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Dreams for Carl Jung are a balancing act of the whole psyche between its unconscious and conscious parts.

Dreams are Compensatory.

“whereby those thoughts, inclinations, and tendencies which in conscious life are too little valued, come spontaneously into action during the sleeping state, when the conscious process is to a large extent eliminated.” (244)

  • Dreams are compensatory to the conscious situation of the moment (252)
    • “the unconscious, considered as relative to consciousness, adds to the conscious situation all those elements from the previous day which remained subliminal because of repression or because they were simply too feeble to reach consciousness. The compensation, in the sense of being a self-regulation of the psychic organism, must be called purposive.” (255)
  • The dream has a regulatory function for the organism. It balances conscious and unconscious life.
    • Helps to balance not just conscious attitudes that are defective regarding adaptation to the external environment but also those conscious attitudes that are poor expressions of the person’s own character. (257)


  • I was up for a promotion at work that would require more time at work and less time on school work. I dreamed one night: I had moved all of my books into my work office on the day of the promotion. The next day I returned for work, they had all been shipped out to different warehouses to be given away, sold, or burned. My manager went around blaming various employees for this mishap, making a public display of humiliating them, during which time I felt bad for the employees and knew, in the dream, this was somehow all my fault. After waking from the dream, I had the idea that I should not “sell out,” what is important and meaningful about my time for more money. The dream represented to me this conflict of the promotion not just as a conflict of making more money (which was more or less how I conceived of it consciously) but also as a conflict of meaning and time.

Dreams are Prospective.

“an anticipation in the unconscious of future conscious achievements, something like a preliminary exercise or sketch, or a plan roughed out in advance. Its symbolic content sometimes outlines the solution of a conflict.” (255)

This can be observed in dreams about relationships where a problem in the relationship is reproduced in the dream and resolved.


Ideas and quotes from Jung’s essay “General Aspect of Dream Psychology” in The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2nd edition, 1981.