Children’s Dreams: Notes from the Seminar Given in 1936-1940 (Philemon Foundation Series)

Professor Jung:

Yes, we have to conclude that there is an inner constellation that did not change over the years.

When a dream recurs so frequently, I usually refrain from searching for the specific motives.

Moreover, I quite generally take the view that a neurosis is not of traumatic origin, that is, that it can’t be traced back to a singular frightening experience; I try to understand it in the context of its present meaning.

For what lives and takes effect today is also recreated today, again and again.

I also relate frequently recurring dreams to what is currently going on, therefore, and to what is recreated over and over again, and not to something that lies many years back.

So this dream, too, refers to an inner constellation, which has not changed over the years.

We already know from the previous dream that there exists a certain splitting in the dreamer, that is, that consciousness and the unconscious are split off from each other.

We further saw that the unconscious and consciousness even attract each other, as expressed in the threat that the snake poses to the dreamer.

This dream goes a step further than the mere threat; the danger becomes manifest: the dreamer falls into the water, in which she is, so to speak, completely swallowed by the monster of the unconscious.

We have to take into account a peculiar detail, the fact that she falls down in an upright position.

This is very unusual, because usually one falls sideways one way or the other.

When someone, as in this case, falls down with the hands on the body and with the feet first, this expresses a certain stiffness, as if one were enclosed by something.

The feeling of suffocation the dreamer experiences when sinking also points to this tight enclosure.

It is as if she were pulled into the mouth of a monster and swallowed.

Myths express the sucking and suffocating aspect of water by populating it with monsters, dragons, or other water creatures.

Many primitive heroic myths also tell the story that the hero is devoured by the dragon, complete with his ship.

In the monster’s belly he is pressed to such an extent that, so as not to be crushed, he pushes the remains of the ship against the walls of the stomach.

The experience of being pressed is a very important motif.

In our dream it also finds expression in the feeling of suffocating.

To what does this refer? From where do we have such a direct experience?

Participant: From birth.

Professor Jung:

Although the newborn is not consciously aware of it, the nervous system registers these events.

Dreams that refer back to birth, and seem to be based on a perfect knowledge of anatomy, are not infrequent.

This led Rank to the assumption, for instance, that all neuroses can be traced back to the trauma of birth.

Birth is indeed a trauma, an impressive moment, and it is also possible that such an impression continues to have an effect throughout life, especially if there were complications at birth.

But we must not generalize this fact.

Participant: Is this dream not about a “reversed” birth?

Professor Jung:

That’s right, it is like a retrogressive birth, a going back into the womb, into the prenatal state.

This immersion into the unconscious actually represents a figurative death, a frequent motif of the transformation process, standing in close connection to the symbolism
of rebirth.

This is not at all evident from the dream at first sight, but we may add it from our knowledge.

The dream itself describes only the danger; it shows that in each transformation, and whenever a transition occurs, the ground may cave in, so that we fall down into an unconscious state.

When are there such transitions in practical life?

Participant: At the beginning of school, at the development from childhood to adulthood, at the beginning of professional life.

Professor Jung:

These are transitions, transformations in life, in which we change from one state into another, from a previous situation into a new one.

This we can only achieve if we are at one with ourselves.

A split personality will have difficulties in all these transitions, comparable to a sinking in water.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

Participant: That we are in over our head.

Professor Jung:

Quite right. We also say: “I can’t keep my head above water,” or “In such a situation you’ll go under.”

The difficulties may vary greatly, it could be overwhelming affects, or experiences we can’t cope with, but these are always very deep experiences into which we sink, so to speak.

It is a fact, by the way, that persons with splits are particularly destined to have such very deep-going experiences.


Participant: So that the split may be overcome.

Professor Jung:

Yes, fate imposes hard experiences on them, to hit them in their innermost being, where they are still at one with themselves, that is, in the instinct.

With their split, such persons will always blunder into split situations.

They will have to endure things that stand in sharpest contrast to each other.

So, for example, they will have friends of completely different characters.

In all these cases, those persons never know who they actually are.

They don’t know: Am I white or am I black?

I’m actually both, because I’m the friend of A and of B. Something is bound to happen here.

This situation downright invites fate to intervene with a blow, so that deep regions are touched and may grow again as a unity.

Split persons always generate split situations, conflict situations.

To such persons in particular, to those who do not know who they are, it happens that they are particularly confronted with decisions, whereas other people can go
on living in their unambiguous situations.

The treatment of such split persons is not easy.

We often simply do not manage to reunite the halves, which have come apart, into a whole.

We can only say: Hopefully something really overwhelming will happen to them, so that they realize who they are.

So this dream points to the fateful necessity of having ultimate experiences, so that the point is touched where the person is still one.

Such a person has to be completely torn apart at first to recompose himself anew.

This last unity has to be found, and this will happen only if the person is wounded in his innermost being, most often by someone chosen by fate to be the hammer, because as a rule he can’t do it on his own. ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dream Seminar, Pages 276-279.