Synopsis of Jung article
Approaching the Unconscious

Carl Jung - Muskingham University
Carl Jung - Wikipedia

A symbol stands for the unknown, something that is beyond the obvious. It is different from a sign, which merely designates something. Mankind uses symbols to represent what we can't define or fully understand.

Symbolism exists in everyday life; in religion, there is a more conscious use of symbolism , whereas the unconscious produces dream symbolism.

Unknown factors influence subconscious reaction to stimulus; this is in part due to our inability to fully "know" or "understand" the external world, or even the own self.
There is an "unconscious aspect" to our interpretation of conscious events.

There are two "subjects" within the mind - the conscious and the subconscious.
Development of consciousness developed over eons.
One of the highlights of this development was the invention of written script about 4000 B.C.

The "psyche" is the entire psychological unit, but consciousness is a new development in nature.
As such, it can tend to be "frail", subject to disorientation.

The "soul" is not necessarily a complete unit to primitive people, whom experience a closer affinity with nature than does modern man. Their soul is part of nature, and can be shared by certain animals or other aspects of nature.

With the concept of numerous souls comes the possibility of disassociation -
similar to modern neurosis.

The neurologists around the time of Freud noticed that the neurosis "split off" from normal consciousness-
the patient could perform a repetitive, nervous activity and be consciously unaware of it.
Such people are not insane, but provide an insight into the normal ability to "concentrate".
Concentration is limited to a a topic or two at a time, out of necessity, though the unconscious is always present and always an influence.

It was the influence of events upon the subconscious, that in turn influenced the conscious mind, that indicated to Freud the significance of the subconscious itself, an area previously ignored.

Neurotic behavior, on the part of an otherwise sane individual, is symbolic of their traumatism or obsession.
It was this symbolic relationship that revealed to Freud the activity of the subconscious in dream symbolism.

Freud employed "free association" in discussing dreams with his patients to "talk around" a problem -
The conversation, even by manner of avoiding certain important topics, would indicate the repressed thought or emotion.


Carl Jung realized this "key" to the past, to the subconscious and forgotten events, was not limited to the dream itself: He had a friend who related an incident where he was daydreaming upon letters of a language he did not understand, imagining his own meanings for the unknown letters, when he surprisingly recalled unpleasant incidents of his childhood he had deliberately forgotten. Jung then understood that there were other "paths" to the subconscious besides dreams. While this discovery made dreams less necessary for subconscious analysis, it indicated a special significance of the dream itself as something to be studied for its own sake - a language of its own with its own unique purpose.

The subconscious has gestated a life's events, and inherited an ancient history of human physical and psychic development. Only the conscious mind thinks in a linear pattern, from beginning to end. This is why the dreams produced by the subconscious lack our familiarity with ordinary space/time relationships.

The dream is "telling a story" in a different way than the conscious mind -
trying to understand it is like perceiving an unknown object from various vantage points.

If consciousness has a tendency to resist the unknown, and dreams are a product of the unknown subconscious, it is also true that dreams were ignored by "civilized" or "modern" people until relatively recently - the advent of modern psychology about 100 years ago.
Similarly, primitive man fears the unknown, such as his first encounters with technology such as photography.

Part of the "link" between the conscious and subconscious is forgetfulness.
Not being able to recall everything assists in preventing an overload of attention upon our consciousness.
The subconscious retains impressions of all these life experiences, however.

Forgotten ideas and thoughts are not gone, merely absent from the conscious mind.
As such, they continue to be part of the overall psyche.
Often repressed thoughts or emotions are revealed to the consciousness under various circumstances.
Conversely, subconscious thoughts can effect conscious behavior such as "forgetting" something unpleasant.

Hysterical individuals who have experienced traumatism and are unaware of their immediate surroundings nevertheless perceive and subconsciously retain even the most insignificant aspects of location and circumstance. This has been revealed through hypnotism and unexpected recollection of such memories in later years.

In a neurotic person, they can be unaware of some aspect of their behavior or speech.
This is the subconscious behaving consciously.

Neurotic individuals are exaggerated "normal" individuals.


Feb. 14, 1955

"Concealed recollection" is the recollection of another persons idea that has been dormant in the subconscious and reveals itself to the consciousness an original thought.

The sense of smell can be a powerful "trigger" to memories.
Smell is one of the more primitive senses, developed earlier in evolution and and occupying a more "base" or "root" section of the brain that is common to both mammals and lesser creatures:
All animals had the sense of smell before any of them had developed eyesight.
In understanding the complexity of the psyche, we must remember the relationship of the mind to the body and their evolution together.

New contents arise from the content of the subconscious.
"Intuition" is the subconscious "thinking" and revealing itself to the conscious mind.
Many scientists and artists have wondered over certain problems for years,
only to have the solution present itself to them in a "flash" or a dream.

Although many dreams can be confusing, the waking hours are not as clear as we think.
We, as individuals, can have different responses to the same stimuli.
Concepts have a "psychic association" that vary in intensity and effect our subconscious, and, therefore our personality.
Dreams about commonplace objects and situations can leave us disturbed upon waking.
Dreams reveal the unconscious meaning of the commonplace.
The primitive individual endows objects and nature with psychic energy.
There are no "sharp boundaries" between dreams and reality for the primitive person.
This "halo of associations" toward the world has been stripped from our civilization,
but not our subconscious.

"Visions" are seen by modern society as a sign of insanity.
In primitive or ancient societies they are/were seen as messages from the spirits or gods.
We would have a emotionally difficult time admitting that we are "haunted",
though in fact we would not be embarrassed to admit to a modern "phobia", "obsessions" that have replaced the primitive believing he is haunted by a spirit.


Dreams restore a certain balance to our disassociated relationship with nature.
This relationship is due to our (limited) "conquering" of nature.
We rely less upon nature than the primitive, fearing it less and respecting it less.
We have developed our consciousness to a degree where we purposefully ignore our subconscious.
The primitive instinctively reacts with the subconscious because he accepts it as part of nature
and does not question its origin or banish it to oblivion because it cannot be controlled or understood.
The psyche is a part of nature. The primitive is closer to nature.
But we cannot escape our common heritage as beings that evolved physically and psychically over untold eons.
Dreams reveal "archetypes", symbols that are common to mans ancient and shared heritage.
Instinctive phenomena have retreated to our subconscious, but not disappeared.
Dream symbols are the unconscious mind attempting to communicate with the conscious mind.

Dreams have "predicted" illness in the dreamer, the subconscious aware of symptoms before the conscious mind has become aware of anything wrong.
Dreams can warn individuals of dangerous behavior that the conscious mind will not recognize.
Dream "motifs" or recurring dreams can especially be seen as an attempt to "communicate" with the conscious mind.

Regarding man's shared cultural and evolutionary background, some symbols are "collective".
Such are "primeval" or religious imagery, as opposed to "personal" symbolism.

The mind not only "thinks" consciously, but "feels" subconsciously.
A "feeling", maybe a "hunch", are a product more of our senses and subconscious working in tandem,
as opposed to "thinking", a linear organization of ideas constructed under the surveillance of our "ego".
Many of our value judgments are obtained by "gut feelings".

"Feeling" and "thinking" are both a function of the psyche and involve an interrelationship that involves sensation, intuition and deliberation.

Consciousness, to a certain extent, is a "blotting out" of subliminal influences, but not an obliteration of them.
Subliminal influences are intense in dreams because of their unusual clarity.
There is a higher rate of "tension" attributed to dream imagery, whether it be unusual or ordinary.
This is because of the "symbolic" nature of dreams, representing more than one idea or concept,
presented in a "holistic" manner without regard to ordinary time or space.

Two different thoughts can be seen to merge into one dream image in the instant that represents the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness. This indeed is true symbolism, the spontaneous representation of more than a single notion into an image.

Some things are so complex the human mind cannot fully understand them and turns to a deeper, more "primitive" language to deal simultaneously with both knowledge and the unknown.

next | home