Dream symbols could help in psychotherapy

November 8, 2012, University of Adelaide

(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.

Explore further: Dreams may have an important physiological function

Related Stories

Dreams may have an important physiological function

November 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 researcher ...

Probing Question: What is a lucid dream?

August 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, as if you ...

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

October 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 lucid dreamers ...

Dangerous dreaming: Sleep specialist says rem behavior disorder likely underreported

September 21, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A troubling sleep disorder that causes sleepers to physically act out their dreams by kicking, screaming or falling out of bed may be more common than reported, according to Loyola University Medical Center ...

Dream reports from both men and women consist of some form of sexual-related activity

June 14, 2007
In a detailed study that served to investigate the actual nature and content of sexual dreams across a large sample of dream reports from men and women, approximately eight percent of everyday dream reports from both genders ...

Dreaming takes the sting out of painful memories: study

November 23, 2011
They say time heals all wounds, and new research from the University of California, Berkeley, indicates that time spent in dream sleep can help.

Recommended for you

Forty percent of people have a fictional first memory, says study

July 17, 2018
Researchers have conducted one of the largest surveys of people's first memories, finding that nearly 40 per cent of people had a first memory which is fictional.

Celebrating positives improves classroom behavior and mental health

July 17, 2018
Training teachers to focus their attention on positive conduct and to avoid jumping to correct minor disruption improves child behaviour, concentration and mental health.

Algorithm identifies patients best suited for antidepressants

July 17, 2018
McLean Hospital researchers have completed a study that sought to determine which individuals with depression are best suited for antidepressant medications. Their findings, published in Psychological Medicine on July 2, ...

Researchers explore how information enters our brains

July 17, 2018
Think you're totally in control of your thoughts? Maybe not as much as you think, according to a new San Francisco State University study that examines how thoughts that lead to actions enter our consciousness.

Early puberty in white adolescent boys increases substance use risk

July 16, 2018
White adolescent boys experiencing early puberty are at higher risk for substance use than later developing boys, a new Purdue University study finds.

How looking at the big picture can lead to better decisions

July 13, 2018
New research suggests how distancing yourself from a decision may help you make the choice that produces the most benefit for you and others affected.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.