Through a Jungian Lens

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One Journey, Two Destinations

with 4 comments

Sunrise in ChangZhou, Jiangsu, P.R.C. - September, 2011

I woke up earlier than normal today.  I tired going back to sleep when I found out how early but it was to no avail.  So I gave in and left the bed in order to check my email.  Why did I wake up so early? Perhaps it was so that I could deal with a dream that was remembered.  Usually I don’t present dreams here, but I will make another rare exception as this dream may have some meaning that goes beyond my self as an individual.  Now, the dream, or at least a fragment of the dream:

I am in a curious place that is both countryside and urban and the mood is tense . . .  I soon find that I need to escape the location and the tension so I leave and follow a road out in to a deeper countryside . . . the road is soon bordered by water . . . I walk for what seems to be hours and hours and watch as the background scenery changes . . . the water along side of the road which has now become a narrow sandy path presses closer . . . I look far ahead and see the golden sandy trail continuing on towards a distant horizon and realise that I can’t get there that easily, that I will be hungry and weak and unable to complete the distance to the unknown destination … I walk a bit further then sit down thinking that perhaps I should turn back . . . I resist and decide to go forward but the path is narrow and I don’t trust myself to walk without falling into the water, so I get down on all fours and slowly go forward . . . before too long I stop and berate myself and decide to return back to where it was easier . . . I find the path now under the water just a few inches and so crawl using my hands to pull me along while my body floats on the surface . . . it seems the water is rising or I have taken a wrong turn somehow . . . I press on for a while and find my way blocked with all kinds of long tubing as though I have run into a construction site . . . I have to crawl over the white plastic pipes and find a place to stand on them and look out and back to try and find the real road back to where I had come from . . . nothing . . . nothing but water . . .

As I woke from the dream I knew that this was one dream I would remember.  I immediately thought that it would also be taken to today’s blog post.  It seemed clear to me that the dream was telling me something that I have long known but not really believed applied to myself.  Once one begins to consciously take the road towards a greater consciousness, to dare to be the individual one discovers beneath the roles and masks one wears in community; one can never go back to the way it was.  One is left with two choices, to continue the journey in spite of the risks or one can quit the journey and become lost to the self.


4 Responses

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  1. Dear Robert,
    Normally I never try to explain dreams of others, because the personal incidents during the dream and experienced feelings and emotions can’t brought over in the same way as the dreamer has experienced it.
    However in your dream I think there are some shared incidents – in the form of what I believe could be collective symbols – and that possibly can provide me with information to understand your dream a tiny little bit.
    The water as symbol of the unconscious, the narrow golden sandy path.
    Furthermore it is interesting for me to read that at a certain moment you have to move on all fours – I recognize this from my dream experiences.
    In my dream it seems that my legs refuse to function and so I have to move forward to my destination, mostly to catch a train in time – only with my hands and this is a very slow and difficult process, but like you I keep moving on, but it is produces a very frustrating feeling.
    Maybe the same kind of feeling that you experienced when you were standing on the pile of pipes and saw that you all surrounded by water ?
    Your interpretation of your dream is very interesting – I never would have come on that, but it is true to my opinion.

    Opa Bear

    September 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    • Opa, that there are shared aspects and understandings is to be taken for granted, especially when one realises that parts of a dream also talk to us from an archetypal stance, more so than a personal stance. When people such as you and I share many things in common, there is bound to be more resonance at a personal level. But in the end, all that is left for understanding at depth is the personal resonance which is unique. Thank you as always. 🙂


      September 8, 2011 at 6:08 am

  2. I have a very fundamental issue with a great deal of so-called dream interpretation, to wit: again and again people interpreting dreams confuse signs and symbols. If something “stands” for something else it is a sign. If something stands for something unknown it is a symbol. Here is the entry on symbols from Sharp’s Lexicon:

    Symbol. The best possible expression for something unknown. (See also constructive and final.)

    Every psychological expression is a symbol if we assume that it states or signifies something more and other than itself which eludes our present knowledge.[Definitions,” CW 6, par. 817.]

    Jung distinguished between a symbol and a sign. Insignia on uniforms, for instance, are not symbols but signs that identify the wearer. In dealing with unconscious material (dreams, fantasies, etc.), the images can be interpreted semiotically, as symptomatic signs pointing to known or knowable facts, or symbolically, as expressing something essentially unknown.

    The interpretation of the cross as a symbol of divine love is semiotic, because “divine love” describes the fact to be expressed better and more aptly than a cross, which can have many other meanings. On the other hand, an interpretation of the cross is symbolic when it puts the cross beyond all conceivable explanations, regarding it as expressing an as yet unknown and incomprehensible fact of a mystical or transcendent, i.e., psychological, nature, which simply finds itself most appropriately represented in the cross.[ Ibid., par. 815.]

    Whether something is interpreted as a symbol or a sign depends mainly on the attitude of the observer. Jung linked the semiotic and symbolic approaches, respectively, to the causal and final points of view. He acknowledged the importance of both.

    Psychic development cannot be accomplished by intention and will alone; it needs the attraction of the symbol, whose value quantum exceeds that of the cause. But the formation of a symbol cannot take place until the mind has dwelt long enough on the elementary facts, that is to say until the inner or outer necessities of the life-process have brought about a transformation of energy.[“On Psychic Energy,” CW 8, par. 47.]

    The symbolic attitude is at bottom constructive, in that it gives priority to understanding the meaning or purpose of psychological phenomena, rather than seeking a reductive explanation.

    There are, of course, neurotics who regard their unconscious products, which are mostly morbid symptoms, as symbols of supreme importance. Generally, however, this is not what happens. On the contrary, the neurotic of today is only too prone to regard a product that may actually be full of significance as a mere “symptom.[Definitions, CW 6, par. 821.]

    Jung’s primary interest in symbols lay in their ability to transform and redirect instinctive energy.

    How are we to explain religious processes, for instance, whose nature is essentially symbolical? In abstract form, symbols are religious ideas; in the form of action, they are rites or ceremonies. They are the manifestation and expression of excess libido. At the same time they are stepping-stones to new activities, which must be called cultural in order to distinguish them from the instinctual functions that run their regular course according to natural law.[“On Psychic Energy,” CW 8, par. 91.]

    The formation of symbols is going on all the time within the psyche, appearing in fantasies and dreams. In analysis, after reductive explanations have been exhausted, symbol-formation is reinforced by the constructive approach. The aim is to make instinctive energy available for meaningful work and a productive life.”

    I have come to the point where I am beginning to see that confusing vis-a-vis sign versus symbol tells me much more about the dream interpretor than it does about the dream or the dreamer.

    John Ferric

    September 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    • Of course, John, it does tell more about the interpretor than it does about the dream or the dreamer. It must be so. Jungian analysts (good ones) don’t interpret dreams, they work at pulling meaning via resonances from the dreamer. Thanks as always.


      September 8, 2011 at 5:51 am

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