Common Dream ArchetypesAnja van Kralingen
This is a Guest Post by Patricia Duggan.
Carl Jung believed that dreams had their own language.
The things we see in our dreams are not signs that represent one specific idea, but rather fluid images to which we ascribe meaning based on our individual experiences. Dreams may reveal truths, philosophical revelations, illusions, fantasies, memoires, plans, irrational experiences or even prophetic visions.
The images in our dreams are ultimately representations of our own unconscious. Although they come from our individual minds, many images are manifestations of universal archetypes that represent unconscious attitudes hidden to our conscious selves. If we take the time to learn about these archetypes and identify them in our own dreams, we have the possibility of increasing our awareness of our inner selves, thereby integrating the disparate parts of our psyche to achieve a holistic self.
Jung enumerated four main archetypes:
1. The Self
This is the ultimate center of the psyche, representing the unification of the conscious and unconscious selves (which Jung called individuation).
2. The Shadow
This archetype represents the deeper elements of our psyche that we often deny and project onto others. The Shadow may appear in our dreams as a bad or fearsome figure who threatens or betrays us. It is dark, unknown, wild, troubling, and perhaps disturbingly fascinating. Encounters with it may reveal some of our deeper thoughts and fears.
3. The Anima/Animus
The anima represents the female image and soul of a male psyche, while the animus represents the male image and soul of a female psyche. We can communicate with the unconscious by way of the anima/animus, because it is our true self. This image may appear exotic or unusual in some way, perhaps possessing extraordinary skills and powers like those of a god or superhero. Jung theorized that the creation of the anima begins in infancy when a child projects himself onto the parent of the opposite sex.While men usually have one dominant anima, Jung found that a woman’s animus is often more complex with several parts.
4. The Persona
This is the way in which we present ourselves to the world, or the social mask of our inner selves. The persona opposes the Shadow.
While these archetypes can take on numerous forms in our dreams, Jung noted that there are several archetypal images that commonly occur in most cultures. It is important to note, however, that the context in which these images appear is just as important as the image itself, as it may lend to a specific personal connotation and meaning.
The Divine Child ‘ This archetype is usually considered to be a symbol of the true self. It can also represent a sense of potential or vulnerability and hold the power of rebirth and transformation.
The Wise Old Man/Woman ‘ This image can represent the self after it no longer identifies with its anima/animus. It represents wisdom, guidance, and power. It may also be a representation of the Collective Unconscious.
The Great Mother ‘ She may appear in two forms: nurturer or witch. The nurturing side often appears as our own mothers or grandmothers offering comfort. The witch brings destruction and death through domination or seduction. Our personal relationship with our mothers can have a profound impact on how this figure appears in our dreams.
Trickster ‘ The trickster is a figure that creates trouble. He often appears as a wise fool who may or may not have powers. He can be a catalyst to point out the flaws and destroy a system while he remains untouched. He causes us to question but may also trick us into doing the wrong thing. He may appear in a dream when we are uncertain about a decision we must make or when we are feeling vulnerable.
Jung felt that archetypes most commonly appeared in dreams at decisive ages in our life.
These dreams, called ‘big dreams’ or ‘grand dreams,’ can be transformative and help us to achieve unity of self if we can learn to interpret them.
When we interpret dreams, one of the most important steps is to move from an objective approach, in which we consider everything for what it is (your mother represents your mother), to a subjective approach, in which every image represents an aspect of the self. In this case, your mother could be your anima or a personification of your desire to nurture others. Through the subjective approach, you will learn to recognize aspects of your inner self that were previously unacknowledged.
Patricia Duggan has a Masters in Psychology and has been practicing for 11 years. She maintains the site Psychology Degree. She writes about various subjects within the psychology field.