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Page 2 of Field of Dreams (Jungian Dream Interpretation), Page 1, 2

Signs versus Symbols
Bear with me for a moment, because the distinction between signs and symbols is rather difficult to explain.
And after reading my explanation - you may want to momentarily sit back and chew on it real, real good before swallowing...

Signs are images that point to something else.
They have little or no intrinsic meaning. They are images that are as-'sign'-ed agreed upon meanings.

Take for example the old traditional road signs such as "Speed Limit 65" or "Nashville 25 miles." These are signs that have no meaning in themselves. Years ago, they were as-'sign'-ed agreed upon meanings - and over time we all come to learn what they mean.

My example of using road signs has gotten even better over the years with the now common advent of using picture images on road signs.

This is a sign with, for example, the picture of a deer. It treats the image as a sign, because we've as-'sign'-ed the picture of a deer with the specific meaning of "Danger A Deer Crossing."

It's an image treated as a sign. If you happened upon the picture of a deer when skimming through a magazine - you (most likely) wouldn't immediately think "Danger A Deer Crossing."

Images, when treated as symbols, are images that have meaning in and of themselves.
When you see the image or picture of a deer - what qualities do you "naturally" attribute to a deer? Gentle, loving, free-spirited, large doe-eyed innocence, graceful, beautiful, Bambi?

The image of a deer, looked at as a symbol, is pregnant with meaning, amplifications, and associations for each one of us. And no one has to tell you what the image of a deer means to you... For most of us, the answers we'd give regarding the qualities (and our various mental associations with the image) of a deer are rather similar and typical.

Of course, the personal amplifications for someone who once had the misfortune to hit a deer with their car - their personal associations with a deer would probably be quite different than most of us. These folks might associate a deer with death, blood, destruction... Yep! A deer might have any of a whole host of unpleasant meanings for them...

Freud / Jung
Freud primarily reductively treated dream images as being little more than signs.

Freud believed the unconscious was purposely hiding the meaning of the images from our conscious minds. He believed that dreams contained a secret, hidden key  - and the lock had to be broken into by force.

For Freud - almost everything ultimately had a connection with sex, death, taboo and incest. Further, Freud obviously didn't much like or trust the unconscious. He saw the unconscious as primarily being a dark, forbidden wasteland and trash dump...

Jung, on the other hand, treated dream images as life giving symbols intent on bringing much needed healing to the psyche. Images, when treated as symbols, are images that have meaning in and of themselves. Jung believed the unconscious was purposely trying to speak to us in our dreams, in order to bring forth a sense of wholeness and added meaning to our lives.

For Jung, our nightly dreams weren't trying to hide anything from us.

Jung believed our dreams were trying to communicate with us. Jung believed the language of images and symbols, that our dreams utilize in communicating with us, is actually the very best possible method our unconscious has of imparting (getting across) the vast, myriad of their meanings to our conscious, waking minds.

Dream Symbols - A Sacred Open Secret
According to the mythologist Karl Kerenyi ("Papers From Eranos: The Mysteries;" ed. by Joseph Campbell) the ancient "Greek mysteries" were originally a "sacred open secret." The mysteries were an "open secret," because there was no serious intent to literally keep them a secret and hidden behind the various stories, symbols, and images.

Similar to our dreams, the Greek mysteries were "unutterable." They defied rational, logical description. It wasn't that the stories, symbols, and images were hiding the Greek mysteries, but that they [the mysteries] couldn't be spoken. The symbols and/or imagery of the Greek mysteries were in fact the best way of attempting to express what was otherwise impossible to fully express.

Like the Greek mysteries, the symbols and/or imagery of our dreams are in fact the best way our unconscious has of expressing to us what is otherwise impossible to express. Problem is, though, that the right-brained mode of communication that our dreams utilize - images and symbols -  is archaic, primitive, and generally unfamiliar territory to our modern, left-brained mode of thinking.

And that's why their meaning often seems so hidden and mysterious...

The Top Ten Rules of Thumb to use
in the interpretation of dreams
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Click The Thumb To See The Top Ten Rules

Dream Dictionaries?
Many of the so-called "Dream Dictionaries" one sees on the shelves of a book store treat dream images as signs.
Sure... they might even use the word "symbols." But pay close attention to the way that they treat the dream images...

Does the dictionary treat dream images as signs or as symbols?

  • If the dictionary treats dream images as a sign -- then nix it.
  • If the dictionary treats dreams images as symbols and full of possible meaning and associations -- then use it as a help source.

But never, ever embody a dream dictionary with the authority of being the "final answer" to the meaning of a dream symbol.

Suggested Reading:
The following books treat dreams and dream content as a language of living symbols and images. They can assist you in the beginning steps of learning how to interpret dreams for growth of the soul. If you're looking for a simplistic "cookie-cutter" approach to dream interpretation, then I'm afraid you're probably in the wrong place.

Dr Z's Recommended Books on Dream Interpretation at Amazon

This article - Field of Dreams, Page 1, 2

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