Civilization in Transition


This brings me to a question I have been asked over and over again by my patients: What is the use of a compensation that, because of its symbolic form, is not understood by the conscious mind?

Apart from those not so uncommon cases where only a little reflection is needed to understand the meaning of a dream, we can take it as a general rule that the compensation is not immediately obvious and is therefore easily overlooked.

The language of the unconscious does not have the intentional clarity of conscious language; it is a condensation of numerous data, many of them subliminal, whose connection with conscious contents is not known.

These data do not take the form of a directed judgment, but follow an instinctive, archaic “pattern” which, because of its mythological character, is not recognized by the reasoning mind.

The reaction of the unconscious is a natural phenomenon that is not concerned to benefit or guide the personal human being, but is regulated exclusively by the demands of psychic equilibrium.

Thus there are times when, as I have often seen, a dream that is not understood can still have a compensatory effect, even though as a rule conscious understanding is required on the alchemical principle “Quod natura relinquit imperfectum, ars perficit” (what nature leaves imperfect, the art perfects).

Were this not so, human reflection and effort would be superfluous. For its part, the conscious mind often proves incapable of recognizing the full scope and significance of certain vital situations it has created for itself, and so challenges the unconscious to bring up the subliminal context, which, however, is written not in rational language but in an archaic one with two or more meanings.

And since the metaphors it uses reach far back into the history of the human mind, its interpreters will need historical knowledge in order
to understand its meaning.  ~Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 732