Children’s Dreams Seminar

Without the word nearly (she says: “I nearly drown”) we would have to fear the worst.

This little word, however, extenuates the seriousness of the prognosis a bit—it leaves a door open, and is a mere hint of the possibility of salvation.

We can’t exactly deduce the dreamer’s difficulties from this dream, but it can be assumed that she will have a hard time in her fight against powerful psychical forces, not only as a child, but also in her later life.

The dream indicates, by its frequent recurrence and by the intensity of the images and the danger, that this is not about just a temporary difficulty in finding the way from childhood to adulthood; these elements symbolize the fateful meaning of a great life task, and grave problems that touch on her innermost being.

Her future prospects may well be alarming, being threatened by the archetypal powers of the snake and the water; both of them, however, also hold great possibilities of healing and rebirth.

There is legitimate hope that she will reach the other side after all.

Professor Jung:

The dream is of the girl whose snake vision we discussed last time.

Again it is a dream that has a surprising effect in its simplicity.

But precisely these “simple” dreams are not simple at all.

Here we will practice the art of making simple dreams “complicated.”

To do so, we first of all have to take into account the language of the images used in the dream.

We do this with the help of mythological parallels and amplifications, which may sometimes seem somewhat superfluous to us.

We so often believe that children think in a very simple way, but that is precisely the error.

The language used by children is much, much older than they themselves.

The whole mental and spiritual culture is handed down in language, and in language lies the whole prehistory of man.

When we speak in this language, we also speak this prehistory.

So if we do not find out and are not clear about the meaning or the connotations of the images in this language, we won’t be able to approach the meaning of the dream.

It is not always easy to comprehend these linguistic images, the more so as the German language shows a certain primitiveness: its most important terms are ambiguous and fluoresce in all kinds of colors.

You can imagine what happens when these images are dreamed to boot, the various meanings coalesce, and a complex mix-up of images ensues.

So if, for instance, as in our dream, the quay bridge appears, at first it seems natural to us to assume that this is the quay bridge—and nothing else.

But we forget that this is a dream image that emerged from the richness of the unconscious.

This makes even our unpretentious quay bridge a bridge, a bridge of a highly general meaning.

In dreams, that is, in the language of the unconscious, even the best known and most mundane bridge, and be it a little footbridge, is after all “the bridge.”

The same is true of many concrete objects we are dreaming of: banal as they may seem, they refer to all kinds of philosophical and religious problems, or to dark places in human nature.

We can observe this phenomenon also in psychopathology; in cases of schizophrenia, psychical problems of a definitely complex nature are often expressed in quite banal images.

The patients can’t help but think that way; they have only their appalling platitudes at their disposal.

If we were able to understand the general meaning of these images, however, we would be able to grasp the meaning of the psychoses.

We could even heal a patient if we succeeded in making the general meaning of his images clear to him.

Then we’d have to tell him, for example: “Well, look, this isn’t about this quay bridge at all, it’s about the bridge as such.”

And what does bridge mean?

This idea refers to a great multiplicity of possibilities of psychic experience.

It can mean: “To get to the other side,” “Crossing the great water,” or “Everything is transition.”

It can contain the simplest meaning as well as the deepest wisdom.

If a general symbol like the bridge appears, we must not let ourselves be misled by any commonplace views.

But then, are we actually familiar with anything else but commonplace views today?

Who is crossing the quay bridge, thinking: “Everything is transition”?

In the Middle Ages this was different.

At that time, people still had a relation to the symbol.

So a chapel was built on the bridge, and a sanctuary lamp was put in it.

There was a Saint Nepomuk and other saintly figures who guarded the bridge.

They reminded the people of the fact that each bridge is “the bridge,” that everything is transition.

At that time these things were experienced as real.

They gave the medieval mind a strange aura, which we can no longer completely understand.

Anything banal was, at the same time, also something general, and a part of the whole.

For them, a stone is not just a stone, but it can also be the soul of an ancestor, ancestors can live in it; and an animal is not necessarily simply an animal, but it is also an ancestor, a totem father.

The whole landscape is like the open book of your unconscious.

Everything is ensouled by the unconscious of the people.

When you walk through the landscape with a Negro, you don’t just take a walk in the “topography,” where everything is abstract and scientific, but you will experience

When you climb a mountain or go into the bamboo woods with him, this is no ordinary venture, because you will come into the realm of the secluded spirits.

In the soundless, green silence of the wood we feel as if we were immersed in the water of the sea.

Then there is no more botany; the whisper of the bamboo leaves, the gentle murmur of the wind—these are the voices of the spirits, and they give people the shivers.

This is an awe-inspiring experience.

We all know this magic from childhood, when the world still had a certain golden glow and everything was still very strange.

For the child, the world is mythology, as it is for primitive man, and this is also the atmosphere out of which dreams have to be understood.

For this reason, I insist that in each dream analysis the whole spectrum of the linguistic symbol be staked out.

This method is not without danger, because at first it leads you away from the personal psychology of the dream, and we are in danger of going astray.

The wealth of the material can seduce us to such an extent that we no longer know where we are.

We have to be very sure of our ground, otherwise we will become enmeshed in a formidable entanglement of possibilities.

The dream analysis has eventually to come back, after all, to the child who dreamed these dreams in order to assess the meaning of the individual contents.

The particular motivation of the dream cannot be derived from the general spectrum of meanings of the images, but can only be deduced from the personal amplification, from the context, and from the individual situation of the child.

Only if we know the whole psychological situation of the child will we be able to deal with the decision about practical questions.

As I mentioned already, it is only in the most exceptional cases that we are in a situation to ask the child him or herself about the context, considering that we are dealing with a
remembered dream or that the child is still too little to answer.

From a certain age onward, however, children are indeed able to answer.

I once had a consultation with an eight-year-old girl.

She came dolled up like a little monkey with a little purse, and told her dreams with all the tricks of the trade.

With this little girl it was quite possible to have a conversation.

So let us suppose you are told the present dream by the child herself.

What would you say to her?

Of course, you must not disclose your mythological knowledge to her, for these are just your theoretical tools, and the practical side is quite a different thing.

So imagine her to be an intelligent girl. ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dreams Seminar, Pages 271-275.