“The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche.” Carl G. Jung
Where do dreams come from?
Let’s start with the idea that our total being or psyche is composed of both conscious and unconscious parts. The conscious parts are that which we are aware of and know about. These include our routines, decisions, actions, relationships, urges and feelings. This is where Ego—the ‘I’ lives. Unconscious parts of our self are those which are unknown to us. For the most part, the Self and the Shadow are found in the unconscious (discussed later).
Fortunately, we get glimpses of unconscious material through night dreams, day fantasies, by intense emotions, through body gestures, body symptoms and with those wondrous ‘aha’ moments (i.e. in nature, viewing art, reading a passage that moves us, being lost in creative expression). How does psyche prefer to talk to you?
Notice how the unconscious is revealed—through the language of images. It speaks from more emotional, body-based, hidden and symbolic material. According to Carl Jung, the soul or psyche spontaneously and purposely makes emotional-laden images.
Why pay attention to unconscious material? After all, it’s “just a dream.”
We are for the most part born whole, with great potential. However, very early in life we learned which parts of our Self were designated “not good” and were subsequently suppressed into the unconscious. This wounding may come from abuse, trauma or from merely living a life ruled by “shoulds” and “musts.” Jung felt that when one is cut off from these parts of our Self dis-ease and other symptoms (i.e. addictions, depression) appear.
However, to live a more conscious and enriched life, we need to incorporate unconscious material into our outer life. As we explore associations and feelings around dream images, we take an honest, often humbling look at our “otherness”—at qualities of our Self that have been exiled into the Shadow. The psyche chooses qualities of our Self that need to be incorporated in order to create balance or to downplay overused, no longer needed attitudes and behaviours. There may be qualities of our Self that are difficult to admit we have (i.e. greed, perfectionism, feeling unloved or scared) yet, they are a part of every person. Additionally, the unconscious also reveals treasures—desirable abilities long chased into the darkness, waiting to safely emerge.
The task is to integrate these previously unknown qualities into your consciousness or awareness. Dreams can be viewed as a mediator between inner and outer worlds and act as a self-regulating and compensatory function. They offer helpful and profound insights about how you are dealing with current situations in order for personal growth to occur. You begin to make decisions and interact with others in ways which rely less upon conventional attitudes and in a more conscious way.
How to begin working with your dreams?
Approach dreams with respect. An attitude of curiosity, mystery, and patience is held versus wanting to find answers. When dream images come, honour them, show gratitude, accept them, hold them sacred, remember them, write them down, look forward to them and encourage more.
Dreams are one way to find out about our true Self and as Depth Psychologist James Hillman stated, “A dream tells you where you are, not what to do.”
Diane Hancox, M.A. CCC, is a certified psychotherapist in Parksville offering Jungian-based therapy, groups and workshops.