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Carl Jung

Jung, Carl 1875-1961 Son of a pastor; his paternal grandfather and great grandfather were physicians. Took a degree in medicine at University of Basle, then specialised in psychiatry. In early papers he pioneered the use of word-association, and influenced research into the toxin hypothesis regarding schizophrenia.

Jung’s addition to modern therapeutic attitudes to dream work arose out of his difference of view with Freud regarding human life. Jung felt life is a meaningful experience, with spiritual roots. His interest in alchemy, myths and legends, added to the wealth of ideas he brought to his concept of the collective unconscious. The subject of symbols fascinated him and he devoted more work to this than any other psychologist. He saw dream symbols not as an attempt to veil or hide inner content, but an attempt to elucidate and express it. He saw dreams as a way of transformation where what was formless, non verbal and unconscious moves towards form and becoming known. In this way dreams ‘show us the unvarnished natural truth.’ By giving attention to our dreams we are throwing light upon who and what we really are – not simply who we are as a personality, but who we are as a phenomena of cosmic interactions.

Jung recommended looking at a series of ones dreams in order to develop a fuller insight into self. In this way one would see certain themes arising again and again. Out of these we can begin to see where we are not balancing the different aspects of ourselves.

Jung felt that human life is meaningful and has its roots in a transcendent reality. In this and other ways he differed from Freud who was at first a collaborative colleague. Jung did not, as Freud, see the unconscious as a storehouse only of repressed infantile and unsocialised urges. It was a place of mystery and life. It included not only the widest storehouse of personal and family experience, but it stretched beyond this, linking each of us with a collective experience of life. This ‘collective unconscious’ Jung said, holds within itself the merged experience of all that has lived.

Also from the unconscious arose what Jung called the influence of the Self. He defined the Self as the whole of the person, as distinct from the narrow focus of self we know in our daily life. For example if you could have a sense of all your memories rather than simply what is relevant to the moment, you would have a different view of all you did. Jung described this as similar to a ball with a small black circle drawn on it. The small black circle is our normal waking awareness, the ball is the Self.

From the Self – a more total awareness – arises what Jung called the ‘transforming influence’. Our sense of wholeness, however unconscious it may be, leads us toward becoming more inclusive of our total potential. Jung taught that part of our wholeness is an awareness of being an intrinsic and unseparated part of the universe. Dreams are often an expression or a reflection of the Self. As such they are self-regulatory and can lead to what Jung called individuation. This is an attainment of your own personal identity beyond the sense of self you arrive at from such things as class, role, gender, economic situation and physical appearance.

Jung was a psychiatrist working with and training a great number of people. A major emphasis of his work was on dreams. His approach was quite different to Freud. The major points are:

  • The dream was seen as a source of information, not as an attempt to disguise meaning as Freud thought.
  • Because he honoured the wisdom of the unconscious Jung was intent on unfolding what the drama and structure of the dream held in it. He did not lead away from the dream with associations. However he did add his own insights to what the dreamer might discover.
  • Jung encouraged people to explore a dream using active imagination, a way of honouring personal fantasy. He also suggested allowing the body to fantasise.[i] He wrote that fantasy is necessary because the conscious mind has no idea, no experience of what is held within unconsciously. Not only might you find the pain of past trauma, but also what Jung called the ‘dark possibilities’ – the unknown potential. You have to ‘let go’ of your consciously held convictions in order to let the voice and experience of the unconscious speak – to allow more of yourself to be lived.
  • To help a person discover their associations with something in their dream Jung would stick with the dream setting and format, not encourage associations that led away.
  • If the dreamer found difficulty in arriving at an association, Jung would ask them to describe the symbol in their own words, as if Jung knew nothing about it. Therefore, if you dreamt of a table, you might say something like, ‘It is a thing usually made of wood and having four supports. Upon these a flat surface is fixed, so that you can place objects, food, books, etc., on it at a level nearer your hands or mouth.’
  • Use of the term the Self was Jung’s way of bringing the transcendent dimension into his work. This was something Freud never did. Later, in approaches like Psycho-Synthesis this approach to psychological growth and healing was extended, and is now frequently met under the name Trans-personal.

 


[i] Jung wrote that the conscious self raises prolific objections to becoming aware of unconscious experiences. It appears intent on blotting out spontaneous fantasy that might reveal something other than its own cherished defences and beliefs. It often takes firm determination to allow unconscious content. “In most cases the results of these efforts are not very encouraging at first. Moreover, the way of getting at the fantasies is individually different… oftentimes the hands alone can fantasy; they model or draw figures that are quite foreign to the conscious.” From Commentary in Secret Of The Golden Flower by Richard Wilhelm, commentary by Carl Jung. Published by Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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