Through a Jungian Lens

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Fantasy, Active Imagination and the Emergence of Truth

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Nodules in the sand and sea

I realise that this is an atypical image when it comes to talking about dreams and reality, but then again dreams and reality are more atypical than not. Lately I have been having a bit of difficulty with recording dreams. If I do get any sense of the dream after waking, it often becomes too difficult to put into words as the fragments that do rise to the surface are too scattered and too far between each other for any hope of finding meaning in the dream. At times like this, I simply accept that the dream doesn’t need my attention, that it is doing what it needs to do at a sub-conscious level. All that is left to me are just disjointed pieces of words or images, such as this image.

Of course images are powerful in their own right. Taking an image such as this one, I can, and often enough do, allow my imagination to build a story, a fantasy around the image – the process of active imagination. This process allows us to bring meaning to images, to tell stories. But, are these stories and interpretations valid? Do they hold any value psychologically, any value in terms of orienting or understanding ourselves? Obviously, simply in allowing these questions to be asked indicates my response in the affirmative. One wouldn’t even entertain these questions if one didn’t consider that there was value. If one was clearly of the opinion that there was nothing to be gained or learned, then the question itself would not arise, rather any hint of the questions would simply be dismissed as nonsense. I guess, for many, the whole idea that there is something of value to doing dream work is in itself a waste of time and shear nonsense.

” The first question we must discuss is: what is our justification for attributing to dreams any other significance that the unsatisfying fragmentary meaning . . . If we start from the fact that a dream is a psychic product, we have not the least reason to suppose that its constitution and function obey laws and purposes other than those applicable to any other psychic product. . . . we have to treat the dream, analytically, just like any other psychic product . . .”  (Jung, CW 8, par. 449-450)

As a society, we have somehow accepted that dreams, at least some dreams have meaning thanks to the work of Freud and Jung. Perhaps even more importantly in the western world, we have the stories of the Bible which shows us the power and validity of dreams. And often, these messages are given to us as singular images. The images appear and we are told to look beyond, beneath, within the images to discover truth. We are also told not to worship the images themselves and miss the gold within the depths of these images. Children seem to intuitively know this as they create stories from images, from sculptures and from the artifacts of nature and man. And these stories are not important in literal terms, rather their importance is psychological – the moral of the story being told, the kernel of truth contained.

So, back to this image, to the fragment(s) of a dream, of a thought that somehow sticks – what story can we allow to be told? What do we need to hear? What is message from within that we project exists that needs to be heard? Therein, lies the value of fantasy, active imagination and dream work.


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