Paintings by Carl Jung from The Red Book
EXTRACT FROM: C G Jung 1974  Dreams (RFC Hull transl), Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp 35-6.
A man once came to me for a first consultation. He told me that he was engaged in all sorts of learned pursuits and was also interested in psychoanalysis from a literary point of view. He was in the best of health, he said, and was not to be considered in any sense a patient. He was merely pursuing his psychoanalytic interests. He was very comfortably off and had plenty of time to devote himself to his pursuits. He wanted to make my acquaintance in order to be inducted by me into the theoretical secrets of analysis. He admitted it must be very boring for me to have to do with a normal person, since I must certainly find “mad” people much more interesting. He had written to me a few days before to ask when I could see him. In the course of conversation we soon came to the question of dreams. I thereupon asked him whether he had had a dream the night before he visited me. He affirmed this and told me the following dream: “I was in a bare room. A sort of nurse received me, and wanted me to sit at a table on which stood a bottle of fermented milk,, which I was supposed to drink. I wanted to go to Dr Jung, but the nurse told me that I was in a hospital and that Dr Jung had no time to receive me”.
It is clear even from the manifest content of the dream that the anticipated visit to me had somehow constellated his uncoscious. He gave the following associations: Bare room: “A waiting room in a hospital. I was never in a hospital as a patient”. Nurse: “She looked repulsive, she was cross-eyed. That reminds me of a fortune-teller and palmist whom I once visited to have my fortune told. Once I was sick and had a deaconess as a nurse”. Bottle of fermented milk: “Fermented milk is nauseating, I can not drink it. My wife is always drinking it, and I make fun of her for this because she is obsessed with the idea that one must always be doing something for one’s health. I remember I was once in a sanatorium – my nerves were not so good – and there I had to drink fermented milk”.
At this point I interrupted him with the indiscreet question: had his neurosis entirely disappeared since then? He tried to worm out of it, but finally had to admit that he still had his neurosis, and that actually his wife had for a long time been urging him to consult me. But he certainly didn’t feel so nervous that he had to consult me on that account, he was after all not mad, and I treated only mad people. It was merely that he was interested in learning about my psychological theories, etc.
From this we can see how the patient has falsified the situation. It suits his fancy to come to me in the guise of a philosopher and psychologist and to allow the fact of his neurosis to recede into the background. But the dream reminds him of it in a very disagreeable way and forces him to tell the truth. He has to swallow this bitter drink. His recollection of the fortune-teller shows us very clearly just how he had imagined my activities. As the dream informs him, he must first submit to treatment before he can get to me.
The dream rectifies the situation. It contributes the material that was lacking and thereby improves the patient’s attitude. That is the reason we need dream analysis in our therapy.
END OF EXTRACT
Jung always asked prospective patients to bring a dream to their first session, preferably one they had on the previous night. Unlike Freud, he did not use a universal symbolic code to interpret dreams, but rather believed their meaning was unique to the dreamer, because of the peculiar associations s/he had to the various symbols (as with the sour milk bottle in the above example). In Jungian theory, the ego, our conscious side, is only one aspect of the self which must become integrated with the rest of the personality which, to begin with, is unconscious. Dreams are a way of establishing links between the conscious ego and the unconscious, and of working out dilemmas and imbalances between the two. Jung’s ideas led to his falling out with his mentor, Freud. For a while he believed his career to be over, and suffered a mental breakdown as a result. He says he brought himself back to health by analysing his dreams, discovering that they could be treated as a coherent series that led to greater integration of conscious and unconscious and thereby to health. I have taken Jungian therapy once, and found that dream analysis is very empowering because, unlike many other therapies, it allows the patient to exercise quite a lot of agency and take active part in the cure (by writing dreams, thinking about them and coming up with the unique associations used in the interpretation). I like the fact that Jung saw fantasy in a positive light and throughout his life embraced all manner of creative endeavours. He designed his own house at Lake Bollingen, in a circular, mandala-like layout which he saw as reflecting his self. He also produced many interesting and colourful drawings of his dreams, including the ones above.
The extract above is part of a fascinating collection of Jung’s essays on his understanding of dream analysis and its role in therapy, which was first published in 1931. Notably, it also contains the famous series of dreams of “a young man of excellent scientific education” (the chemist Wolfgang Pauli), which Jung uses to illustrate the progress towards integration of the self. A thought provoking and highly entertaining book which allows one the voyeuristic pleasure of glimpsing the night terrors and inner struggles of others (including Jung himself).