One of the great breakthrough discoveries of modern times was Freud’s discovery of the unconscious mind and the idea that much of what drives us is outside our awareness. He considered dreams to be “the royal road to the unconscious.” Unlike Freud, his colleague, C.G. Jung, thought the unconscious was far greater in scope and possibility. Jung believed it not only carried our repressed impulses, but was the fertile soil for all creative possibilities and the path to transformation and wholeness. The psychology he developed was oriented toward the soul. Jungian theory believes that making the unconscious conscious is the route to spiritual development and uses dream work as the vehicle for the work. It is said, “a dream uninterpreted is like a letter from God unopened.”
Using this orientation, therapy does not seek a single cause, rooted in childhood, or a particular traumatic event, but strives to understand things in the context of the human experience. Traumas are not overlooked or minimized. Rather dreams -the players and the action -are used to unravel trauma and unconscious obstacles that interfere. Wounds of the soul often manifest in complexes in waking life and emerge each night as dream characters who perform one’s own personal drama on the stage of slumbering darkness. This unconscious or darkness needs to be made light and is referred to as shadow work. Not infrequently a mid-life crisis comes as a form of initiation to propel us to do our spiritual work.
Meeting the shadow in the analysis of our dreams, we are introduced to the cast of characters in residence in our personal unconscious, playing the roles of beggars, thieves, terrorists and orphans. In this way we share in a vast universal realm called the collective unconscious. Beginning in ancient times myth, folklore and fairy tales all educate us about the collective unconscious, which is shared by all of humanity. They give us symbols and meanings to understand our own unique version of the universal drama. Through the process of associating to and building on these images, you can begin to decode your own dreams. In this way, therapy heals the soul and leads to self-actualization and wholeness.
By: Sharon Stein, LCSW