About Dreams & Jungian Psychotherapy
Dreams speak a language of metaphor and symbol. When we are unfamiliar with this language it is easy to disregard our dreams as meaningless. However, if we take the time to remember, record, and study our dreams, and to examine their relationship to our waking life, certain meanings and themes begin to emerge. In time we may come to see their purposefulness. We may also see that our dreams spring from a part of our being quite different from our ordinary, daily consciousness. With patience, study, and careful observation we may begin to unravel the mystery of their symbolic language.
It is estimated that Carl Jung worked with over 67,000 dreams during his lifetime. In addition, he intensively studied the world’s religions, cultures, mythologies and philosophies. Through his studies Dr. Jung observed that there are specific developmental challenges that people tend to go through in the course of life. Certain types of dreams are associated with these periods. For instance, sometimes we dream of dying or attending a funeral. Does this mean that we are going to die? No. Dreams of dying often occur when we are experiencing depression. These dreams generally indicate that a change needs to take place in our life. All significant change and growth typically involves some aspect of our current worldview. Jungian psychology views depression as an opportunity for learning and transformation in life. It does not seek to simply eradicate uncomfortable symptoms but to gain insight from the symptoms on how to live life in a more vital and creative way.
Sometimes our dreams give us useful information about our relationships. A woman dreams: “I am in a car with my boyfriend driving. He loses control of the car and we crash. Jung observed that in our dreams the person of the dreamer typically represents the dreamer’s conscious attitude toward life. The vehicle he or she is in is an extension of these attitudes or worldview. So, to be in a car that is out of control suggests that her life is out of control. Perhaps she’s even letting her boyfriend run her life.
Every dream must be interpreted within the context of the dreamer’s life. A “cookbook approach” to dream interpretation, such as looking up the meaning of dream images in a dream dictionary, is not a very accurate method for interpreting dreams. On the other hand, a knowledge of the archetypal, or mythic and cross-cultural, meaning of dream symbols is important. This is because the dreammaker utilizes both personal and collective, or universal, themes in communicating ideas. Sometimes emphasis must be given to the dreamer’s personal associations to the dream images, at other times emphasis must be given to the archetypal meanings of those images. The right interpretation carries the ring of truth; it resonates with the dreamer.
Jungian psychotherapy seeks to alleviate psychological problems and promote personal growth through the development of a more harmonious relationship between the conscious mind and the Self. Dreams are especially useful in this regard because as spontaneous products of the unconscious they provide a “snapshot” of our current life situation. However, Jungian psychotherapy can be very helpful even if a person has difficulty remembering their dreams. A person’s life story is like a novel. The same symbolic structure used in dreams is woven into a person’s life story. As a person learns how to look at life symbolically he or she is transformed.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.“
“To me dreams are part of nature which harbors no intention to deceive but express something as best it can.”
— Carl Jung
Suggestions for better Dream Recall
Learn to value your dreams. Treat them as friends and like friends they will visit you more often.
Calm your State of Mind
Before you fall asleep tell your inner dream maker, “I am willing to receive your messages.”
Have pen and paper, or tape recorder handy at your bedside. If you don’t want to write down an entire dream when you awaken at night, at least record a few key images. In the morning you may be able to recall the rest of the dream from these notes.
The longer you sleep the better your chances of recalling a dream. This is because each dream cycle occurs about every one and a half hours, and earlier in the night during deeper sleep you may only dream for two minutes whereas during the lighter stage of sleep, right before morning, you may dream for thirty minutes or more.
Wake Up Naturally
Train yourself to wake up naturally, or get a clock that awakens you gradually rather than suddenly. There are sound “alarm” clocks with slowly increasing volume and light “alarm” clocks that simulate the rising sun.
Keep Your Eyes Closed
When you awaken, remain still and keep your eyes closed. Focus on the area at the center of your forehead and ask yourself, “what was I dreaming?” Allow any dream experience to come forward.