This image above brings a few thoughts to mind – ‘as above so below’ – as in the reflection of the trunks of the trees and their branches and leaves in the stream. Perhaps the water is still for the moment and a little bit clogged from the fallen leaves. I am not sure if the water is stagnant or flowing, fresh or stale, spring or salt water. Have the trees been stripped of their leaves because of a storm? I am not sure how deep the water is. It is restful in its way. I like pondering on it. Sunlight is filtering through – and perhaps I can discern a ripple or two.

So it is with dreams –

It has happened to me a few times e.g. that as I was about to introduce two people to each other who I knew reasonably well, the name of one (or both) escaped me at that precise moment of introduction, even though I may been chatting to them previously and separately.

What happened here? I know what happened – that I knew their names but at that moment their names slipped into the unconscious. Or a thought that I had that was important to me in some way, cannot be recalled by me no matter how hard I try to access it. It is there somewhere in my unconscious and all I have to do is to retrieve it. I know it’s there.

I like what Marie Louise von Franz says about the unconscious.

The unconscious is all that which we know is psychically real but is not conscious. It’s a borderline concept, a negative concept. We use the negative concept in order not to have a prejudice.

‘…We prefer the word unconscious because it says nothing. It says only that it is not conscious, and this leaves it as a mystery. We don’t know what it is. We only know that there are psychic phenomena which manifest through dreams or through involuntary gestures or speech mistakes or hallucinations or fantasies which are not conscious.’*

Sigmund Freud was the first to coin the psychological phrase ‘dreams are the royal road to the unconscious’. This is like saying that we can know light only if we know dark. It is by way of the depths that we can reach the heights. Can we perhaps say that dreams are the royal road to consciousness? – on the understanding that it is only by becoming familiar with the unconscious that we can become more conscious?

C.G. Jung’s definition of the psyche includes both conscious and unconscious processes. Consciousness is like an island emerging from a vast expanse of sea of unconsciousness. At any one time we are aware of only a small part of this totality. Awareness is variable and although ‘...consciousness can potentially encompass the totality of the psyche, in practice it moves within a very circumscribed area or field due to its association with the ego’. (Faber and Saayman). ** The ego forms the central core of consciousness and needs to be firmly grounded therein. It is analogous to the beam of the torch which illuminates the darkness of night.

The unconscious is not inactive. Like our conscious mind, the unconscious inter alia‘is ceaselessly engaged in grouping and re-grouping its contents’. *** (Jung Vol 7). This indicates that there is a purpose and aim in the workings of the unconscious. Experiences that were once conscious and have become repressed or forgotten constitute the personal unconscious. This is essentially the repository of memories and is relatively accessible to consciousness, and dreams will initially, predominantly tap into this level of being.

But it is the bigger, deeper, greater reservoir of unconsciousness that we must somehow try to access. This is what Jung termed the collective unconscious. It lies ‘at a deeper level and is further removed from consciousness than the personal unconscious. The ‘big’ or ‘meaningful’ dreams come from this deeper level’. **** (Jung: On the Nature of Dreams).

Through the dream, we venture down into the depths to consciously reclaim some of he fertile ground of the unconscious.

The characters in the dream that we dislike the most give us valuable clues as to what we reject in ourselves. It is quite possible that many of the characters in our dream may be people who we like and admire. We also need to ask what of their qualities do we own that we do not admit?

One’s ego needs to be strong and have firm foundations to undergo the task of knowing one’s self better, and thereby also having an understanding of others. This is an important consideration. How can we pass judgement on any one thing or person when we do not know our own selves? Which means knowing our dark side as well.

Soul work.

Nothing is arbitrary.

* The Way of the Dream. Conversations on Jungian Dream Interpretation. Marie-Louise von Franz, Fraser Boa. Shambhala, Boston & London 1994

**Jung in Modern Perspective edited by Renos Papadopolous and Graham S Saayman. Wildwood House Ltd. 1984

***C.G. Jung: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology CW (Vol 7) translated by R.F.C. Hull. Meridian Books NY, 1956

****C.G. Jung: On the Nature of DReams in C.G. Jung, Collected Works Vol 8 2nd edition, Princeton University Press, 1972

22 Comments on – the home of the dream – the unconscious –

    • Patricia, that is so stunning thank you!!! Now to go and see if I can do this!
      You too have a great 2nd Advent Day this Sunday …

  1. Thank you for your comment Carol, much appreciated. Dreams always need MORE consideration … I am puzzling over a few recent dreams myself.
    I agree, both Patricia and Gwynn brought up important issues which I will continue to ponder.

  2. Deeply thoughtful and thought provoking. Makes me further consider my “awful” dream that I told you about. Thank you, Susan, and thank you for providing the references.

    And, Patricia — wow. You weren’t rambling. You said a lot, deeply meaningful in just a few words. Thank you, too. And thank you, Gwynn, for asking the questions.

  3. As always Susan, thank you for your thought provoking posting. Another point, that I frequently deal with in dreams is what I “don’t” deal with in life. Do I continue to run from situations, events, people and not face them? Do I remain scared of facing life head-on? Do I continue to assume that I will be hurt in life? The underlying issues in my life seem to prominently appear in my dreams. What am I not getting in life that I miss or desire – to fulfill me and my needs?

    Dreams can tell us a lot about our selves… they clearly portray what we don’t clearly see on a day-to-day level. Interesting and thank you!

    • Thank you Gwynn! I think this is true that the dream shows us what we need to know, not what we already know and this is its value amongst other things. Your questions are extremely important and there is universality in them for those who consider these important matters. Asking the question/s is a major step and courageous in my view!
      Thank you again.

      • she had had the same dream as a child. She associated it with hnavig been hospitalized at 3 years old and the monitors in the hospital room. I think she said she had read this dream was common among children taht had been hospitalized around that age. Coincidentally, I also had been hospitalized (twice) at the age of 3 and the explanation made perfect sense to me.The other recurring dream was of being in a room, usually a living room or schoolroom, on a nice, peaceful day. Suddenly there would be a blinding flash outside that I knew was from an atomic bomb and I would wake up before the shock wave hit.As a child who lived through the Cuban missile crisis there’s no mistery here. I had the dream up until my late twenties.

        • Thank you for your comment Hutama and I am sorry I have taken so long in responding. Thank you also for sharing about the time of the Cuban missile crisis. That is a very powerful though scary dream … and it seems as if you don’t have that anymore …

  4. Hi,
    This is a very thoughtful, didactic, deduction of the dream world, and I especially like the fact that you have given a few references, because I will look in for an online version of the Nature of Dreams by Jung.
    Two things came to thought as I read this article: the first being knowing yourself.
    I believe it was Socrates that said Know yourself, but it stands in the Bible also, “To thine ownself be true.”
    The deduction being that you can only judge others by that which you know of yourself. This is a deep thought because the majority of us today have no clues to the kind of person we really are. The unconscious is a nebulous world that we don’t want to dwell in. It could release something that we don’t want to face.

    This truth holds us back from self exploration and self discovery. It also keeps us from one of the most important sacraments, in my opinion, everyone should practice, and that is the art of forgiving.

    Forgiveness is difficult when I have not forgiven myself, and I cannot forgive myself until I have discovered what there is I need to forgive myself for, which leads me back to the unconscious becoming active and alive in my dream world.

    Oh, my dear Susan, you have me thinking this evening. I think I should stop because what you have written has me pondering over so many things. But let me mention my second point briefly. It is the art of reclaiming.

    I believe the reclaiming that takes place in the dream world actually can become reality. The dream that takes place in the unconscious awaken desires to excel or yearnings to fulfill something in life. When that yearning or desire is not fulfill, we have a bunch of unhappy people, working on a job until retirement, so that they can enjoy life afterward. They soon find out, “the afterward,” never comes because they have restricted their lives to the consciousness level so many years, and they can no longer dream, and the fire of desire or the fire of yearning has gone out. Thus, they wait on death to take them.
    With this thought I will stop. Your article is extemely precious to me this time. It has caused me to re-examine some of those fleeting thoughts that pass by in my own mind, that I sometimes forget and to examine my own dream world.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Please forgive me for rambling, but I was immediately into your article from the first paragraph.
    Great work, Lady.

    • Patricia, thank you so much for your articulate and thoughtful response and your elaboration which is so true and therefore meaningful.

      The inscription ‘Know Thyself’ appears on the oracle-shrine of Apollo at Delphi, Greece (6th century BC) and later used by Socrates, Plato in his Dialogues and The Phaedrus and others before and after. And of course in the Bible “To thine ownself be true”.

      Socrates pursued self-knowledge as an ethical way of thinking. I am not sure if these are his words, but here is something:

      “We seek to know the moving of each sphere,
      And the strange cause of the ebb and flow of the Nile,
      But of that clock within our breasts we bear,
      The subtle motions we forget the while.

      “We acquaint ourselves with every zone,
      And pass both tropics and behold the poles,
      When we come home, are to ourselves unknown,
      And unacquainted still with our own souls.”

      Thank you again Patricia for your wonderful response. I love what you say about forgiveness – we need to really know what we forgive ourselves for, otherwise it becomes meaningless. Similarly, if someone says they are sorry about something, one needs to know that they really know for what they are sorry!

      And yes, the dream is a way of re-claiming that which has been lost –


      • I had a book something over 30 years ago on unenastrdding your dreams. It was basically a common-sense guide, but it also helped a person understand how dreams frequently use symbology, such as flying dreams generally representing a desire to escape from some situation.It also made the point that the correct interpretation of a dream is the one that feels right to the person who had the dream, no matter what anyone else thought about it. I hardly ever have dreams that are “storyline” type, myself. My dreams are generally very short, tableau-seeming images, with little dynamic content, as if I am creating photo montages instead of video clips. It’s weird.

        • Thank you – I enjoyed reading your comment. You are correct, another’s interpretation is meaningless unless the dreamer feels a connection with it.

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