Carl Jung Theory

The Collective Unconscious


Collective Unconscious


The main Carl Jung theory that his dream interpretation was built on, was that of the "collective unconscious." Jung believed this to be a collection of symbols that were shared by every human being but retained at the unconscious level. The symbols of the collective unconscious are provided to humans via the process of dreaming across generations and cultures.

Jung provided description of seven separate characters and themes commonly occurring in dreams throughout time as being major central to the collective unconscious:

The Seven Characters

1. The Persona – This archetype is symbolic of the dreamer whilst in dream mode. In other words, a projection of the dreamer which he or she projects to the outside world. Sometimes the dreamer is represented as an animal or an inanimate object. Whatever symbol of The Persona is presented as, the dreamer has a profound understanding that this stands for them.

2. The Anima/Animus – This is the masculine/feminine side of a person expressed inside a dream. Either gender can experience the symbol of the anima/animus. In other words, dreams incorporating the opposite of the dreamer’s gender are messages from the unconscious that can be interpreted about his or her current circumstance.

3. The Shadow – This archetype represents the dark (e.g. “evil) figure within dreams and is indicative of the dreamer’s fears and phobias within their unconscious. Often the shadow is symbolised by danger (e.g. vicious animals, violence, and aggression). The Shadow appears often in the mythology of cultures globally and as a general rule must be conquered and corrected.

4. The Wise Elder – This is the character of the old man or woman who offers sage-like advice and assistance in times of need. As with The Shadow, the Wise Elder is a common theme in global myths.

5. The Divine Child – This is a depiction of the most celestial and pure form of the dreamer that is often portrayed as little children and in some cases animals considered delicate, frail, or weak. The Divine Child can be considered timid, shy, quiet, and fearful who in due course, will overcome much adversity as he or she develops into a character of great strength.

6. The Trickster – This figure appears in dreams as the crafty but foolish character. In dreams they may partake of deceitful and cunning behaviours or appear as shape shifting creatures. This character is often seen as “bad” and naughty but in actuality is attempting to help the dreamer find peace and wisdom within the unconscious to help him or her to graduate into something more.

7. The Great Mother – Seen as the provider of unconditional and nurturing love. The Great Mother appears at significant times when the dreamer is in some form of emotional sufferance. However, at times, this archetype can be “dark” and try to persuade the person away from this figure can also be dark and act to tempt the dreamer away from a commendable of precious objective.

According to Jung, the above characters are life aids who offer advice to help the dreamer in attending to challenges. Jung believed for an individual to partake of success and happiness in the conscious world, they must pay heed to the subconscious and interpret its message. These and all archetypes, In Jung’s view, are passed down from generation to generation in all cultures of all times. Although they major differ marginally, the theme is a common one, that being growth and overcoming difficulties. This is the primary purpose of the interpretation of dreams in Jungian theory.

Related Pages

If you enjoyed reading our Carl Jung Theory page on the collective unconscious, feel free to browse the following articles too:

* Carl Jung on Myths and Dreams

* Carl Jung Quotes

* History of Dream Interpretation

* Freud's Theory on Dreams


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