Welcome to Real Dream Interpretation
A resource site dedicated to helping you understand and unlock the power of your dreams.
If you are new to dream interpretation, this page will give you a summary of what dream interpretation is, how understanding dream meaning benefits you, and how this site is different from other dream sites.
At Real Dream Interpretation, you’ll find in-depth information about common dream symbols and how to interpret them, as well as real dream examples from people I have worked with.
For each dream, I give you the dream interpretation that the dreamer and I deciphered together.
Do not take these interpretations as hard facts that apply to your dreams. Your dreams are not like words that you can look up in a "dream dictionary".
When you read a real dream interpretation and see how to extract dream meaning from the symbols in your dreams, then you can learn to do your own dream interpretation.
The Blog Posts
Due to the unfortunate trend in attempted litigation against people in fields such as mine, I have to make the following disclaimer in writing.
THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE. PLEASE CONSULT A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR GUIDANCE SPECIFIC TO YOUR CASE.
Introduction to Dream Interpretation
Dream interpretation is about self-discovery at the deepest possible level. When we pay attention to our dreams, we put ourselves in touch with the deepest source of our being.
In my psychotherapeutic counseling practice, I work with dreams on a daily basis. Dreams are of the utmost value in the healing process. They help my clients to transcend and transform their debilitating problems, and thus, show them how to move forward in life.
It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counter action to those constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.Joseph Campbell, Hero With a Thousand FacesDreams emerge out of the same dimension as mythology and religion, both of which are tragically impoverished in today's world. When I say spiritual, I do not mean anything like religious dogma or creed.
Because of this spiritual impoverishment, we are left without the appropriate spiritual guides in life, something which human beings have always lived with.
What Carl Jung discovered, however, is that this guidance is so necessary to the human psyche that when it is not supplied from without - though myth and ritual - it will be supplied from within, through dreams.
Every dream shows us something new about ourselves, no matter how trivial the dream may seem.
Whenever we do a dream interpretation, we should have some kind of guiding principles behind it. My guiding principles are the ones laid out by Carl Jung. We'll cover all of those main principles throughout this site.
Dream Interpretation: Exploring Your Dream Content
The most important thing to keep in mind when exploring dream meaning is what Jung said in the quote above. Dreams seek to express something that we do not already know or understand.
You won't find your answers in a dream dictionary or on typical dream sites.
Anyone who works with dreams long enough will eventually see that there is a profound intelligence behind them. This intelligence is eons upon eons older and infinitely wiser than our limited ego.
The aim of dream interpretation is to connect to that living intelligence, so we that we can listen to it. Like a guide from beyond, it is always there with us, watching and commenting on our lives.
When we are really tapped into that intelligence, it connects with us outside of the dream world in the form of often mind-blowing synchronicity.
What is dream interpretation?
Dream interpretation is the art of extracting the deeper meaning from your dream symbolism. If you want to understand the symbolism of your dream, then stay away from typical dream dictionaries. For all intents and purposes, they are reductive and meaningless.
As I hinted earlier, the purpose of dream interpretation is the expansion of your consciousness. By consciousness, I mean everything that you know about yourself or about life in general.
An authentic dream interpretation will open your mind to new perspectives. It will not tell you something that you already know about yourself.
Dream Interpretation: What Do Dreams Mean?
Far too many people think that dreams are meaningless brain noise, and therefore, also think that there is no value in dream interpretation. This is a common misconception for anyone who hasn’t paid attention to their dreams or studied the human mind and its evolution.
Meaninglessness inhibits the fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable - perhaps everything."Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, and ReflectionsThe people who believe that dreams are meaningless simply do not understand dreams, and subsequently, project their lack of understanding onto dreams. These people would do far better just to admit that they know nothing about dreams, rather than comment on something about which they know nothing.
As a Jungian Analyst I work with dreams and whenever I hear someone say, “I had a dream, but it didn’t mean anything”, it’s very disheartening.
All of our dreams have meaning, no matter how trivial they might seem - even those with only a flash of one image.
Whether your dream is long and drawn out, as in a well-crafted story; chaotic and confused as in a psychedelic trip; or simply a brief flash of an image, there is something you can learn from it.
In order to be successful in dream interpretation, we have to treat every image as a message from beyond our something or somewhere beyond our ordinary understanding.
How is dream interpretation beneficial to my life?
Dream interpretation benefits us in many ways. As I will continue to say, the most important thing to remember about dream interpretation is that dreams show us what we cannot see. Whenever I see a dream interpretation online, typically this fact is completely lost on people.
What we call a symbol is a term, a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning. It implies something vague, unknown, or hidden from us. Carl Jung, Man and His SymbolsFor example, let's say a person who is jealous and insecure in a relationship has a dream about her partner cheating. Her dream about cheating isn’t saying, “you fear that your partner will cheat”. You already have that fear, and are well-aware of it, so the dream doesn’t need to emphasize that.
I see this kind of literal dream interpretation on almost every dream site. Snake dreams don't symbolize treachery and dreams about teeth falling out don't mean that you're anxious or stressed.
As I have already said, dreams speak in a symbolic language. The images in our dreams imply much more than their literal or obvious meaning. This means that the imagery always has a wider and unconscious aspect.
Dream Interpretation: Dream Meaning and Symbolism
If you want to understand dream meaning, then you have to understand the symbolism in your dreams. Please forgive me, but I am going to say it again: You will not gain an understanding of your dream symbolism using online dream dictionaries.
Some of the symbolic imagery in our dreams is personal and other times it is archetypal. If you have not studied comparative mythology and religion, then you may not recognize the archetypal symbols and patterns in your dreams. I will to show you how to recognize it and how to properly research it.
Definition of a Symbol
A representation or image which points to something essentially unknown, which when understood, it conveys a living meaning. It is a bridge between the conscious mind and unconscious psyche.
- Organizers and transformers of libido.
- States or signifies something more and other than itself which eludes our present knowledge.
- Representations of process that seek to become something, as if they want to be integrated.
- Has a redeeming effect. Transforms symptoms
In every post on this site, I'll give you as much information about the symbolism as I can. I also have posts dedicated to common symbols, such as the one I wrote on the symbolism of the snake.
How is Real Dream Interpretation Different from Other Dream Sites?
Dream interpretation is the process of analyzing your dreams. My goal with this site is to assist and empower you in that process. I specify real dream interpretation in order to set it apart from what you find on virtually every dream interpretation site: a bad dream dictionary; short and ill-informed blog posts; and forums where people offer up horrific dream interpretation, not only full of their own projections, but also full of misinformation.
Don't get me wrong about people offering up commentary. I love it when people engage each other about dream interpretation and symbolism. Feel free to leave dreams and make comments, but be mindful about how you comment.
In case I haven't made my point clear, dream interpretation dictionaries really drive me crazy. Reading a simple dream dictionary of symbols is something similar to reading a daily horoscope and expecting to have a revelation about the meaning of your life.
The dream dictionaries out there rarely touch on the deeper meaning of dream symbols. Most of them are copying and pasting from each other, which is a common problem with information we find on the internet.
If you want to read books about the topic, I give you as many links as I can. You'll have to turn off your ad-blocker to see them. I only refer you to books I have in my own library.
Everything you read here is original work, based on my experience in working with dreams. Even if you have been doing your own dream interpretation for a long time, I think that you’ll find something of interest on this site.
Real Dream Interpretation: Content Rich Blog Posts
All of the posts on Real Dream Interpretation are rich in content and give you as much about the symbolism as possible. Whenever possible, I include real dreams from real people. For each dream, I give you the dream interpretation based on the dreamer's conscious situation and life experience.
As I said above, anytime you read a dream interpretation, you learn how to extract the dream meaning from your own dreams. The idea is not for you to use the same dream meaning, but rather for you to see how the process works. That way, you can find your own meaning.
As you read each post, pay attention to how I derive the meaning of each dream and then try to integrate that meaning into a shift in conscious perspective.
Again, the real aim of dream interpretation is to connect you that mysterious source of intelligence that dwells within you. It is the source and power of all Life and it comes from a dimension that is beyond the realm of ordinary knowledge.
If you'd like to work with me you can reach via the contact button in side bar or at my counseling site. I am available worldwide via Skype or other methods of video calls.
How to Decipher Dream Meaning
In order to understand dream meaning, you have to know that dreams are not mere imprints, snapshots, or images of the day’s experience. Our dreams do use the material of our daily lives, but only in order to make a connection with the ego. With the exception of some archetypal dreams (discussed below), each dream meaning is specific to your current circumstances, attitude, and state of mind.
What do dreams mean?
Dreams are not mere imprints, snapshots, or images of the day’s experience. Our dreams do use the material of our daily lives, but only in order to make a connection with the ego. With the exception of some archetypal dreams (discussed below), each dream meaning is specific to your current circumstances, attitude, and state of mind.
Your dreams are an expression of your inner life, and they can show you through what false attitude you have landed yourself in impossible situations.C.G. Jung, The Meaning of Psychology for Modern ManIf you wake up and immediately think you know what your dream means, you've already missed the dream meaning. The same goes for getting a canned answer on a typical dream site. To really answer the question above and get to the heart and soul of dream meaning, we must be willing to self-reflect in a way that is far beyond just thinking about ourselves.
Whenever I speak of reflecting on your dreams, I am not talking about your ego-consciousness reflecting on itself.
I am talking about Self-reflection. This means that we must remember that our dreams are an expression of that indwelling, Living Intelligence to which I refer in the introduction to this site. Thus, we are reflecting on the dream as a message from the depths of the human soul.
Whenever we are reflecting on dream meaning, we first need to consider ourselves honestly from every possible angle. Next, keep in mind that the dream shows us an angle we can’t see. As Jung said, the dream symbolically shows us where our blind spots are.
No dream image has one meaning for everyone. This is why I discourage online dream dictionaries.
Dream Meaning: Breaking down your dream
As I said in the introduction to dream interpretation, if you really want to get to the deeper levels of your dream meaning, you should have some kind of guiding principle to your process of dream interpretation.
In this post, we are going to look at how Carl Jung broke down dreams into one of four categories. The dream category helps you determine the dream's purpose. By purpose, he meant, the effect that the dream meant to have on you.
The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul. Carl Jung, The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man
We already know that your dream is meant to fill in something that is missing from your current perspective.
Here's the basic idea behind this theory of dream meaning. By its very nature, ego-consciousness is limited.
Jung likened the attention of consciousness to a spotlight in the dark. Whatever we shine the spotlight onto can be seen.
Everything onto which we do not shine that light is still there, but it is in the dark.
However, something else in us is not limited by those same restraints. It perceives everything that consciousness cannot and it speaks in the language of dreams. I'll cover what that something is in more detail in our next post.
The dream symbolically shows us everything our conscious mind misses about our life situation.
For example, a dream can help you:
- Shift your attitude
- Shed light on an unknown aspect of your personality
- Confirm your suspicions or suppositions about your life direction
- Let you know when you place yourself too high or too low against someone
You can further break down your dream meaning by looking for a structure, something we look at in the next post.
Discovering Dream Meaning: Types of Dreams and Dream Categories
Jung noticed a four categorical possibilities for unpacking your dream meaning. I will cover them in detail below, but here's the quick list.
Four Categories of Dreams
- Dreams are an unconscious reaction to your conscious situation.
- (a) These dreams can either be a compensation or a complement to your current state.
- Dreams depict an unconscious conflict you
- Dreams can aim at changing your attitude
- Archetypal Dreams
I would suggest starting your dream interpretation by looking at these and then figuring out which one applies to your dream meaning. I realize that the term unconscious conflict may be confusing, but I'll explain that later.
I'll give you a dream example and an interpretation of the dream meaning for each one of these categories.
Whenever you don't understand something I have said, leave a question in the comment box below.
1. Dreams are an unconscious reaction to a conscious situation
In this category, the dream is either complementary or compensatory to your conscious situation. The idea behind this category is that our conscious mind is limited by the narrow perspective of our ego. By its very nature our conscious mind contracts our perception of things.
I will delve deeper into the structure of the human psyche in the post that follows this one. For now, just the basics.
Both consciousness and the ego are latecomers in the evolution of psyche per se. Unconsciousness, however, was our original state of being. Consciousness grew out of the Unconscious, just as a tree grows out of the earth. And as a tree is rooted in the earth, we too are rooted in the Unconscious, and thus, all of its underlying processes still have powerful effects on us.
The unconscious has infinite perception. It perceives and records everything that our conscious mind cannot. It's this unconscious stuff that comes through in the form of dream symbolism.
A dream that reduces or counteracts your conscious situation by exerting an opposite force or effect.
A dream that neutralizes or brings our one-sided perspective into balance.
A dream that contributes extra features to our conscious perspective in such a way as to improve or emphasize its quality.
In some cases of compensation dreams, the dream contains our true feelings about our situation.
By real feelings, I mean that the dream shows more than just what the ego thinks or feels. It shows how the unconscious feels about our situation. For example one of my clients had the following dream:
Complementary Dream Example 1
I am in a somewhere with my mother, sister, and grandmother. The three of them are off sitting around a table talking shit about me again. Again, I feel the pain of being isolated and unseen. Then my father shows up. He starts mocking me about the work I'm doing. Now, I am sitting at a bar alone. I break down, sobbing uncontrollably.
A man wearing a bright red shirt and black cowboy boots walks up behind me and puts his arms around me. Then my grandmother walks up, though she doesn't look like herself. She has a magical glow about her and crystal blue eyes. She say, "I'm sorry honey."
The woman was the proverbial black sheep of her family. For years, her family had projected their own weakness, darkness, and negativity onto her. She had never had any kind of real relationship with any of her family members. No matter what, they simply never even knew her, much less accepted her.
Up until that dream, the woman had never actually expressed the pain that her family life had caused her. She certainly showed a lot of anger, peppered with understandable resentment, and had finally reached a point of tolerable resignation to her family situation.
Tolerable resignation is not the same as conscious integration. Resignation is passive acceptance and can have the same effect as suppression or repression. All of these will manifest in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychic illness.
Dream Meaning: Complementary Dreams
The dream illustrated her real sadness over it - a sadness that she never expressed, much less processed. Unresolved sorrow leaves a terrible mark on a person.
As Jung says, dreams "contain ideas, feelings, and thoughts whose absence from consciousness leaves a blank which is filled with fear instead of with understanding."
This woman had suffered from severe anxiety and depression. It was only after realizing her sadness that those symptoms of anxiety and depression started to wane.
She had been so blindsided by her resentment and anger toward her family, that she never realized the tragedy of her situation. Once she could deal with her grief, even the anger and resentment resided.
And not only that, she was able to remove herself from that family dynamic without any guilt or bitterness. She could consciously accept that her situation simply was what it was.
To be able to accept something as it is has very deep significance, especially when we look at it in terms of this Goddess figure who appeared in the dream.
Dream Meaning: Healing Figures
Two healing figures show up in this dream. One is a strange man who comes up from behind and comforts her.
That this man comes "from behind" says that something in the Unconscious reaches out to comfort her. I talk about this kind of figure in my post on Dreams About Cheating.
The other figure is a Great Goddess image, though in the form of her grandmother. We know this figure is an archetypal image and not her actual grandmother because she has a strange glow about her. This is called a numinous image, and as such, it has a profound implication for dream meaning.
I'll cover this kind of figure later in the post, when I talk about the significance of archetypal dream figures.
This Goddess, as a weaver of our fate, had a special message for the woman: I'm sorry honey. The message wasn't so much apologetic as it was sympathetic - sympathetic to the plight and destiny of this woman, not as an individual, but as a woman.
I realize that talking about Goddesses may sound like new-age talk, but for anyone who has had an archetypal dream experience understands first-hand their value. I can only hope that if you have not had this experience yet, that you will stay open to it.
Dream Meaning: Beyond Our Personal Problems
As suggested by Jung in the quote below, instead of continuing to blame her family, and asking, "why me?" the dreamer instead asked, "how many before me?"
The wise learn only from their own guilt. He will ask himself: Who am that all this should happen to me? To find the answer to this fateful question, one must look into their own heart.C.G. Jung, Psychology and AlchemyThe woman realized that her horrible childhood and family wasn't personal on the grand scale of meaning. She had always known that - deep down - but this dream gave her a perspective beyond her biography.
We can even go a step further with this dream meaning. Because the Goddess appears in the form of her grandmother, it could very well mean that at the psychic level, her grandmother is sorry for how she has treated her.
I'm talking about psychic reality here, something which runs very deep in the worldview of Jung. When you have an experience of psychic reality as such, it heals you.
Dream Meanings and Compensations Dreams
Here's another example of compensation in dreams. This one I can illustrate with one of my own dreams.
So, let's say that you really admire a person to the point where if they show disapproval of your perspective, then you doubt yourself. This happened to me once. I met a man who had written several books for which I had a profound respect. He was originally an academic, but his writing was deeply spiritual. He'd mentioned Jung several times, so I assumed that we were on the same page in our views.
He and I struck up a personal relationship. It was one that I deeply respected. I really saw him as a kind of mentor.
Soon after, however, some of his behavior became more and more questionable. His self-righteousness was unbearable. He even started announcing himself to the general public as a mystic.
The way he treated the people he called his students was appalling. Sometimes he was even outright cruel.
He started doing dream interpretation in his circles and they were so far off from my own view of dreams that I began to doubt myself. (This was in my early days, when I was still psychologically vulnerable.)
Some pretty famous people had touted him as the next Joseph Campbell or C.G. Jung, but given his attitude and behavior, this was just preposterous.
Still, though, I doubted myself. I began to question everything I'd studied the 10 years prior. I lost sight of the direction I was headed. This caused me a tremendous amount of suffering. And then I had the following dream:
Compensation Dream Example
I walk into a convenience store and Mr. X is the manager. He comes out of the stockroom completely naked and laughing hysterically. He's smoking marijuana and rolling around on the floor like an abject fool. People are walking into the store and asking, "Is this really Mr. X?"
Dream Meaning: Compensation Dream
Now the point of this dream was not to show me, "this is how Mr. X really is!". The dream only says to me, “you are putting this person too high up in relation to yourself.”
Now that dream cured my self-doubt instantly! Upon waking from that dream, I knew that I had to stand my ground with this man and that's exactly what I did.
Of course, that meant the end of our relationship, not because I couldn't handle it, but rather because he was too stuck in his narrow perspective. But that was okay. I needed to go my own way anyway.
Anytime you have a dream about someone you admire or respect acting in some kind of outrageous way, it's probably a sign that you have too little value in yourself.
These two examples of compensation dreams illustrate why it's so important to thoroughly explore your conscious attitude whenever you are trying to extract dream meaning from your dreams.
Dream Meaning: Complementary dreams
A complementary dream confirms a conscious situation. These dreams can let us know that we are headed in the right direction or they can confirm something that we suspect to be true.
For example, the woman in the above Goddess dream had difficulty in relationships with women.
She seemed to attract women who were exactly like those women in her family, and because of this, she had suffered many betrayals in friendships.
Miss X , who had supposedly been a good friend to her, seemed suddenly to turn on her. Their interactions became contrived and stressed and she had been specifically excluded from the social events organized by her friend.
Definition of projectionA projection is an unconscious transfer of subjective psychic elements onto an outer person or object.
The dreamer was feeling anxious, not only about the friendship, but also about herself. She started feeling overwhelmed with self-doubt and fear about what she could have done to cause this rift.
We had spoken about the anxious feelings she was having about her friend, but given her pattern with women, we decided to wait and see how it played out. We didn't know whether what was happening was real or simply a projection.
She eventually had the following dream:
Complementary Dream Example 2I am sitting a long rectangular table with other colleagues. Miss X is next to me. She says something that is nasty and I have a visible reaction to it. Very snidely she says, “Oh, did that HURT you?” I shook it off and said, “Miss X, what has happened to you? You have become ugly. You are a spiteful, ugly person.” This has somewhat of an effect on her because I can see it in her face, but yet she has no verbal reaction. I feel an incredible amount of tension, coupled with a deep regret and sadness. I say to myself, “I can’t believe it has come to this – again.”.
Sitting together at one table means relationship, being connected or “put together.” The round table indicates that the figures have been brought together for the purpose of wholeness.C.G. Jung, Psychology and AlchemyWell, this dream gave us a good hint about the real situation. My client could then take a consciously measured step back from this relationship and thus avoid yet another conflagration with a possible untrustworthy woman. My client stopped worrying about what she had done wrong. She could finally let that go. Unlocking this dream meaning meant real relief for my client.
My client could trust herself again and take comfort in the fact that the dream supported her.
And as a matter of fact, everything came to a head shortly after this dream. It turned out that Miss X was actually quite the troublemaker, who often found herself at the center conflict in their community.
Dreaming Meaning: What inner figures mean in dreams
Here's another point to keep in mind about this dream. As Jung implies in the above quote, sitting together at a table means being psychically connected.
This means that Miss X is also a part of the dreamer's psyche, meaning that Miss X is part of an inner dynamic in the dreamer.
That inner dynamic manifested as a cruel inner voice who constantly persecuted the dreamer. This inner voice infected this woman with chronic self-doubt, guilt, and self-loathing. My guess is that it formed due to her tumultuous relationship with the women in her family.
Furthermore, that the table is square (instead of round) could indicate that Miss X is not a part of her whole personality, but is rather a hindrance to it.
2. Dreams depict an unconscious conflict you
A dream in this category is one which shows you that something else in you wants a life very different than the one you have planned.
In each of us there is another who has a totally different perspective on our lives than we do. I can better explain this with another dream from my own past. But first, I'll give you some background.
We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.Joseph Campbell
I came to the work of C.G. Jung at a time of deep personal crisis. The nature of the crisis made it very difficult for me to find an appropriate therapist. I knew I wanted a Jungian analyst and there just weren't any where I was.
Abject despair and desperation forced me straight to the source, Jung himself.
I found myself in a 14-month long personal journey into the Collected Works. I worked 14 hours a day, reading Jung and doing my own dream interpretation. Never in my life had I been so consumed by passion. Sometimes I'd ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" I mean, it was certainly necessary for my own healing process, but it felt like something so much more.
Once I came out of my crisis, I felt a profound sense of remorse and regret because I realized that I had missed my calling. This was the work I wanted to do, but it seemed that I had found it too late in life.
Dream Meaning: How to know when you are headed down the wrong path
So, I tried to improvise by pouring myself into teaching yoga and writing because yoga and Jung are actually very similar points of view.
I started doing yoga teacher training all over the U.S., with the intention of bringing together, Jung and yoga.
However, door after door closed for me. Even writing became so excruciating that I couldn't write anymore. I also lost my teaching voice and simply couldn't transmit anything in my classes.
Everything I had been so good at was gone. I became utterly neurotic and unable to function - AGAIN.
Finally, I decided that I had to make this yoga thing happen one way or another. I booked another expensive training in the hopes of finally opening some doors for me. Then I had a dream. It was quite long, so I'll give the condensed version of it.
It was a plane crash dream.
An Unconscious ConflictGetting ready to leave for California to attend another yoga teacher training. I am running late. When I get to the airport I realize that I have forgotten everything I need. My clothes and my identification. Suddenly, I realize that I have enough with me to get by. I must enter the plane from outside. It's dark. I see an old rickety plan that looks like it's made out of wood. This makes me uncomfortable. I get on the plane and there's only one place for me to sit - an old bench in the back. The seat isn't bolted down and it has no seat belts. This is the last plane, so I have to take it. People are talking about mechanical problems. The plane starts rolling down the runway and I get a bad feeling. This thing is going to crash. I stand up and insist that I must get off the plane. Much to my surprise, they let me off.
As I walk back toward the airport, I look back at the plane. Now, it is a perfectly fine jet. I say to myself, "oh, it was only going to crash if I was on it. Eventually, I make my way to an old woman and tell her my story. She tells me that she'll get this information to the right people."
Dream interpretation of an unconscious conflict
When I awoke from this dream, what resonated the most was my dream ego's statement regarding the plane: it was only going to crash if I was on it.
In that moment, I knew without a doubt why all of the doors to yoga had closed for me and why I could no longer write about it.
I had to let it go, something which caused me great suffering. I knew where my heart was: finding a way to get to Zurich and train as a Jungian Analyst.
Yoga had been a stepping stone for me, but yoga was not my path. It was someone else's. Now for me, this was a frightening moment, because in my mind, yoga was the only way I could ever practice some form of Jungian psychology. But still, I knew that I had to let yoga go. So, I surrendered into the unknown.
I had to make a huge leap of faith in this dream. If my dream had made the effort, so to speak, to inform me of this inner conflict, then I suspected that life would eventually reveal my new path. And it did.
Indeed I was supposed to practice Jungian psychology. And not some improvised form of it, but the real deal. Once I let go and made that leap, doors began to open and I eventually made my way to Switzerland, where I now have my practice in Jungian analysis.
3. Dream Meaning and Types of Dreams: Dreams aimed at changing your attitude
The dream example comes from a story Jung told in his Collected Works. It is the dream of a man who Jung happen to meet on a train.
Dreams invariably seek to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand.C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology and EducationHe was a staunch army general who was feared for being “a crusty old disciplinarian who meddled with the most trifling matters that were no concern of his.” He was so petty that he even went through his underlings' knapsacks, just because he could.
I think almost everyone knows someone like this. Maybe even you are like this in some way. It’s easy to say that a person like this is just a jerk. But we need to keep in mind that there is always a path which led up to that kind of attitude. If we remember that, perhaps we can discover the real meaning of “understanding”.
The following dream offers insight into this kind of behavior in a person:
Dreams that aim a change in attitudeI was on parade with a number of young officers, and our commander-in-chief was inspecting us. Eventually he came to me, but instead of asking a technical question he demanded a definition of the word beautiful. I tried in vain to find a satisfactory answer, and felt most dreadfully ashamed when he passed on to the next man, a very young major, and asked him the same question. This fellow came out with a damned good answer, just the one I would have given if only I could have found it.
The man told Jung that the dream gave him such a shock that he woke up. The key to note here is that this dream gave the old man “a shock”.
An emotional jolt such as this one is a key factor in the interpretation of dreams.
This is what we are looking for in dream meaning: the emotional factor.
This emotional factor is especially important when we consider the general attitude of our crusty old friend.
The man asked Jung if he thought the dream had any meaning. Jung asked the man if anything about the young major in the dream had made any impression on him.
The general told Jung that the young major reminded him of what he was like when he was younger.
Now we are getting into the value of your associations to your dream imagery. Our associations to our dream imagery help us to establish our dream meaning. When you make your associations, you have to stay with the dream imagery, i.e. do not free associate away from the dream.
Dream Meaning of the old crusty general
Well, then, [Jung said] it looks as if you had forgotten or lost something which you were still able to do when you were a young major. Evidently the dream was calling your attention to it."
He thought for a while, and then he burst out, "That's it, you've got it! When I was a young major I was interested in art. But later this interest got swamped by routine."
Jung said the man remained in deep reflection for the rest of the train ride.
You see, the dream deeply impacted that old man. The first impact was the dream itself. The second, most important impact, was his, that’s it, you’ve got it!, moment. If we don’t get that kind of resonance with our dream interpretation, then we have missed the mark.
This is how we know it works. When these two factors - the emotional impact and the aha! - come together, then we have the opportunity to change something about ourselves.
Dream Meaning: time for self-reflection
Now, what about our gentleman? We know that at the very least, it made him sit back and reflect on himself. And this is the point of the dream. He had gotten so one-sided in his role and routine discipline that he became neurotic about it. The dream reminded him of a softer side of his nature.
This is the meaning of compensation. It shows us the side of ourselves which we have disregarded or left behind. If our old general chose to really listen to the dream, he could have revitalized that crusty old nature with a touch of feeling and compassion.
It is very easy to get caught up in our daily routines and forget that we have other passions. We often have to think and act in certain ways - in our jobs, families, or social groups - which run counter to who we really are, or, who we really want to be.
At the very least, our routines require us to suppress who we really are. We put off doing the things we love so many times that before we know it, we have forgotten parts of ourselves. Eventually though, it all catches up to you in the form of physical illness, bad attitudes, or even depression and anxiety.
Finding your true purpose through dream meaning
Sometimes we end up on a life path that somewhat forces us to act, think, or live in a very particular kind of way.
For example, let’s say a man is born into a family where all of the men were well-established doctors.
Maybe this man really wants to be a teacher, a poet, or a writer. But instead of doing what his heart wants, he becomes a doctor. He may even be a really good doctor. He goes on and lives his life as a good doctor, but eventually, some vague discontent starts nagging at him.
This kind of thing is the beginning of a midlife crisis. The nice doctor runs off with the hot young resident because he believes that she has re-awakened something in him.
The problem is that it really has nothing to do with the actual hot, young resident. She’s just a living symbol for his forgotten inner life.
You can be assured that in a case such as the one I just mentioned, our poet-doctor had dreams that would have pointed in the direction of his inner passions. I have seen it many, many times. Had he rekindled his love for the arts in some form or fashion, he would have discovered something authentic in himself, instead of chasing it in another person.
Our longings are far better realized when we reach within to satisfy them.
4. Dream Meaning: Archetypal Dreams
Archetypal dreams are those dreams that have no connection with our conscious situation, but are instead experienced as a revelation. If you can recognize the significance of such dreams, they can be profound and life-changing. In a wonderful documentary on C.G. Jung and his work called Matter of Heart, Jung himself tells of a profound dream that one of analysands had.
The backstory is that a very smart young woman had a powerful transference onto Jung. She was attached to him in a fatherly way, attached by what we would call a father-complex.
Definition of archetype
Innate, potential patterns found in human beings, across cultures.
Archetypes are inherited, inborn, structural dispositions or basic psychic patterns, be they mental or behavioral, common to the human species.
They are inborn forms of comprehension and behavior; preconscious, psychic dispositions, which take on form when they emerge into consciousness in the shape of images. These are not the representations themselves, but the tendency to form the same basic patterns.
- One aspect of these modes is that of an action: they express themselves in typical actions, similar in all human beings, and thus are instinctive.
- Primal elements of the mind, forms of expression that can only be perceived inwardly within the psyche, that is, in feelings, emotions, mythical fantasy images, and “mythical” primal ideas, which take a similar form in all human beings.
- Individual, it can become either a source of creative structuring and new spiritual realizations, or if something goes wrong, it can become a source of pathological states and actions.
- Innate pattern of thought, perception, or imagination
- As a healing factor, they are numinous and show up in times of psychological need.
- Examples: Hero, Savior, Divine Child, Mother, Father, World Tree: specific to Jung, anima, animus, Self, and Shadow
Here's the part of the documentary where he talks about this young woman. I started the video at the point where he talks specifically about his case. I'll share the transcript from that section below, where we'll talk about the specific elements of archetypal dreams and why they are so significant to our lives.
Jung Speaking: Archetypal Dreams and Their Significance
Jung's commentary here is one of the most profound examples of an archetypal dream and its healing capacity that I have ever come across. You can see the whole movie at the end of this page. I owe thanks to the Gnostic Society Library for the transcript.
JUNG: I had a case that was an intelligent young woman. She was a student of philosophy, a very good mind, where one could expect easily that she would see that I am not the parental authority. But she was utterly unable to get out of this delusion.
And in such a case what one always has recourse to is the dreams. It is just as if one would ask the unconscious, "Now, what do you say to such a condition?" You see, she says, through the conscious, "Of course I know you are not my father, but I just feel like that, it is like that, I depend upon you:' And then I say, "Now let's see what the unconscious says."
Dream Meaning: Learning to Bear the Tension of Our Unbearable Problems
Jung said that when a life situation becomes impossible, meaning that we can neither remain where we are, nor move forward in life, the unconscious will produce a solution to the problem.
The unconscious solution often comes in the form of an archetypal symbol, such as the pagan god-image that we see in this clip. If we can catch hold of its meaning, that symbol is the door which can lead us out of the impossible situation.
This young woman was missing something essential in her life. She did not know what that something was, so she sought it from Jung. As he explained, "she depended on him."
Dream Meaning: Constellation of the Symbol
The key to the constellation of this symbolic solution lies in our ability to bear the tension of the problem. In other words, we must suffer through the problem. Don't pray for your problem to go away. Pray for the strength and integrity to withstand your problem. Wait for the door through that problem to open.
Bearing the tension of our problem also means withdrawing our projections. Withdrawing our projections means that we stop blaming others for its cause or depending on others to solve it for you. Stand consciously in your situation - and do it without self-indulgent pity. Do it with self-awareness.
This is the work we do in dream analysis. It's very helpful to have someone else there with you, watching and waiting, as your witness on the journey.
Here's what happened with the woman's dreams:
Jung’s Synopsis of her dreams
Now the unconscious produced dreams in which I really assume a very curious role. You know she was a little infant, she was sitting on my knees, I held her in my arms. I was a very tender father to the little girl, you know, and more and more her dreams became emphatic in that respect. Namely, that I was sort of a giant and she was a very little frail human thing, you know, quite a little girl in the hands of an enormous being.
And the last dream of that series (I cannot tell you all the dreams) was that I was out in nature, I stood in a field of wheat, an enormous field of wheat that was ripe for harvest. I was a giant, and I held her in my arms like a baby, and the wind was blowing over that field of wheat.
You can see the way in which the unconscious blew Jung's image completely out of proportion to Jung the man. He appeared as a mythic god-image, who protected the woman. In her mind, this meant Jung was her protector. But Jung here is a symbolic image.
We have to ask ourselves why he appears as godlike being. What is the dream meaning of a godlike image such as we see here? We touched on this earlier in this post when we looked the image of the Great Goddess, but now let's go deeper and read Jung's own words.
Jung’s Interpretation and Dream Meaning
Now, you know when the wind is blowing over wheat it makes these waves in the wheat field, and with these waves I swayed, like that, putting her, as if it were to sleep. And she felt as being in the arms of a god, of the godhead, and I thought "Now the harvest is ripe and I must tell her." And I told her, "You see, what you want and what you project into me, because you are not conscious of it, is you have the idea of a deity you don't possess. Therefore you see it in me."
That clicked! She suddenly became aware of an entirely heathenish image that comes fresh from the archetype. She had not the idea of a Christian God, or of an Old Testament Yahweh. It was a heathenish god. you see, a god of nature, of vegetation. He was the wheat himself, he was the spirit of the wheat, the spirit of the wind, and she was in the arms of that numen.
Now that is the living experience of an archetype. Now that made a tremendous impression upon that girl, and instantly it clicked. She saw what she really was missing, that missing value that was in the form of a projection on myself and made myself indispensable to her.
And then she thought, well he is not indispensable. Because, it is as the dream says, she is in the arms of that archetypal idea.
Dream Meaning: Jung on the Value of the Archetype in Dream Imagery
I hope you can see what Jung means when he talks about the archetypal experience giving this woman an inner value, one that she can hold onto as her own. It is as if the dream says, "I've got you and you will be okay, no matter what."
Jung continues on the Dream Meaning
Now that is a numinous experience you see, and that is the thing that people are looking for, an archetypal experience that gives them an incorruptible value. You see, they depend upon outer conditions, they depend upon their desires, their ambitions.[People] depend upon other people because they have no value in themselves. They have nothing in themselves. They are only rational and they are not in the possession of a treasure that would make them independent.
But when that girl can hold that experience, then she doesn't depend anymore. She cannot depend anymore because that value is in herself. And that is a sort of liberation and that is of course, it makes her complete. You know, in as much as she can realize such a numinous experience she is able to continue her path, her way, her individuation.
Definition of IndividuationThe process of psychic development through which a person realizes psychological wholeness through the development of his or her unique personality and thus becomes an in-dividual.
- In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.
- The total experience of wholeness over one’s lifetime.
- Goal: development of the individual’s whole personality – a unique, undivided, integrated person.
Definition of Numinous
A word coined by Rudolf Otto in his book, The Idea of the Holy.
An experience having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of the Divine.
The numinous can only be directly experienced. It cannot be taught. As Otto said, "It can only be evoked, awakened in the mind ; as everything that comes of the spirit must be awakened."
Dreaming Meaning: The Incorruptible Value of Your Dreams
Now, I realize that Jung's words may be a lot to take in, but read or listen to them over and over until they resonate within you.
As I said before, this example illustrates the supreme value of our dream life.
When Jung spoke about our dreams, he often referred to the idea that in each of us dwells an Other. By Other, he meant something that is far greater than our limited ego.
All of have access to the profound wisdom of this other who dwells within us. This Other sees things differently than we do and it speaks to us in dreams and synchronicities.
If we can learn to pay attention to it when it speaks and learn to understand its symbolic language, then perhaps we can kindle the light of meaning which points the way out of our darkest and most difficult life situations.
This site is dedicated to helping you kindle that light of meaning, and as always, in the spirit of the man who brought this work to life, C.G. Jung.