Dream Analysis Essay, Research Paper
Based on: Modern Man In Search Of A Soul
In his book, Modern Man In Search Of A Soul, C.G. Jung gives a layperson insight into his ideas on dream analysis. Jung’s primary objective in this book is to educate the reader as to what a psychoanalyst does when analyzing a patient’s dreams. The principal message in the section of the book centered on dream analysis is that dreams should never stand alone. Dreams are meaningless in a vacuum, but on the other hand when put against a strict set of rules, they are oftentimes misunderstood. The unconscious is a fluid entity and cannot be handled either in isolation or with a static set of guidelines. Dreams are reflections of the unconscious and can represent many different things inside of a person. Modern Man In Search Of A Soul describes the techniques of dream analysis that a psychoanalyst following Jung’s ideas would ideally follow.
In the time when Modern Man In Search Of A Soul was written, 1931, many psychiatrists did not believe in the unconscious. Jung says that the unconscious exists and that without it dreams would be “merely a freak of nature”. Without the unconscious the dream would simply be a group of memory fragments assembled in a strange order. With the unconscious dreams represent a window into the inner thoughts which are causally related to neuroses and are therefore important in a patients treatment. Apart from the therapeutic implications of this hypothesis, it can lead to scientific insight into psychic causality. Therapists who are interested in the scientific aspects of dream analysis will find that their scientific understandings are therapeutic and will most likely share them to gain insight on the present neurosis.
During the course of an analysis, which may last many months, dreams often become deluded and make less sense. This is because a relationship will develop and the analyst’s interpretations are clouded by their previous judgements of the person. This does not allow for any change in the patient’s inevitable movement from their initial state to their cured state. If dreams remain clear and understandable throughout an analysis, then the therapist has yet to touch on an important aspect of the patient’s neurosis.
Serving to influence the interpretations of dreams is very commonly the type of relationship between therapist and patient. Jung gives an example of the initial dreams of a patient obviously representing her feelings towards her therapists. Each time she would find a new therapist she would be driven away. Her dreams would be more and more open with different therapists until she reached Jung and her initial dreams embraced him and they subsequently had a productive analysis. The cause of this patient’s neurosis came to light later, but was in no way present in her initial dreams. Dreams can often be anticipatory and are misleading if looked at in merely causalistic ways.
When a doctor understands a patient completely and the patient seems to have no understanding of himself, an analyst will frequently accuse the patient of resistance. It is recommended that if an analyst holds all of the understanding, then he should stress where he lacks understanding of the patient. Even if an analyst comes to a sound conclusion of the meaning of a dream, but the patient is reluctant to agree, the therapist should not push this understanding on the patient. In this case the analyst should work with the patient to come to a mutually gratifying conclusion. This will result in an understanding not only in the brain, as in the first case, but also in the heart which will eventually help cure the patient of his neurosis.
Analysts who derive their interpretations of dreams on preconceived notions or a one-sided theory and then proceed to push these interpretations onto their patients have to do so by suggestion. Suggestion is a valuable tool for short-term small fixes. When an analyst uses suggestion as the basis of the analysis it becomes a volatile situation. Suggestion rests very much on the patient’s own ability to understand, and in some cases the patient’s lack of understanding can lead to disastrous results. Even if the suggestion is successful, it is still a makeshift solution. The patient may understand the analysis consciously, but in their core they still do not understand. It is like creating a building around a volcano, the building looks strong, but the interior can explode and destroy the building at any moment.
Dreams occur in our unconscious state, which is where we spend about half of our lives. So to ignore dreams or pass them off as unhelpful is an obvious oversight of the reality of human existence. The conscious state is “characterized by concentration, limitation, and exclusion.” This is the reason why analysts should not pare down the meaning of a dream to the confines of a narrow dogma. At the same time to leave dreams to their own individual interpretation would be ignorant. There are certain archetypes that appear in dreams representing ideas, fears, anxieties, etc. There are dreams that are unintelligible to doctor and patient alike, but in a perfect world all dreams have some meaning within the patient’s unconscious.
Obscure dreams are very difficult to interpret. Free association, as prescribed by Freudian analysis is not usually very helpful. Most patients, in their desire to understand their dreams, have already come to conclusions of the meaning of aspects of the dream. This will cloud and distort the free association attempt and direct the analysis in the wrong direction. Freud speaks of a “dream-fa ade” which refers to the idea that a dream is a fa ade of the unconscious. A fa ade of a house often reveals what the layout of the house is, and is limited by it as well. Instead of a false front, the dream should be looked at like an obscure text where it is unintelligible only because of our lack of understanding. Free associations uncover the patient’s complexes, but have little or nothing to do with a dream.
Dreams can sometimes be very palpable premonitions. Jung brings in an example of a friend of his who found Jung’s preoccupation with dreams comical. This man, for fun, brought a dream to Jung to see what he had to say. This man dreams of climbing a mountain and feeling so exhilarated that he keeps climbing into the air above the mountain. Jung advises the man not to go climbing in the future without guides. Two months later the man went climbing without guides and fell to his death. Dreams are never negligible occurrences. However nonsensical dreams are, they are only nonsensical because we are too ignorant to understand them. No person in their right mind would doubt the importance of the conscious life, so why would they doubt the importance of the unconscious?
The psyche is a living system in the same way as the body is and our environment. All large actions are usually met by a compensation to maintain equilibrium. In our body this is necessary to maintain a normal metabolism, in nature it creates the oxygen we breathe, and in our psyche it allows for sanity. In a person’s psyche there is constant compensation to maintain equilibrium. Too much on one side results in too little on the other. The fundamental relationship between conscious and unconscious is compensatory. This greatly helps in dream analysis. Dreams should be seen as actions that actually happen to us. To repress these actions would bring our mind to a one-sided conscious outlook which would only promote unconscious compensation that occurred in the first place. Dreams are in effect a form of unconscious self-regulation.
One main cause of neuroses is the repression of the unconscious. Repressing the unconscious can result in very explosive ends. A common question asked be analysts before trying to interpret a dream is: what conscious attitude does the dream compensate? Only in the light of the conscious situation can a dream be interpreted. The relation between consciousness and dream is completely causal. Dreams can inform a person of their limiting situation in life as well as if their situation is uncomfortable. The dream world interacts very subtly with the conscious situation in which a person lives.
The Freudian school of thought operates with steadfast symbols that all represent the same thing from patient to patient. Most of these symbols are sexual. Freud’s description of sexuality is so vague, ranging from “the physiological activity of the glands at one extreme and the highest reaches of the spirit at the other.” Freud’s symbols are then very flexible at the same time. Symbols such as the phallic symbol is supposed to have a somewhat fixed meaning in conscious life, but in a dream there can be many different meanings. There are archetypes in a dream such as the mother symbol that represent primitive emotions or ideas that when put together with conscious life and the situations surrounding the dream can create an understanding that is effective.
Dreams can sometimes bring out more than simply neuroses. Sometimes, with the help of a more specialized medical doctor, an analyst can find a physical problem in a person through the interpretations of their dreams. An example is given of a girl that two doctors disagree on. One says she is in the onset of a fatal muscular disease, while the other claims that she is a hysteric and the disease is psychosomatic. This girl is sent to Jung and he hears her dreams. One dream has the girl’s mother die, while the other dream has a horse die. Jung goes through a series of discussions and figures out the archetypal meanings of “horse” and “mother”. He decides that they represent the “animal body,” and the dreams signify the death of the animal body. He concludes that the girl is suffering from a fatal illness and is unfortunately proven correct several months later. This shows how the unconscious has an insight not only into our mental being but also into our physical being.
In the bible, the book of genesis, Jacob’s son Joseph becomes the dream interpreter for the pharaoh of Egypt after being sold into servitude. He is in the jail with a baker and a wine maker. Each had dreams and asked Joseph to interpret them. The wine maker told his dream to Joseph as follows: “In my dream, there was a vine in front of me. On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters blossomed into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Also the baker had a dream that he told as follows: “In my dream, similarly, there were three openwork baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of food for a Pharaoh that a baker prepares; and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.”
Joseph interpreted both of these dreams. The interpretations are of a somewhat mystical meaning. This is because in these ancient times dreams were thought to be direct signs from divinity exposing their intent. Operating on this assumption, Joseph performed interpretations fitting with Jung’s ideas.
The wine maker’s dream, Joseph interpreted, meant that in three days he would be released and pardoned by the Pharaoh. Subsequently he would be restored to his post as cupbearer. Joseph saw this dream in the conscious context and could manipulate it in a fluid manner. He saw that wine and its production was the primary force in this man’s life. Thus the three branches were what would grow in three days, signifying a release in three days. Using the fruit of the release, he would create wine for the Pharaoh. This meant that with his release he would once again hold the Pharaoh’s cup and be restored to his position. This fits with Jung’s model for interpretation.
The baker’s dream, as interpreted by Joseph, lead to a very different end. The dream meant that in three days the Pharaoh would behead the baker and put his head on a pole for the birds to eat. Following Jung’s theory, the three baskets were what could be made for the Pharaoh in three days. The baking was the life of the baker, and thus having the birds eat his baking was, through the interpretation on the archetypal bird, was the ending of his life. The exactness of Joseph’s interpretations were due mainly to the mystical nature of the Bible.