Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Vannoy Adams - Comparing and Contrasting Jungian, Freudian, and Post-Freudian Perspectives on Dreams

This is admittedly a rather long entry for this blog, but each paragraph is so concisely stated and informative that I felt compelled to present Adam's introductory comments in their entirety:
"Jungians believe that compensation in the service of individuation is the primary transformative function of dreams. Jung (1916a) classifies dreams in three basic categories: reactive, compensatory, and prospective. Reactive dreams simply reproduce an experience that has had a traumatic emotional impact on the psyche. According to Jung, however, most dreams are compensatory. What they compensate is the attitude of the ego in the present. The attitude of the ego is always partial and prejudicial; in the extreme case, it may be utterly defective. Jung defines the ego as identity. That is, the ego is identified with a certain attitude and is disidentified from other, alternative perspectives of which it is, for whatever reason, unconscious. Compensatory dreams challenge the ego to relate to perspectives to which it has previously been unrelated or ineffectively related. The ego may then seriously entertain, evaluate, and either accept or reject these perspectives.

There is no imperative for the ego to integrate these perspectives. What Jung advocates is not uncritical captitulation by the ego to the unconscious but a retional dialogue between the ego and the unconscious. This dialogue is a dialectic in which the thesis of the ego and the antithesis of the unconscious have an opportunity through conversation to produce a synthesis—a new and different relation, a third position that transcends the original two uncommunicative or adversarial positions of the ego and the unconscious. Jung (1916b) calls this the "transcendent function." Compensatory dreams present for consideration by the ego alternative perspectives that have been repressed, dissociated, or otherwise defensively excluded from consideration, or that have been ignored or neglected, or that are merely undeveloped or unknown. If the ego is receptive rather than defensive, it may then integrate these perspectives. Jung (1916a) says that compensatory dreams "add to the conscious psychological situation of the moment all those aspects which are essential for a totally different point of view" (p. 245).

Prospective dreams are anticipatory dreams. They anticipate some possibility in the future. They are not prophetic, although they may be prognostic. Jung (1916a) says that prospective dreams "are merely an anticipatory combination of probabilities" (p. 255). He cautions against any supposition that a prospective dream "is a kind of psychopomp which, because of its superior knowledge, infallibly guides life in the right direction" (p. 256). Only when the attitude of the ego radically "deviates from the norm" does the compensatory function become "a guiding, prospective function capable of leading the conscious attitude in a quite different direction which is much better than the previous one" (p. 257).

Jung's definition of the unconscious (as essentially purposive) is different from Freud's. The unconscious functions as if it were an intelligent, creative agent with a compensatory or prospective intentionality. It actively selects certain especially apt images to serve a quite specific purpose. This is what Jung means by the autonomy of the unconscious. According to Jung, the purpose of the vast majority of dreams is a compensatory or prospective rectification of the attitude of the ego by the autonomous unconscious, which, as it were, intelligently and creatively presents to the ego alternative perspectives for consideration. Freud (1900) asserts that all dreams, without exception, are "a (disguised) fulfilment of a (suppressed or repressed) wish" (p. 160). For Freud, dreams are essentially wish-fulfilling, or id-wishing; for Jung, they are primarily ego-compensating. In contrast to Freud, who asks what instinctual (usually sexual) wish has been fulfilled, Jung asks what ego attitude has been compensated.

Freud tends to interpret dreams on what Jung calls the objective level. That is, he interprets the images in dreams as indirect references, or wishful allusions, to objects in external reality. Jung interprets dreams mainly on what he calls the subjective level. According to Jung, the images in dreams are mostly reflections of the Internal reality of the subject—dramatizations and personifications of aspects of the psyche of the dreamer. As Jung (1916a) says:

The whole dream-work is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic. This simple truth forms the basis for a conception of the dream's meaning which I have called interpretation on the subjective level. Such an interpretation, as the term implies, conceives all the figures in the dream as personified features of the dreamer's own personality [p. 266].

This conception of the dream as a drama is similar to what Fairbairn (1944) means by "state of affairs" dreams. In contrast to Freud, Fairbairn believes that "dreams are essentially, not wish-fulfilments, but dramatizations" of situations in internal reality (p. 99). He maintains that the figures in dreams personify either aspects of the ego or internal objects and that dreams dramatize dynamic relations between them. As an example, Fairbairn (1931) presents a case in which the dreamer tended "to personify various aspects of her psyche" (p. 216), and he says that the dreams "in which these personifications figured thus provided the scenes of a moving drama" (p. 217). Both Jung and Fairbairn agree that dreams are basically dramatizations and personifications of a certain subjective state of affairs. They also agree that dreams are not essentially wish-fulfilling. They differ only in that Jung also believes that dreams are primarily ego-compensating. That is, Fairbairn regards dreams as an actual representation of a state of affairs in internal reality; Jung regards them also as a potential rectification of that state of affairs.

Jung solicits associations, but they do not have for him the singular value that they have for Freud. He proposes an additional method. "To understand the dream's meaning," Jung (1934a) says, "I must stick as close as possible to the dream images" (p. 149). The method is to instruct the dreamer to suppose that Jung has "no idea" what the image means and then to ask the dreamer to describe the image in such a way that, Jung says, "I cannot fail to understand what sort of a thing it is" (pp. 149-150). In contemporary Jungian dream interpretation, "Stick to the image" is a methodological dictum that Hillman (1979) has emphasized. To the extent that Jungians stick to the image, they employ a phenomenological, or imaginal, method. Jungian psychology is a "fifth" psychoanalytic psychology in addition to the four psychologies that Pine discusses (1990). It includes drives, ego, objects, and self, but, as an imaginal psychology, it emphasizes images.

In contrast to Freud, who believes that the images in a dream mean something (usually something sexual) other than what they seem to mean, Jungians believe that the images mean what they apparently mean. That is, Jungians rejects the distinction between manifest content and latent content. Jung (1934a) protests that there is no facade, or disguise, to the dream and that what Freud calls the manifest content is nothing but "the dream itself and contains the whole meaning of the dream" (p. 149). The phenomenological method is a descriptive method that respects the integrity of the specific dream image. In contrast, Freudian dream interpretation is reductionistic. It assumes, Jung (1916a) says, that a dreamer "could just as well have dreamt that he had to open a door with a key, that he was flying in an aeroplane, kissing his mother, etc." (p. 245). From the Freudian perspective, "all those things could have the same meaning" (p. 245). Jung notes that "the more rigorous adherents of the Freudian school have come to the point of interpreting—to give a gross example— pretty well all oblong objects in dreams as phallic symbols and all round or hollow objects as feminine symbols" (pp. 245-246). He observes that a dreamer "may dream of inserting a key in a lock, or wielding a heavy stick, or of breaking down a door with a battering ram" (p. 246). A strict Freudian might interpret all of these images phallically. Key, stick, and battering ram are, however, qualitatively different images, irreducibly distinctive. They are the images "of choice" that the unconscious on this occasion has selected to serve a specific purpose. That the unconscoius of the dreamer "has chosen one of these specific images—it may be the key, the stick, or the battering ram—is also of major significance," Jung (1964) says. "The real task is to understand why the key has been preferred to the stick, or the stick to the ram" (p. 29). He says that "sometimes this might even lead one to discover that it is not the sexual act at all that is represented, but some quite different psychological point" (p. 29). Rather than translate the dream image, as Freud does, from what it apparently means into what it presumably really means—into instinctual or sexual terms, into what Adler (1916) criticizes as "organ jargon" (p. 176)—Jungians stick to the specific dream image and attempt to define it through a precise phenomenological description. They try to ascertain what the "essence" of the image is—that is, what the image essentially means. Jungians apply what I call the method of phenomenological essentialism.

The Jungian theory and method of dream interpretation are consistent with the revisions that Fosshage so persuasively proposes to the Freudian theory and method. Fosshage argues that the function of dreams is not primarily to fulfill wishes but to regulate, maintain, develop, restore, or creatively reorganize the internal reality of the dreamer; that the Freudian emphasis on disguise and the manifest-latent distinction is untenable; and that phenomenological description and definition of dream images are preferable to a reductionistic translation of them into other terms. Fosshage (1987) says, "The primary dream interpretive task from the vantage point of this model is to remain with, as closely as possible, the phenomenology of the dream: to understand the meanings of the particular images and experiences as they are presented in the dream" (p. 32). Or, again, as Jung says, "To understand the dream's meaning, I must stick as close as possible to the dream images." Virtually the only differences between Fosshage and Jung is that Fosshage uses the verb "remain," while Jung uses the verb "stick." Both advocate close, phenomenological interpretation by strict adherence to the specific dream images. Fosshage would remain with the image; Jung would stick to it."
(pp. 127-131)

Michael Vannoy Adams, (2000). Compensation in the Service of Individuation—Phenomenological Essentialism and Jungian Dream Interpretation. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol.10, pp. 127-142

1 comment:

  1. What a nice condensation of several positions into a few paragraphs. He captures the essence of the issue without losing the importance of some central details.