Dream symbols could help in psychotherapy

(Medical Xpress)—Dream images could provide insights into people's mental health problems and may help with their treatment, according to a psychology researcher from the University of Adelaide.

Dr Lance Storm, a Visiting Research Fellow with the University of Adelaide's School of Psychology, has been studying dream symbols (or "archetypes") and their meanings, as described by the famous psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung.

In the early 1900s, Jung proposed that these archetypes were ancient images stemming from humans' collective unconscious. He believed that dream symbols carried meaning about a patient's emotional state which could improve understanding of the patient and also aid in their treatment.

In a paper about one of Dr Storm's non-clinical studies - to be published next year in the International Journal of Jungian Studies, and currently published online - he supports Jung's theories and recommends that dream analysis be explored further for potential clinical use.

"Jung was extremely interested in recurring imagery across a wide range of human civilisations, in art, religion, myth and dreams," says Dr Storm.

"He described the most common archetypal images as the Hero, in pursuit of goals; the Shadow, often classed as negative aspects of personality; the Anima, representing an element of femininity in the male; the Animus, representing masculinity in the female; the Wise Old Man; and the Great Mother.

"There are many hundreds of other images and symbols that arise in dreams, many of which have meanings associated with them - such as the image of a beating heart (meaning 'charity'), or the ouroboros, which is a snake eating its own tail ('eternity'). There are symbols associated with fear, or virility, a sense of power, the need for salvation, and so on.

"In Jungian theory, these symbols are manifestations of the ; they are a glimpse into the brain's 'unconscious code', which we believe can be decrypted," he says.

Dr Storm argues that Jung's theories have practical significance and could broaden the range of options available to patients undergoing treatment for . "Our research suggests that instead of randomly interpreting dream symbols with educated guesswork, archetypal symbols and their related meanings can be objectively validated. This could prove useful in clinical practice," he says.

"We believe, for example, that dream analysis could help in the treatment of depression. This is a rapidly growing area of concern, because depressive people are known to experience prolonged periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is directly linked with emotional processing and dreaming."

See attached examples of Jungian dream images and their meanings.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dreams may have an important physiological function

Nov 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Dreams have long been assumed to have psychological functions such as consolidating emotional memories and processing experiences or problems, but according to a Harvard psychiatrist and sleep ...

Probing Question: What is a lucid dream?

Aug 26, 2010

Have you ever had a dream that just didn’t feel like a dream -- where, like Alice in Wonderland, you had trouble telling fiction from reality? Perhaps you even felt like you had control over what was happening, ...

Brain imaging study: A step toward true 'dream reading'

Oct 27, 2011

When people dream that they are performing a particular action, a portion of the brain involved in the planning and execution of movement lights up with activity. The finding, made by scanning the brains of ...

Recommended for you

Our brains are hardwired for language

14 hours ago

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Child burn effects far reaching for parents

19 hours ago

Parents of burn victims experience significant psychological distress for at least three months after the incident and may compromise the post-operative recovery of their child, WA research has found.

Internet use may cut retirees' depression

19 hours ago

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences an ...

User comments