It is Sigmund Freud who is credited for the discovery of the unconscious and is often called the “father of psychology”. Psychiatrist and medical historian Henri Ellenberger, in Discovery of the Unconscious, describes Depth Psychology as the key to exploring the unconscious mind. Understanding what lies in the unconscious--whether repressed, forgotten, or simply never known--can help us bring meaning to our conscious lives. The unconscious makes itself known to us through symbols, that is, images that appear to us either internally or externally and suggest meaning we can relate to. If we are willing to engage with the symbols as they come to us, whether in dreams, through art, or in some other compelling way, we can learn more about ourselves and our relationship to each other and the world around us than we ever imagined.

In his book, The Symbolic Quest, Jungian analyst Edward Whitmont states, “The same images which present themselves to us as representatives of the outside world are subsequently used by the psyche to express the inner world” (p. 29). Intuiting the meaning of this object beyond what we already understand it to be is the idea of symbolic thought. Carl Jung strongly promoted living the symbolic life: taking symbolic experiences seriously and living in relationship to the unseen worlds beyond our conscious lives. Locating ourselves within a symbolic life gives us the feeling of being rooted in something bigger, of a sense of the tapestry of the world soul into which we are woven.

One portal into living the symbolic life is paying attention to our dreams. Freud wrote the groundbreaking work, Interpretation of Dreams, on the topic in 1900. Jung's work on dreams suggested dreams are the royal road to the unconscious and he promoted analysis and amplification of dreams as a way to receive the message the unconscious is attempting to deliver. Contemporary archetypal psychologist James Hillman promotes interacting with dream symbols on their own turf, dialoguing with them and allowing their autonomous energy (that of the psyche) to speak directly to us. Whichever technique you use, you are sure to learn something new about yourself and your connection to the world through them. For a great example of dream interpretation which I enjoyed, check the recent article "Whale Dreaming" by Jungian analyst Barry Williams along with Renata Ritzman in Sacred Fire magazine (Issue 11): or check out Hillman's Dream and the Underworld.

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Comment by penelope jane fields on March 31, 2011 at 9:36am

This mouth may but complement all that has prompted and continues to enrich this (Bonnie's/collective) piece, within and on the written page. The process seems to be deeply auditory, receptive and feelingly responsive through the characters enscribed in black on light. Many thanks, Ed.



Comment by Ed Koffenberger on March 29, 2011 at 7:17am
What a beautiful line among many: "It's a feeling drive that drives the sense and nonsense of the whole dream, home." I feel that moment when in the midst of sadness, I can't help but smile. Or in the middle of a deep laugh, a moment of melancholy arrives. Sense and nonsense, somehow within the same soul and equally precious therein. PJ (if I may) many thanks for bringing the backstage into the footlights.
Comment by penelope jane fields on March 28, 2011 at 4:15pm

The poet in me feels its way through a day and from time to time, chortles at this or that while my simple awareness just catches its play, sideways fashion. And the dream of chemo too, in its 'killingness' suffered my body unto the sickness in ways that only the poetic/symbolic mouth could relate. Each day, every effort made and each spontaneous drift to the beach of 'what lives around and in the story-sphere' brings me ever into the 'backstage' production. It leaks through the curtain and invites the players to take a step back and to enjoy the wider plain of view. Thus situated, even sound shares its layers, colour and scent, its many notes. 


That impulse to widen as Ed has said, into the deep story of the moment enriches and enlivens the body's every function. The mid-life and beyond is for such reaching in and being with...I could write volumes....just on the licence plate messages alone! t's a feeling drive that drives the sense and nonsense of the whole dream, home. I suppose that a ‘typo’ is never ‘just a typo’ too! And life goes on.

Comment by Melissa Jane on March 7, 2011 at 6:10pm

Ed, I like how you worked with being stalled in traffic. I'm letting it inspire me as I deal with yet another roadblock in my grad school app process. The state school claims I'm not a resident, though I've lived in this state for 14 years. Am I not residing in myself? (some work to do there) Do I simply not wish to live in this state anymore (yes)? Am I just afraid of this next big step? (yes)

James, I think your entire statement is very well said, and particularly agree with this: "I do think that if we as a culture were to have more of an emphasis on symbolic language that we would see a remarkable increase in our quality of life." And also very much appreciate your words on the human need for poetic and mythological language and perception, both of which speak to our need to recognize and feed our transcendent natures and experiences--or longing for such experiences. I love the idea of viewing the landing on the moon as a mythological event (it was certainly an event of mythic proportions)! I do wish that we as a culture could take even just one step away from the literal and one step toward the symbolic--that we could give the Soul just a crack to shine it's light through. We might be amazed at what was illuminated.

Comment by James Burden on March 7, 2011 at 9:23am

I've often wondered if much of our issues stem from not seeing life symbolically and relying too hard on rational logical thinking. While I am not sure if this is an ability that we have lost or have just not developed enough I do think that if we as a culture were to have more of an emphasis on symbolic language that we would see a remarkable increase in our quality of life.


Coming from the background of mythology myself I see the importance in our religions and films but there is also much to be offered from dreams. While watching Way of the Dream with Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz I was stuck at how so many average people interviewed claimed that #1 they did not think that dreams had any relevance for their lives, #2 they took the dreams as being far too literal, or that #3 they didn’t have dreams and in fact did not believe that dreams where real and where a myth (a lie).  


As I said before I see much of the issue arising in our western religions. We are taught from an early age that the material in our religions are literal fact. How much of the information in those texts are based on history is debatable but in the end my view is that it is irrelevant. When read literally the myth seems to loose its real power. It’s when the stories are read symbolically or as Joseph Campbell used to say when they are read poetically they leap off of the page and speak to the spiritual side of life and really have an impact. Many Christians are constantly trying to prove that Noah's Arch is in fact real and top mt Ararat while you would be hard pressed to find Hindus or Buddhists trying to scientifically prove the existence of their mythologies. All of those myths could indeed be factually real but so only see it from that vantage point is to miss the meaning. The Moon landing was probably real but if read from a historical point of view it doesn’t really do anything for me. However, when I read that event symbolically or poetically it really speaks.  

Comment by Ed Koffenberger on December 11, 2010 at 5:46am

New place to ask oneself "If this was a dream?"  In stalled traffic. Most of the time I am inappropriately frustrated or numb out in such situations. When I asked myself the question I became conscious of my surroundings from a meta perspective down to the details around me (it was a long stop). During that time I heard a voice say I needed to stop and take stock, check where I'm going in life and hw fast, am I moving so fast that I am missing something I need to attend to, even whether I'm not carrying too much "stuff" in my life. (I was behind a moving van.) Much more enjoyable and informatiove time.

Comment by Ed Koffenberger on November 16, 2010 at 7:34am
A cigar is NEVER just a cigar.

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