Interpretation of Dreams. Part II – The value of Symbols

In its beginnings, Psychoanalyses was more similar in organizational structure to “an eccentric cult” and its pioneering practitioners, including Sigmund Freud, were seen as dangerous professionals by the traditional medical establishment, as we have discussed in our new book Emotional Frustration – the Hushed Plague.

Didn’t you buy it yet? What are you waiting for? That your impossibly chatty neighbor does it first?

After the publication of his book The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, Freud consolidated his operational grip in the still small but growing number of medical practitioners of the new discipline, even expelling a few for apostasy. Freud, an atheistic Jew, behaved like the messianic leader of a completely new religion. However, he was concerned that most of his followers were German-speaking Jews and that “his science” might not be able to cross into “the Austrian mainstream.”

In an excellent article, Sam Dresser, editor at Aeon magazine, wrote: “On February 27, 1907, in Vienna Sigmund Freud fell in love. The object of his affection was Carl Gustav Jung: 19 years younger than Freud, the young psychiatrist was already the young psychiatrist was already the clinical director of the prestigious Burgholzli Hospital and a professor at the University of Zurich. Jung had gained international recognition for his invention of the word association-test, and his practice was renowned for its gentle incisiveness. But when Jung read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he was startled by his theory and decided to talk with the man himself. And talk they did: for thirteen hours they plumbed the depths of the unconsciousness, the methods of psychoanalysis, and the analysis of dreams.”

Precisely the latter issue would eventually become the bone of contention in their prolific but at the same time agitated professional relationship, which ended in an acerbic, openly public rupture in 1913, after Freud published Totem and Taboo. Freud wanted to defend the core beliefs of the discipline, something he suggestively dubbed as The Cause, as it were a fanatical cult or political movement. Initially he saw in Jung, the son of a Protestant pastor and a distant relative of Goethe, as the perfect dauphin to succeed him, blocking the anointment of another old Jew. He believed that if Psychoanalysis ended up identified with Judaism, it would perish.

Note. This reproduction of a picture of Carl Jung was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Jung had an extremely agitated personality, he considered himself as an intellectual heir of his famous ancestor, and , being raised in a Christian home, he was influenced by the Mystical aspects of the faith, including the dreams. As a young child, he once dreamt that God Almighty was discharging his feces on top of cathedral of Basel. Freud was willing to accept all that, as long as his favorite pupil did not question the central status of the Cause.

Even though the discipline was born out of pure speculation after Freud interviewed patients in his Vienna cabinet and reviewed his clinical notes, Sigismund wanted it to become more scientifically solid, based on evidence and hard data. In 1906, Jung applied his word-association test to Freud’s theory of free association, a critical step in retrieving the swept-away memories we have in the attic of our Unconsciousness.

The majority of the psychoanalysts that had joined the Freudian movement were particularly attracted to his theory that our repressed sexuality is the epicenter of our unconscious desires and libidinal tensions. Jung believed there was much more. As we have discussed in our previous article about Enantiodromia, Jung considered that we have to carefully examine all the symbology of our dreams as it constitutes some kind of psychological compensatory mechanism for ignored attitudes, defects, bad instances, failures, frustrations, which are not only sexual by nature. In a previous article, we discussed the value of certain symbols like Alchemists’ signs in Jung’s opinion.

Note. This reproduction of a picture of Sigmund Freud (left) and Carl Jung (right) was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

In a great article of the Society of Analytical Psychologists, Marcus West wrote: “Jung saw the mind/body/feelings (or what he called the psyche) as all working together. Even negative symptoms could be potentially helpful in drawing attention to an imbalance; for example, depression could result from an individual repressing particular feelings or not following a path that is natural and true to their particular personality. In this way he saw the psyche as a self-regulating system with all psychic contents—thoughts, feelings, dreams, intuitions, etc.—having a purpose. He thought the psyche was ‘purposive.” There are three features of this process:

  1. Individuation: the dreams serve to develop one’s particular personality and self- awareness by drawing our attention to special features we have missed.
  2. Lack of disguise: while Freud believed that the contents of our dreams are disguised in puzzling parables, Jung believed that they do not try to hide.
  3. Symbology: in order to save time and efforts to our beleaguered psyches, Jung believed that our Subconscious uses symbols drawn from religions, alchemy, art, history, geography, etc. He believed that: “a symbol is the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown psychic content.”

Jung considered that a dream is a form of psychic compensation for a certain void. One of his patients was a very intelligent lady that suddenly became very shallow in her therapy sessions. He decided to address this issue in their next encounter, but the previous might he had a particular dream. He was walking down a road at sunset when he suddenly sees to his right a big castle; in the tallest tower there was a beautiful lady that looked down on him. He had to pull himself as far back as he could to check her features. It was none other than his patient. What’s the meaning?

West said: “the interpretation was immediately apparent to him. If in the dream he had had to look up to the patient in this fashion, in reality he had been probably looking down on her—the dream had been his compensation for his attitude toward her.”

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Interpretation of Dreams – Part I Enantiodromia

In his book Psychology and Alchemy, Dr. Carl Jung, a pioneer in the study of the symbology of dreams, introduced Alchemy’s representations into the study of Psychology. He claimed that the ancient alchemists, working without the cultural and social constraints of a strong super-state or church hierarchy, observed and recorded their findings without any pre-established judgements or dressed-up conclusions. They had more natural empirical experiences.

Dr. Jung believed that many of the raw sentiments and beliefs in the Unconscious occasionally filter into the Conscious realm, but they have to be “dressed up” to soften their sharpest edges and most shocking shades to pass the “border customs.” For that deceitful camouflaging to succeed, the Unconscious often uses alchemist’s symbols that are not in the “no entry list” of the gate’s guardians checking arrivals.

In her book, Marie Louise Franz stated: “For example, a woman patient dreamt that an eagle was at first flying up to the sky, and then suddenly turning around its head, began to eat its own wing and dropped back onto the earth…This dream invokes of enantiodromia, the reversal of a psychic symbol.” The eagle was the alchemist’s symbol of Human Reason and Carl Jung patient’s dream implied that her actions might be running counter against her beliefs.

Enantiodromia derives from the Greek words enantios (opposite) and dromos (running course) In his book Psychological Types, Carl Jung defined it as: “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful contraposition is built up  which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks thorough the conscious control.” It can be considered as the sheep’s skin used by the wolf. As a psychological tool, it acts as “two operational twins” that nonetheless have opposite characters and demeanor.

Note – the above image of Twins Grace and Kate Hoare 1876 by John Everett Millais was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

The philosophical concept behind this term dates back to thousands of years ago, In the traditional Chinese beliefs, the Yin and Yang are inextricably related as shown by their symbol. When one of the components reaches its extreme position, it starts to become its opposite. The natural balance of Life is maintained by this correction. Dr. Jung read the writings of Heraclitus who said: “cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things and parched things get wet.” He credited him for discovering what he considered a major psychological law: the regulatory function of the opposites.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.