Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture VII 7th December, 1934

There are several questions this week.

The first is concerned with where dreams come from.

I have purposely not spoken of this subject as yet, but it will be dealt with as we proceed.

The second question I will answer because it concerns the material with which we are actually dealing.

Freud and Adler believe that the unconscious consists only of contents which have once been conscious; for me it is a thing in itself, it is my belief and in fact I know that dreams are exactly what they say.

An elephant is not a facade that might just as well b e a crocodile.

There really is such a beast as a duck-bill platypus, and it lays eggs, unlikely as this may seem, and so in dreams the most unlikely things are true and every detail is of importance.

Dreams, it is true, often shift things about; you experience something in the day and at night you dream that this happened to Mr. X.

It would, therefore, be possible to maintain that the dream does not say what it means, for it meant you and it says Mr. X.

Yet what it says is the actual meaning of the unconscious and the dream must be handled from this point of view.

I will give an example to make this clear.

Mrs. A. dreamt that she was married to Mr. B , they had a terrible quarrel and she decided to divorce Mr. B.

The actual facts are that the day before she had quarreled seriously with her real husband, Mr. A, and Mr. B. is just an acquaintance with a slight resemblance to Mr. A.

I questioned her “Did you think of a divorce after your quarrel?” – “No, indeed, what an extraordinary idea. It never even occurred to me”.

This makes the meaning of the transposition quite clear.

The unconscious wanted to introduce her to the idea of divorce.

She would be unable to see or accept it if Mr. A. were mentioned directly, it would be too disturbing and disagreeable an idea, so the unconscious brings in an indifferent acquaintance with a slight resemblance to her husband, in order that she may consider the idea without any emotion.

This is a mechanism which is also used by the doctor himself, when a patient finds something too upsetting, I say, for instance, “You are too worried to see; so let us think how things would look if so and so had your problem”.

Then it can be considered quietly and hunches can find their way through as to what could be said or done.

The third question concerns the story of the murderous assault of which I told you last time.

This seems to have aroused general excitement, but it is not so very remarkable really, for after all many unattached ladies take walks on the Zurichberg as it is getting dusk and assaulters, who may even turn into murderous assaulters, are also about.

It is well known that fear attracts the thing feared – if you are afraid of a dog it b arks at you – so that it was not so extraordinary that the two met.

If she had stayed at home and escaped this fate, it is true that the condition of theosophic detachment might have continued, but recognizing the facts can produce the same effect without the catastrophe actually taking place; this was what I was working for.

If she had been able to take my warning she would probably have escaped the catastrophe.

It is often possible to avert small catastrophes by saying to the patient “Look out, you are just going to do something foolish”, but it is very much more difficult in these big fatal events, people go into such things blindly and the danger comes out to meet them.

We will now return to our material.

We dealt last time with the figure of the simple widow.

The next thing is a hiatus: the dream changes, the dreamer looks out of the window and sees the haymakers.

This is a reminder of his youth, with its honest and hard work with no swindle, plot or bluff.

That the dream pushes this picture of honest labour under his nose, looks as if he had a dishonest plan, and as a matter of fact he had.

His profession is that of being a professor, but the devil has suggested to him that he might become an analyst and his secret purpose in coming to me was to copy me, to learn “how it is done”.

This is a very common idea, he is no exception, many people come to me who have such designs.

One man after a few lessons with me remarked “I have dark curtains already, and I could buy a red lamp!”

There are such charlatans.

I told him if he was a swindler and if he wanted to do such things, he must go elsewhere.

So this dreamer, who also has such plans, is shown the hay-makers, but it is clear that he does not look at the picture, he is not interested in them and the ambitious plan goes on.

It is the nervous haste of the train dream again, he is determined to attempt the impossible and, as he insists on remaining on this road, danger heaps up once more and the dream brings in the heroic battle.

Now he is faced with a situation where he must attempt the apparently impossible and I recognize that we must use special methods with this case.

The patient feels quite unarmed before the monster and has no associations to it.

He is too rational and merely thinks that it is nonsense to dream of a great beast that is half a lizard and half a crab.

In our modern civilization we are too rational to accept such a creature; a primitive who lives among ghosts and wild beasts would have no difficulty in finding his associations to it.

When a patient has no associations I ask him to think of me as quite stupid and to describe to m \e just what the beast looked like.

Then all the associations which he has involuntarily withheld will come out.

The dreamer says that the lizard is a vertebrate animal that likes to sun itself, it looks like a miniature dragon and has a spinal column.

The crab can live under water and has a solar-plexus.

Together they represent the instinctive being that exists in us and so we come to the conclusion that the monster stands for the dreamer’s instinct.

We sprang from these lower vertebrates – children who suffer from atrophy of the brain show all the characteristics of animals – and this man has come up against his own instinctive nature and feels that he must fight it.

Our life’s achievement depends on our organism.

Some people do no manual labour and live entirely on their intellect.

If the task they set themselves is above their capabilities, they get nervous symptoms and warning dreams from the unconscious.

We are always fighting our own nervous systems, such proverbs as “Where there is a will there is a way” are hysterical exaggerations.

There is a way, it is true, but it leads downhill, not up, as we suppose.

We might say “Where there is a will there is a nervous system” and we must realize that we have to take the strength of this nervous system into account.

It is very important to know how much we can do and it is immediately apparent from this dream that the dreamer is going beyond his strength.

He had the neurosis already, his nerves have already said “No”, but he came to me in the hope that I would give him some magic to spirit away his symptoms, but if he lost those symptoms he would be in still greater danger and I could only warn him to be extremely careful.

The dream itself takes a different course, he does get rid of the monster, and how!

A real animal could not be got rid of like that, but his rationalism thinks that it is just psychic and that therefore it can be wished or analyzed away.

Symptoms are our best friends, we should not wish to be free of them, but to try and understand them.

Sugar in the urine, for instance, is not in itself desirable, but it is a benevolent wish of nature to tell the patient something.

We shall make no mistake if we follow nature, and if the warning is ignored a catastrophe is sure to follow, whatever form it takes.

I told my patient that his nature was against him.

He did not like this at all, for he wanted me to remove the symptoms so that he might fulfil his ambition.

Patients often hate it when I tell them such things and invent all kinds of reasons for my doing so, some think perhaps that I want to keep them under treatment.

That is a mistake.

This patient refused to accept my interpretation, he left me and went on along the same path which in three months led to a catastrophe.

I would like to draw your attention to a wonderful example of a heroic fight between man and his instinct, the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic.

There is a thick book by Jensen that relates the material which is preserved on tablets in the British Museum, and a small one brought out by the Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, which I can thoroughly re commend.

The important points are all in this shortened edition.

Gilgamesh was a hero one third man and two thirds god, a superior being, a man of joy and pain who never tired.

He worked his subjects as he could work himself to build the city of Uruk, with a great temple and high walls.

This was slavery to ordinary men and the women be came very angry, for they liked to have their men with them sometimes, so they prayed to the gods for help against Gilgamesh. Anu, the god of Heaven, heard them and asked the great goddess Aruru to make a being of equal strength who would keep Gilgamesh quiet and bring peace to Uruk.

So she created Enkidu, the instinctive man, who lived in the woo ds, cloth e d in skins, and fed and drank with the animals.

The primitive man is coming up against the god-like man.

Gilgamesh had a warning dream about this and realized that the situation was serious.

This has a quite banal psychological explanation: a man who works only with his brain comes into conflict with his own body which wants its life too.

Enkidu is no monster, he is just the body.

Gilgamesh used cunning to get the better of the situation and effected a certain reconciliation with his body, he made friends with his nervous system and Enkidu and he did many heroic deeds together, such as the overcoming of the giant Chumbaba who was a monster made of all animals.

The goddess of love, Ishtar, came herself to Gilgamesh and made advances to him; psychologically understood, she asked him to pay more attention to his feeling side, but Gilgamesh escaped from her and went home victorious to make new plans.

Ishtar was furious and went to the highest gods to complain.

She asked them to create a wild bull, a magic monster to send against Gilgamesh and threatened, if they refused, to break down Hell’s gates and c all up all the demons of the underworld.

This, psychologically understood, would be to let loose the unconscious.

The bull was created, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu killed this further monster, the plans of the Gods are again wrecked and the instinct is overcome once more.

Then a new element entered in, Enkidu began to have very negative dreams.

Gilgamesh’s looks were dark when he heard that Enkidu had dreamt that an eagle carried him higher and higher into the air and then suddenly dropped him on the earth where he lay smashed and dying.

After this dream Enkidu lay down with a fever, became delirious and died.

His death freed Gilgamesh of the primitive man, but he was left alone and afraid of death for the first time.

In consequence of this he undertook a long journey to old Utnapishtim who had the herb of eternal life.

He succeeded in this enterprise, but on his way home a snake, which is instinctive nature again, stole the herb and Gilgamesh had to go home without it to face inevitable death. ~Carl Jung, Modern Psychology, Vol. 2, Pages 164-165.