By Marlon Xavier
From C.G. Jung Page (http://www.cgjungpage.org/)
This essay was written originally in December of 1996, as a theoretical dissertation for the Clinical Psychology Training Programme co-ordinated by Dr. Miriam Freitas, Dipl. CG Jung Institut - Zurich, and Claudia Perrone and Nadia Santos, Psychologists, which was part of the graduation course of Psychology at the Federal University of RGS. The version presented here has been slightly modified - examples from the case material of a 28-year-old female patient are omitted, for instance, as well as certain paragraphs, aiming for a more concise presentation.
The initial purpose is thus to provide a modest and general panoramic view on the Jungian thought concerning dream analysis. In this sense, the concepts that are located around dreams (what they are and represent), the analysis techniques and related theoretical views necessary for objective understanding are discussed, in order to connect the practical and theoretical fields in a cohesive manner.
Jung considers the dream fundamentally as a natural expression of the unconscious psychic process. It provides an X-ray of the unconscious, so to speak, as it is - as a matrix of symbols, it presents its dynamic, source of all psychic processes, in symbolic form, with its own peculiar language. In this sense, the validity of dream analysis depends on the realisation of the unconscious process (the acquisition of awareness over it)- awareness already considered as therapeutic by Freud.
In opposition to the manifest concept of the more recent collective consciousness, in past ages dreams were regarded as a vital force, of enormous importance to the most diverse cultures. For instance, in the Bible dreams appear as guides, as psychopompos Joseph interprets the Pharaoh's dreams thus avoiding starvation in ancient Egypt. The escape of Christ to Egypt came as a consequence of Saint Joseph's dreams, according to the New Testament. In the Jewish culture, the Talmud emphasises the importance of the dream and its interpretation. In ancient Greek culture, dreams had a special significance. "... the Greeks, especially in the early period, regarded the dream as something that really happened; for them it was not, as it was in later times and to 'modern man' in particular, an imaginary experience. The natural consequence of this attitude was that people felt it necessary to create the conditions that caused dreams to happen. Incubation rites induces a mantike atechnos, an artificial mania, in which the soul spoke directly, or, in Latin, divinat" (C.A. Meier, p. xiv). In the temples dedicated to Asclepius, incubation was prepared utilising special techniques, seeking rebirth through a type of plunging into the unconscious. "To live" the dream could bring the cure or solution and it was conceived as a transformation experience. Hence the large number of dream interpreters and "therapeutas", like Artemidorus (cf. Meier).
The concept of dream as an important tool for transformation and analysis was actually rescued and brought back by Freud, as we know. However, although this was a valuable contribution, Psychoanalysis, with its concept of dream as facade, as a trick of the superego, does not do justice to the old tradition's concepts and faiths, to the historical importance dreams always had to mankind. In this sense, Jungian Psychology is more closely associated to the old views. Therefore in this essay I will try to include differentiation between Jung's theory and Psychoanalysis; such aspects are of special importance to keep Analytical Psychology alive and attached to its roots. In my opinion these roots of thought are nowadays jeopardised by mixtures of theories and misunderstandings (and also plagiarised "borrowings" which claim to be original thoughts). It is not a matter of keeping Analytical Psychology in a sort of standstill, non-developing state; the vital task is rather to keep a new paradigm alive by separating it from the devouring Freudian perspective. As such, this essay contains numerous quotations ipsis litterisfrom Jung and close collaborators, which I believe represents the essence of his thought.
II JUNGIAN CONCEPT
"... in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There it is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare from all egohood. Out of these all-uniting depths arises the dream, be it never so infantile, never so grotesque, never so immoral" (CW 10).
I believe this quotation allows one to view the deep difference that exists between Jung's and Freud's theories. This difference, of paradigm, of Weltanschauung , will obviously reflect in the dream theory.
Thus, instead of regarding the unconscious as primarily subordinated to consciousness, a mere "garbage storage" connected to the ego and the superego, Jung's concept considers it rather as consciousness' mother. He sees it as a substratum to the formation of the ego, a supreme creative force coming from the "depths" mentioned previously and the dream is its product. "The dream is specifically the utterance of the unconscious" (CW 16, p. 317). Or, "... the dream is a spontaneous self-portrayal, in symbolic form, of the actual situation in the unconscious" (CW 8, p. 505). Moreover, the dream is regarded as the premier form of communication between the unconscious and the ego complex, through its singular symbolism that brings about the creative energy and therefore the possibility of a conscious modification. In this sense, the notion of the function of dream being a way of communication between the two psychic poles, unconscious and conscious, gives another flavour, another richness to the concept of dream as "via regia" to the unconscious. According to von Franz, "the dreams...are, so to speak, the voice of nature inside us" (Dreams and Death, p. 9).
Besides the theoretical difference concerning the unconscious, Freud and Jung differ in another important aspects. The objective of dream analysis for Freud was "to convert unpleasant representations into pleasant ones" (Die Traumdeutung, Ges. Werke, ii/iii, p. 185]). Freud's dream analysis comes from, and intends to validate, his theory of neurosis: "'dreams... contain in germ the psychology of neurosis', and in dream interpretation we find the assumption that understanding the dreams could be based on neurosis as a model" (Frey-Rohn, p.221).
On the other side, Jung concealed dreams as a product of nature, a natural manifestation of the unconscious; his theory came mainly from his empirical work with patients, with other persons in general and with himself, and is based on a "Human" Psychology, not exclusively on Psychopathology.
Freud regarded the dream as a realisation of desires deformed by the censorship (Die Traumdeutung , p. 166) - that is to equate the dream phenomenon in its totality to a symptom, to a sign meaning another thing. "The symbol had, as the rest of the contents of the unconscious psyche does, a value exclusively of symptom" (Frey-Rohn, p. 153). Jung, however, could not see the dream only as "satisfaction of desires". In the very early stages of the development of his theory, Jung was very influenced by Bleuler, who considered the dream as a psychological elaboration of complexes. From this concept Jung would create his own dream theory, namely the theory of compensation - which will be treated in more detail in the third chapter. This evolves one of the most important discoveries made by Jung - the auto-regulation of the psyche. The dreams are, thus, "the natural reaction of the psychic auto-regulation system" (CW 18, par. 248). Furthermore, their major function is to supply the unconscious parallel to the conscious attitude, thus maintaining the psychic homeostasis. "The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic balance" (Man and his Symbols, p. 34).
According to the Freudian perspective, the dream is essentially spurred by unconscious desires relating mainly to lurking sexual aspects. For Jung, however, every psychic phenomenon must be tackled via two viewpoints: causality and finality (causa efficiens and causa finalis). Hence the dream can be seen to be a psychic phenomenon. In this way, viewed through the causal point, every psychic product is a result of psychic contents that had preceded it. Nonetheless, the dream has a meaning, a direction and reach of its own, has its own value - the idea of a finalist character (Zielstrebigkeit) influenced by Maeder, who "vigorously points the prospective-finalist signification of dreams, as an adequate unconscious function that tries out solutions of conflicts and actual problems and tries to expose it through symbols" (CW 8, p. 290).
Again we can distinguish the difference of paradigm, concerning the unconscious, between Psychoanalysis and Analytical Psychology. While for Freud the unconscious is a mere "desiring" thing, a sex-thirsty being - and as a result the whole human culture is a subproduct of the sexual function, a deviate application of a sexual libido (therefore a "symptom") - for Jung it is the source of all creativity, a dynamic and ever mutant organ - in fact, it is creativity itself. From Freud's causal point of view, together with his view of the unconscious, could not result anything different than a sexual fixed symbolism, in which any and every symbol can be viewed as phallus or vagina.
From this narrow concept of the human being comes the idea that the unconscious must distort and disguise the dream, because the desire has to be experienced through it, thus causing no offence to the superego. Because of the limitations and shallowness of the theory, one has to project one's non-understanding of the dream into the unconscious. For Jung, "the dream is only what it makes itself out to be. It is not a facade, anything done or prepared or a deceiving appearance, but a finished construction" (Modern Man in Search of a Soul) - and if we do not understand it it is due to our absolute incapacity to comprehend it, not because of an unconscious distortion. Jung in a way agrees with the Talmud, which says that "'the dream is its own interpretation'. In other words I take the dream for what it is " (CW 16, p. 26).
In the Jungian theory, the unconscious possesses its own language, the symbolic language, pre-logic, allegoric (studied in depth by Piaget afterwards). Having its own language, there is no reason for the unconscious to distort anything - it just expresses itself. This concept is thus in obvious opposition to the repression in the dreams; it takes the dream as the voice of the unconscious in us (the "inner voice" according to Neumann), that orients and compensates consciousness.
If we take the unconscious activity as great as, or even greater than, the conscious one, the former can no longer be considered only from the compensation point of view, for obvious reasons - the unconscious too has its primacy in certain moments. According to Jung, "the significance of the unconscious in the total performance of the psyche is probably just as great as that of consciousness. ...The dream, accordingly, would then have the value of a positive, guiding idea or of an aim whose vital meaning would be greatly superior to that of the momentarily constellated conscious content" (CW 8, p. 491). Every unconscious dynamic has thus a finality, to which Jung gave the name of "individuation process". An in-depth discussion of this concept would exceed the limits of this essay; therefore I supply only a small definition. "Individuation means becoming a single, homogenous being, and, in so far as 'individuality' embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one's own self. We could therefore translate individuation as 'coming to selfhood' or 'self-realisation'" (CW 7, p. 171).
Concerning the clinical field, one can often see that in the beginning of therapy the first dreams supply etiology, prognosis and even from where to "start" the therapeutical procedures - the main constellated problems and complexes, see the interesting example of Jung in CW 16ii, par. 305. This I think can be better illustrated with a metaphor: if we consider the therapy as a boat where analysand and analyst are sitting, and the river to be travelled across as the individuation process, the dream can be represented by a launch motor, which directs the vessel. In other words: it impels, it is the vis motrix of the process, and directs it at the same time.
An important concept in Jung's Psychology, compensation in a way entwines a range of other concepts, for it is a complex definition supported by a more basic hypothesis. First of all, it presupposes the hypothesis of unconscious autonomy, the unconscious functioning independently from ego-consciousness. This conceptualisation came mostly from Jung's empirical and clinical practice and can be fully confirmed especially through the observation of cases of desegregation of the personality and schizophrenic states, where unconscious autonomy shows itself in full effect. This theory differs completely from the Freudian view, which regards the unconscious as sub-product of consciousness, thus dependent on and overinfluenced by ego and superego.
The unconscious "organ", as Jung puts it, can function in opposition to, disagreeing in terms with or sometimes in agreement with consciousness. Furthermore, in any state - but especially when it is agreeing with the ego - the unconscious always brings new material, elements to be developed - for it is the creative source of the total personality.
"Compensation... means balancing and comparing different data or points of view so as to produce an adjustment or a rectification" (CW 8, p. 545). This concept is strongly influenced by Eastern and Alchemical ideas of harmony, the middle path born out of the opposites - the third term. From the unconscious pole the compensation to the conscious pole shows up, regulating the whole personality. The idea of compensation is therefore based on that important idea - the psyche is a self-regulating system.
Because the dream always contains the unconscious compensation, to interpret it one should always bear in mind what has been compensated, that is, the conscious situation. "If we want to interpret a dream correctly, we need a thorough knowledge of the conscious situation at that moment, because the dream contains its unconscious complement, that is, the material which the conscious situation has constellated in the unconscious" (ibid., p.477). "The dream is not an isolated event completely cut off from daily life and lacking its character.... In reality the relation between the conscious mind and the dream is strictly causal, and they interact in the subtlest of ways." ( CW 16, p. 334).
To attain a precise dream interpretation, one must therefore investigate the state of the dreamer's consciousness and analyse critically the situations of the dream itself, relating and connecting them to consciousness - a process we will see in detail in the chapter about Interpretation. The conscious situation, in practice, is analysed in therapy through the patient's attitudes and view of the world - in his existence, his manner of dealing with problems and so on; "la actitud habitual del sonante, sus convicciones, valores e intereses, como su nivel cultural, sus conocimientos y sus cualidades humanas" (Frey-Rohn, p. 242).
In conclusion, we see that dreams are in a dialectic situation with respect to consciousness. From this situation appears the balance, the equilibrium. From this tension between the opposites in the dialectic appears the energy and image which can be used towards the growth of the personality. Thus, dream compensation acts in the sense of actualising the totality - what Jung called the individuation process.
Beyond compensation, there are some other concepts that try to elucidate the unconscious psyche functioning which are necessary for the understanding of the dream dynamic.
Jung speaks about the prospective function in On the Nature of the Psyche, CW 8. This concept would be essentially "an anticipation in the unconscious of future conscious achievements, something like a preliminary exercise or sketch, or a plan roughed out in advance. Its symbolic content sometimes outlines the solution of a conflict..." (p. 493). Conscience generally has a focal, centralised perception of the external and personal realities; it is from its nature to focus, to divide, to perceive the parts - it is related to Logos. The unconscious, on the contrary, possesses all the subliminal perceptions that the conscious does not cover - possesses a global perception of reality, so to speak, of the situation as a whole. (For instance, in the classic representation of gestalt - a figure in which there are two profiles and one vase - consciousness can only apprehend one of the two figures at once; the unconscious would have the capacity of perceiving the whole gestalt. The symbol, its immanent expression, is eminently dual and paradoxical - it expresses two sides of a same reality).
The unconscious, besides having this different perception, is the carrier of the "directives" of the Self, the centre of the personality - which co-ordinates and drives the process of individuation. In this way, the unconscious elaborates all perceptions and possibilities, thus effectuating varied forms of creative construction and expression - which may or may not be followed by consciousness. "they are merely an anticipatory combination of probabilities which may coincide with the actual behaviour of things but need not necessarily agree in every detail" (ibid.).
However, one should not take this function as a virtual unconscious "guide"; the conscious direction is also very important, without which the unconscious cannot be constructive. Prospection must be taken into consideration especially when the conscious attitude is too one-sided, moving away from the unconscious nature. In these cases, the unconscious compensation "becomes a guiding, prospective function capable of leading the conscious attitude in a quite different direction which is much better than the previous one..." (ibid., p. 495).
The prospective function acts in the therapeutical praxis, in the beginning of therapy, especially supplying a specific prognosis through the dreams, as we saw in the Jung's Concepts chapter. There is also what Jung called the negatively compensating function or reductive function. Through a reduction or depreciation of a conscious attitude, it works in a compensatory manner too - and can be eminently prospective (ibid.,par. 496). While the synthetic-constructive dream is creative and preparatory, able to provide ways and possibilities of development, the reductive dream tends to be the opposite; "it tends rather to disintegrate, to dissolve, to devalue, even to destroy and demolish" (ibid., p. 496). It is absolutely clear that the one-sided attitude of consciousness impedes the constructive flow of the unconscious - the reductive dream tries to break this barrier, this attitude, constituting its antipode, so ego-consciousness, taking account of and touching its opposite (its "dark brother", as Jung once put it), recognises its own partiality. In this way, the whole organism tries to find the equilibrium between the psychic poles again. According to Jung, this function appears mainly in individuals whose internal reality is rather different from the one presented outwardly - the persona with whom the ego identifies.
"The doctor should regard every such dream as something new, as a source of information about conditions whose nature is unknown to him, concerning which he has as much to learn as the patient. ... he should give up all his theoretical assumptions and should in every single case be ready to construct a totally new theory of dream. ... Therefore I leave theory aside as much as possible when analysing dreams - not entirely, of course, for we always need some theory to make things intelligible" (CW 16, par. 317-8). "Some theory" would be two considerations: the expectation that the dream has a meaning and that a dream has to add something essential to conscious apprehension.
In fact, these words must be judged carefully. I believe one has first to understand the unconscious language, archaic, symbolic, and only afterwards try to set it aside. In this sense, a differentiation is necessary between sign and symbol - symbol presupposes a multiplicity of meanings, and not an uniformity, as in the case of sign (and the Freudian sexual interpretation).
Some considerations are thus essentially necessary for the comprehension of the unconscious language expressed through the dreams. One of the most important is to reconstruct the context in which the dream was built, which is done through the method of association - rather different, however, from Freud's "free association" method.
"When... we seek a psychological explanation of a dream, we must first know what were the preceding experiences out of which it is composed. ...we need to collect only just so much material as is absolutely necessary in order to understand the dream's meaning" (CW 8, p. 451-4). "When we take up an obscure dream, our first task is not to understand and interpret, but to establish the context with minute care. By this I do not mean unlimited 'free association' starting from any and every image in the dream, but a careful and conscious illumination of the interconnected associations objectively grouped round particular images. ...Free association will bring out all my complexes, but hardly ever the meaning of a dream. To understand the dream's meaning I must stick as close as possible to the dream images" (CW 16, p. 319-20).
"While 'free' association lures one away from that material in a kind of zigzag line, the method I evolved is more like a circumbulation whose center is the dream picture. I work all around the dream picture and disregard every attempt that the dreamer makes to break away from it" (Man and his Symbols, p.14). "Freud is seeking the complexes, I am not. That is the central difference. I try to know what the unconscious is doing with the complexes..." (CW 18, par 175).
Together with the association method, another difference in relation to Psychoanalysis regards the paradigm behind interpretation. Jung breaks away from the concretistic Freudian perspective postulating the symbolic interpretation, thus cutting the link with biologicist scientificism, Cartesian-materialist, that prevailed at the time - paradigm embraced and defended by Freud. Freud postulates the interpretation of the sign, concretistic, analytic; Jung's contrapuntal response is the symbolic view, for the unconscious is eminently symbolic; it is a synthetic-constructive view, coherent with the nature of the symbol.
"The method is based ...on evaluating the symbol (i.e., dream-image or fantasy) not semiotically , as a sign for elementary instinctual processes, but symbolically in the true sense, the word 'symbol' being taken to mean the best possible expression for a complex fact not yet clearly apprehended by consciousness" (CW 8, p. 148).
Symbol is thereby an expression of the hitherto unknown, a synthetic and paradoxical formation that tends to unite the opposites, creating a new situation. It is the bridge uniting the poles; it is the basis and way of expression of the transcendent function.
"While for Freud the meaning of the dreams is completely dependent upon its determination by a series of causes, being essentially a sign representing another thing, Jung conceded them a symbolic meaning: they were for him a meaningful unity, a symbolic expression of the unconscious, whose meaning would only be discovered through clarifying what was nevertheless unknown" (Frey-Rohn, p. 228).
The exclusively sexual view in Freud's theory, contrariwise, could not originate other conception than the concretistic one, and this fact links him even more to the 19th Century paradigm. "Por muy progresiva que quisiera aparecer la teoria de los simbolos, Freud acabo reduciendola a sus concepciones anteriores. No solo redujo el simbolismo a procesos regresivos que si perdian en lo prenatal, sino que, ademas, hallo su fundamento en contenidos reprimidos: solo lo que estaba reprimido podia representarse simbolicamente" (Frey-Rohn, p. 255). Thereby, symbol presupposes a movement of regression. Because the unconscious was considered mainly as "storage" for repressed contents (the later theory of "ontogenetic formations", seeming progressive as well, ends up changing nothing - because the paradigm continues the same), it cannot have a language of its own - and a symbolic theory has to conform to this view. In other words: if the unconscious is regarded as a "symptom", in a way, the symbols, its expression, must carry the same connotation. "... los simbolos oniricos no eran sino desfiguraciones procedentes de epocas remotas y que seguian teniendo afecto" (ibid.).
Jung, agreeing with Adler, in proposing the understanding of the contents of the dream as symbolic gets closer to the Eastern tradition, far from sexual biologicism. The symptom, understood symbolically and in its finality, is seen as the best attempt from the unconscious to keep an equilibrium, an order in the psyche - the best example being the appearance of mandala symbolism.
"... the sexual language of dreams is not always to be interpreted in a concretistic way - that is, in fact, an archaic language which naturally uses all the analogies readiest to hand without their necessarily coinciding with a real sexual content. ...So long as the sexual language of dreams is understood concretistically, there can be only a direct, outward, and concrete solution, or else nothing is done at all - one resigns oneself opportunistically to one's inveterate cowardice or laziness. There is no real conception of, and no attitude to, the problem. But that immediately becomes possible when the concretistic misconception is dropped, that is, when the patient stops taking the unconscious sexual language of the dream literally and interpreting the dream figures as real persons" (ibid., p. 506).
Associated to the concretistic interpretation is the objective view, or in the level of the object, of the dream. On the opposite pole stands the subjective view, in which one considers the dream elements as parts of the dreamer - for instance, if the patient dreams about his mother and father, one interprets it as the mother and father complexes, and so on. In other words: the representations that appear in dreams are representations of the dreamer's personality and therefore should also be considered subjectively as well - what Jung calls interpretation at the level of the subject. "Such an interpretation, as the term implies, conceives all the figures in the dream as personified features of the dreamer's own personality" (ibid., p. 509).
From these assumptions arise a doubt: how to know which interpretation is more indicated to each dream? According to Jung, "it must first be shown whether the image is reproduced for its subjective or for its objective significance" (ibid., p. 510). Thus, in a characteristic example, if the image of a person who has strong affectionate liaisons with the dreamer appears on a dream, probably the objective interpretation will be the most correct - which does not discard, however, the subjective interpretation. It can be as well that a person the dreamer considers distant can remind him of another one who wakes in him powerful effects. "But if this reminiscence can be thrust aside so easily it cannot be all that important. The substitution shows that this personal affect allows itself to be depersonalised" (ibid.) and , consequently, give priority to a subjective interpretation.
Since the dream carries the compensation and new material from the unconscious, the aim is thus to bring this material to consciousness through analysis: "... the assimilation of the [dream] images is a most important activity and is the purpose of analytical treatment" (Dream Analysis, p.19). Because the dream is somehow the counterpart of the conscious attitude, from its assimilation results the blossoming of a third term, a new situation - the transcendent function creates a new state in which ego and unconscious unite in one direction, the direction of individuation. But this can regarded as a never-ending process, because it represents the development of consciousness coming from the unconscious opposites and their energy - eternal tension and mutation. Analogously, the interpretation of a dream never becomes exhausted in its explanation. "De la misma manera que el planteamiento causal se completaba con el planteamiento finalista, orientado hacia lo prospectivo, Jung ponia tambien frente al explicar, el compreender; frente a la interpretacion de los signos, el procedimento hermeneutico" (Frey-Rohn, p. 240).
Jung always tried to reach a mutual understanding of the dream, constructed by analyst and analysand, and not to impose an one-sided interpretation (at least in the majority of cases; there are cases, however, in which the rigid attitude of the patient's ego asks for a "description" of the unconscious attitude - which the ego does not want to recognise - by the therapist, using the dream image). Hence the interpretation of a dream will have decisive effect in the therapy only when the patient understands it too. If only the therapist understands the dream correctly, then this will serve only for orientation purposes. In Jung's words, "...in the end it makes very little difference whether the doctor understands or not, but it makes all the difference whether the patient understands. Understanding should therefore be understood in the sense of an agreement which is the fruit of joint reflection. ...The analyst...must therefore consider every dream interpretation invalid until such time as a formula is found which wins the assent of the patient" (CW 16, p. 314-6). This position turns the patient into an active element in the therapy, unfrocking the therapist of the "almighty" inflation and facilitating the confrontation of projections from both sides. "Clearly, dream-interpretation is in the first place an experience which has immediate validity for only two persons" (CW 8, p. 539).
Besides this question, is important to emphasise the difficulty of interpreting an isolated dream. Since the unconscious dynamic is a continuous process (the basis of the individuation process), interpretation acquires more certainty and meaning when a series of dreams is available, i.e., when there is a reasonable contact with both conscious and unconscious dynamics. About this Jung says: "A relative degree of certainty is reached only in the interpretation of a series of dreams, where the later dreams correct the mistakes we have made in handling those that went before. Also, the basic ideas and themes can be recognised much better in a dream-series" (CW 16, p. 332)
VI. FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
As we saw before, "just as the interpretation of dreams requires exact knowledge of the conscious status quo, so the treatment of dream symbolism demands that we take into account the dreamer's philosophical, and moral convictions" (CW 16, p. 339). The dream is a fruit of the unconscious, but influenced by the conscious situation and therefore by the balance between the two poles. Thus the dream content must be taken as symbolic, therefore mutabile in essentia - because the unconscious is essentially dynamic and the symbol expresses it. Nonetheless, Jung postulates theoretically the existence of symbols relatively fixed - which express the most basic portion of the psyche, more conservative, less susceptible to changes (if susceptible at all); the more objective part.
Jung called this objective part the collective unconscious - which, because it represents the fundament, the base of the psyche, is much more distant from ego-consciousness. Relatively fixed symbols refer primarily to this archaic, primeval imagetic spring; they are linked to mythological motifs, or what Jung called archetypes. In a brief explanation, they designate "specific forms and groups of images which occur not only at all times and in all places but also in individual dreams, fantasies, visions, and delusional ideas" (CW 8, par. 554).
Thus, when an archetypal content is perceived inside the dream context, "the analyst can and should start to think, because the archetype depends on a structure common to the human condition, because of which my associations will be as valid as the dreamer's ones" (Man to the discovery of his Soul, p. 391). In simpler terms: because the material comes from the collective ambit of the psyche, it obviously has collective significance - the analyst thus being able to make amplifications through his knowledge of the appearance of the same material in the most varied cultures. The process of amplification constitutes, fundamentally, an "elaboration and clarification of a dream-image by means of directed association and of parallels from the human science (symbology, mythology, mysticism, folklore, history of religion, ethnology etc.)" (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 410). In this sense, "the dream uses collective figures because it has the finality of expressing an eternal problem which repeats itself indefinitely, and not a personal desiquilibrium" (CW 8ii, par 356). Through these images the dreamer perceives that countless other people have already gone through the same problem he is living, thus inserting him in the collective, which gives him its force and its shelter - instead of facing the difficulties in a merely individual ambit.
These symbols are relatively, not absolutely fixed. Jung, as we saw, sees in the symbol the eternally mutant character of the psyche. Even the archetype possesses its individuality; it is only a facultas praeformandi, an a priori possibility of preformation, and in itself is empty (CW 9, p. 79 ff). In other words, through his subjective experience man gives form to the archetypal world - like a God created through man's image; the reverse side.
Therefore, "... consider first and foremost the meaning of the symbol in relation to the conscious situation - in other words, to treat the symbol as if it were not fixed. This is as much to say that we must renounce all preconceived opinions... and try to discover what things mean for the patient" ( CW 16, par. 342).