In the modern psychology classroom, dreams, if they are discussed, at all, represent neurological activity in the brain signaled by rapid eye movement. But a century ago when Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961) worked under Sigmund Freud as an early protégée, dreams were considered key to understanding inner conflict.
Eventually Freud and Jung’s theories diverged. Freud’s theories focused on the inner struggle created by early life events and possessed a strong sexual nature, while Jung’s understanding was based on archetypes. or symbols that were universal. Jung believed these symbols or archetypes were repeated throughout human history in myths. Rather than seeing the psyche as a battlefield between id, ego, superego, Jung believed the psyche struggled with growth of the personality which Jung called ‘individuation.” Like Freud, Jung saw evidence of his theories regarding the personality in dream symbols.
Jung, Archetypes, and the Collective Unconscious
Jung noted that various personae populated dreams – old women, young men, dark sinister characters, infants. To Jung, each of these personae or archetypes represented a part of one’s self. Jung was a student of history and myth. Jung believed these symbols were shared by all humanity as a part of the collective unconscious.
Symbols such as the mother, the dragon, or the old man traveling with the young girl, have meaning across cultures and appear in folklore, delirium and dreams. A dragon requires slaying, indicating a struggle or need for heroic action, for instance. These unconscious ideas are primordial and are part of each human’s unconscious. For Jung, people possess both a personal unconscious that is tied to individual experiences and associations as well as the shared, collective unconscious. To understand a dream, both types of unconscious need to be investigated.
In his memoir Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, Jung interprets several of his own dreams for the reader. Leathery dwarfs, fallen warriors, scarabs, and other symbols that surely did not come from Jung’s work a day world are examined and explained in terms of Jung’s psychic struggles.
Jung’s The Red Book and The Tower
Throughout his life, Jung wrote and drew in a personal journal, exorcising his own demons and investigating his own symbology. This book, called “The Red Book” was long kept in a vault. This book was reproduced and published in 2009 and is published by a company known for quality textbooks.
Similarly, throughout his life, Jung worked on the building of what he called “The Tower” on a piece of land on Lake Zurich. Jung saw the tower as an outward expression of his inner individuation. It grew from a simple round tower with a central hearth to a two story home with a private fenced area.
Carl Gustave Jung saw dreams as vehicles containing symbols and images of an internal struggle for individuation, or becoming truly one’s self. These symbols, or archetypes, can be found in myths throughout the world. Jung saw great meaning in dreams that went beyond mere psychosexual struggles. Jung sought to give physical expression to his own dream journey in The Red Book and in the building of his tower.
A version of this article was originally published on Suite 101.com.
Hannah, B. Jung, His Life and Work, a Biographical Memoir. New York; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1976.
Here Be Dreams accessed October 21, 2012.
Jung, C. Memories, Dreams and Reflections. New York; Random House, 1963.
Jung, C. The Red Book. New York; W.W. Norton and Co., 2009.