Carl Jung: dreams, fantasies, and symbols were the window through which one viewed the world
Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections owes popularity to its dissection of his unconscious
Memories, Dreams, Reflections
by Carl Jung
Ostensibly an autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections is unlike most memoirs in that it doesn’t cover the main events of his life, but rather offers glimpses of his inner life. What’s more, Carl Jung only wrote some chapters – his colleague analyst Aniela Jaffe wrote the bulk of it.
For anyone familiar with Jung’s work and his conviction that the mind and personality are driven by unconscious and even spiritual forces this won’t come as a surprise. The great Swiss psychoanalyst famously split from Sigmund Freud, rejecting Freud’s emphasis on sex as the sole source of motivation. He then spent years intensely analysing himself and it was during this period that he became interested in dreams and symbols. This work founded the basis of his new approach that he called analytical psychology.
His descriptions of his dreams, visions and fantasies are the highlights of the book and make for a much more interesting and comprehensive read than a dry account of his theory. And that’s what Jung was all about: dreams and fantasies weren’t personal fancies, they were the window through which he viewed the world and humankind. This approach, giving a ringside view of the inner workings of his unconscious, is what made the book so popular. It has never been out of print since it was published in 1961.
By the time he got to work on this tome Jung was 81 years old and had a respectable career behind him. He didn’t have an axe to grind, but the book project clearly gripped him as he worked on it until his death in June 1961. It was uncompleted at the time of his death and this set the stage for some fiery disputes and legal wrangles between his family and the publisher.
Reluctant to have Jung’s private life on display, his family pushed for the deletion of some sections. Eventually it was agreed that a chapter titled “Encounters” would be deleted and the text distributed into other chapters.
Perhaps one of the most powerful and long-lasting contributions of this work is Jung’s clear demonstration through personal revelation of the way in which myths can be used for personal growth and analysis. He saw dreams as enriching our emotional lives and as valuable tools to help unlock our unconscious.
This account of a life is as much an account of a man’s dreams as it is about his recollection of the events he experienced.