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

What does Jack Frost in our dream signify?

Participant: Death wants to get to the dreamer.

Professor Jung:

Yes, it is not yet spring, and winter is here already.

Participant: Do we have to see the figure of Jack Frost in such a negative light? If he wants to take the dreamer into the forest, this might perhaps only mean a state of introversion, out of which a new content could arise.

Professor Jung:

Such an optimistic interpretation is not appropriate here.

We must not forget that the dream has no lysis, and that it is extremely meager.

It is impossible to conceive of the figure of Jack Frost, therefore, as positive.

Even if the Samichlaus appeared in his place, it would be misleading to think of a joyous children’s party or any other merry event.

We have to try to grasp Jack Frost in his ominous meaning, as the one who freezes all life.

We also have to stick to the dream, in which the child does not experience joy, but fear of the ghost of coldness.

And this figure touches her!

Participant: This increases the negative effect of this figure. It is similar to the Erlking.

Professor Jung:

Yes, the Erlking is also such a ghost.

In Goethe’s poem the increasing anxiety of the child is beautifully expressed, until the moment where he says:

“Dear father, oh father, he seizes my arm! The Erlking, father, has done me harm!”

Then the child dies.

Participant: It also seems very dangerous to me that Jack Frost touches the girl on her belly.

Professor Jung:

Yes, the belly is the kitchen, the stove, radiating warmth. In the belly we are sheltered as long as we are embryos.

If we are cold, we’d like to crawl into our own belly to warm up.

This place of warmth is also the origin and the center of all life; this is expressed in the word “liver,” the main organ in the abdomen.

It is “the liver,” he who lives.

Participant: Can we see from the dream if this is about a psychical or physical death?

Professor Jung:

This is not easy to see.

Let us assume that the child told this dream at the age of ten, that is, at a time when there was no visible sign of a neurosis yet.

In this case, I would really have been in doubt whether it referred to a physical or a spiritual death.

I would have been able to say only that the dream indicated something extremely alarming, but I would not have been able to decide if this would later lead to an obsessional neurosis, to a psychosis, or to suicide.

But then the dreamer took her own life at the age of thirty-six in a mental institution!

The psychosis began with extreme anxiety states that intensified until the fatal end.

The dream does contain a detail that could point to the suicide.

She herself intervened in her life with a cold hand.

Participant: Was this the reason why she escaped into masturbation? Was it an attempt to keep herself warm?

Professor Jung:

Yes, for her it was a defensive move, an apotropaic magic, a stress on life in aspectu mortis, just as people may become sexually aroused when they are in mortal danger or confronted with hopeless, life-threatening situations.

There was ample evidence of this desperate eroticism in the earthquake at Messina.

It is as if the life instinct asserted itself, and as if life tried to affirm itself in a quandmême.

145 So, you see, the dream is very tragic.

I would not hesitate to make a connection between the fact that the dreamer pinched herself and the suicidal outcome. Any more questions?

Participant: You mentioned that the dreamer at first fell ill with an obsessional neurosis, which masked a latent psychosis. How did the psychosis become manifest?

Professor Jung:

Behind each classical obsessional neurosis a psychosis is hidden.

In the dreamer the mental illness broke out when the voices began to become audible.

From then on the process could not be arrested by anything.

Participant: Doesn’t emotion also originate in the belly?

Professor Jung:

Yes, of course, it is the seat of the solar plexus, where the psychical and the physical are still one.

But you must not conceive of the belly as too complicated.

It is merely the center of warmth, the seat of life.

Because the psychical and the physical are still one in it, it is hard to tell if it was a physical or a psychical illness that prematurely destroyed the dreamer.

The unconscious actually does not seem to care one way or the other.

Moreover, the unconscious has a different relation to death than we ourselves have.

For example, it is very surprising in which way dreams anticipate death.

Often this does not happen the way we look at death, but in a completely different manner.

You will find something analogous in astrology or also in chiromancy and other ancient “mancies,” in which the indications for death are also very questionable.

It is as if death was something other than what we think.

That is, approximately, how we could put it.

It might be linked to the fact that the unconscious has a different relation to time than we have.

In the unconscious there exist, so to speak, an elastic space and an elastic time.

It seems as if these deeper layers of the psyche were characterized by particularly strange features, and this, of course, is also expressed in dreams.

So I would not have dared to predict from the dream’s character if a physical or psychical death was implied.

Participant: Wouldn’t it have helped the dreamer if she had later gone to a female analyst? What she missed was probably primitive, vital warmth. Perhaps she never received enough maternal love; moreover, the dream expresses a very negative attitude toward men.

Professor Jung:

If we are dealing, as in this dream, with such deep- reaching and life-threatening affairs, the sex is no longer of importance.

In these cases, a physical force has to intervene, a force that pulls the person out of the predicament and saves her from drowning, so to speak.

These fine details no longer play a role, and it doesn’t make any difference at all if it is a man or a woman who tries to come to the rescue. ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dreams Seminar, Pages 341-344.

Jack Frost is a figure believed to have originated in Viking folklore, an elfish creature who personifies crisp, cold, winter weather. He is said to leave frosty crystal patterns on leaves and windows on cold mornings. It is also thought that the English derived the name Jack Frost from the Norse character names, Jokul (“icicle”) and Frosti (“frost”) (trans.). ~Children’s Dreams Seminar, Footnote 138, Page 338.