Children’s Dreams: Notes from the Seminar Given in 1936-1940

Participant: What sense does it make to dream dreams of a purely catastrophic nature?

Professor Jung:

This is the secret of dreams—that we do not dream, but rather we are dreamt.

We are the object of the dream, not its maker.

The French say: “To make dream.”

This is wrong.

The dream is dreamed to us.

We are the objects.

We simply find ourselves put into a situation.

If a fatal destiny is awaiting us, we are already seized by what will lead us to this destiny in the dream, in the same way it will overcome us in reality.

One of my friends, who was attacked by a mamba (cobra) in Africa, dreamed of this event two months in advance in Zurich.

The snake attacked him in the dream exactly in the way it later did in reality.

Such a dream is anticipated fate.


So we cannot always assume that the dream wants to make something conscious?

Professor Jung:

No, not at all.

This is anthropomorphic thinking.

We can only try to understand what the dream offers.

If we are wise, we can put it to use.

We must not think that dreams necessarily have a benevolent intention.

Nature is kind and generous, but also absolutely cruel.

That is its characteristic.

Think of children.

There is nothing more cruel than children, and yet they are so lovely.

If I had such a dream, I would naturally react differently from the woman in question.

But as I am a different person, I also have a different dream.

So that’s not how we should think. We can only compare.

The hopeless case has the hopeless dream, the hopeful one has the hopeful dream.


Is it possible to understand all dreams? Isn’t it already in the nature of such a dream that it cannot be understood?

Professor Jung:

If the dreamer had had it in her to understand this dream at some point later on, there probably would have been a suffix of hope added to it.

There would be a ray of light at the end, which would give the doctor a hint.

He could then say: “You have had a very alarming dream.”

And the patient would perhaps understand him. If she understands the dream, she will be on her way to integrate the pathological part.

With this patient, I had talked about dreams. Interestingly, she did not mention these dreams.

But when she was gone, they came to her as an esprit d’escalier.

She then told me about them in a letter.

If the dreamer had actually told them, I would have been even more scared.

I had seen her a couple of times, but had not come far enough to identify the content of her peculiar disturbance.

She did not come into a mental institution, but hovers above the ground as a shadow.

Right before she came to me, she had undergone a psychotic phase.

She came to me during the downhill phase of a psychotic interval.

You can see which fate the two dreams from childhood have anticipated.

Participant: Couldn’t there come positive dreams again later on, which would lessen the uncanny aspect?

Professor Jung:

Positive dreams may well follow, but none of them have the importance of the childhood dreams, because the child is much nearer the collective unconscious than the adults.

Children still live directly in the great images.

There are high points in life—puberty, midlife—when the great dreams appear again, those dreamed out of the depth of the personality.

In the life of the adult, dreams mostly refer to personal life.

Then the persona is in the foreground, what is essential in their personality has long emigrated, is long gone, perhaps never to be reached again. ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dreams Seminar, Pages 159-160.