Do you remember your dreams? If so, are they often bizarre? Maybe disturbing? Do you wonder what they could possibly mean? The history of dream interpretation goes back thousands of years and can be found in a variety of cultures. The Babylonians consulted a book specifically for dream interpretation. In the Hebrew Bible, famous men like Joseph and Daniel were valued for their ability to understand dreams. As history went on and people became more interested in science, humans became more disconnected from the dream world. However, many still yearned to find understanding.
In the modern era, the history of dream interpretation can’t be discussed without talking about Carl Jung. Born in 1875, Jung made his name by founding analytical psychology. He was friends with Sigmund Freud, but they became estranged after conflicts in their ideas became too aggressive. While Freud believed libido was the root of a person’s personality, Jung did not. Though Freud was the one who wrote a book called The Interpretation of Dreams, many say Jung really defined the field in a more significant way.
Jung believed dreams were the psyche’s way of communicating things to a person. While in our waking hours, we can deny certain emotions and thoughts, dreams are where they emerge. Jung held to the conviction that dreams were actually open and honest. “They do not lie, they do not distort or disguise,” Jung wrote. So why don’t we understand our dreams immediately if they aren’t hiding? They have their own language. Once we learn that language, we can understand our dreams.
The four archetypes
Jung believed that the human mind inherits images from ancestors. He called them “primordial images,” at first, and then they became “archetypes.” These are found in everyone, no matter where they’re from. Archetypes tend to pop up in dreams at important moments of our lives. They can take different forms, too. The archetypes are:
This Persona is how a person presents themselves to others. It’s basically the social mask we wear from group to group in order to fit in. In dreams, the Persona might manifest as a literal mask or clothing.
The Self represents unification between the consciousness and unconsciousness. The ultimate goal of any human is to tap into their sense of Self. Jung imagines the Self as a circle, mandala, or square.
The Shadow is what we want to hide from others, and even ourselves. It’s the “bad” thoughts and desires we’re ashamed of. In dreams, it can manifest as something that scares us, like a monster.
The Anima is a feminine image in men, while the Animus is a male image in females. It represents our true self and lets us communicate with our unconscious. In dream form, the Anima or Animus appears as your opposite sex, and often possess superhero-like qualities. Interacting with the Anima/Animus lets a person dive deeper into themselves.
There are other archetypes besides the Big Four, but their significance is often harder to pin down. Figures can include “The Wise Old Man/Woman,” “The Trickster,” “The Hero,” and so on.
How to remember your dreams
To analyze and understand your dreams, you have to remember them. The history of dream interpretation collides with the science of dreams. Research shows that REM is essential to remembering your dreams. If you want to dig deeper into the dream world, get into sleep habits that help ease you into REM, such as:
- Keeping your room completely dark and free from electronics.
- Making sure to give yourself 8 hours of sleep (1-2 hours of those will be deep REM sleep).
- Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day.
Could a sleep gadget help you get better sleep REM sleep and remember your dreams?