Dream Interpretation According to Carl Jung
Carl Jung was a well-respected psychiatrist, who claimed Sigmund Freud as his main influence. Freud was Jung’s mentor, and while Jung based a lot of his own ideas on concepts derived from Freud, he went a step further and worked to improve on them.
Unlike Freud, Jung believed that the unconscious wasn’t animalistic in nature, which means that he wasn’t convinced that the driving force behind every individual was violence, instinct, and sex.
This difference in viewpoints is what prompted the division between Freud and Jung, but neither man let the rift affect their future work. Jung went on to form his own theories concerning dream interpretation. These theories were just as respected, in most circles, as those of his former mentor.
The idea of the unconscious was a relatively unheard of one. People didn’t really entertain the belief that there was a part of their minds that they couldn’t access (at least not in any way that they were used to). Jung took his ideas concerning the unconscious to new levels by reexamining the presence and purpose of what Freud termed the Id, Ego, and Super-Ego.
1. Carl Jung’s Life and Theories
Carl Gustav Jung was born in 1875 and he died in 1960. During that time, Jung was able to form and experiment with the concept that dreams were not ways in which your unconsciousness could hide away who you were from your conscious self. Instead, Jung was of the belief that dreams were ways that your conscious and unconscious minds went about acquainting themselves with one another.
The unconscious introduced itself to the conscious by way of dreams and the conscious looks through these dreams to understand the unconscious, and by default, yourself. Jung’s research delved into the problems and worries that the subconscious made an effort to answer for the conscious self.
To Jung, the Ego portion of Freud’s Id, Ego, and Super-Ego, was what a person considered to be their sense of self. The ego was therefore the part of individual that was presented to the rest of the world. Like Freud, Carl Jung too based a lot of his analytical psychology on dreams.
The Counter-ego is the exact opposite of the Ego and it retains all of those rejected aspects about a person that they don’t want to acknowledge or reveal. The Counter-ego and Ego are prime examples of Jung’s long-held view that all things are to be looked at as a pair of opposites (male and female, love and hate, happiness and sorrow, etc.).
Jung liked to form the collective parts into a whole to get a complete picture, and this preference is what separated him most strongly from Freud, who liked to break down components into their smallest possible parts. The concept was that whatever you dreamed about revealed a little something about who you were, how you interacted with other people, as well as what you were going through in your life at the time of the dream.
2. Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
Through dream interpretation, a person can better understand themselves and go further in their journey for personal growth. Jung did a lot of work with the collective unconscious and the mind’s use of archetypes. According to Jung, there are several archetypes that have the same meaning no matter the individual’s country, background, religion, culture, or gender. This phenomenon is known as the collective unconscious, and the archetypes that make up the collective unconscious include the persona, the shadow, the anima/animus, the divine child, the wiseman/woman, the great mother, and the trickster.
Let’s take a closer look:
The Persona is the Self that you present to the outside: the ‘mask’ that you wear in public. In dreams, the physical appearance or behavior of the Self may differ from what you’re used to, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is you. Think of the dreams that you have probably had when you’ve changed gender, age, or even species, but you were still aware of who you were, no matter what you looked like to the ‘outside world’ in the dream. That’s the Persona.
The Shadow archetype is the ‘bad guy’ in the dream: the monster, the murderer, the stalker, the bully or pursuer, etc. Sometimes they appear as a close friend or relative, but either way, their purpose doesn’t change, even if their role does. The Shadow is a representation of the Counterego. It is the rejected aspects of your character that you have yet to face because these parts of yourself make you angry or afraid. Facing the shadow, and understanding what it is trying to show you, often brings you that much closer to an understanding of Self.
The Anima and Animus are the female and male parts of your character. Everyone has qualities that are either masculine or feminine and some have gender changes in dreams. Coming into contact with a super-girly or super-manly character is just your dream’s way of explaining to you how well you can combine both qualities within yourself. Masculine qualities usually refer to assertiveness while the female part dictates more emotional or sensitive responses. Either way, these two archetypes help you keep the balance by reminding you of when you’re letting one overrule the other.
The Divine Child is a look at yourself in its purest form. All of your vulnerabilities and weaknesses, combined with all of your potential and ambitions: your inner child. When dreaming, you’ll recognize this figure by its youth.
The wise older woman or man is your guide or helper. They are usually seen as some type of older authority figure, full of wisdom, comfort, and good advice.
The Great Mother nurtures you. Positively, they’ll be seen as your mother, grandmother, older friend, or any other female who would take care of you. Negatively, they could appear as a representative of dominance, seduction, or death.
The last archetype, the Trickster, is the one who keeps you from taking life too seriously. When you find yourself over-thinking or over-worrying about a situation, the trickster can appear to embarrass you by showing you (in the most direct way possible) your vulnerabilities and fears. Think “naked in front of the classroom” dreams and then think of the jerk or moment that makes you realize the fact that you’re naked, and you have a pretty standard example.
Archetype dreams are dreams that are often considered mythic or prophetic in nature. They teach you something about yourself or your life, and while Jung may be integral in giving you the tools to interpret such dreams, in no way does he have a set method for doing that interpretation. According to Carl Jung, a dream is a personal matter and the only person who can truly understand what it means is the person who experiences it.
- C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, edited by William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978)
- C.G. Jung, Collected Works (ISBN 0-7100-1640-9)
- C.G. Jung, Gerhard Adler, R. F.C. Hull, Psychological Types (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1) (ISBN 9780691018331)
- C.G. Jung, Gerhard Adler, R. F.C. Hull, The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1) (ISBN 9780691018331)
- C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, R. F. C. Hull The Portable Jung (Portable Library) (ISBN 9780140150704)
- C.G. Jung, Jung to Live by (ISBN 9780446392945)
- C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols (9780440351832)
- C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Clara Winston, Richard Winston (ISBN 9780679723950)
- C.G. Jung, Meredith Sabini, The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life (ISBN 9781556433795)
- C.G. Jung, On The Psychology & Pathology of the So-Called Occult Phenomena (PDF)
- C.G. Jung, Psychology and Religion (The Vail-Ballou Press) (ISBN 030000171)
- C.G. Jung, The Association Method by CG Jung (PDF)
- C.G. Jung, The Red Book. (W. W. Norton & Company) (ISBN 9780393065671)
- C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self (ISBN 9780451217325)
- C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self: The Problem of the Individual in Modern Society (New American Library) (ISBN 0451218604)
- C.G. Jung, W. S. Dell, Cary F. Baynes, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Harvest Book) (ISBN 9780156612067)
- Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings (ISBN 9781585427925)
- Robin Robertson, The Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology (ISBN 9780892540228)