Rabu, 15 Agustus 2007

Psychoanalysis Applications: Symbol and Symbolism with Freud and Jung

By Jean Chiriac, President of AROPA

What is a symbol? For Freud it has always been a one-term comparison. For example, if we compare a hat to a cloud, the cloud is the symbol replacing the hat as its perfect substitute. As a result, symbols can be interpreted – both those in dreams and those brought about by free associations or coming from cultural and spiritual representations.

In his work "Introductory Lectures of Psycho-Analysis" (1916-1917), Freud provides us with a list of symbols that may occur in dreams, compared to sexual elements (symbols are not all sexual, of course). Generally speaking, they may be classified as objects and actions evoking or representing sexual life, sexual arousing, the anatomy of sexual organs, their behaviour (such as the erection of the male genitals). Here are a few examples:

Books quoted in this paper

- Sigmund Freud:
Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis

- C.G. Jung:
Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido

The male genitals, then, are represented in dreams in a number of ways that must be called symbolic, where the common element in the comparison is mostly very obvious. To begin with, for the male genitals as a whole the sacred number 3 is of symbolic significance. The more striking and for both sexes the more interesting component of the genitals, the male organ, finds symbolic substitutes in the first instance in things that resemble it in shape - things, accordingly, that are long and up-standing, such as sticks, umbrellas, posts, trees and so on; further, in objects which share with the thing they represent the characteristic of penetrating into the body and injuring - thus, sharp weapons of every kind, knives, daggers, spears, sabres, but also fire-arms, rifles, pistols and revolvers (particularly suitable owing to their shape). In the anxiety dreams of girls, being followed by a man with a knife or a fire-arm plays a large part. This is perhaps the commonest instance of dream symbolism and you will now be able to translate it easily. Nor is there any difficulty in understanding how it is that the male organ can be replaced by objects from which water flows - water-taps, watering-cans, or fountains - or again by other objects which are capable of being lengthened, such as hanging-lamps, extensible pencils, etc. A no less obvious aspect of the organ explains the fact that pencils, pen-holders, nail-files, hammers, and other instruments are undoubted male sexual symbols.

The female genitals are symbolically represented by all such objects as share their characteristic of enclosing a hollow space which can take something into itself: by pits, cavities and hollows, for instance, by vessels and bottles, by receptacles, boxes, trunks, cases, chests, pockets, and so on. Ships, too, fall into this category. Some symbols have more connection with the uterus than with the female genitals: thus, cupboard, stoves and, more especially, rooms. Here room-symbolism touches on house-symbolism. Doors and gates, again, are symbols of the genital orifice. Materials, too, are symbols for women: wood, papery and objects made of them, like tables and books. Among animals, snails and mussels at least are undeniably female symbols; among parts of the body, the mouth (as a substitute for the genital orifice); among buildings, churches and chapels. Not every symbol, as you will observe, is equally intelligible. (Freud - Complete Works. Ivan Smith 2000. All Rights Reserved.)

Nevertheless, there are symbolic circumstances reiterated in all people's dreams and, in Freud's perspective, they all bear the same significance. Dreams of flying, for example, fall into this category and are explained by sexual type contents too:

…Dreams can symbolise erection in yet another, far more expressive manner. They can represent the sexual organ as the essence of the dreamer's whole person and make him himself fly. Do not take it to heart if dreams of flying, so familiar and often so delightful, have to be interpreted as dreams of general sexual excitement, as erection-dreams. Among students of psycho-analysis, Paul Federn has placed this interpretation beyond any doubt; but the same conclusion was reached from his investigations by Mourly Vold, who has been so much praised for his sobriety, who carried out the dream-experiments I have referred to with artificially arranged positions of the arms and legs and who was far removed from psycho-analysis and may have known nothing about it. And do not make an objection out of the fact that women can have the same flying dreams as men. Remember, rather, that our dreams aim at being the fulfilments of wishes and that the wish to be a man is found so frequently, consciously or unconsciously, in women. Nor will anyone with knowledge of anatomy be bewildered by the fact that it is possible for women to realize this wish through the same sensations as men. Women possess as part of their genitals a small organ similar to the male one; and this small organ, the clitoris, actually plays the same part in childhood and during the years before sexual intercourse as the large organ in men. (Freud - Complete Works. Ivan Smith 2000. All Rights Reserved.)


* Jung's opinion

It is interesting to see the way in which the theory on symbols and symbolism is different in Freud and Jung. Jung is known to have been Freud's disciple for a long time, even the follower appointed to carry on his work. Nevertheless, Jung took another way, accusing the excessive involvement of sexuality in etiology. Later on, he focussed on the study of the archetypal unconscious. The symbol was the object of extended study. In Jung's opinion, the symbol shows some unknown reality. There is no comparison here to replace an object with its substitute. For Jung, the symbol refers to a psychic content that has never been the object of personal experience. The symbol of the cross, for example - which, may we add, can get a sexual significance with Freud - with Jung it undoubtedly refers to the idea of conjunctio, a unification of contraries, where antagonistic elements, specifically conscious and unconscious merge in a unity that goes beyond the boundaries of human consciousness. The symbol therefore describes an experience (or the bias to one) of extreme complexity including but not limited to instinctual life.

Sexuality in itself is the symbol of a different reality not limited to instinctual life. Jung makes open reference to that, which has in fact led to his separation from Freud and the Freudian movement. Here we quote an excerpt from his work "Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido."

There certainly exist dreams and typical dream patterns whose meaning is easily unravelled if considered in the perspective of sexual symbols. We could use this way of seeing things without necessarily concluding that the content thus expressed is itself of sexual origin. We know that language is full of erotic metaphors that may be applied to contents that have no relationship with sexuality whatsoever. At the same time, we are aware sexual symbolism by no means implies that the concern that used it were sexual in nature itself. Sexuality is one of the most significant instincts and it makes the basis and cause for the countless emotions, which are known to persistently influence language. Emotions and sexuality cannot be entirely identified as they may come from a certain conflicting situation: for example, the preservation instinct may also give rise to numerous emotions.

The following dream belongs to a woman and it is less complicated: she can see Constantine's triumph arch. There is a cannon at the front, a bird on the right and a man on the left. The cannon is thundering, the missile hits her and goes into her pocket, into her wallet. The dreamer holds the wallet as if there were something precious inside. The image then fades and all she can see is the cannon with Constantine's adage written above: "In hoc signo vinces". The sexual symbolism of this dream is extremely clear to substantiate the naive person's bothered wonder. If one proves the dreamer herself is unaware of the dream's sexual allusions and that these compensate for a gap in her conscious guidance, then the dream is actually interpreted. If, on the contrary, that is a current interpretation and familiar to the dreamer, it then is no more than meaningless repetition. In such case we have reason to suspect that sexual symbolism is used as dream language just as any other manner of speaking". ("Psychology of the Unconscious…").

To conclude, we may say that, whereas in Freud's opinion symbols refer to some sexual content, Jung thinks the symbol, without completely excluding sexuality, requires a much more complex reality. It is of course hard to admit that the cross, the central symbol of Christianity, could be reduced down to some sexual interpretation. The cross is a cuaternity and, referring to that notion we may add speculations related to the philosophy of elements that was familiar to Ancient Greece but also to Middle Ages alchemy. The same cross (the swastika) evokes a turn (an alternative movement) familiar to Taoist philosophy - the movement of the Heaven or the Tao of Heaven – where Yin and Ying principles succeed to each other. The cross is finally a reference to Christ's crucifixion, a central symbol of normative and esoteric Christian belief.

Translation by Mihaela Cristea.

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