An experimental and qualitative investigation of the relationship between archetypal imagery in waking fantasies and nocturnal dreams

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In On the Nature of the Psyche (1946), Jung proffers what is probably his most systematic and articulate formulation of the theory of archetypes. A pivotal role is ascribed to his clinical observations of the interrelationships between waking and nocturnal fantasy in the genesis of the theory. Fantasy-activity is conceptualised as constituting the medium par excellence through which archetypal activity is apprehended and experienced. In providing an empirical basis for archetypal theory, Jung cites his clinical observations of a decrease in the frequency of occurrence of dream material of an archetypal nature in association with the practice of the therapeutic method of Active Imagination. This method, which he characterised as a form of "visionary meditation", involves the experience of archetypal activity in the waking state. When employed with patients who exhibit an increased frequency and intensity of archetypal dream material, it functions as an avenue of discharge for, or expression of, the dream material, with the result that it decreases in frequency and intensity in sleep. On the other hand, Jung also asserted that the experience of archetypal material in the waking state could result in a general activation or "constellation" of the unconscious, with the result that the Individuation process is stimulated, facilitated or accelerated. This intensified unconscious activity is invariably manifested in an increased frequency of archetypal dream material. The present investigation subjects hypotheses derived from these two mutually exclusive sets of observations to experimental investigation using hypothetico-deductive and qualitative methodology. Thirteen experimental subjects were matched with a control group on age, sex, socio-economic and marital status. Both groups recorded their nocturnal dreams in standardised diaries for a period of 63 days, divided into the Pre-Experimental (21 days), Experimental (21 days) and Post-Experimental (21 days) phases. During the Experimental phase, extended sequences of waking fantasy were induced in the Experimental subjects for a total of six sessions. The archetypal content of the dreams of both groups was then measured and compared. There was a highly significant increase in archetypal content in the dreams of the Experimental group during the Experimental phase. No such changes were evident in the dreams of the Control group. The archetypal material in the waking fantasies and dreams of the Experimental group was then analyzed for structural and thematic continuities using the Jungian method of amplification, which yielded a complex matrix of anticipatory and retrospective connections. The results are discussed in relation to the support they provide for Jungian theory and their relevance to experimental research on the relationship between fantasy-activity in waking and sleeping states.

Bibliography: pages 388-416.