My mother took me to a “shrink” when I was 13, right after she threw a pot of spaghetti sauce on the floor and declared to my father that his daughter was a dope addict. I remember something about inkblots and word associations and then, a year later, my mother got the good news: I was cured (though I think I was still cleaning spaghetti sauce off the kitchen walls).
Since then, about every ten years or so, I find it in my best interest, that is, if I want to go on living, to see another analyst. The last time, I sought out a Jungian analyst in particular, but unfortunately the situation only allowed us a few sessions. However, as soon as circumstances permit, I would like very much to find a compatible Jungian analyst, who I can persuade to take my case for the long-term, to help me to analyze my dreams, and to serve as a kind of beacon as I continue my lifelong process of individuation.
In the meantime, however, the documentary, The Way of the Dream, offers some valuable guidance on how to approach and interpret your dreams. Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz, whose analyst was none other than Carl Jung himself, is featured in the documentary, in which she says she uses only dream interpretation in patient analysis. To her, it is prejudicial to evaluate a patient based on your opinions about what he says or does, for who is to say what is normal or not normal.
But rather, with the help of patients themselves, the therapist can help interpret their dreams. Then the analyst, as merely the translator, can suggest, for example, that their dream says they are acting juvenile and that their behavior is harmful to their health. She had had such a patient and when it clicked for him, he blushed. He was also more likely to listen, she said, because the opinion was not that of his therapist or his wife or his friend, but of his own psyche.
Von Franz also said it is very difficult for anyone to interpret their own dreams because you unwittingly project onto your dreams what you think you already know, not realizing that your dreams usually point to your blind spot: “They never tell us what we know; they always tell us what we don’t know.” She said it is like trying to see your own backside without a mirror. Other people can see it, she said, but you can stand on your head and still not see it.
Of her own sessions with Jung, she said, “Every dream interpretation was a revelation. ... I always remember going there in a tense, nervous, often depressed mood, and always coming back after the hour with a feeling of, ‘Ah, now I know. Now I see where the whole thing is going.’”
Although von Franz stresses the importance of seeking out the skill of an expert, she said Jung identified several general techniques that may help us to at least begin to decipher our dreams, but to be patient, as with any skill, it takes years of practice to excel at it:
• Write your dreams on the left side of a page, draw a line down the middle, and then write spontaneous associations to each element on the right side of the page, like in a word association test. Then review your responses and try to make connections.