The Psychology of Dreams

Depth Psychology

Depth psychology
is a broad term that refers to any psychological approach examining the depth (the subtle or unconscious parts) of human experience. It includes the study and interpretation of dreams, complexes, and archetypes, and it encompasses any psychology that works with the concept of an unconscious mind.

Craig Chalquist, MS PhD
In practice depth psychology seeks to explore underlying motives as an approach to various mental disorders, with the belief that the uncovering of these motives is intrinsically healing. It seeks the deep layers underlying behavioral and cognitive processes.

Historically, depth psychology refers to psychoanalytic approaches to therapy and research that take the unconscious into account. The term has come to refer to the ongoing development of theories and therapies pioneered by Pierre Janet, William James, Sigmund Freud, and C. G. Jung. Depth psychology explores the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious and includes both psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology.

"Depth" refers to what's below the surface of psychic manifestations like behaviors, conflicts, relationships, family dynamics, dreams, even social and political events. The "what" is some deep fantasy or image system inaccessible to purely literal-minded approaches. For example, the "let's bomb them before they attack us" justification behind so much warfare reveals itself upon analysis to be a projection of one's own aggressive ambitions; the unspoken logic is "....because that's what I would do in their place." Psychoanalytically, paranoia is externalized destructiveness; mythologically it echoes the dark side of Mars or Saturn, famous eater of children. Depth psychology recognizes myth as a repository of recurrent situations.

Since its time of origin depth psychology has evolved into a listening in on what has been driven (repressed) to the margins of culture and consciousness, whether symptoms or riots, which Dr. Martin Luther King referred to as the language of the unheard. In tending that language, whether personal, cultural, archetypal, ecological, or spiritual, we bear in mind Jung's dictum as a core of our work: "The most we can do is dream the myth onwards and give it a modern dress." No fan of clinging to the past as a retreat from the present, Jung fashioned his own version of DP for people for whom traditional ceremonies, rituals, and symbols no longer carry a numinous charge.
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Jungian Analytical or Depth Psychology

The Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a founder of modern depth psychology.

Jungian psyche uses techniques like dream analysis to help individuals access their inner (unconscious) world and develop greater self-realization.

In addition to dreams, imaginative and expressive activity of all kinds is encouraged. Drawing, painting, sculpture, story writing, etc., may be suggested as means of expressing emerging unconscious material. Such creative products are then examined in much the same way as dreams

Carl. G. Jung's theory is a form of psychoanalysis, but it differs from traditional Freudian theory in that Jung added the concepts of individuation (human potential), which includes transcendence and spirituality.

Central to analytical psychology is the encounter with the unconscious. The result is greater adaptation to reality (both inner and outer), and more developed consciousness. We experience the unconscious through symbols, and an essential part of the process is to learn its language.

All the creative art psychotherapies (art, dance, music, drama, poetry) can trace their roots to C. G. Jung's early work on active imagination.

Jung developed this concept between the years 1913 and 1916, following his break with Freud. During this time, he was disoriented and experienced intense inner turmoil he suffered from lethargy and fears, and his moods threatened to overwhelm him.

Jung searched for a method to heal himself from within, and finally decided to engage with the impulses and images of his unconscious. It was through the rediscovery of the symbolic play of his childhood that Jung was able to reconnect with his creative spirit. ... He termed this therapeutic method "active imagination."

Jung developed a form of psychotherapy whose guiding goal is to foster individuation.
Individuation means becoming who you uniquely are. Jungian psychotherapy aims at relating our conscious selves with our unconscious selves so that we can live a more complete life as the individuals that we are truly meant to be.

Jungian psychology sees our symptoms --the painful and disturbing issues in our lives-- as gateways to this process of individuation. Jungian psychology - also known as analytical psychology - welcomes images, dreams and fantasies as harbingers of growth, and honors the sacred in all its forms.

Carl Jung and the Paranormal

Jung's approach to human psychology emphasized understanding the psyche through exploring the world of dreams, art, mythology, world religion and philosophy. Jung’s pioneering work on psychological types gave rise to the concepts of introversion and extroversion, and the four functions (thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition) evaluated in today’s widely used Myers-Briggs type indicator.

Jung had a deep and long-standing interest in the occult, and his esoteric beliefs had a wide impact on his work. It is the influence of those beliefs which are examined here.

The Collective Unconscious

Jung coined the term “collective unconscious” to refer to that part of a person's unconscious which is common to all human beings, as opposed to personal unconscious, which is unique to each individual. According to Jung the collective unconscious contains archetypes, which are forms or symbols that are manifested by all people in all cultures.

The concept of collective unconscious relates to the Spiritual model of living beings consisting of individuated parts of Spirit encased in physical form. Like island in the sea we appear as distinct individuals, but beneath the surface we are all connected.


According to Jung's interpretation, archetypes are innate prototypes for ideas, which may subsequently become involved in the interpretation of observed phenomena. A group of memories and interpretations closely associated with an archetype is called a complex, and may be named for its central archetype (e.g. "mother complex").

Jung often seemed to view the archetypes as sort of psychological organs, directly analogous to our physical, bodily organs: both being morphological givens for the species; both arising at least partially through evolutionary processes.

There are four famous forms of archetypes numbered by Jung:

  • The Self.
  • The Shadow - every manifest part of ourselves has a repressed and opposite counterpart, represented by the shadow.
  • The Anima - a young lady, represents intuitive wisdom.
  • The Animus - a handsome young man, represents active, assertive energy.

The symbols of the unconscious abound in Jungian psychology, eg The Syzygy (Divine Couple), The Child, The Superman, The Hero, The Great Mother (manifested either as the Good Mother or the Terrible Mother), The Wise Old Man, The Trickster or Ape.

Jung’s archetypes relate to the concept of occult symbols, ie ideas and images that have become charged with significance through aeons of reflection and veneration now standing ready to release their potential upon invocation.

Jung and Astrology

Astrology contains a rich source of ancient symbols and Jung’s esoteric beliefs extended to the human significance of the heavenly bodies. In The Secret of the Golden Flower, Jung writes, “astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity”.

Jeff Mayo [Mayo, J; Astrology; Teach Yourself Books, 1964] quotes Jung in a 1948 letter to the editor of the Indian Astrological Magazine. Jung writes, “In [difficult cases] I usually get a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that I very often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand.”


Jung created the term synchronicity to describe the alignment of "universal forces" with the life experiences of an individual. Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidences were not merely due to chance, but instead reflected the creation of an event or circumstance by the "co-inciding" or alignment of such forces.

The process of becoming intuitively aware and acting in harmony with these forces is what Jung labeled "individuation." Jung said that an individuated person would actually shape events around them through the communication of their consciousness with the collective unconscious.

Jung spoke of synchronicity as being an "acausal connecting principle" (ie. a pattern of connection that is not explained by causality).

The laws of chance dictate that coincidences sometimes occur naturally. However, upon reflection we have probably all had experiences that seem to defy the laws of chance, a classic example being thinking of a friend we have not heard from for some time, only for the phone to ring with our friend as the caller.

Jung relates the following in "Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle" (1960).

  • A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned around and saw a flying insect knocking against the window pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab that one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer, which contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt an urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment...

An example which immediately comes to mind from my own experience:

  • My wife and I were in the waiting room of the British Embassy in Tokyo. My wife happened to speak to an American lady with a young child. Eighteen months later, after we moved to England, I was offered an appointment in a small country village. My employer mentioned to me about a family group that my wife might like to join. On attending the first meeting my wife discovered that one of the staff at the group was the American lady from the Embassy in Tokyo.

The idea of hidden connections, which sometimes reveal themselves through unlikely happenings, is exactly in keeping with the model of a Spiritual reality underlying the physical world. Various effects discovered by modern physics, such as the instantaneous action at a distance of quantum theory, may also hint at a deeper existence that lies beyond the grasp of science.

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