DREAM ADVICE COLUMN: CARL JUNG & DREAM ANALYSIS

I had this dream a few weeks ago at a time in my life when I was nearing the end of my seasonal job and was unsure what to do with my life.

I dreamt it was nighttime in the town I currently live in, and I was wandering around. I entered a building with a lot of people milling around and mingling, when across the room I saw a girl about my own age who was missing both her eyes. In the eye sockets were just black empty spaces. I walked over to her and she held up her hands to show that she was holding her eyes. I was concerned for her and asked if she needed help. She nodded her head yes and handed me her eyes to put back where they belonged. I successfully restored her eyes, but after I had finished I suddenly realized that while I was occupied she had stolen my own eyes. I looked down in my dream (somehow) and saw I was left holding my eyes and the girl had disappeared. This is probably the strangest dream I have had in a long time and I have no clue if it means anything, but my dreams don’t normally have a storyline like this one.

 

Any insight would be lovely!

-R

Dear R,

Wow, I see what you mean about this being a strange dream! It feels like a vignette out of a David Lynch film — surreal and cinematic. I wonder how it felt to you? As I’ve often stated in previous posts, I have the privilege of contributing my own reverie and symbol interpretations to the dreams Wondrous Advice readers submit, but ultimately dreamwork is a collaboration where the dreamer’s own associations guide the journey. Without those personal associations, what I can offer are more broad principles of dream interpretation and archetypal associations to the dream images.

Carl Jung thought about dreams as an interior drama depicting what is occurring in the unconscious, and dreams are the cinema screen. He wrote, “The whole dream-work is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic.”[1] If we think about this, it’s kind of trippy! Why would we write and direct such dreams? This is where dreamwork can be an exciting and challenging route to self knowledge.

To take this idea of dreams as theater a step further, Jung also noted that many dreams follow a classic dramatic structure. There is an exposition, akin to the opening scene, setting the tone, time, and place of the dream. In the second phase there is action, a development in the plot where “characters” (think of characters loosely – can be people, objects, any element that’s other) are encountered. The third phase is the culmination or climax, and the final phase is the lysis, or resolution. Here in R’s dream, while the content of the dream is peculiar, the structure of the dream is actually quite narrative, so let’s see how it fits into a dramatic structure.

Exposition: I dreamt it was nighttime in the town I currently live in, and I was wandering around.

Development of plot: I entered a building with a lot of people milling around and mingling when across the room I saw a girl about my own age who was missing both her eyes. In the eye sockets were just black empty spaces. I walked over to her and she held up her hands to show that she was holding her eyes. I was concerned for her and asked if she needed help. She nodded her head yes and handed me her eyes to put back where they belonged.

Climax: I successfully restored her eyes, but after I had finished I suddenly realized that while I was occupied she had stolen my own eyes.

 

Lysis: I looked down in my dream (somehow) and saw I was left holding my eyes and the girl had disappeared.

Here you can see how I divided the dream, though it certainly could be reworked other ways. What stands out to me is the opening scene, where you’re wandering around during nighttime. The time of day in which a dream occurs can be a mirror to how deep in the unconscious the dream is taking place. A dream taking place in daylight or twilight may refer to material that’s a little closer to the surface, or more conscious, versus a dream in the nighttime which may refer to less conscious, deeper, or older material.

What also stands out to me is the lack of dialogue in the dream. There’s a lot of non-verbal communication. You asked the girl if she needed help and she nodded yes. She handed you her eyes, and you knew what to do. The bond between the two girls seems very internal, as if she’s a part of you. She also needed your help, but then she hurt you in the end. I would ask you if that feels familiar in any way? However, she gave you back what you thought had been taken from you, like a very bizarre gift giving. The notion of sight in this dream is so tricky and prismatic, it’s truly fascinating and eerily beautiful.

While it’s customary to link our dreams to past circumstances that may have caused the conflicts we’re dreaming about, Jung proposed dreams can provide vital clues about where the psyche wants to go. If we read the lysis stage closely, we may hear a method of problem solving that is already happening on an unconscious level. This dream is asking you to look down to see that you’re left holding your own eyes. Maybe this could be understood as looking down to the past, or toward solid ground, and “holding your I’s,” or sense of self, in a new way, with greater respect (which literally means to look again or to look back). So as you realize you are left holding eyes/I’s in your own hands, the girl is free to disappear as you look-again at your self.

[1] General Aspects of Dream Psychology, ibid., par. 509.]

See original post on the Free People blog here

Illustration by Erica Prince

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