Dreams by C.G Jung
A Review by David Edwards
This collected work of Jung’s writings on dreams, provides an in depth look at
the workings of the unconscious aspect of the human psyche, and in turn the
psyche as a whole. As most human beings spend nearly half of their lives
sleeping, it is quite clear that dreams provide an important role in the overall
workings of the human mind. The Freudian school of psychoanalysis
provided a very simplified investigation as to the significance of dreams,
frequently labelling much of the symbolism encountered in the non-waking
state as repressed wish-fulfilment. This seems like an oversimplified
approach to the unconscious. Jungian psychoanalysis attached far greater
importance to dreams, and that they can reveal a great deal about the
psychological and physical state of the dreamer, as well as providing a
window into the operations of the collective consciousness of humanity:
“… The dream does in fact concern itself with both health and sickness, and
since, by virtue of its source in the unconscious, it draws upon a wealth of
subliminal perceptions, it can sometimes produce things that are worth
knowing. …”
“… Even though dreams refer to a definite psychic situation, their roots lie
deep in the unfathomably dark recesses of the conscious mind. For want of a
more descriptive term we call this unknown background the unconscious. We
do not know its nature in and for itself, but we observe certain effects from
whose qualities we venture certain conclusions in regard to the nature of the
unconscious psyche. Because dreams are the most common expression of
the unconscious psyche, they provide the bulk of the material for its
investigation. …”
“… The view that dreams are merely the imaginary fulfilments of repressed
wishes is hopelessly out of date. There are, it is true, dreams which
manifestly represent wishes or fears, but what about all the other
things? Dreams may contain ineluctable truths, philosophical
pronouncements, illusions, wild fantasies, memories, plans, anticipations,
irrational experiences, even telepathic visions, and heaven knows what
besides. … It is certain that the conscious mind consists not only of wishes
and fears, but of vastly more besides; and it is highly probable that our dream
psyche possesses a wealth of contents and living forms equal to or even
greater than those of the conscious mind, which is characterised by
concentration, limitation, and exclusion. …”
The latter part of the book provides a selection of a series dreams recorded
by a patient of Jung and his associates. These dreams and their subsequent
analysis provide a view of the process of individuation at work in the
unconscious aspect of the mind of the patient. Archetypal themes are present
in many of the dreams analysed, which can manifest universal problems in
each of our lives such as the zenith of one’s life in middle age:

“… The egoconscious personality is only a part of the whole man, and its life
does not yet represent his total life. The more he is merely ‘I’, the more he
splits himself off from the collective man, of whom he is also a part, and may
even find himself in opposition to him. But since everything living strives for
wholeness, the inevitable one-sidedness of our conscious life is continually
being corrected and compensated by the universal being in us, whose goal is
the ultimate integration of conscious and unconscious, or better, the
assimilation of the ego to a wider personality. …”
This compensation between unconscious and conscious can sometimes
manifest negatively, with the former overwhelming the latter. The result of an
imbalance such as this is a manifestation of neurosis or psychosis in the
personality. With either of these symptomatic states of being the individual
finds their reality overwhelmed by their delusions, and projects their fears onto
their external environment ultimately failing to distinguish between reality and
fantasy, or between conscious and unconscious processes. Dreams can act
as a means of bringing harmony to this delicate balance, although this is
never a quick process and usually will play itself out over a series of dreams
in successive steps through symbols and the deeper resonance associated
with them.
This process spontaneously expressing itself through symbolism is the
essence of what Jung referred to as the ‘
individuation process’, where the self
is made whole. He asserts that:
“… It is … possible [that] the motifs accompanying the individuation process
appear chiefly and pre-dominantly in a dream-series recorded under analysis,
whereas in ‘extra-analytical’ dream series they occur only at much greater
intervals of time. …”
Jung confesses that he does not have the data to reinforce this assertion, so
therefore it is not a definitive statement, but still carries weight even as an
assertion, as the logic here is that a trained dream analyst will be able to
extrapolate a better understanding for the patient which in turn will ignite the
archetypal patterns at play in the dream series.
Freud’s work displayed the assertion that the unconscious is a dangerous
monster, spawned from the primitive heart of humanity, and that treatment of
neurological and psychological disorders could only be approached from the
side of consciousness alone. Jung made the opposite assertion that such
disorders needed to be achieved by
‘thorough and conscious assimilation of
unconscious contents’.
Jung saw that the repression of the unconscious, and
indeed the whole attitude of demonising it as something which needed to be
repressed, was the instance where it could become dangerous and
overwhelm consciousness:
“… The psyche is a self-regulating system that maintains its equilibrium just as
the body does. Every process that goes too far immediately and inevitably
calls forth compensations, and without these there would be neither a normal

metabolism nor a normal psyche. In this sense we can take the theory of
compensation as a basic law of psychic behaviour. Too little on one side
results in too much on the other. Similarly, the relation between conscious
and unconscious is compensatory. This is one of the best proven rules of
dream interpretation. …”
Modern man is hardwired to view the unconscious aspect of the psyche as
something less real than the conscious side. This resistance between the two
and the subsequent reduction of validity with regards to the unconscious have
sprung from historical necessity in the evolution of the human psyche; without
this erosion of attitude towards the unconscious, the conscious mind would
never have been able to individuate itself. However, Jung asserts (and I am
inclined to agree) that modern man has strayed too far from the reality of the
unconscious. Due to the sinister correlation with insanity the unconscious
induces fearful panic in ‘civilised’ people, and as a result the intellect has no
problem with a rationalist analytical view of it as a passive object. Rather than
engage the unconscious as a reality and let it flow completely, the temptation
in Western culture is to ignore it and not seek any further understanding of the
problem. This adherence to the spirit of convention stems from the regulation
of our psychic lives by institutions and reason through the centuries; dogma,
whether religious or scientific, has offered protection against the intrusion of
the dangers of the unconscious. However, dogma does not last forever, and
even in religion the same archetypal patterns and symbols can be found at
play via the collective unconscious.
“… Religious symbols are phenomena of life, plain facts and not intellectual
opinions. If the Church clung for so long to the idea that the sun rotates
around the earth, and then abandoned this contention in the nineteenth
century, she can always appeal to the psychological truth that for millions of
people the sun did revolve round the earth and that it was only in the
nineteenth century that any major portion of mankind became sufficiently sure
of the intellectual function to grasp the proofs of the earth’s planetary
nature. Unfortunately there is no ‘truth’ unless there are people to understand
it. …”
“… even if the conscious mind is miles away from the ancient conceptions of
the rites of renewal, the unconscious still strives to bring them closer in
dreams. It is true that without the qualities of autonomy and autarky there
would be no consciousness at all, yet these qualities also spell the danger of
isolation and stagnation since, by splitting off from the unconscious, they bring
about an unbearable alienation of instinct. Loss of instinct is the source of
endless error and confusion. …”
“… significant dreams … are often remembered for a lifetime, and not
infrequently prove to be the richest jewel in the treasure-house of psychic
experience. … I have examined many such dreams, and often found in them a
peculiarity which distinguishes them from other dreams : they containing
symbolical images which we also come across in the mental history of
mankind. It is worth noting that the dreamer does not need to have any inkling
of the existence of such parallels. This peculiarity is characteristic of dreams
of the individuation process, where we find the mythological motifs or

mythologems I have designated as archetypes. These are to be understood
as specific forms and groups of images which occur not only at all times and
in all places but also in individual dreams, fantasies, visions, and delusional
ideas. Their frequent appearance in individual case material, as well as their
universal distribution, prove that the human psyche is unique and subjective
or personal only in part, and for the rest is collective and objective. …”
As human beings we are hardwired to perceive and recognise patterns and
stories within many aspects of our reality. With our dreams, we are presented
with a narrative directly from the unconscious, in many instances a shared
aspect of our psyche is revealed to us through our dreams. Through dream
analysis we are presented with an attempt by the conscious mind to
understand what these unconscious patterns and archetypal energies are
trying to tell us. Maybe if we can understand how they are weaving through
our unconscious reality better, we can understand how they are affecting the
waking dream of our conscious life.