Memories, Dreams, Reflections – C.G. JungAnja van Kralingen
In the spring of 1957, at the age of eighty-four, the Swiss psychologist and founder of analytical psychology (also known as Jungian psychology), Carl Gustav Jung, set out to tell his life’s story, embarking upon a series of conversations with his colleague and friend Aniela Jaffe, which he used as the basis for his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (MDR).
Jung described his life as being ordinary for his time and place; he was schooled, forged a career, married, had children and traveled. But Jung’s extraordinary intellectual life changed the world as we know it, leaving us with a psychology that helps individuals understand their own lives and provides a road map to living consciously.
Unlike most autobiographies this book is not a series of dates, events and people encountered but a fascinating look into Jung’s inner experiences, his dreams, visions and the experiences that shaped his understanding of the psyche. As Jung said:
“My life has been permeated and held together by one idea and one goal: namely to penetrate into the secret of the personality. Everything can be explained from this central point and all my works relate to this one theme.” p.206
MDR begins with a journey through Jung’s childhood years highlighting the patterns that stayed with him throughout his life; his love of nature, dreams that haunted him for decades whose meanings he discovered bit by bit, the discovery of what a neurosis is, the discovery of his mother’s and his own second personalities, his sense of destiny.
In sharing his dreams, Jung demonstrates the importance of using dream interpretation to understand our own lives; the way we operate in the world, the recurring patterns playing out in our lives and how to use dreams to access our own inner wisdom to transform and reach our full potential. As Jung says:
“The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.” p.21
In MDR, Jung also shares the development of his relationship with Sigmund Freud and their eventual parting of ways, which led to Jung’s own personal dark night of the soul. . In his search for healing Jung gave himself over to his inner impulses and found life and energy in his inner child. Following Jung’s healing journey, I found myself inspired to confront my own dark night of the soul. Perhaps it is his own experience with wounding that made Jung the great healer he became.
MDR, allows the reader to share insights into the emergence of the contents of Jungian psychoanalytic theory and practice and shows the emergence of some of Jung’s key concepts such as the persona, the shadow, anima/animus and the Self. It also details the background and thoughts behind some of Jung’s key writings such as Psychological Types, Symbols of Transformation, On Psychic Energy, The Relationship between the Ego and the Unconscious, and many more. It therefore forms a useful foundation from which to begin understanding Jung’s other writings.
For those readers who are lovers of letters, the book contains previously unpublished letters between Jung and Freud .
Jung is a charismatic and entertaining storyteller and MDR is an easy read, filled with rich descriptions and fascinating anecdotes about Jung’s inner life. One of my favourite quotes from the book is:
“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome…what we see is blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.” p.18
For those of you who find this review one-sided and lacking in critical analysis, I apologise but for me there is no down side to reading this book. The only warning I can leave you with, is that this book could hook you into a life long journey of inner work and a journey towards individuation.
You can read Memories, Dreams, Reflections online at https://archive.org/details/MemoriesDreamsReflectionsCarlJung
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