Over the Christmas holidays Brian Carlin, an internet poet friend whose blog I follow, retreated to an island where he read an e-book form of Dream Theatres of the Soul. Shortly afterwards he published a few poems he called “Dream book 1” and “Dream book 2.”
Delighted to see these poems which were apparently based on his dreams, I responded: “I love it! I’m looking forward to more dream book poetry in the new year and smiling at my ego’s self-indulgent fantasy that my book might have made some sort of contribution to it!”
He replied: “One of those occasions where fantasy IS reality, Jeanie. Your books have lead to some re-assessing of long-held assumptions about myself and my childhood, and, as I said to you before, they read like the words of a friend telling me long-forgotten but known truths. As for reading of dreams I had always read dreams in a simple, wish-fulfillment/fear kind of way. Now you open up the Jungian tool-kit for me and I begin to see them in the full kaleidoscope of mystery they hint at. A naive question for you… as you familiarize yourself with meanings of archetypes etc, do they appear more readily in your dreams? What I suppose I mean is, the more you learn, do your dreams become more Jungian in nature?”
I answered his question but immediately thought of more I wished I’d said. Here it is:
After years of studying thousands of dreams, Jung discovered five principles that have revolutionized modern psychology:
- Your unconscious self is a very real, powerful and influential part of yourself that influences your waking behavior without your awareness.
- Your unconscious shows you things you don’t know about yourself by way of your dreams.
- Your unconscious communicates with a symbolic language of images, metaphors and mythic (archetypal) themes and motifs.
- This material is about you: your Ego (center of consciousness), Persona (social mask), Shadow (disowned qualities), Animus (unconscious masculine) and Anima (unconscious feminine), and Self (religious function and God-image).
- The self-knowledge you gain from analyzing your dreams brings you into more balance, health, and wholeness.
Your dreams do change in direct proportion to your study of Jungian psychology. But this does not mean you’re being brainwashed by a theory that may or may not be true or helpful. The fact is, everything you learn and experience is absorbed into your unconscious and some of it is reflected in your dreams. If you watch violent films, your dreams will incorporate violent images; if you’re into politics, your dreams will feature political themes and people: if this material can shed some light on your inner self.
Imagine you were reading a Jungian book about archetypes yesterday and learned about the Wild Woman. Then last night you dreamed of a strangely fascinating old gypsy woman. This is more than coincidence. The Wild Woman must be an important factor in your psychological makeup or she wouldn’t have appeared in your dream; and your ego’s new awareness of this symbol makes this a perfect time for the unconscious to teach you something about her. If you ask yourself what’s happening in your life right now and what your associations are to the old gypsy woman, you’ll find there’s something about her that’s like a part of you.
For example, if you liked her because she reminds you of a woman you admire, the message may be that you’re developing qualities similar to hers. If she reminds you of a woman you don’t like, the dream could be showing you a disowned part of yourself that occasionally behaves that way. Either way, whether you are a man or a woman, the gypsy represents an aspect of your feminine side. By acknowledging that she is part of you, you will have a better chance of recognizing her and altering your behavior in appropriate ways the next time she shows up in your waking life.
The more attention you pay to your dreams, the more growth and healing you experience. Creative work like recording your associations to symbols, writing poetry, or drawing helps you communicate with the Self. The Self responds by re-using meaningful symbols and creating new ones that apply to new life situations. In this way, your ego and Self develop a shared language. Continuing this dialogue on a regular basis is a spiritual practice that not only influences your dreams, but transforms you into a more whole being.
I welcome any other questions.