Spiritual and Unconscious Discoveries
Although one of Freud’s most avid followers of the psychoanalytic perspective, Carl Jung (1875-1961) deviated from Freud in his understanding of the overall importance of interpreting dreams. Where Freud thought that dreams were a way of revealing the unconscious, Jung thought that this could be obtained simply by way of free- association, and that dreams could reveal something deeper and more spiritual (Jacobi, 1973).
Jung believed in approaching the context of the dream in two ways, subjective and objectively. By analyzing things objectively, representations can be viewed at a literal level. For instance, a lit candle will be viewed as a lit candle. Subjectively, the context of the dream is represented in different aspects of the dreamers personality(Jacobi, 1973). So, the candle is the previous example could now be interpreted as a symbol of conflict that you are experiencing at an unconscious level.
Symbols are a very important aspect of Jungian psychology. Jung declared that along with a personal conscious that is devoted to your personal experiences, we also all posses a “collective unconscious”, in which Archetypes are universal symbols that mean the same thing for everyone (Jung, 1948)
A classic example of an Jungian Archetype is the Anima/ Animus (female/ male) qualities of a person. Every person contains both qualities. In dreams, the anima might appear as an extremely feminine figure, and the animus will appear as a highly masculine figure. Jung would acknowledge these presentations as a lesson to acknowledge your assertive or emotional side, respectively.
Another important archetype that is present in dreams is the “shadow”. The shadow is a projection (defense mechanism developed by Anna Freud) of a weakness that you posses, viewed as a deficiency in someone else. In dreams, this could be viewed a literal person containing the qualities about ourself that we are ashamed of. Archetypal dreams might come to an individual at a very transitional period of their life (Jacobi, 1973).
For symbols, he also uses two approaches of interpretation: causal approach & final approach. A causal approach takes the symbol and breaks in down to its fundamental qualities. For example, a snake could be a symbol for a penis because of its shape. A final approach goes even further to understanding the meaning of the symbol by analyzing the qualities to understand why they are related. So, according to this theory, the reason you are seeing a snake in your dream is because you might view a penis as slimy, sneaky, and potential venomous (Jung, 1953).
Although there are archetypes of the collective unconscious, the personal experiences of each individual is also important when analyzing a symbol in a dream. He believed that dreams had their own language, just like the unconscious, and it was ridiculous to not pay attention to the signs presented to us, as we wouldn’t ignore our conscious states(Jung, 1964).
“The dream is often occupied with apparently very silly details, thus producing an impression of absurdity, or else it is on the surface so unintelligible as to leave us thoroughly bewildered. Hence we always have to overcome a certain resistance before we can seriously set about disentangling the intricate web through patient work. But when at last we penetrate to its real meaning, we find ourselves deep in the dreamer’s secrets and discover with astonishment that an apparently quite senseless dream is in the highest degree significant, and that in reality it speaks only of important and serious matters. This discovery compels rather more respect for the so-called superstition that dreams have a meaning, to which the rationalistic temper of our age has hitherto given short shrift.” (Jung,1953, pg. 24)