A few years ago another of Jung’s many seminars was published in book form: Children’s Dream: Notes from a Seminar given in 1936-1940. The seminar focuses specifically on the emergence of childhood dream material in adult psychoanalytic process, not the working with children at the time they have the dream.
The repeated childhood dream of my youth has had a continuing impact on my process, and I was drawn to explore it here as last week, while hiking the White Cedar Swamp trail on Cape Cod, I again found myself entering into a feeling toned dreamscape that was so recognizable to me from that dream so long ago. In fact, I can recall similar experiences in each of the last three decades, all related to that early dream.
In my experience it is quite common for adults and adolescents to have one dream that stands out from childhood, often a dream that was repeated many times. Jung explains:
Childhood dreams still remembered by adults are not just any dreams, but have been preserved by memory because they completely contain human life in either longer or shorter periods. When we have a cursory glance at such a dream, at first we do not understand why it has been remembered. If we are able to trace it back, however, we can in most cases find clues as to why it has gained such importance. If things have made a deep impression on us in childhood, we may assume that something highly important lies within what impressed us as such, or that a very important event happened in the neighborhood of what we kept in our memory, something which is meaningful for the whole later course of life. (Jung, Children’s Dreams, pg.136)
As I’ve worked with this childhood dream over the years, I’ve come to recognize how it was responding to the trauma of significant illness, how it contained yet simultaneously discharged the terror I was experiencing. As Jung points out, I’ve come to see in this narrative a pattern of my entire life course, and in returning to it over and over again, it serves at a touchstone of my being.
Michael Whan clarifies the interesting dynamics at play when we work with our dreams in this way:
As remembering, in the context of the Seminar, comes from the time of adulthood, from where childhood dreams are recalled, Jung cautions us about the difficulties of interpretation: ‘This poses a difficulty as, in the case of remembered dreams, we can no longer ask the children themselves, but have to resort to other means in order to enrich the dream material and to understand the dream.’ His concern with the problem of memory nevertheless underpins all conscious work with dreams. For all dreams to which we bring our hermeneutic labours are remembered dreams. Wakeful consciousness, the daytime ego, must necessarily work with the memory of a dream; what, say, I recall as a dream from last night. Thus dream interpretation has to reckon with the difficulty of memory, that is to say, of time, timing, and human temporality. Implicit in Jung’s caution are at least two modes of temporality: oneiric time and that of biography. For Jung, these modes of time belong to different psychic ‘levels’. The dreams of early childhood ‘are dreamed out of the depth of the personality.’ The interpretation of remembered childhood (and all) dreams attempts to speak across the gulf, the difficulty, between these different temporal experiences: oneiric and biographical. The interpretation of dreams requires us to cultivate sensitivity to the connections and differences between these temporalities, between dream and interpretation.” Michael Whan
Can you locate any dreams that speak to you across this gulf, from the far recesses of childhood?