The Importance of Dreams

Dr. David Trappler

Psychiatrist & Jungian Analyst

“Psyche” is the Greek word for the whole “mind”, both the “conscious” and the “unconscious” functions. The word “mind” comes from the Latin: “mens” from which we get the word “mental”. Jung used the Greek word “psyche”, to denote the mystery of all “mental” processes. These psychic processes are not just an epiphenomenon or a by-product of brain activity, but just as the electro-chemical activity of the brain is mysterious and autonomous, so too are the images emanating out of the psyche also mysterious and autonomous. Both the physiological cellular and sub-cellular processes and the image making activity of the mind or psyche are responsible for every physiological and archetypal reality that governs all our life experiences.

When Jung was asked what the relationship was between matter and psyche, he said: ”a reciprocal one.”  We all know that mental stress for example, has an effect on the body, (and therefore the brain, as an organ of the body,) and that whatever we ingest or whatever is manufactured by the body, affects the mind.

Then Jung was asked, “can psyche exist without the body?”

He stuck to his empirical approach, and replied simply: “I don’t know.”

Dreams are complex natural “products” of the unconscious part of the psyche, and they are trying to restore the one-sidedness of the conscious rational ego, This refers to the conscious attitudes with which we so closely uphold as absolute truths, and hold onto so strongly.

However, the synchronicities of life, suggest there may be an unconscious “intelligence”, which Jung called the “Self”. This is the archetype of wholeness, occupying an objective centre within the whole psyche and it is like an Archimedean point of reference beyond one’s subjectivity. It points the way towards enlarging our tightly held onto conscious stance in life. It is the “dream manager”, tying up the personal subjective parts of the psyche, with the history of humanity in the collective unconscious. It brings eternal themes to our personal experiences.

All great literature and other art forms, offer this opportunity of setting our personal world against a backdrop of universal themes or archetypes. They offer a narrative beyond the personal literal one. This archetypal universal pattern of images, relativises the subjective suffering, by placing it within the history of universal or collective themes.

It is important to record your dreams and to speak to someone trained in understanding an approach to the dream language, in order to enlarge your one-sided conscious attitudes.

As Jung put it, the unconscious “likes to be seen”, and an effort in approaching it is met with an even greater “reaching out” by unconscious material to become incorporated or "incarnated" into a new world view for us.

More Notes of Interest
Alcohol Abuse
What one tries to achieve with patients who drink too much, is to encourage them to have a more conscious relationship with alcohol. I have great respect for the 12-step programme, but one needs to refrain from a “one size fits all” approach when dealing with the complex issue of people’s relationship with alcohol.
Bipolar Mood Disorders
We all have moods that affect our functioning to some extent. When fluctuating moods or changes in psychic energy become a regular part of our lives to the extent that they interfere with our quality of life, or impair our social or occupational functioning, it may then be that we are on the spectrum of a “bipolar mood disorder.”