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Dreams, Jung and Hypnotherapy.

ABSTRACT: Dreams are a powerful altered state of consciousness with images and symbols that shed light on our psyche. This article introduces the reader to the significance of dreams and their healing potentials, primarily from a Jungian perspective. Parallels between Jung's archetypal psychology and Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy are noted. Cases are presented illustrating the integration of dreams and the above modality.

The Significance of Dreams and Relevance to Hypnotherapy

Dreams have fascinated humankind since the earliest time, with the first dream report recorded in Sumerian texts in the third millennium, BC (Hall, 1982). Historically, dreams have played a significant role in religion (Old and New testaments), art and mythology, seen as messages from gods or as visions. The earliest Greek perception of dreams as a divine visit from god led to numerous shrines being erected where dreams were honored in a sacred manner with elaborate rituals and preparation to facilitate healing (Van de Castle, 1994). Manuals of dream interpretation were in existence even well into the Christian era. The human world was seen as existing within a larger world, encompassing divine order, where messages for one's future were revealed at times in dreams.

By the time Freud wrote The Interpretation of Dreams in 1909, modern psychology had reduced dreams to "the function of disguising unacceptable thoughts in order to preserve sleep" (Hall, 1982, p. 123). Dreams had lost their divine purpose and meaningfulness until Carl Jung's pioneering work in recognizing dream's profundity:
 Dreams may contain ineluctable truths, philosophical pronouncements,
 illusions, wild fantasies, memories, plans, anticipations, irrational
 experiences, even telepathic visions ... The dream is specifically the
 utterance of the unconscious ... our dream psyche possesses a wealth of
 contents and living forms equal to or even greater than those of the
 conscious mind (Jung, 1974, pp. 95-96).

To Jung, dreams represent the direct path to the unconscious, and their understanding is essential to the healing process. In hypnotherapy, clients are guided into a trance state to connect with and obtain information from the unconscious. Therefore, any modality or tool to access the unconscious is invaluable. As both dreams and trance states are powerful non-ordinary states of consciousness, dreams have much to offer to the hypnotherapist, particularly those working with the Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy modality which Zimberoff and Hartman (1998) summarize as fitting within the category of deep experiential, transpersonal psychotherapy which also applies to Jung's Archetypal psychology. They further note, "The relevance of this dream state to transpersonal therapy sessions is the striking similarity between them, primarily the vivid sensuality and heightened emotionality of both experiences." It seems dreams, Jung and hypnotherapy are interrelated. Before delving further into dream practice, it may be beneficial to understand Jung's basic concepts.

Jung's Archetypal Psychology

Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26, 1875, in Keswil, Switzerland. As a child, he was often absorbed in his own imagination, sensing there were two personalities within himself:
 To my intense confusion, it occurred to me that I was actually two
 different persons. One was the school boy who could not grasp algebra and
 was far from sure of himself: the other was important, a high authority, a
 man not to be trifled with, as powerful and influential as this
 manufacturer (Jung, 1961, p. 34).

Jung was fascinated with the imaginal world and following his medical training he began his residency at a psychiatric hospital where he observed the inner processes of the patients who offered him "the longed-for opportunity to obtain a deeper insight into the psyche" (Jung, 1961, p. 113). For his dissertation "On the So-called Occult Phenomena," he chose to study his cousin who was a psychic. After reading The Interpretation of Dreams, Jung was drawn to Freud who became his mentor and `father'. However, as Jung's interest in the unconscious deepened, he saw Freud's narrow focus and broke away from him. This culminated in a breakdown for Jung, as "all my friends and acquaintances dropped away. My book was declared rubbish: I was a mystic" (Jung, 1961, p.162). He was plunged into a deep depression and a near psychosis where he heard voices, saw visions, dreamt of rivers covered in blood and talked to spirits (Smith, 1997).

Through his own descent into darkness and confrontation with the unconscious, Jung saw that" the, contents of psychic experiences are real, and real not only as my own personal experiences, but as collective experiences which others also have" (Jung, 1961, p. 162). He learned to be open to the images and dreams from his unconscious and found himself drawing mandalas (Sanskrit for sacred circles), where he could observe his daily transformations:
 Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: `Formation,
 Transformation, Eternal Mind's eternal recreation.' And that is the self,
 the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but
 which cannot tolerate deceptions. It became increasingly plain to me that
 the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path
 to the center, to individuation (Jung, 1961, pp. 195-196).

Jung began to understand that the telos (goal and purpose) of psychic development is the self. The more he penetrated into the unconscious, the more complex his theories about the structure of the psyche became. He noted in his dreams representations of successive layers in the unconscious, from the personal to the archaic, prehuman and transpersonal levels. What he later named the collective unconscious, the "ancestral heritage of possibilities of representations ... appears to consist of mythological or primordial images." These images Jung named archetypes, which are dynamic, numinous and capable of arousing strong affects. They carry both positive and negative energies. These universal symbols can be found in religion, fairytales and myths. Individually, they are manifested in our dreams and fantasies.

Structure of the Psyche

In Jung's psychology, there exists the collective unconscious, personal unconscious, collective conscious and personal conscious. Self is the total personality, which encompasses ego, consciousness and unconsciousness. The Self is the central archetype which organizes, guides and unites the individual in his journey towards wholeness. It is unknowable and frequently symbolized by the mandala. Self is not so much an identity, as in "I", but a mysterious, phenomenological concept that serves to express something that transcends our rational mind. It is the God within us. Edinger writes (1972, p. 3), "The ego is the seat of the subjective identity while the Self is the seat of objective identity. The Self is thus the supreme psychic authority and subordinates the ego to it."

The personal consciousness is our persona, the mask we present to the external world, while the personal unconscious consists of aspects of our psyche that we disown or reject (shadow) as a result of our early experience and societal/cultural influences.

Alchemical Transformation

Jung was also drawn to the study of alchemy, which contributed greatly to his understanding of the process of the psyche. "I became aware that the unconscious undergoes or produces change ... that the unconscious is a process, and that the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious" (Jung, 1961, p. 209). The process of transforming raw material to gold was, for Jung, on a psyche level. Beginning with the black stage where everything is dark and confusing, then through the fire emerges light and finally the stage of conjunctios, the union of the opposites. To Jung, these stages represent the individuation process, the integration of personality which consists of polar energies and archetypal patterns pulling us off balance from one pole to the other. It is entirely autonomous and unconscious, reflecting psyche's striving for wholeness and a quest for meaning. However, we can either stay unconnected and remain in the dark, a slave to our instincts (complexes) or become conscious of our inner process and emerge transformed.

Death and Afterlife

In his autobiography, Jung reflects on death and afterlife, entertaining the idea of a "creative determinant" that decides the rebirth of the souls. He further writes, "Once the soul had reached a certain stage of understanding ... it would then no longer have to return, fuller understanding having put to rout the desire for re-embodiment ... and attain what the Buddhists call nirvana. But if a karma still remains to be disposed of, then the soul relapses again into desires and returns to life once more" (Jung, 1961, pp. 321-322). Jung demonstrated an incredibly open mind and a deep understanding of karma and rebirth, concepts that are also part of the Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy model. As early as 1935, he wrote in "Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of The Dead":
 the spiritual climax is reached at the moment when life ends. Human life,
 therefore, is the vehicle of the highest perfection it is possible to
 attain; it also generates the karma that makes it possible for the dead man
 to abide in the perpetual light of the Voidness without clinging to any
 object, and thus to rest on the Hub of rebirth, freed from all illusions of
 genesis and decay (Jung, 1978, pp. 74-75).

Focus of Treatment in Jungian Analysis

For Jung, the goal of treatment is not to cure the pathology but to heal the soul, helping the individual to become integrated and whole. The process of individuation is, therefore, sacred and filled with numinosity. The relationship between the patient and the analyst is profound and it is in the relating that healing takes place. "Here we must follow nature as a guide, and what the doctor then does is less a question of treatment than of developing the creative possibilities latent in the patient himself" (Jung, 1966, p. 41).

In Jungian analysis, the individual gains insight into the relations between ego and the unconscious, acquiring an understanding and mastery over the confusion caused by the personal complexes and defenses. In Jung's view, the personal unconscious must be confronted first, "that is, made conscious, otherwise the gateway to the collective unconscious cannot be opened" (Jung, 1944, p. 62). To facilitate this process, Jung postulated four stages of treatment: confession, interpretation, education and transformation (Stein, 1982). These stages are not linear; they simply reflect the form of interaction the analytical process may take. There are essentially two steps in analysis (Hall, 1986). The first is to examine oneself, bringing hitherto unconscious material to the analyst and explore one's thoughts and actions. The second step is to cultivate a compassionate attitude towards oneself, so that the patient can be non-judgmental and help in the process of revealing his persona (who he thinks he is) to the analyst. Then the stage can deepen to explore shadow materials which are aspects of ourselves we are unconscious of and also reject.

Jung did not prescribe specific methods of treatment, rather the attitude towards the unconscious is significant. One needs to remain open and listen to all the messages and images. The two most direct ways to contact unconscious material are through dreams and active imagination. The latter originated with Jung and is inspired by his study of alchemy. Active imagination invites the conscious mind to dialogue with the unconscious material, by first setting a calm state and observing the material that arises. Next the analysand expresses his awareness through writing, painting, sandtray, body movements or sounds to activate the unconscious, allowing the material to emerge. Once the unconscious material arises, the ego can enter into dialogue via the above modalities. Gradually, its meaning is understood and reconciled with the ,conscious mind (Dallet, 1982). This process is akin to what takes place in meditation where we sit with whatever arises, allowing the process to flow and insight to appear. This also parallels Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy in which the trance state is managed through being with whatever is present and guiding the client to move, express his emotions, dialogue with different aspects of his psyche or simply to make sounds.

The Nature of Dreams and Techniques of Interpretation

In Jung's view, dreams are symbolic representations of the psyche and the main purpose is to "compensate the one-sided distortion of the waking-ego; they are therefore in the service of the individuation process" (Hall, 1986, p. 83). It is as if dreams are made by a greater source, one that is beyond the fears and limitations of the waking-ego, that is, dreams are sent by the Self to help us individuate and become whole. Therefore, dreams contain valuable and insightful information regarding our complexes and their movements. Ail the dream images represent aspects of the dreamer's complexes in their most uncontaminated form and reveal their structure and conflicts or point to a resolution. Dreams can also be archetypal, as in a booming voice announcing to the dreamer, "You are not following your true path." A few years ago 1 had an archetypal dream in which a loud voice from above stated, "You have begun your shamanic journey." A series of dreams followed with symbolism referring to the death and rebirth rituals of Shamans and rearranging cut-up body parts in a mandala. These dreams were very helpful as guides for me as I went through a labyrinth of feeling lost and confused. Jung recognized that dreams could also be prophetic where hints from our unconscious are conveyed to aid us.

Compensatory Dreams

A dream is compensatory in nature by addressing imbalances caused by our defenses and fears constellated in the complexes, e.g. a soft-spoken, sweet woman is furious at her friend for hurting her feelings but quickly discounts her anger. She later dreams of herself screaming at her friend bringing balance to her waking-ego to become more conscious of her anger. Dreams can also reveal our shadow material and point to a resolution. That same `nice' woman may dream of a ferocious animal chasing her until she is cornered in a back alley where she had to turn around and face it. The animal is symbolic of her instinctual rage that was not allowed to be part of her conscious personality. The dream indicates a solution: the dreamer has no where to turn except to face her rage.

Techniques of Dream Interpretation

The dream should be recorded as soon as possible so as not to lose its energy and message. It is important to remember that dreams are symbolic representation and are sent by the Self for the purpose of balancing the view point of the waking-ego, helping the dreamer to become conscious of shadow and/or affirm a path he is undertaking. Therefore, be attentive to details, questioning why the dreammaker sends a particular image and not another. Each image carries its own special message and energy which may point to a complex that requires attention.

After the dream is written in great detail, the following steps are recommended:

1. Amplification. The dreamer relates his association to particular images and persons on three levels: personal, cultural and archetypal. If someone dreams of a lion, ask what kind it is, what are the qualities he associates with a lion. Personally, the dreamer may recall a favorite lion toy or a frightening encounter at the zoo. Culturally, lion may represent aggression and fear. Archetypally, the dreamer may relate to the lion as representation of courage and the "King".

2. Context. Place the dream in the life and events of the dreamer as the dream may represent a compensation of the waking-ego regarding a particular situation.

3. Structure. A dream has a setting, cast, conflict, development and a resolution. Note particularly strong affect and action taken by the dreamer. Also see whether the dream is part of a series.

4. Activating the images. This is similar to the method of active imagination discussed earlier. Select the image or person with the strongest affect first and dialogue with that part. A woman dreams she is being chased by a killer and she runs into a phone booth but the telephone is "dead". She wakes up as the killer breaks the door. After the dreamer has amplified the images, she activates the killer by talking to that part asking questions about his motive for hurting her. Then the dreamer takes on the role of the killer, feeling his energy and allowing him to speak. This method creates expression and consciousness to complexes represented by the dream.

5. Harnessing the energetic pattern. This method arises from my own personal experience with dream practice. All dream images are representations of complexes in the psyche. The shadow carries a great deal of repressed and disowned energy. After identifying the image or person, we can further harvest the dream by sensing "it" next to us, talking, feeling who "it" is, where does "it" want to stand, to one's left, right or behind, as if one is getting to know a new friend. The more we carry the image with us, the more we take on and integrate the energy into our psyche field.

Application of Dreams to Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy

Similar to dreams, the images that arise from hypnotherapy represent the structure and movement of complexes in the unconscious of the client. The affect bridge, a method first brought to the attention of the hypnotherapy field by John Watkins (1978), where "the similarity of affective tone is used to identify memories from different stages of life that are related to the same meaning" (Hail, 1986, p. 117), is reflective of Jung's understanding of emotional clusters around the same underlying complex. This is also a focus in the Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy model. Therefore, the strong affect that appears in dreams can be worked with in a similar fashion as images from trance state. I will now present two cases demonstrating the integration of the two.


Daniel, age 27, came to therapy due to a crisis in his relationship. He had difficulty connecting with his emotions and had been overwhelmed by the depression he found himself experiencing. He discounted the impact of growing up with an alcoholic father and an overworked mother. Early in the therapy, I informed Daniel of my hypnotherapy skill and Jungian orientation. He appeared apprehensive of trance state work but was open to dream interpretation.

Three months into his therapy, he reported the following dream: "I am in my bedroom and suddenly a bird flies in. It seems scared and frantic, hitting at the walls as it tries to find its way out. I keep shooing at it to go towards the window, but it doesn't seem to see it. I am now getting angry and frustrated, worried that it may become so anxious and trapped that it will soil all over my room." Daniel was experiencing strong affect as he told his dream. I asked him to close his eyes and breathe into his body, sensing where he felt the strongest emotions and which image in the dream was the most intense.

"I feel tight in my chest, throat and stomach, like the bird," he responded. I directed him, following the Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy script, to give voice to those emotions and express them into a pillow I handed him. He began to verbalize feeling scared and lost in the room. As he released his emotions, there was a strong charge around being frightened and alone. Then with his permission for me to tap his forehead, Daniel bridged back to an earlier time when he experienced similar feelings of fear and loneliness. I instructed him to lift a finger when something emerged.

I waited for that magical finger to rise, wondering whether Daniel, who was so concerned about hypnotherapy, would respond to trance state induction through the recall of a vivid dream. "I am about five or six and I am playing by myself outside my house. No one is there." Daniel began to sob and abreact. He cried out for his father who had been drinking and had fallen asleep in the house.

Still following the script, I guided Daniel to express his feelings, needs and wants to his father and also to his mother, who had left him in his father's care to go to work each afternoon. We completed the session with healing his inner child and connecting with the conclusion he had made at that time and the changes he now wanted. Daniel emerged surprised and feeling lighter. "That was the first time I really felt the kid inside me, and how lonely I was." He also became conscious of how judgmental and critical he could be whenever he would feel vulnerable. The scared little bird and his angry judge became two important shadow images we worked with and brought to consciousness.


Annette was a new mother in her late twenties. She came for therapy to help her cope with the stress of motherhood and its effect on her marriage. In therapy, she became clearer about her enmeshed relationship with her mother. She came in after a few weeks with this dream: "It is nighttime and I am sleeping but somehow I wake up as if I know my son is in danger. I rush into his room and see this huge, black bird hovering around him. I become anxious and try to protect him. Then I wake up feeling terrified."

We amplified the dream images, especially the bird. She associated it with a vulture who preys on the innocence represented by her baby son. As she spoke about feeling the bird's power and its intent to hurt her son, she began to feel tense and anxious. Following my intuition, I directed her to close her eyes and verbalize her feelings. Again using the script, Annette was guided back to the source of her anxiety. "I am seven years old and at home with my mother. She is sitting by the side of my bed and telling me all her trouble with my father." She got in touch with her feelings of being overwhelmed and suffocated by her mother's needs. Becoming a mother herself had finally triggered her hidden fears. As she held and comforted that little girl, I began to extinguish the anxiety by bringing the intense feelings up and bringing them down through loving her inner child.

Annette reported a tremendous decrease in her anxiety following that session. Working with her dreams in trance state accelerated her healing process.

Dreams bring us invaluable information and images that are a representation of our complexes. The strong affect resembles the emotions that surface in trance state. Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy offers a comprehensive, compassionate and structured model to weave these dream images and affect in effortlessly deepening the healing. As hypnotherapists, understanding our dreams will only serve to connect us more with the unconscious world, a place with which we need to be familiar and at ease.

Jung abandoned hypnosis early in his professional work, perceiving it to be directive and he did not wish to impose his will on others. Subsequently, Jungian analysts have not been drawn to hypnotherapy with the exception of James Hall, who has integrated the use of hypnosis with Jungian concepts. He notes that "there are certain to be others who will find hypnotherapy techniques compatible with more classical Jungian practices. Likewise, the diffuse field of hypnosis can benefit from the depth psychology understanding of the psyche that is the heritage of the Jungian tradition" (Hall, 1989, pp. 19-20).

I am in agreement with Hall and sense that Jung would also be more open to hypnotherapy, especially the Heart-Centered model, given the striking similarities in both: the reverence towards the unconscious, respect for the client, avoidance of authoritarian approaches, and the inclusion of soul, rebirth and karma. I wish to further suggest that both are also shamanic in nature, venturing deep into the unconscious and returning with the healing messages.


Dallet, J. (1982). Active Imagination in Practice. In M. Stein (Ed.), Jungian Analysis. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.

Edinger, E. F. (1972). Ego and Archetype. New York: Putnam.

Hall, J. A. (1983). Jungian Dream Interpretation. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Hall, J. A. (1986). The Jungian Experience. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Hall, J. A. (1989). Hypnosis: A Jungian Perspective. New York: Guilford Press.

Jung, C. G. (1961). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

Jung, C. G. (1966). The Practice of Psychotherapy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1974). Dreams. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1978). Psychology and the East. Princeton University Press.

Smith, C. M. (1997). Jung and Shamanism. Paulist Press.

Stein, M. (1984). Jungian Analysis. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.

Van De Castle, R. (1994). Our Dreaming Mind. Ballantine Books.

Zimberoff, D., & Hartman, D. (1998). Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy defined. Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, 1 (1), 3-49.

Barbara Raven Lee, 812 Skyland Drive, Sierra Madre, CA 91024 USA
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Author:Lee, Barbara Raven
Publication:Journal of Heart Centered Therapies
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 1999
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