Working with dreams in therapy: Dreaming is a universal experience. We all dream every night, although many of us don’t remember our dreams. The more we pay attention to our dreams, the more we begin to remember them. Clients find that working with dreams in therapy increases their conscious awareness of themselves.
To help remember dreams, keep paper and pen next to your bed and make notes as soon as you wake up. Keeping a dream journal can be helpful because it allows you to track your dreams over time. It’s also useful for our work together if you think or write about the events going on in your life at the time of each dream.
As we review your dreams together in session, we will slowly reflect on the images and their meaning for you. In this way, we will create a kind of dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious parts of your personality that allows new images and ideas to arise within you. This is valuable material that will guide and assist your therapeutic process.
History: Interest in dreams long precedes psychology, dating to ancient Egyptian and Sumerian texts and both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. When Freud took up the subject in our contemporary world, dreams began to play a crucial role in the dialogue between the ego and the unconscious. Jung, Freud’s heir apparent, disagreed with Freud’s theory that dreams held repressed infantile wishes. Instead, he saw them as autonomous self-representations of the psyche that, among other things, could balance the ego’s one-sided view of itself.
Jung’s approach: Jung felt that although the dream spoke in images, it showed the psyche as it is. For Jung the dream is a picture of the psychological situation of the individual in his waking state:
“Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.”
— C.G. Jung (CW 10 317)
Jung called complexes the “architects” of dreams—we could say that the dream is the world of our complexes walking around in dramatic images. The dream helps us see what our complexes look like by giving us representations in the way of images, motifs and themes that portray these emotional centers of energy, alive within us, but not necessarily known to us consciously.
Jung believed that the dream compensates, or balances, the point of view of the ego when it becomes too one-sided or out of balance, allowing the individual to make adjustments in their ways of perception. In Jungian dream work, image from dreams are examined closely and repeatedly until their meaning begins to unfold. Jung thought of the symbols in dreams as “transformers of energy” that opened up new paths in the psyche.