Signs, Symbols, and Patterns: The Jungian Approach to Dreams

All people dream. For thousands of years, men have tried to understand dreams, where they originate from and what they mean. Dream interpretation has been attempted by ancient Egyptian priests, the ancient Greeks, and great Chinese thinkers from ages past.

Two modern theorists who have made great strides in the study of dreams are Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

In his book “The Interpretation of Dreams,” Freud theorized that all dreams are a form of unconscious wish fulfillment, brought about the unconscious’s desire to resolve a conflict. According to Freud, life is driven by sexuality and that the unconscious contains thoughts, experiences, and frustrations stemming from unfulfilled sexual desires.

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Carl Jung, however, believed that the driving force behind dreams is more than base desire. Jung theorized that dreams, for the most part, are attitude compensations. Similar to Freud’s, Jung’s model of the human psyche is divided into the general of categories conscious and unconscious. However, Jung also divides the unconscious into two: The personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.

The personal unconscious refers to the repression of desires and urges. Jung also observed that certain themes and symbols appear in the dreams of a diverse group of people, regardless of their life experience, culture, personality, or other differences. These dreams are theorized to have originated from a collective unconscious, shared by mankind throughout the entire course of history.

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Jungian analysis or analytical psychology aims to re-establish a healthy balance between the unconscious and the conscious parts of a patient’s personality. By working with and interpreting dreams, what they symbolize, and their patterns, Jungian analysts help uncover that which is not easily visible and strengthen the patient’s connection to both the healing and destructive elements within the psyche.

Jungian analysts like Paul Gabrinetti utilize certain cognitive methodologies to gain a better understanding of an individual through his or her dreams. Visit this website to learn more.


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Paul Gabrinetti, Ph.D., is a core faculty professor in Clinical Psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. With four decades of professional experience, he has been on various teaching or consultancy roles from a number of prestigious institutions, including the University of Southern California, Antioch University, Pepperdine University, Woodland Hills Psychiatric Medical Group, Wesval Counseling Center, and The Institute for Human Studies.

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