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Carl Jung: The Problem of Types in Dream Interpretation

CW 18 Dreams

Symbolic Life

In all other branches of science, it is a legitimate procedure to apply an hypothesis to an impersonal object.

Psychology, however, inescapably confronts us with the living relationship between two individuals, neither of whom can be divested of hissubjectivity or depersonalized in any way.

They can mutually agree to deal with a chosen theme in an impersonal, objective manner, but when the whole of the personality becomes the object of their discussion, two individual subjects confront one another and the application of a one-way rule is excluded.

Progress is possible only if mutual agreement can be reached.

The objectivity of the final result can be established only by comparison with the standards that are generally valid in the social milieu to which the individuals belong, and we must also take their own mental equilibrium, or “sanity,” into account.

This does not mean that the final result must be the complete collectivization of the individual, for this would be a most unnatural condition.

On the contrary, a sane and normal society is one in which people habitually disagree.

General agreement is relatively rare outside the sphere of the instinctive qualities.

Disagreement functions as a vehicle of mental life in a society, but it is not a goal; agreement is equally important.

Because psychology basically depends upon balanced opposites, no judgment can be considered final unless allowance is made for its reversibility.

The reason for this peculiarity lies in the fact that there is no standpoint above or outside psychology that would enable us to form a final judgment as to what the psyche is.

Everything we can imagine is in a psychic state, i.e., in the state of a conscious representation.

To get outside this is the whole difficulty of the physical sciences.

In spite of the fact that the only reality is the individual, some generalities are necessary in order to clarify and classify the empirical material, for it would obviously be impossible to formulate any psychological theory, or to teach it, by describing individuals.

As a principle of classification, one can choose any likeness or unlikeness if only it is general enough, be it anatomical, physiological, or psychological.

For our purpose, which is mainly concerned with psychology, it will be a psychological one, namely the widespread and easily observable fact that a great number of people are extraverted and others introverted.

There is no need for a special explanation of these terms as they have passed into common speech.

his is one of the many generalities from which one can choose, and it is fairly suitable for our purpose in so far as we are seeking to describe the method of, and approach to, an understanding of dreams as the main source of natural symbols.

As I have said, the process of interpretation consists in the confrontation of two minds, the analyst’s and the analysand’s, and not in the application of a preconceived theory.

The analyst’s mind is characterized by a number of individual peculiarities, perhaps just as many as the analysand’s.

They have the effect of prejudices.

It cannot be assumed that the analyst is a superman just because he is a doctor and possesses a theory and a corresponding technique.

He can only imagine himself to be superior if he assumes that his theory and technique are absolute truths, capable of embracing the whole of the psyche.

Since such an assumption is more than doubtful, he cannot really be sure of it.

Consequently he will be assailed by secret doubts in adopting such an attitude, i.e., in confronting the human wholeness of the analysand with a theory and a technique (which are mere hypotheses) instead of with his own living wholeness.

This alone is the equivalent of his analysand’s personality.

Psychological experience and knowledge are nothing more than professional advantages on the part of the analyst that do not keep him safely out-side the fray.

He will be tested just as much as the analysand.

Since the systematic analysis of dreams demands the confrontation of two individuals, it will make a great difference whether their type of attitude is the same or not.

If both belong to the same type, they may sail along happily for a long time.

But if and contradictory standpoints may clash right away, particularly when they are unconscious of their own type or are convinced that it is the only right one.

Such a mistake is easily made, because the value of the one is the non-value of the other.

The one will choose the majority view, the other will reject it just because it is everybody’s taste.

Freud himself interpreted the introverted type as an individual morbidly engrossed in himself.

But introspection and self-knowledge can just as well be of the greatest value.

The apparently trifling difference between the extravert, with his emphasis on externals, and the introvert, who puts the emphasis on the way he takes a situation, plays a very great role in the analysis of dreams.

From the “start you must bear in mind that what the one appreciates may be very negative to the other, and the high ideal of the one can be an object of repulsion to the other.

This becomes more and more obvious the further you go into the details of type differences.

Extraversion and introversion are just two among many peculiarities of human behaviour, but they are often rather obvious and easily recognizable.

If one studies extraverted individuals, for instance, one soon discovers that they differ from one another in many ways, and that being extraverted is a superficial and too general criterion to be really characteristic.

That is why, long ago, I tried to find some further basic peculiarities that might serve the purpose of getting some order into the apparently limitless variations of human personality.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are surprisingly many individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and yet are not stupid, and an equal number who obviously do use their minds but in an amazingly stupid way.

I was also surprised to find many intelligent and wide-awake people who lived (as far as one could make out) as if they had never learned to use their sense organs.

They did not see the things before their eyes, hear the words sounding in their ears, notice the things they touched or tasted, and lived without being aware of their own bodies.

There were others who seemed to live in a most curious condition of consciousness, as if the state they had arrived at today were final, with no change in sight, or as if the world and the psyche were static and would remain so for ever.

They seemed devoid of all imagination, and entirely and exclusively dependent on sense perception.

Chances and possibilities did not exist in their world, and in their “today” there was no real “tomorrow.”

The future was just the repetition of the past.

What I am trying to convey to the reader is the first glimpse of the impressions I received when I began to observe the many people I met.

It soon became clear to me that the people who used their minds were those who thought, who employed their intellectual faculty in trying to adapt to people and circumstances; and that the equally intelligent people, who yet did not think, were those who sought and found their way by feeling.

Now “feeling” is a word that needs some explanation.

For instance, one speaks of “feeling” when it is a matter of “sentiment” (corresponding to the French sentiment).

But one also applies the same word to an opinion; a communication from the White House may begin: “The President feels . . .” Or one uses it to express an intuition: “I had a feeling . . .” Finally, feeling is often confused with sensation.

What I mean by feeling in contrast to thinking is a judgment of value: agreeable or disagreeable, good or bad, and so on.

Feeling so defined is not an emotion or affect, which is, as the words convey, an involuntary manifestation.

Feeling as I mean it is a judgment without any of the obvious bodily reactions that characterize an emotion.

Like thinking, it is a rational function; whereas intuition, like sensation, is irrational.

In so far as intuition is a “hunch” it is not a product of a voluntary act; it is rather an involuntary event, which depends on different external or internal circumstances instead of an act of judgment.

Intuition is more like sense perception, which is also an irrational event in so far as it depends essentially on external or internal stimuli deriving from physical and not mental causes.

These four functional types correspond to the obvious means by which consciousness obtains its orientation.

Sensation (or sense perception) tells you that something exists; thinking tells you what it is; feeling tells you whether it is agreeable or not; and intuition tells you where it comes from and where it is going.

The reader should understand that these four criteria are just so many viewpoints among others, such as will-power, temperament, imagination, memory, morality, religiousness, etc.

There is nothing dogmatic about them, nor do they claim to be the ultimate truth about psychology; but their basic nature recommends them as suitable principles of classification.

Classification has little value if it does not provide a means of orientation and a practical terminology.

I find classification into types particularly helpful when I am called upon to explain parents to children or husbands to wives, and vice versa.

It is also useful in understanding one’s own prejudices.

Thus, if you want to understand another person’s dream, you have to sacrifice your own predilections and suppress your prejudices, at least for the time being.

This is neither easy nor comfortable, because it means a moral effort that is not everyone’s cup of tea.

But, if you do not make the effort to criticize your own standpoint and to admit its relativity, you will get neither the right information about, nor sufficient insight into, your analysand’s mind.

As you expect at least some willingness on his part to listen to your opinion and to take it seriously, the patient must be granted the same right too.

Although such a relationship is indispensable for any understanding and is therefore a self-evident necessity, one has to remind oneself again and again that in therapy it is more important for the patient to understand than for the analyst’s theoretical expectations to be satisfied.

The patient’s resistance to the analyst is not necessarily wrong; it is rather a sign that something does not “click.”

Either the patient is not yet at a point where he would be able to understand, or the interpretation does not fit.

In our efforts to interpret the dream symbols of another person, we are particularly hampered by an almost invincible tendency to fill the gaps in our understanding by projection—that is, by the assumption that what I think is also my partner’s thought.

This source of error can be avoided by establishing the context of the dream-images and excluding all theoretical assumptions—except for the heuristic hypothesis that dreams somehow make sense.

There is no rule, let alone a law, of dream interpretation, although it does look as if the general purpose of dreams is compensation.

At least, compensation can be said to be the most promising and most fertile hypothesis.

Sometimes the manifest dream demonstrates its compensatory character from the start.

For instance, a patient with no small idea of himself and his

moral superiority dreamt of a drunken tramp wallowing in a ditch beside the road.

The dreamer says (in the dream): “It’s awful to see how low a man can fall!” It is evident that the dream was attempting to deflate his exalted opinion of himself.

But there was more to it than that. It turned out that he had a black sheep in the family, a younger brother who was a degenerate alcoholic.

What the dream also revealed was that his superior attitude compensated the inferiority of his brother—and of the brother who was also himself.

In another case, a lady who was proud of her intelligent understanding of psychology kept on dreaming about a certain woman whom she occasionally met in society.

In real life she did not like her, thinking her vain, dishonest, and an intriguer.

She wondered why she should dream of a person so unlike herself and yet, in the dream, so friendly and intimate, like a sister.

The dream obviously wanted to convey the idea that she was “shadowed” by an unconscious character resembling that woman.

As she had a very definite idea of herself, she was unaware of her own power-complex and her own shady motives, which had more than once led to disagreeable scenes that were always attributed to others but never to her own machinations.

It is not only the shadow-side that is overlooked, disregarded and repressed; positive qualities can also be subjected to the same treatment.

An instance of this would be an apparently modest, self-effacing man with winning, apologetic or deprecatory manners, who always takes a back seat though with seeming politeness he never misses an opportunity to be present.

His judgment is well-informed, even competent and apparently appreciative, yet it hints at a certain higher level from which the matter in question could be dealt with in a far superior way.

In his dreams he constantly meets great men such as Napoleon and Alexander the Great.

His obvious inferiority complex is clearly compensated by such momentous visitors, but at the same time the dreams raise the critical question: what sort of man must I be to have such illustrious callers?

In this respect, they show that the dreamer nurses a secret megalomania as an antidote to his inferiority complex.

Without his knowing it, the idea of grandeur enables him to immunize himself against all influences from his surroundings; nothing penetrates his skin, and he can thus keep aloof from obligations that would be binding to other people.

He does not feel in any way called upon to prove to himself or his fellows that his superior judgment is based on corresponding merits.

He is not only a bachelor, but mentally sterile as well.

He only understands the art of spreading hints and whisperings about his importance, but no monument witnesses to his deeds.

He plays this inane game all unconsciously, and the dreams try to bring it home to him in a curiously ambiguous way, as the old saying goes: Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt (the fates lead the willing, but drag the unwilling).

Hobnobbing with Napoleon or being on speaking terms with Alexander the Great is just the thing a man with an inferiority complex could wish for—a wholesale confirmation of the greatness behind the scenes.

It is true wish-fulfilment, which anticipates an achievement without the merits that should lead to it.

But why, one will ask, can’t dreams be open and direct about it, and say it clearly without subterfuges that seem to mislead in an almost cunning way?

I have frequently been asked this question and I have asked it myself.

I am often surprised at the tantalizing way dreams seem to evade definite information or omit the decisive point.

Freud assumed the existence of a special factor, called the “censor,” which was supposed to twist the dream-images and make them unrecognizable or misleading in order to deceive the dreaming consciousness about the real subject of the dream: the incompatible wish.

Through the concealment of the critical point, it was supposed that the dreamer’s sleep would be protected against the shock of a disagreeable reminiscence.

But the dream as a guardian of sleep is an unlikely hypothesis, since dreams just as often disturb sleep.

It looks rather as if, instead of an unconscious censor, consciousness, or the dreamer’s approach to consciousness, had itself a blotting-out effect on the subliminal contents.

Subliminality corresponds to what Janet calls abaissement du niveau mental.

It is a lowering of the energic tension, in which psychic contents sink below the threshold and lose the qualities they possess in their conscious state.

They lose their definiteness and clearness, and their relations become vaguely analogous instead of rational and comprehensible.

This is a phenomenon that can be observed in all dreamlike conditions, whether due to fatigue, fever, or toxins. But as soon as their tension increases, they become less subliminal, more definite, and thus more conscious.

There is no reason to believe that the abaissement shields incompatible wishes from discovery, although it may incidentally happen that an incompatible wish disappears along with the vanishing consciousness.

The dream, being essentially a subliminal process, cannot produce a definite thought, unless it should cease to be a dream by instantly becoming a conscious content.

The dream cannot but skip all those points that are particularly important to the conscious mind.

It manifests the “fringe of consciousness,” like the faint glimmer of the stars during a total eclipse of the sun.

Dream symbols are for the most part manifestations of a psyche that is beyond the control of consciousness.

Meaning and purposefulness are not prerogatives of the conscious mind; they operate through the whole of living nature.

There is no difference in principle between organic and psychic formations.

As a plant produces its flower, so the psyche creates its symbols.

Every dream is evidence of this process.

Thus, through dreams, intuitions, impulses, and other spontaneous happenings, instinctive forces influence the activity of consciousness.

Whether that influence is for better or worse depends on the actual contents of the unconscious.

If it contains too many things that normally ought to be conscious, then its function becomes twisted and prejudiced; motives appear that are not based on true instincts, but owe their activity to the fact that they have been consigned to the unconscious by repression or neglect.

They overlay, as it were, the normal unconscious psyche and distort its natural symbol-producing function.

$n Therefore it is usual for psychotherapy, concerned as it is with the causes of a disturbance, to begin by eliciting from the patient a more or less voluntary confession of all the things he dislikes, is ashamed of, or fears.

This is like the much older confession of the Church which in many ways anticipated modern psychological techniques.

In practice, however, the procedure is often reversed, since overpowering feelings of inferiority or a serious weakness may make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the patient to face a still deeper darkness and worthlessness.

I have often found it more profitable first to give a positive outlook to the patient a foundation on which he could stand, before we approached more painful and debilitating insights.

Take as a simple example the dream of “personal exaltation,” in which one has tea with the Queen of England, or is on intimate terms with the Pope.

If the dreamer is not a schizophrenic, the practical interpretation of the symbol depends very much on the state of his consciousness.

If he is obviously convinced of his greatness a damper will be indicated, but if it is a matter of a worm already crushed by the weight of his inferiority, a further lowering of his values would amount to cruelty.

In the former case a reductive treatment will recommend itself, and it will be easy to show from the associative material how inappropriate and childish the dreamer’s intentions are, and how much they emanate from infantile Avishes to be equal or superior to his parents.

But in the latter case, where an all-pervading feeling of worthlessness has already devalued every positive aspect, to show the dreamer, on top of it all, how infantile, ridiculous, or even perverse he is would be quite unfitting.

Such a procedure would only increase his inferiority, as well as cause an unwelcome and quite unnecessary resistance to the treatment.

There is no therapeutic technique or doctrine that is generally applicable, since every case that comes for treatment is an individual in a specific condition.

I remember a patient I had to treat over a period of nine years.

I saw him only for a few weeks each year, as he lived abroad.

From the start I knew what his real trouble was, but I also saw how the least attempt to get closer to the truth was met by a violent reaction and a self-defence that threatened complete rupture between us.

Whether I liked it or not, I had to do my best to maintain the rapport and to follow his inclination, supported by his dreams, though this led the discussion away from the central problem that, according to all reasonable expectations, should have been discussed.

It went so far that I often accused myself of leading my patient astray, and only the fact that his condition slowly but clearly improved prevented me from confronting him brutally with the truth.

In the tenth year, however, the patient declared himself cured and freed from all symptoms.

I was surprised and ready to doubt his statement, because theoretically he could not be cured.

Noticing my astonishment, he smiled and said: “And now I want to thank you quite particularly for your unfailing tact and patience in helping me to circumvent the painful cause of my neurosis.

I am now ready to tell you everything about it.

If I had been able to do so I would have told you right out at the first consultation.

But that would have destroyed my rapport with you, and where would I have been then?

I would have been morally bankrupt and would have lost the ground from under my feet, having nothing to stand on.

In the course of the years I have learnt to trust you, and as my confidence grew my condition improved.

I improved because my belief in myself was restored, and now I am strong enough to discuss the problem that was destroying me.”

He then made a devastatingly frank confession, which showed me the reasons for the peculiar course our treatment had followed.

The original shock had been such that he could not face it alone.

It needed the two of us, and that was the therapeutic task, not the fulfilment of theoretical presuppositions.

From cases like this I learnt to follow the lines already indicated in the material presented by the patient and in his disposition, rather than commit myself to general theoretical considerations that might not be applicable to that particular case.

The practical knowledge of human nature I have accumulated in the course of sixty years has taught me to regard each case as a new experience, for which, first of all, I have to seek the individual approach.

Sometimes I have not hesitated to plunge into a careful study of infantile events and fantasies; at other times I have begun at the top, even if this meant soaring into a mist of most unlikely metaphysical speculations.

It all depends on whether I am able to learn the language of the patient and to follow the gropings of his unconscious towards the light.

Some demand one thing and some another.  Such are the differences between individuals.

This is eminently true of the interpretation of symbols.

Two different individuals can have almost the same dream, yet if one is young and the other old, the problems disturbing them will be correspondingly different, and it would be absurd to interpret both dreams in the same way.

An example that comes to mind is a dream in which a company of young men are riding on horseback across a wide field.

The dreamer is in the lead and jumps a ditch of water, just clearing it.

The others fall into the ditch.

The young man who told me this dream was a cautious, introverted type and rather afraid of adventure.

But the old man, who also had this dream, was bold and fearless, and had lived an active and enterprising life.

At the time of the dream, j he was an invalid who would not settle down, gave much trouble to his doctor and nurse, and had injured himself by his disobedience and restlessness.

Obviously the dream was telling the young man what he ought to do, and the old man what he was still doing.

While it encouraged the hesitant young man, the old one would be only too glad to risk the jump.

But that still flickering spirit of adventure was just his greatest trouble.

This example shows how the interpretation of dreams and symbols depends largely on the individual disposition of the dreamer.

Symbols have not one meaning only but several, and often they even characterize a pair of opposites, as does, for instance, the Stella matutina, the morning star, which is a well-known symbol of Christ and at the same time of the devil (Lucifer).

The same applies to the lion.

The correct interpretation depends on the context, i.e., the associations connected with the image, and on the actual condition of the dreamer’s mind. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 216-226