Jenna Lilla limns the path of soul in the work of Carl Jung
In an essay titled General Aspects of Dream Psychology, Carl Jung asks us to consider dreams from the standpoint of finality. Finality points us to the purpose of the dream. He says:
“The question may be formulated simply as follows: ‘What is the purpose of this dream? What effect is it meant to have? These questions are not arbitrary inasmuch as they can be applied to every psychic activity.” (CW 8, para. 462)
According to the theory of finality, the dream is purposive. Dreams lead us toward an unknown horizon. And the movement toward this horizon encompasses our psycho-spiritual growth and integration. This movement is not so much strait and narrow. Instead it is dynamic: filled with contradiction, paradox, and if we are capable of holding such a tension, then, integration.
The capacity to dream is of central importance in this process of integration. A dream, at one level, is unconscious psychic material which compensates for the one-sidedness of conscious thought. This is the compensating function of the unconscious, “whereby those thoughts, inclinations, and tendencies which in conscious life are too little valued come spontaneously into action during the sleeping state” (ibid. par 466)
Jung states that the beneficial compensatory nature of the dream does not require that we ‘understand the dream.’ Even if we do not understand the symbolism, the dream may have an effect nonetheless. Jung says:
“as experience shows, a man may be influenced, and indeed convinced in the most effective way, by innumerable things of which he has no intellectual under-standing. I need only remind my readers of the effectiveness of religious symbols.” (para. 468)
According to Jung, these compensatory dreams appear to have a balancing effect on the psyche. He says:
It is evident that this function of dreams amounts to a psychological adjustment, a compensation absolutely necessary for properly balanced action. In a conscious process of reflection it is essential that, so far as possible, we should realize all the aspects and consequences of a problem in order to find the right solution. This process is continued automatically in the more or less unconscious state of sleep, where, as experience seems to show, all those aspects occur to the dreamer (at least by way of allusion) that during the day were insufficiently appreciated or even totally ignored-in other words, were comparatively unconscious.” (para. 469)
Put another way, during dreams the unconscious offers symbolic material in the form of dream thoughts. These unconscious dream thoughts are in a dialectical relationship to conscious waking thoughts. These dream symbols offer insight and intuition which can be brought into our waking life.
Working with dream symbols involves “interpretation of the associative material gathered round the dream.” (para. 468) One notices dream symbols as they appear in the dream and finds associations to those dream symbols. In working with dream symbols one may discover that dreams offer a dialectical perspective contrary, yet complimentary, to waking thoughts.