Carl Jung and Dreams

A look at the major archetypes of the collective unconscious as suggested by Jung.

Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875. His father was a parson and although he had an intense interest in philosophy, Jung entered university as a student of science and later decided to study medicine. It was psychology he finally opted for as this gave him the opportunity to study the empirical and spiritual sides of the world.

Carl Jung’s Research into Dreams

Jung was a contemporary of Freud. They met in 1907. From early in his career, Jung had been interested in Freud’s writings and these had been an important motivation for his own thinking.

Despite his admiration of Freud, Jung began to grow increasingly frustrated with the emphasis Jung placed on psychological theories and sexuality. Eventually Jung went his own way and continued to develop his own psychological theories. He gathered dreams from his patients and would then try to fit them into a meaningful framework to support his theories.

Memories, Myths, Beliefs Shared by All Cultures

When interpreting dreams, Jung actually went even deeper than the individual’s personal experiences. Jung suggested that there is a collective unconscious where memories, myths, beliefs and instincts shared by all people in all cultures are stored.

These archetypes include: birth, death, magic, the hero, the child, God, the demon, earthmother and the giant. Jung, therefore, accepted the role of evolution and heredity in forming our psyche (the whole personality).

Jung suggested four major archetypes of the collective unconscious:

  • The Persona (Mask) which is the outward face everyone presents to the world. It reveals and conceals the real self and allows people to play out their roles in social interaction and to be accepted by those around them.
  • The anima/animus describes the unconscious mirror-image of a person’s conscious gender. A male’s anima is his unconscious female side and a female animus is her unconscious male side.
  • The Shadow is rather like the side of personality which Freud says “wants things now”: the id. Therefore, like the id, it needs to be controlled in order to be accepted in society.
  • The self which is the central archetype that unites the personality into ‘one.’

Dreams: Window to the Subconscious

Jung agreed with Freud that dreams were a route to the unconscious. However, he did not accept that they are all wish-fulfillments. Jung suggested that dreams were an important way of attaining self-knowledge which, along with religious and spiritual experiences, is a path to achieving individuation.

He did not accept that dream symbols had a fixed meaning and he encouraged the study of “dream series” which is interpreting several dreams recorded over a period of time by the same person.


Jung, C G. “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.” Fontana Press (1995).

Gross, Richard. “Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour. “Hodder Arnold (1996).