The Amplification Method

This is an approach suggested by Carl Jung. In essence it is to honour what the dream states. In the dream example below David is sleeping on a mattress, but it could have been a bed or a hammock, or even a sleeping bag. So why a mattress and why in the garden, and why not alone? Having noted the specifics of our dream, we then amplify what we know about them. We ask ourselves such questions as ‘What connections do I have with a mattress? What does sleeping on a mattress on the floor mean? Have I ever done it? When? Why? Where? In what circumstances? Does it represent some condition?’ Thus we bring out as much information as we can about each dream specific. This includes memories, associated ideas, recent events, anything relevant.

Example: ‘I am sleeping rough in a garden with a woman I do not love. I think I should try to make the best of the situation, but my feelings against it are too strong. Then I decide I don’t ever want to live like that again and tear up the mattress we slept on. As I do this I realise, as if waking from amnesia, that Pat lives just across the road. She has specially moved there because of our love. I realise with horror I had forgotten and may have lost her.’ David H.

One of Carl Jung’s favourite questions in using amplification was to get to the very basic level by asking, ‘Suppose I had no idea what the word mattress (or whatever the dream symbol) meant, describe the thing to me in such a way I cannot fail to understand what it is.’ In response to this one might say that a mattress is something used to soften or cushion the contact between our body and the floor while we rest or sleep. It’s size might indicate whether it were used by one or two people, so might suggest relationship. In continuing the amplification using the questions suggested (when? why? where? what? how? who with? etc.) ones connections, feeling and conceptions of the symbol are slowly unfolded. In the case of David, he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in his present relationship. But he realised from the dream that he had slipped back into attitudes which damaged his prior relationship, so might very well damage the present one.

P. W. Martin emphasises it is amplification not free association which is sought. Free association may lead to other ideas and feelings not directly connected to the dream specifics. Amplification honours the precise expression of the dream and attempts to uncover out of what memories, feelings, insight or experience the dreamer has formed or created the dream. Therefore the message of the unique dream is found.

If David had used free association with the dream, starting with the word ‘mattress’, it might have gone on to – duvet, shop, money, bank, overdraft, work, boss. As such it could end in a completely different series of realisations than the mattress and its direct associations. In using amplification, after moving out from the central symbol to find its associations, one then comes back to the symbol again to check for relevance with the dream theme. If one did not do this, one could simply start from any word and explore associations. The inward inclinations of the person doing the word association would lead to issues that are on their mind or deeply felt, but it would not throw light on the specific dream.

If a professional analyst is working with the dreamer, he or she may help the dreamer amplify the dream in other ways too. For instance the dream of David’s which included a mattress and a love affair, may have been preceded by other dreams with the same objects or themes. If so what might be understood by a comparison? When a dream is honoured specifically, there are often parts of it which not only state what a life situation is, but also comment on it. David’s dream once more exemplifies this. Not only does it illustrate his attitudes in the present relationship, but points out the love displayed toward him which he had forgotten. The dream specifically points to the lapse of awareness as leading to the attitudes of living without love. In other words David has forgotten how much love his partner has displayed in actually coming to live with him. In forgetting this aspect of their relationship he lapses back into old attitudes. In this second phase of amplification, the dreamer would also be helped to see their dream in the light of its social implications. Therefore an Asian dreamer might have different cultural responses to situations than a European. David daily life, for instance, included sleeping on the floor on a mattress. If it had not the dream would have signified something different, perhaps a sense of impoverishment.

A professional analyst would also help the dreamer realise any connections existing between their dream and similar themes in mythology, fairy tales and religious practices or beliefs. Jung would often use active imagination after the amplification, to further explore the dream. See: active imagination; association of ideas with dream; assisted passage; postures movement and body language; processing dreams; word analysis of dreams; settings.


-Doug 2014-12-16 12:34:36

Thanks! This clarifies the difference between free association and dream amplification very clearly.

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