Carl Jung is my favorite psychiatrist, and his work in archetypes has greatly influenced my personal psychological journey and writing experiences. Jung believed there were two types of consciousness: personal unconscious and universal or collective unconscious. Jung believed that universal/collective unconscious is made up of memories shared by the human race through our ancestral past. From this belief came Jung’s archetypes, which I believe are best described in this Simple Psychology article as “images and thoughts which have universal meanings across cultures which may show up in dreams, literature, art or religion.” According to Jung, cultures across the world share similar symbols because of these shared archetypes, which he described as archetypal figures, motifs, and events.
My academic and professional background is in anthropology and history, so I find Jung’s work in archetypes to be very interesting and compelling. As an individual and writer, I am drawn to this idea that what we dream can be connected to the dreams of other individuals across the world, creating a bond among all of us regardless of ethnicity or nationality. When we tap into our dreams for inspiration, I believe we are tapping into aspects of life with which any human being can relate on some level. Therefore, I believe if we write what we dream, we essentially write what we all know.
Sometimes, such as last night, I have dreams that I feel would make great stories – they are interesting and compelling narratives that are worth something based simply on their face value. However, I believe that we may take pieces of what we dream about and transform them into a story with power. Maybe our dream does not make sense to us when we awake, but something within the dream called out to us as we slept. If we can grasp hold of that sense we felt when we were asleep, I think we can identify one of those archetypal figure, events, or motifs that Jung discusses. This archetypes can then be placed within a story as an element that will make sense to any reader. For example, Merlin and Obi Wan Kenobi are both the “wise old man” archetypal figure that have transcended time and/or culture to become well-beloved mythic figures that they are.
Our dreams have the ability to create powerful metaphors for our conscious and, if we agree with Jung, with our collective unconscious, and these metaphors can make for some really great stories if we allow them to inspire our waking minds.