“A dream that is not understood remains a mere occurrence; understood, it becomes a living experience.” ~ Carl Jung
We all have several dreams each night, although we do not always remember them and sometimes we may wake up thinking we haven’t dreamt at all. We dream during the REM phase of sleep and our dreams allow us to travel through time, space, and distance.
Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung, who was once a student of Sigmund Freud, based many of his ideas and theories on the foundation of Freud’s teachings, though the two parted ways when Jung deviated from Freud’s concepts. The main difference between the two great thinkers was that Jung, unlike Freud, believed the unconscious mind is not animalistic in nature, in that our individual primordial behaviors are not driven by instinct, sex or violence.
I believe, similarly to Jung, that our dreams are our suppressed, denied, forgotten or rejected emotions, feelings or memories that resurface during our sleeping state to offer advice and a deeper understanding of our waking life. He referred to the aspects of our hidden self that we do not acknowledge as our “shadow” and this is what contains our unconscious thoughts, feelings, intentions, motivations, emotions, instincts, desires and beliefs.
When we sleep our conscious mind is resting, so our unpleasant or unwelcome experiences feel safe to float around without any interference, particularly from our ego.
Jung referred to dreams as “psychic activity” and felt that when they are analyzed through deep thought or meditation we could become aware and acquainted with our unresolved or unhealed wounds and also place their relevance in our daily life. This helps us gain the knowledge and insight necessary to discover our individual purpose and reach our full potential.
Any emotional injuries that have not been fully acknowledged will express themselves in an amplified life-like performance that is played out on a realistic stage hosted by our unconscious mind. What is taking place in our mind as we dream can feel more real, and influence us far more, than any of our wakened state experiences.
Our dreams not only display any issues we have in our personal lives, but also those relating to any conflicts in our external environment.
When we dream, Jung explained that our conscious mind communicates with us by delivering messages direct to the conscious mind, so that we can reach individuation, which means to become fully aware of our self by integrating the conscious and unconscious mind.
The messages our unconscious mind relays relate to whatever is stored and hidden there. The information contained in these messages is not easily accessible when we are awake. Basically, we cannot easily retrieve the data stored in our unconscious mind, so dreams offer the opportunity to view the data so that we can achieve inner peace, balance and harmony and achieve self-growth and self-realization, which propel us towards our unique higher purpose.
“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego consciousness extends.” ~ Carl Jung
Jung explained that dreams reveal vital information that exposes our authentic emotions and feelings that are often concealed from our conscious mind. Although many different characters can appear in our dreams, Jung believed that every character is a different aspect of our unacknowledged self or a prevalent situation in our life. For example, if we dream of our mother, the mother is just a representation of our own maternal instincts or how we perceive a maternal figure, or if we dream of something that scares us, whatever it is in our dream is a reflection of a part of our self that terrifies us or something we are afraid of.
When we are exploring our dreams, the reason we should treat attributes of them individually, and not feel swayed by what we hear or read about in standard interpretation guides, is that our dreams are unique to us and our own situations and conditions because each entity in them is attributed to our own personal beliefs or attachments. This means, if two people have a dream that has a mother figure in it, both dreams must be interpreted differently as the two people who were dreaming hold different images and perceptions of the meaning of a mother figure.
Before we look at anything that appears in our dreams, we must first take a look at where it fits in the bigger picture in our lives. Our dreams will be relaying cryptic messages and, although a psychotherapist can help us decode them, only we will ever know the true meaning behind anything that occurs in them. It can take us some time to strip away all the layers so that we can see the truth in the story that unraveled while we slept. When we wake we should discern, dissect and interrogate all the details we remember so they can be pieced together and held against the backdrop of all our previous experiences and the current happenings in our lives. We can then see where they fit in to how we currently feel and perceive things in our daily life.
Our interpretation of our dreams can be biased, as we are far more likely to accept a message that aligns to what we would like to be true, or what we believe to be true, rather than the actual reality. Our beliefs are not always trustworthy, as we can believe things due to conditioning or misinterpretations or irrational understandings. Therefore, we should try to look at our dreams objectively, before we then look at them from a personal angle.
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ Carl Jung
Before we automatically accept or reject any dream-state messages we should analyze the activity that occurred in them in fine detail. One way to do this is through meditation. When we slow down our conscious mind we gain access to an enhanced state of awareness.
The dreams that we should pay the most attention to are the ones that are more vivid and have a lasting effect on us. These are the ones that usually occur during significant phases of our life or transitional periods. When we wake up unable to shake off the sensations that arose during a dream it is because the feelings that surfaced are ones that need further investigation.
When dreaming we may recall a forgotten memory and replay it through our dreams. This gives us the opportunity to confront any underlying issues surrounding it so that we can resolve any conflict that may be lingering.
In our current lives we may be regularly triggered by past experiences and whatever is triggering us may have happened so long ago that it is difficult to trace the root cause of the problem and reassess it with a rational mind so that we can make sense of it. If we do not recognize these past experiences that are exposed in our dreams, they will present themselves to us again (and sometimes repeatedly) until we identify what we need to be learning from them.
This link provides a guide to our dreams, although, whatever shows up in our dreams should be looked at in relation to whatever is going on currently, or whatever has taken place previously, in our daily lives and relationships. We should not accept the explanation of our dreams on one symbol or image alone. We should always look at where it sits in context to the larger, overall picture of our accumulated experiences so far. We should also remember that when decoding our dreams there is no specific right or wrong answer.
When we look at our dreams with an open mind and without our emotions clouding our judgment, whatever conclusion resonates the strongest with our intuitive feelings, is often closest to the reality.
To look into Jung’s understanding of dreams further, we can also look at the archetypes he created, which represent our patterns of behavior, motivations and perceptions. The archetypes he describes appear in our dreams as a character or object that symbolizes an aspect of our innate personality.
These archetypes are: The Innocent, The Orphan/Regular Male or Female, The Hero, The Caregiver, The Explorer, The Lover, The Creator, The Jester, The Sage, The Magician and The Ruler—and they hold the same universal meaning for both men and women.
When we keep a diary of our dreams we can use it to reference back and unlock the hidden, deeper meaning to them, as well as observe any reoccurring cycles.
Writing: Alex Myles
Main Image pixabay LeandroDeCarvalho