Comments on “Jung’s Children’s Dream Seminar” of 1938-1939
Below I give my comments on two excerpts from Jung’s “Psychological Interpretation of Children’s Dreams.” Notes on Lectures given by Prof. Dr. C.G. Jung at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich, Autumn and Winter, 1938-39.
“The dream is, as you know, a natural phenomenon. It arises from no conscious effort. It cannot be explained by a psychology which is based on consciousness only. It … is quite independent of the will or desire, or of the intentions of aims of the human ego. It is an unintentional happening, like all the events in nature. … The difficulty lies in understanding this natural phenomenon” (p. 2).
RIW: This first sentence is very important for us to consider. What does Jung mean when he calls a dream a “natural phenomenon”? Certainly, a dream may be considered like other bodily functions, perhaps even as the “output” of one of its organs. For just as the heart, being the “pump” of the circulatory system, has its output of blood, one of the mind’s “outputs” is the dream. I hold that underneath conscious activity, the dream is continuously going on. But it is only when the force of consciousness is reduced, such as during sleep (when REM and its associated brain wave activity), that we become aware of dream and have the possibility to later remember his autonomously produced psychic activity. Dreams clearly relate to a natural functioning functioning. But what is / are its natural functions? The dream shows the imaginal matrix from which consciousness arises, the visual language that forms the creative and emotive forces that drive behavior as well as the counterpoint to the contents of consciousness.
“Whatever we have to say about [dreams] must be acknowledged as our own interpretation. … We are confronted by the difficult task of translating natural processes into psychical language. … Whatever meaning one ascribes to [dream] events, [it] must always remain a human assumption, and nevertheless, [one should] attempt to comprehend the underlying primary facts. One is never absolutely certain whether one is reaching this goal, but the uncertainty is partially overcome [as one] … observes … [the dream] offers an intelligent solution” (p. 2).
RIW: Underlying Jung’s words are his practice to first allow oneself to be moved by the imagery of our dreams. To “feel” a dream first gives back to its contents some of the original intensity they possessed while unconscious. One then amplifies the dream’s motifs using both personal associations and parallel material from humankind’s common experience. Lastly, comes interpretation, our own sense of what the dream means to us. An intelligent and sound scientific approach to the dream uses hypothesis, meaning that one’s idea of a dream’s meaning should always be kept flexible, waiting for the next alternative way of understanding it. This is the healthy “modicum of doubt” that Jung always taught his students to hold.