Carl Jung Resources > Dream Interpretation

Dream Interpretation Features at Jung

Subject Level, Prospective Aspect,
Compensation, Amplification

Jung was the eminent adept of Freud and, for a while, a tireless fighter for the Freudian cause, that is, the universal promotion of psychoanalysis. He was influenced by Freud's approach of the delicate problem of dream interpretation. Later on, Jung develops his own theory which includes several revolutionary features: subject level, prospective aspect, compensation, amplification method.

Subject level

Dream of self image - picture

It is known that Freud interprets dreams on the object level; that is, according to the relationship between the dreamer and the persons or situations in his real of fantasy life. Jung introduces the subject level. What is this level? The fact that the dream reveals, in a symbolic way, some features of dreamer's psychic life or of his internal psychic transformations. This way the dream becomes an indicator of those changes that sometimes point to the development of the individuation process.

So, if someone dreams of his mother, the mother in Jung's view is not an evocation of the real mother, but of the dreamer's anima , that is, his emotional, feminine side. Mother can also be a suggestion to what is basically biologic in the human nature or can lead to the inherited background, the homeland in a cultural way.

Prospective approach

Freud's dream approach is retrospective; that is, it refers mainly to past events, placed back in the dreamer's childhood (psychic trauma, sexual repressed wishes and so forth). Jung's dream approach is prospective; he treats the dream like an inner map of dreamer's future psychic evolution towards a more balanced relationship between his ego and the unconscious (be it personal or collective).

Talking about infantile complexes, Jung states, in accordance with his orientation, that complexes are not of importance per se; what really matters is what the individual's ego does with them. This way, the complexes, even the neurotic ones, become raw material for dreams, the language through which the dream (the unconscious) expresses itself.

The mother complex, for example, may indicate a process of development on the basis of some inherited features or life events that constitute the background of the individuation.

The compensation feature

For Jung the concept of compensation includes another powerful idea: the dream is an attempt to counterbalance a hypertrophied ego. That is why the interpretation of dreams should seek to discover the compensatory aspects that help the ego better adapt to the demands of internal and external life. In a certain clinical situation, as a result of a dream interpretation, Jung had to explain to his patient that she must resign her too rationalist attitude (as a consequence of her animus inflation) in order to cure her severe neurosis. This way the dream becomes a message of the unconscious that indicates several neurotic deficiencies in the individual life orientation.

Method of amplification

More light  enters the chamber - pictures 

Finally, Jung adds to the free association method, developed by Freud, the method of amplification. He states that there are elements of the dream to which the dreamer cannot provide personal associations.(1) These elements are symbols.(2) In this case, the analyst should intervene with his knowledge and complete the dreamer's gaps related to them. The associative material comes from various cultural areas: mythology, religion, alchemy, folklore and so forth.

One must notice that these essential additions to the method of dream interpretation should not be taken over easily. Jung warns us repeatedly that dreams ought to be interpreted at first by Freud's method. Only exceptional cases demand the use of his own method.(3)

1. Freud also admits that several dreams' elements may be treated as symbols, mainly sexual. A good introductory guide to dream interpretation in Freud's psychoanalysis may be fou
nd here.

2. One must know that, unlike Freud, Jung treats symbols like signs that lead to unknown psychological content. (See also the archetype section of this site.)

3. Starting with Freud's approach of dreams is a necessary step which equates the meeting of shadow on the Jungian plane. (See also the shadow archetype.)


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