Dreams: Evidence of dialogic process
Individuation is an inevitable dimension of life for a being with a refl ective ego. Jung’s recommendation of active imagination in Two Essays (CW7) to deliberately evoke commentary from the larger self imitates nature in order to assist and speed up nature’s own process. In everyday life, ego/self exchanges occur whether we want them to or not. Indeed, the foremost source of narratives, mythic and otherwise, spun by our dynamic core and observed by our ego is the theater we enter every night when we sleep. Freud called dreams the “royal road to the unconscious.” He thought they were designed by a devious unconscious mechanism, the “dream work,” to fool us into encountering benign versions of unconscious thoughts that would otherwise be too horrifying to tolerate. Disguised by references to the previous day and subjected to reversals and inversions, heinous thoughts were alleged to slip by their censor as charming absurdities. Dreams constructed a royal road in the form of a riddle for psychoanalytic detectives to unravel in order to reach the real thoughts that lurked in the unconscious. No doubt Freud’s conviction that we inveterately lie to ourselves was not entirely mistaken. But a gappy ego narrative trying to deal with an overabundance of sensations, emotional reactions and internally created fantasies supplied by a dynamic core leaves no place for the sorts of distortion Freud attributed to unconscious imagery. Dream images, as Jung insisted, mean what they say. If there is a “royal road” anywhere for us, it lies in the running dialogue of individuation. Imbalances within our organism as a whole will pull the proto-ego of the dynamic core into different shapes as new brain regions register outer world and inner subjectivity with greater or lesser force. In Jung’s terms, the self (in the guise of the shadow)1 is always trying to reestablish holistic balancejust as every living organism draws its confl icting components into service of the whole. Dreams constitute a primary source of challenges to the autobiographical fi ctions we cultivate while awake; and they call us to investigate the inevitable tensions that arise between the refl ective process of ego and the organismic process of self. Individuation is the royal road to wholeness that emerges from these tensions.