Friday, August 18, 2023


In his autobiographical work, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes about his relationship with Sigmund Freud in some detail--their discussions, their travels together, their working with each other’s dreams, and his view of Freud as a father figure.  Jung writes: “. . . . Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma; or rather, in the place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality.  It was no less insistent, exacting, domineering, threatening, and morally ambivalent that the original one.  Just as the psychically stronger agency is given ‘divine’ or ‘daemonic’ attributes, so the ‘sexual libido’ took over the role of the deus absconditus, a hidden or concealed god.” 

Freud, according to Jung, had assigned to “sexuality” all the attributes historically assigned to Yahweh.  Only the name had changed.  Jung makes this important assertion: “If psychology did not exist, but only concrete objects, the one would actually have been destroyed and replaced by the other.  But in reality, that is to say, in psychological experience, there is not one whit the less of urgency, anxiety, compulsiveness, etc.  The problem still remains:  how to overcome or escape our anxiety, bad conscience, guilt, compulsion, unconsciousness and instinctuality.”


Applying Jung’s comment about “concrete objects” to the interpretation of dreams can be extremely helpful.  To illustrate the point, I will use some specific dreams:


I discovered a secret tunnel in my parents’ basement that led to the world outside.  This dream marked a significant turning point for the dreamer.  Hithertofore, she had lived in a too-small psychic space (psychic but as real as the parental basement in her waking experience and just as limiting).  The unconscious structure of that basement served as a filter of her experiences in her grown-up word.  Her childhood home was an unhappy one.  She "lived " in it into adulthood.  


I was sitting in a waiting room when Bill came in, loud and boisterous, upsetting everyone in the room.  The analyst asked, “So, what happens when you get into a “waiting room?”  The dreamer remembered that on the day before the dream she had her car serviced at a dealership.  The dealership computer system went down so there was a long delay. She became very angry and complained loudly.  

"And what about Bill?" the analyst inquired, introducing a bit of humor into a delicate situation as they both smiled, silently remembering the film, "What about Bob."  "Bill is a man I work with.  He makes mountains out of molehills."   

Bingo!  The “waiting room” in her psyche was very real and very troubling.  When she got into such a place in her real life, her unconscious "Bill," a very real factor in her psychic economy, was her trigger for anger as he grossly exaggerated small issues.  The dreamer had suffered an unconscious complex that had caused her much trouble in her life.  Information delivered by the dream freed her from that complex.


In both dreams, it was obvious to the analyst (and probably to others) what the dreamers’ problems were, but she knew a direct approach to them would raise up great resistances and would serve no purpose.  The analyst was also well aware that people will accept a lesson from a dream that not even a saint could deliver with mere words.  

Both these examples illustrate another, sometimes extremely subtle fact:  What is real is that which has real effects in the world.  They also point to the ways dreams can help us to, "overcome or escape our anxiety, bad conscience, guilt, compulsion, unconsciousness and instinctuality.”   

Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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