Paying attention to dreams can provide insights into mental health problems and may help with their treatment, according to forthcoming study in the International Journal of Jungian Studies.
As the name of that journal suggests, the theory goes back to the work of psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung. In the early 1900s, he proposed that many images in dreams stem from the human collective unconscious. He believed that dream symbols carried meaning about a patient's emotional state that could improve understanding of the individual and also aid in their treatment.
The new study, authored by Lance Storm, a visiting research fellow with the University of Adelaide's School of Psychology, finds that Jung was right. You then might want to have something by your bedside to jot down your dreams while they are still fresh in your memory.
"Jung was extremely interested in recurring imagery across a wide range of human civilizations, in art, religion, myth and dreams," Storm explained in a press release.
"He described the most common archetypal images as the Hero, in pursuit of goals; the Shadow, often classed as negative aspects of personality; the Anima, representing an element of femininity in the male; the Animus, representing masculinity in the female; the Wise Old Man; and the Great Mother," Storm continued.
"There are many hundreds of other images and symbols that arise in dreams, many of which have meanings associated with them -- such as the image of a beating heart (meaning 'charity'), or the ouroboros, which is a snake eating its own tail ('eternity'). There are symbols associated with fear, or virility, a sense of power, the need for salvation, and so on."
"In Jungian theory, these symbols are manifestations of the unconscious mind; they are a glimpse into the brain's 'unconscious code', which we believe can be decrypted."
In terms of how they help treat mental health issues, Storm said, "Our research suggests that instead of randomly interpreting dream symbols with educated guesswork, archetypal symbols and their related meanings can be objectively validated. This could prove useful in clinical practice."
"We believe, for example, that dream analysis could help in the treatment of depression. This is a rapidly growing area of mental health concern, because depressive people are known to experience prolonged periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is directly linked with emotional processing and dreaming."
Dreaming is something that we all do, and yet it's often a forgotten and ignored part of each day. Don't throw away your dreams. Take time to record them and you'll likely learn more about yourself. As this study suggests, you could also help treat mental health issues too.
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