Views of Dreams – Carl G. Jung and Sigmund Freud

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Views of Dreams – Carl G. Jung and Sigmund Freud

Abstract The study of psychology has given rise to many differing theories which provided us with a deeper understanding and insight to dreams, and has long been viewed as mysterious and incomprehensible. However, no real consensus in the definition of dreams has been reached. In this essay, we will be exploring dream theories proposed by Sigmund Freud who asserted the importance of internal stimuli and dreams as a form of wish fulfilment, and Carl G.

Jung’s theory which suggested that dreams are bridges that allow one to connect with the unconscious. As such, a cross comparison will be also be done to explore the major similarities and differences between these two theories which remained influential in today’s study of dreams. Views of Dreams – Carl G. Jung and Sigmund Freud For centuries, dreams have been a source of mystery and regarded as divine. Dreams have been interpreted as prophecies, predictions of the future, or even symbols of current affairs.

These beliefs existed for centuries until modern psychology evolved and gave rise to many theories that have attempted to give greater insight and understanding of how dreams work and how they relate to our daily lives. Dreams are otherwise defined as mental experiences during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that have a story-like feature, include rich visual imagery, are often inexplicable, and perceived as real by the dreamer (Antrobus, 1993). There are many varying theories of dreams such as that posited by Antrobus, who suggests that dreams occur due to our brains’ interpretations of external stimuli during sleep.

Another theory uses a computer metaphor to account for dreams, wherein a dream serves to remove unneeded trivialities from the memory – much like clean-up operations in a computer – in order to refresh the mind to prepare for the next day (Evans & Newman, 1964). However, for the purposes of this essay, we will be looking at two theories of dreams from Carl G. Jung and his mentor, Sigmund Freud, whose works remain influential in the modern day study of dreams. Aside from bringing forth the emphasis of these two theories, this essay will also seek to identify similarities as well as differences between the two.

A cross-comparison of these two theories will reveal how similar they are in terms of explaining dreams with regards to the unconscious mind, and yet, differ greatly in meaning due to the different assumptions and approaches taken. According to Jung, dreams are the undeviating, natural expression of the present state of one’s mental world (Jung, 1963). He believes while dreams are a form of communicating and acquainting yourself with the unconscious mind, they are not attempts to conceal your true feelings from the waking mind; they are more of a window to your unconsciousness.

Jung mentions that there are two major functions to dreams – to compensate and to provide prospective images to the future. The imbalance of the dreamer’s psyche is compensated with unconscious contents that the conscious mind has overlooked or even actively repressed. For example, a person who is overly intellectual can have dreams in which they have outbursts of rage, anger, or a mix of emotions. These dreams will attempt to restore the balance by fulfilling certain impoverished areas of a dreamer’s consciousness. Greater psychological balance is achieved if the dreamer recognises and accepts these unconscious contents.

Similar to Freud, Jung considers past experiences to be a factor in dreams. However, he argues that dreams do not only look back to the past, but also forward to anticipate how the dreamer’s future will turn out; specifically, that dreams do not hold predictions but are more of a suggestion as to what might happen. Although dreams are deemed personal, Jung (1993) theorises that they are also part of a “collective unconscious”. He further deconstructs this into several parts, where elements of our dreams often cover universal themes and symbols that are believed to be apparent in life, regardless of race or culture.

As identified by Jung, these characteristics are grouped into seven major archetypal characters: The Persona, The Shadow, The Anima or Animus, The Divine Child, The Wise Old Man or Woman, The Great Mother, and The Trickster. Unique to Jung’s theory, he believes that these archetypes portray a natural wisdom found deep within the human unconscious, and their presence in dreams can provide the dreamer with distinctive understanding and direction. Additionally, Jung (1974) argues that dreams are a projection of one’s unconscious mind in relation to the external world.

This is what Jung classifies as the “objective level” in relation to interpretation of dreams. Jung goes further by covering the “subjective level”, where the dream figures are an embodiment of who the dreamer really is, based on their own thoughts and feelings. In his view, this is something that the conscious mind is unable to bring out. In Freud’s perspective, dreams are what can be embodied as guardians of sleep. Prior to sleep, one attempts to disconnect from reality by muting all external stimuli, switching off the lights and going to bed.

During sleep, the sleeper is protected by the mind, which is further reacting to various disturbances and forming dreams in the process. Freud’s main focus, however, is internal stimuli such as strong emotions, forbidden thoughts, and even unconscious desires. For one to be essentially asleep, undisturbed, these stimuli are disguised or censored in some form or another (Freud, 1900). Freud’s theory also places strong emphasis on the notion that dreams are a form of fulfilment of suppressed wishes and unconscious desires.

In accordance with Freud’s (1900) theory, dreams comprise two parts: the “manifest content” and the “latent content”. Freud’s “manifest content” can be interpreted as the main content of dreams, namely what the dreamer is able to recall of the dream. It also acts as a censor or a disguised representation of the true underlying thought such that the content appears as acceptable to the dreamer. “Latent content” can be understood as the decrypted information that is acquired from the different images and content.

Latent content often holds the true meaning the dream—forbidden thoughts and unconscious wishes—and, hidden deep within the manifest content, is sometimes unrecognisable. There are also exceptional cases where both the latent and manifest content are indistinguishable; Freud refers to these as “Infantile Dreams”. Freud then further investigates the connection between the latent and manifest content, giving rise to “dream work” that is the process by which the latent content is converted into the manifest content.

Dream work can be differentiated into the following processes: Condensation, Displacement, Symbolism, and Secondary Revision. Firstly, latent content undergoes condensation where two or more latent thoughts are merged to form a manifest image or situation. Next, it goes through the displacement state where emotions or desires towards specific a person or object are then projected onto a remotely significant or meaningless object in the manifest dream. Following that, symbolism is employed, where ambiguous or complex notions are depicted as dream images.

In this process, images of similar sounding words may be utilised or even that of a similar looking but more discreet item. Finally, the dream enters the last stage of dream work, secondary revision, where the dream is transformed and reconstructed into a fluid scene, losing most of its irrationality and become logical according to the dreamer’s experiences of everyday life. One of the major similarities between both theories would be the focus on the unconscious mind. Both Freud and Jung believe that dreams are the direct expressions of the unconscious mind (Davis, 2003; Domhoff, 2001; Freud, 1900; Jung, 1974).

Jung mentions that dreams mirror one’s unconscious desires and it is directly linked to one’s conscious situation, projecting one’s inner thoughts. Dreams, according to Freud, can never be instigated simply with just conscious wishes. It has to relate to an unconscious wish before emerging out as dreams. These views coincides that dreams are only formed when the unconscious and the conscious wish tallies (Davis, 2003; Freud, 1900; Jung, 1974; Weitz, 1976). In likeness, both theories agree that the function of dreams serves, mainly, as compensation to the imbalances in our psyche in everyday life (Freud, 1900; Jung, 1974; Davis, 2003).

As mentioned earlier, Jung believes that dreams serve to make up for as well as to regulate one’s inner conflicting psychical processes. Freud’s wish fulfilment theory also has great emphasis on the satisfying of one’s unconscious wants. This shows that dreams are hence compensating for the lack of realisation of one’s desires during the conscious waking life. Freud also mentions that dreams are sometimes manifested due to biological impulses that arise in the night. For example, a dreamer who is experiencing hunger is likely to dream of eating, showing the compensating nature of dreams.

According to these two theories, dreams are otherwise a psychological marker that flags out certain situations, be it in our mental or physiological state, that we should give attention to, rectifying them if possible. Both theorists also concluded that in order to decipher the meaning of dreams, the dreamer’s assistant is required. This is due to the multiple possibilities of the interpretation of dreams. Only with knowledge of one’s life, personality as well as past experiences that those images may be accurately decrypted, revealing the true underlying significance of the dream.

Such a realisation by both Freud and Jung also brings forth the idea that both of them agreed on the retrospective nature of dreams, whereby the dreamer’s experiences in the past do indeed have an impact on the present (Davis, 2003; Jung, 1974; Rodriguez, 2001). While Freud presumes that symbols have fixed and conventional meanings, Jung felt that all symbols are open to interpretation and finding the correct meaning is highly dependent on the dreamer (Beebe, Cambray, & Kirsch, 2001; Davis, 2003; Lawson, 2008).

This is possible due to the differences in Freud’s causal perspective and Jung’s final perspective, where causality tends towards the uniformity of meaning, leading to symbols with fixed significance. However, finality states that images in a dream each have their own fundamental values and as such, the range of representative interpretation has to be accepted (Jung, 1974; Jung, 1989). Another reason for the divergence of theories is their interpretations of the mechanism of dream formation.

Freud emphasizes strongly on censors and disguises of the latent content via the help of dream work, relying on the dreamer’s experiences only for the transformation of the dream into one that is unobtrusive. Jung, on the other hand, believes that these contents can be understood only after taking into account the background and past experiences of the dreamer. Jung also states that dreams are not only connected to the past but they also provide subtle suggestions and predictive images, preparing the dreamer for upcoming events (Jung, 1974).

In conclusion, it is apparent that Freud’s and Jung’s theories are derivatives from the similar understandings of how dreams portray one’s unconscious mind. These have led to them being similar as to how dreams have a compensatory function. However, differences in views have arisen from this rudimentary understanding. Henceforth, Freud and Jung have come to different conclusions about the interpretation of dreams. In my opinion, Jung has picked on several of the disparities within Freud’s opinions, formulating with his own concept.

As such, there is a close relation between the theories presented by Freud and Jung. To date, dreams still remain a clouded branch, with no single theory that can fully ascertain and explain its intricacy. References Antrobus, J. (1993). Characteristics of dreams. In M. A. Carskadon (Ed. ), Encyclopaedia of sleep and dreaming. New York: Macmillan Beebe, J. , Cambray, J. , & Kirsch, T. B. (2001). What Freudians can learn from Jung. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 18, 213-242. Davis, H. R. (2003). Jung, Freud, and Hillman: three depth psychologies in context.

Westport, Conn: Prageger Domhoff, G. W. (2000). Moving Dream Theory Beyond Freud and Jung. Paper presented to the symposium “Beyond Freud and Jung? “, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA, 9/23/2000. Evans, C. & Newman, E. (1964) Dreaming: An analogy from computers. New Scientist, 419, 577-579. Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams (S. James, Trans. ). London: Oxford University Press. Jung, C. G. (1963). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Pantheon. Jung, C. G. (1974). Dreams. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.)

Princeton: Princeton University Press. Lawson, T. T. (2008). Archetypes and the collective unconscious. In Carl Jung, Darwin of The Mind (pp. 75-120). London: Karnac. Rodriguez, L. S. (2001, January 1). The interpretation of dreams [1900]. The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (pp. 396-401). London: Hogarth and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis Weitz, L. J. (1976, April). Jung’s and Freud’s contributions to dream interpretation: a comparison. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 30, 289-293.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 31 October 2016

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