creating a persona. On the surface, it is still a persona, a biker’s persona but a persona nonetheless. A biker’s persona consists of riding a HarleyDavidson motorcycle (never a Honda, even if it looks like a Harley!), wearing black clothes, a black vest, boots, having a chain from one’s wallet to a belt or a belt loop, a motorcycle chain for a belt, and perhaps a tattoo of a spiderweb on the elbows. No, a biker’s persona may superficially appear to be a rejection of a societal persona, but it is still a persona and a very strong one. Notice, also, that a biker’s persona helps a biker to adapt to his or her biker’s society. When a biker dressed in their colors pulls up on a Harley to a biker’s rally, they ‘fit in,’ and they are accepted as a member of that society without undue examination or challenge.
Probably a hermit is a good example of someone who has rejected his or her persona. The hermit is a classic loner who resists the masks of society, including son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or enemy. I read a story about a true hermit, a society dropout, who lived deep in a South American jungle. A journalist trudged for days through the jungle and stumbled upon this hermit’s hut. The journalist was amazed that a formerly civilized person would live this
far from people and so deep in the jungle. The journalist thought, perhaps, that the hermit’s tale would make a great story. However, the hermit’s first words to the journalist were, ‘When are you leaving?’
Our personas, then, usually keep our gender roles tightly defined. Thus, a man’s ‘manly’ persona keeps his anima repressed, and a feminine persona may keep a woman’s animus repressed. Jung believed that it was necessary to liberate these repressed aspects of our psyche in order for us to develop to our complete potential. However, it may not be enough to simply liberate a man’s anima nor a female’s animus. The liberation must be coupled by a reintegration
of both gender archetypes, and this is a difficult task. A man may become feminized by allowing his anima to develop, but he must be able to join and synthesize his two gender archetypes so that they exist in harmony and so that
his animus is not subjugated in the process. I had a friend who was getting married for the second time. We were all in our 30s and 40s. Six of us got together on the eve of his bachelor party. What should we do? Interestingly, opinion was evenly divided: go out and party, or stay home and talk meaningfully. The groom70 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique made his decision that we would stay home and talk. Drink, yes, but talk, and that is what we did for hours. The next day, we were asked by our girlfriends and wives what we did. Ironically, there was some laughter and kidding about what we had chosen. This reflects a man’s dilemma: how to develop and release anima
without losing animus.
A woman’s dilemma, of course, is equally complex. For example, the emphasis on women’s sports has been a tremendous boon to their psychical development. It has developed confidence, camaraderie, healthy competition, courage,
physical development, and many other positive attributes, and this experience was virtually unavailable to women only 25 years ago. However, it has not been without a cost. Women who participate in sports have been criticized by their
own mothers, brother, fathers, boyfriends, and even by some other women as being too masculine, too physical, etc. A woman can also over-embrace this developing animus in the form of athleticism and as a consequence ridicule her
brother (who is releasing his anima) for staying home and painting. The dilemma for the woman is how to express her animus yet keep her anima, being able to release animus but being able to integrate those aspects with her anima. The
traditional old guards in every society are slow to relinquish their control and suppression. They (sometimes religious leaders, sometimes politicians, etc.) typically fear change (Jung’s term was misoneism) and protect the traditional animus in males and anima in females.
Another major archetype is the shadow. The shadow is the dark side of our personality. It is everything we refuse to admit about ourselves, and thus it visits us in our dreams, usually symbolized in the forms of people we hate. As von Franz (a close colleague of Jung) wrote (in Man and his Symbols):
When an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in other people – such things as egotism, mental laziness,
and Sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes and plots; carelessness and cowardice, inordinate love of money and possessions (Jung, 1968; p. 174)
The shadow houses our ancient animal instincts. It is the source of our strongest emotions, creativity, vigor, and spontaneity. However, it is the shadow in us that allows us to kill other people, to be mean, spiteful, and hateful. Once the shadow has been aroused to action, particularly rage and anger, there is no reasoning with it. If the shadow and the conscious forces of the ego act in unity, the great forces of the shadow can translate into good works, prodigious tasks, and the like. However, if the shadow cannot sublimate its energies, then a person may self-destruct or harm others. Because the shadow is also a museum for ourJungian dream interpretation ancient primitive instincts, Jung postulated that it also contained the adaptive ability to make quick and proper decisions without undue hesitation. Again, however, if a person has worked to understand, release, and integrate their shadow, then their quick decisions may be effective and beneficial. If the shadow has been repressed or acts unbridled, the results may be highly ineffective or detrimental. Furthermore, inevitable conflict results when we project our shadow onto others. Von Franz saw political agitations as created by the projection of our shadows. She saw the projection of the shadow as ‘obscuring our view of our fellow men, spoiling objectivity, and thus spoiling all possibility of genuine human relationships.’ She also noticed the Herculean task of trying to understand the shadow, because it is sometimes experienced as an irresistible impulse, and it resists being known or bridled. Simply trying to be honest with
oneself does not often succeed. She noted that it might take a ‘brick…to drop on one’s head to put a stop to shadow drives and impulses.’ Sometimes, she noted, a monumental ‘heroic decision’ may stop the destruction from the
shadow, but it is not likely. As an example of this brick-to-the-head phenomenon, I had a talented musician friend with a shadowy dark side: illegal drug use. He was finally arrested for only the first time after 12 years of various illegal drug use. However, it was a minor charge, and was likely to be dismissed in court. While waiting to go to trial and swearing to me he was finished with drugs, he bought an illegal drug that was badly synthesized. He had a psychotic reaction, and he tried to remove his fingernails with a knife. He ended up in an emergency room nearly bleeding to death and in the throes of a psychotic episode that lasted for hours. Apparently and hopefully, that was his brick-to-the-head. It may have stopped his self-destructive drug use. It may have bridled his shadow
while he seeks healthier releases for it.
The shadow has been symbolized by dark destructive forces for time immemorial. One of the oldest symbols of the shadow comes from the ancient Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. Their essential tenet was a dualistic struggle between a god of good, Ormuzd, and the spirit of evil and darkness, Ahriman. Zoroastrianism also had a prescription for living one’s life that consisted of a trinity: good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. Thus, Ahriman is probably one of the earliest symbols of the shadow. The Christian Bible has Satan, the Hindu Ramayana has Ravana who kidnapped Sita, and the Hindu trinity has the Shiva, the destroyer.
Like the other archetypes, the shadow also contains a duality of evil and good. One good aspect of the shadow, as previously mentioned, is its ability to make quick decisions. The shadow is also seen in the creative process. Interestingly, extremely creative artists like Picasso, Dali, and Jackson Pollack had a destructive element in their creativity. They were able to translate into their pictures and sculptures their inner realities, and these realities were personal, highly original, and destructive in the sense that they copied no other artists. They were able to
explicate their inner forces in such a way that other people were able to recognize72 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique and appreciate the unconscious representations, although perhaps not fully
understanding what they saw. Some people gave their art the highest of compliments in the world of symbols by saying, ‘I don’t know what it means, but I like it.’
The self archetype and individuation
The last of the major archetypes is the self, and it was considered the most important by Jung. The self archetype attracts all the other archetypes. It is a unifying force in the psyche. It is a self-actualizing force. It motivates a person to become whole. Jung’s favorite symbol of the self was a mandala, which is a Sanskrit word for circle. Mandalas are frequently seen in ancient eastern and oriental art, particularly in religious works. They usually consist of circles within an outer square and squares within the inner circles. Jung thought the circles represented wholeness or oneness, and the squares represented another ancient numerical archetype of fourness or quarternity. Fourness has been symbolized, according to Jung, by our representation of the seasons into winter, spring, summer, and fall, the ancient elements of earth, wind, fire, and water, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, etc. Again, the unconscious influence of the self archetype and the quarternity archetype can be seen in modern culture as well.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s search to get ‘home’ may reflect an active, conscious attempt to understand her unconscious self and to sense a ‘oneness’ and ‘wholeness’ in doing so. There is a classic quarternity in her search, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, and, of course, the leader of her search, Dorothy herself. When Glinda told her the secret of returning ‘home,’ it seemed all too easy and simple. Remember, Dorothy was told that she herself contained the secret to getting home. It was not in Oz, the dazzling external world. It was not through a Wizard (no matter how wonderful a wizard he was), although the Wizard may have symbolized both the positive animus and the self archetypes. Dorothy herself was the answer. Jung viewed this process as an assimilation of the unconscious into the conscious, and a new center of balance is obtained. There is a new location of the self, and Jung thought it provided a ‘more solid foundation’ for the psyche. Jung called this path to oneness individuation, although he did not see it as an easy journey. Much like Dorothy, we must face wicked witches on the path. Jung even characterized the process of individuation and therapy as one where the patient was forged between the hammer and the anvil.
Jung thought the process of individuation was also expressed as an arrangement or pattern in our dreams. If we made the conscious attempt to recognize the symbols in our dreams, we might become aware of our own grand pattern.
However, this process, remember, might take years of studying our dreams.Images might appear, disappear, and reappear over a period of years. Many symbols may remain beyond us. However, if we actively and honestly search, JungJungian dream interpretation did believe that a slow, and perhaps even imperceptible, growth might occur, and this is the process of individuation. Yet, the product of this slow growth is a more stable personality, a more mature personality, and a new center of the self is established, one that is not so easily unnerved. A new, less anxious, less bored self emerges: a more reliant and more contented self, one that wants fewer material goods, one that is much happier with less.
Von Franz (1964) thought that Jung’s self archetype might be symbolized in a dream by a ‘priestess, sorceress, earth mother, or goddess of nature or love’ or ‘wise old man.’ She suggested that a cosmic man or Great Man, like Buddha or
Jesus, might also symbolize the self archetype. However, the self might also not take these shapes. She even noted that sacred stones may symbolize the self, because they have been revered for millennia in many cultures. She said that people even in modern society may pick up stones for no particular reason. People may be simply attracted by an unusual color or shape, and, for some, the stones hold a secret fascination. She gave the example of ancient Germans who thought that the spirits of the dead continued to live in their tombstones. Even the present custom of having tombstones may have arisen from this older belief.
We also make monuments to great people out of stone. What do the black granite shapes of the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C. symbolize? It is a good example of the sheer power and mystery of stone. The holiest of pilgrimage sites for a Muslim is Mecca where the house of Abraham and Sarah stands. In that house is a holy rock, one said to be sent by God for them to build their house.
Von Franz hypothesized that a stone may also symbolize the self archetype for the following reasons:
For while the human being is as different as possible from a stone, yet man’s innermost center is in a strange and special way akin to it (perhaps because the stone symbolizes mere existence at the farthest remove from the emotions,
feelings, fantasies, and discursive thinking of ego-consciousness). In this sense the stone symbolizes what is perhaps the simplest and deepest experience – the experience of something eternal that man can have in those moments
when he feels immortal and unalterable…or certain stones left by simple people on the tombs of local saints or heroes, show the original nature of the human urge to express an otherwise inexpressible experience by the stonesymbol. It is no wonder that many religious cults use a stone to signify God or to mark a place of worship. (Jung, 1968; p. 224)
When I taught in India for four months on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1987, I went hiking one weekend over a short but long stone hill. On the other side, I encountered a maze lined by pebbles and small stones in the form of a circle. In
the center of the circle, stood a pile of stones about three or four feet high. Quite naturally, I picked a stone from well outside the circle, wound my way through74 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique the maze to the center pile, dropped off my rock, and proceeded back out of the maze. What it all symbolized, I have no idea nor did anyone I talked to when I returned to the sophisticated city of Bangalore. However, as Jung noted, that is the wonder and mystery of symbols. There is always some enigma associated with a symbol that may never be solved, and therein resides our eternal fascination for stones, circles, and mystery itself. Symbols, according to Jung, are representations of the unknowable.
The self archetype, like all other archetypes, possesses a good–bad duality. The dark side of the self is potentially the most dangerous, because the self archetype is the most important in the psyche. Von Franz describes the dark side of the self out of control or in a state of imbalance:
It can cause people to ‘spin’ megalomanic or other delusional fantasies that catch them up and ‘possess’ them. A person in this state thinks with mounting excitement that he has grasped and solved the great cosmic riddles; he
therefore loses all touch with human reality. A reliable symptom of this condition is the loss of one’s sense of humor and of human contacts. (Jung, 1968; p. 234
It is interesting to note cases of the dark side that have gotten out of control in contemporary society. A paranoid religious cult leader, James Jones, in 1978 led over 900 people to their deaths in a mass suicide-murder in South America. A Japanese cult leader, Shoko Asahara, also respected by his followers as being a divinely inspired savior, in 1995 had his followers murder innocent train travelers with poison gas in Japan. David Koresh, an American religious cult leader, ended up dying along with over 70 of his followers and their children, in a 1993 raid of their ‘religious’ compound. It appears that all three ‘religious’ leaders had this megalomanic spin to their personalities. All three were directly associated with the deaths of innocent people, and all three had an undeniably magnetic ability to attract followers to their delusory fantasies. Although von Franz thought a reliable symptom of the dark self gaining control of a person’s personality was a loss of human contact, it appears, sadly, that the opposite may
be true in some cases.
The internal boredom that cult followers may feel initially, and perhaps the positive side of the self archetype in them, serves as the motivation for their search for an external leader to provide them with meaning in their lives. They fail to see that their quest, although noble and worthy, is an internal one. A guru can guide, but the problem for the guru and his or her followers is that the guru may become deified in the process. What fails to be recognized is that the roads the guru took for self-enlightenment can rarely be the same roads that anyone else can follow. This has disastrous consequences, as my previous three cult leader examples have shown, Von Franz wrote about how “the evil spirit of imitation…makes one miss the target and…[one can] petrify psychologically.’Jungian dream interpretation 75
She further wrote:
As I pointed out earlier, the process of individuation excludes any parrot-like imitation of others. Time and again in all countries people have tried to copy in ‘outer’ or ritualistic behavior the original religious experience of their great religious teachers – Christ or Buddha or some other master – and have therefore become ‘petrified.’ To follow in the steps of a great spiritual leader does not mean that one should copy and act out the pattern of the individuation
process made by his life. It means that we should try with a sincerity and devotion equal to his to live our own lives. (Jung, 1968; p. 235–6)
Jung believed that modern people were too often bored, exhausted, and disenchanted, but the answer to their dilemma was the adventure within themselves. Getting in contact with their inner world through their dreams might be the answer to the ultimate meaning of life. Von Franz states:
One gives one’s mind, as before, to outer duties, but at the same time one remains alert for hints and signs, both in dreams and in external events, that the Self uses to symbolize its intentions – the direction in which the life-stream
is moving. Old Chinese texts…often use the simile of the cat watching the mouse hole. One text says that one should allow no other thoughts to intrude, but one’s attention should not be too sharp – nor should it be too dull. There is exactly the right level of perception. (Jung, 1968; p. 228)
Other archetypal themes
Jung was also fascinated by archetypal numbers. I previously mentioned the archetypal duality, symbolized by day and night, yin and yang, black and white, heaven and hell, devil or angel, good and bad, right and wrong, on and off, Adam
and Eve, Ara and Irik, who are creator spirits of the Iban people of Borneo, Apsu and Tiamat, creator deities of ancient Babylonia, Rangi and Papa, creators for the Maori, and the Chinese creator Pan Gu who lived inside an egg for 18,000 years and then split into two parts creating the heavens and the earth, Mboom and Ngaan, two African creator deities, and easily thousands of other dichotomies. Woody Allen has said that there are only two types of people, those who categorize people and those who do not. At my college graduation in 1969, I remember only that the commencement speaker said people are tyrannized by categories. Yet, categorization itself masks a hidden archetype symbolized by numbers and the varying members in each class that each number represents.
Although Jung spoke of dualities and trinities, it appears that he was powerfully drawn to the concept of quaternity or fourness. He even called quaternity76 Dream interpretation as a psychotherapeutic technique a ‘strange idea’ but noted how strong a role it played in religions and philosophies. He himself postulated four psychological functions and four stages of animus and anima development. He claimed that the self archetype was frequently symbolized by four-sidedness. He wrote of the four seasons, four directions (north, south, east, west), and the four evangelists in the Bible. He also noted that fourness was probably more ancient than the concept of trinity. In fact, he said that, in Christianity, the concept of trinity (Father, the creator, Son, the redeemer, and Holy Ghost, the enlightener) superseded quaternity. However, the Christian concept of trinity is the religious symbolization of even a much
older religious trinity from the Hindu religion, which speaks of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. The Hindu trinity predates the Christian trinity by at least 1000 years (the concept of trinity is not mentioned in the Old Testament). In Aztec mythology, the primordial being, Ometecuhtli, gave birth to four creator gods.
It is even psychologically revealing to note how strong the archetype of quaternity thrust itself into Jung’s own writing. For example, he thought that the Christian trinity was unconsciously being transformed into a quaternity by
a fourth force. What did he (and he alone) postulate that this fourth force might be? A dark and evil anima!
Pentamerous is the adjective describing five parts. Interestingly, a pentagram, a five-pointed figure, has long been used as a symbol in the occult world. The negative associations with the number five are plentiful. In America, we have the Pentagon, a five-sided building in Washington, D.C. housing the armed services administration (although this is not inherently negative, it is ironic that the Pentagon does not house the Department of Education or the Department of Happiness). There were five rivers in the Greek mythological underworld. There were also five ages according to Greek mythology, and according to Aztec mythology there were five world epochs called the five suns. The number seven has perhaps been symbolized to an even greater extent than the numbers five or six. There was a famous memory paper in psychology that bore the title ‘Seven (plus or minus two),’ because it had been observed that seven entities (plus or minus two for most people) appeared to be the limit of what people could keep in short-term memory. Thus, local phone numbers are usually seven digits. There are seven days in a week. According to Greek mythology, seven warriors took part in the war between the two sons of Oedipus, and each led an army that attacked one of the city of Thebes’ seven gates. Much later, the movie ‘The Magnificent Seven’ had seven gunfighters. Seven holy sages are frequently mentioned in Hindu mythology, and, according to Australian aboriginal myth, seven sisters wandered about Australia to escape a lecher. When they reached the sea, they leaped up into the sky to become the constellation the Pleiades.
Interestingly, in Greek mythology, the seven daughters of Oceanid (a sea nymph) were being chased by Orion when Zeus turned them into stars to save them – and they formed the Pleiades.Jungian dream interpretation Jung’s explanation for flying saucers and aliens In Chapter 5, I gave my explanation for belief in UFO abductions and paralysis. Jung (1969) believed that the empirical fact of the existence of aliens and flying saucers from outer space was not as important as the psychic fact that people strongly believed in them. This psychic fact reinforced Jung’s view of archetypes
and a universal collective unconscious. Thus, it may be said that Jung’s attitude towards UFO reports might be similar to his view on dreams: they were credible because they might reveal the workings of and meanings in an individual’s
psyche, and these reports were consistent with his conception of a shared, universal psyche. Jung also thought that the consistent reports of the shape of flying saucers, round or mandala-like, might be psychic manifestations of the
1 Jung’s most accessible and last book, Man and his Symbols, presents his views and those of his most trusted colleagues about the nature of the psyche, personal unconscious, and universal collective unconscious.
2 Jung thought dreams could open the way to the founding of a general comparative psychology from which understanding of the development and structure of the human psyche could be gained.
3 Jung strongly rejected the notion of a glossary of universal meanings for dream images and themes.
4 Jung thought dreams transmitted unconscious impulses and reactions to consciousness.
5 Jung believed that dreams served a compensatory function; that is, dream messages were attempts to compensate for ‘a particular defect in the dreamer’s attitude to life.’
6 Jung felt that archetypes manifested themselves in dreams and that these themes and images gave humans a glimpse of their much older, ancient mind.
7 Jung believed that UFOs and flying saucers, regardless of whether they really existed, were psychic representations of the self archetype, and thus might be unconscious attempts to seek greater meanings in life.