Jung, dreams, metaphor

Jung believed that ‘dream symbols are the essential message carriers from the instinctive to the rational parts of the human mind’ (Jung, p. 37). In Man and his Symbols he at one point talks about one of his own dreams which takes the literalised form of a commonly used phrase, ‘you can climb on my back’, an Austrian colloquialism which means ‘I don’t care what you say about me’ (Jung, p. 43). And so, in his dream there is a man who follows him and keeps attempting to jump onto his back, this an unconscious response to his many critics. Jung elaborates that ‘when this happens as it so often does it is not a deliberate “disguise” by a dream; it simply reflects the deficiencies in our understanding of emotionally charged pictorial language. For in our daily experience we need to state things as accurately as possible, and we have learned to discard the trimmings of fantasy both in our language and in our thoughts thus losing a quality that is still characteristic of the primitive mind’ (Jung, p. 43).

In this respect dreams serve to empower pictorial, metaphorical language, to concretise the emotive source which is buried beneath modernised language and which is inhibited by rationality and logic. Jung expands that ‘what psychologists call psychic identity, or “mystical participation”, has been stripped in our world of things. But it is exactly this halo of unconscious associations that gives a colorful and fantastic aspect to the primitive’s world. We have lost it to such a degree that we do not recognize it when we meet it again. With us such things are kept below the threshold; when they occasionally reappear, we even insist that something is wrong’ (Jung, pp. 43-45).  Jung believed that primitive man had a grasp of language which is far closer to the true expression of the thing and so enable for the release of repressed throughs and drives much more freely. The question then is, how does civilised man retain logic whilst at the same time move closer to a primitive form of expression?


NB: featured image is Dali’s ‘the dream caused by the flight of a bee around a pomegranate a second before awakening’



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