Prepared by Carol A. Jacobs, LCSW

Historically, dreams have held an important place in the lives of a wide range of cultures. The Egyptians wrote their dreams on papyrus. The Greeks saw dreams as messages from the gods and goddesses and/or from the dead. Roman life, Judeo-Christian sacred writings, Islam, Native Americans, and various indigenous cultures report the valuing of the the dream world.

Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, an Austrian neurologist, revolutionized the study of dreams in the 1900 publication of his book The Interpretation of Dreams. He believed that dreams had a “wish fulfillment” and a desire to go back to childhood. He believed that dreams were created by memories, thoughts, wishes, and fears that were stored in a person’s brain.

Carl Jung,1875-1961, a Swiss psychiatrist, breaking with Freud, saw dreams as compensation for conscious attitudes, declaring that dreams are a primary way to gain knowledge of the unconscious mind. Following Jung’s lead, many have adopted his approach to understanding dreams and the unconscious. What is understood about dreams, from a Jungian perspective, is that they bring a vitality, an opening to expanded life, and an appreciation for the mystery and sacredness of what it means to be human. Dreams provide expanding guidance for the exploration of the soul/ the psyche.

In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, in answer to the question “What can I do?” Jung said, “Become what you have always been, namely, the wholeness we have lost in the midst of our civilized, conscious existence, a wholeness we always were, without knowing it.” Dream exploration brings us to the unfolding of wholeness in our developing lives. The images and symbols are avenues into accessing dimensions of the psyche that would otherwise remain impenetrable.

Marion Woodman, a Jungian Analyst living in London, Ontario, Canada, says, “Dreams guide us in the direction of psychological freedom, free to be confident in our own inner world, responsible for one’s strengths and weaknesses, consciously loving ourselves and, therefore, others.” Dreams are avenues for providing us with meaning and purpose in our lives.

The Chrysalis Perspective

As Jung’s work focuses on individual wholeness from both a spiritual and a psychological perspective, it follow that dreamwork from a Jungian approach is a specific portal into the unconscious. As stated on our Jungian Psychology Learning Space page, “consciousness and compassion for the inner world of the self is then mirrored in compassion and love for the collective.” This reflects the dedication of the broad-based exploration of spiritual growth and service in the community that is the goal of Chrysalis Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t remember my dreams. How can I have access to them?

Interestingly, it appears that the desire and preparation for remembering them activates the communication between the unconscious and the conscious. It seems that the unconscious “appreciates” the attention from the conscious state and therefore will send the gift of dreams into awareness. Sleeping with a pen and paper or small voice recorder by the bedside provides a convenient avenue for noting the dream.

How can I interpret my dreams?

Because each human is unique, so is each dream. This means that only the dreamer knows the real meaning of her or his dream. However, because dreams present themselves in images and symbols and metaphors, the meaning to the dreamer can be both puzzling and mysterious. Dreams are rarely direct ( although dreams have been known to sometimes be predictive and sometimes to even give clear solutions to problems). However, they are generally needing exploration. It is helpful to do this exploration with someone who is well trained to work with dreams, either on an individual basis or in a dream group. While dream dictionaries can be interesting and informative, they cannot provide an interpretation. If one dreams about a horse, and uses a dream dictionary to see that a horse can represent “strong physical forces, energies, or emotions which can get out of control,” that provides one idea about horse energy that may say nothing of value to the dreamer. Thus, neither a book nor another individual can provide the understanding. Working with dreams is a practice, and, like all skills, study and tending are necessary to gain a facility for understanding. And one must accept that dreams are rarely, if ever, completely understood. We gain insight and guidance that may follow us down the road with a memory from a particular dream that will inform us in a new light, years beyond our first insight.

Additional Resources

Frazier Boa with Marie-Louise von Franz | The Way of the Dreams | Shambhala, 1994

Robert Bosnak | A Little Course in Dreams | Shambhala, 1988

James A. Hall | Jungian Dream Interpretation |Crossroads, 1983

James Hollis | Tracking the Gods: The Place of Myth in Modern Life | Inner City Books, 1995

Robert Johnson | Inner Work | Harper and Row, 1986

C.G Jung | Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminar Given 1928-1930 | Princeton University Press, 1984

C.G Jung | Man and His Symbols |Doubleday

C.G Jung | Memories, Dreams, and Reflections | Random House, 1989

Mary Ann Mattoon | Understanding Dreams |Spring Publications, 1984

Jill Mellick | Natural Artistry of Dreams | Conari Press, 1996

Marie-Louise Von Franz | Dreams: A Study of the Dreams of Jung, Descarte, Socrates, and Other Historical Figures |Shambhala, 1998

Edward C. Whitmont and Sylvia Perera | Dreams, A Portal to the Source |Routledge, 1989