Sigmund Freud, a famous dream psychologist, and Carl Jung’s mentor, to begin with, believed that snakes are connected to our sexual energy. However, Carl Jung eventually developed his theories which were very different from Sigmund Freud’s point of view as he abandoned several fixed meanings assigned by him to many symbols such as snakes in dreams representing conflicts related only towards an individual whose dreams they belong to instead of every person seeing them similarly.
According to Jung, the unconscious mind acts as a dumping ground for suppressed thoughts. As opposed to Freud, who believes it’s simply an inner repository of ideas. He thought dreams are significant and that we should reflect on their meaning until they make sense - in essence, he discovered many patients suffering from depression or disturbance weren’t fully conscious of their subconscious messages, which can be dangerous if ignored.
Dreaming is a process that allows us to understand our subconscious by representing universal experiences as archetypes. Jung believed there are recurring patterns of thought shared with everyone, called the collective conscious or archetype. Archetypes allow for personal growth because they can be recognized universally and often have deep meanings behind them. For example, what it means to feel like you need your mother’s love when she isn’t around might not make sense in day-to-day life but makes perfect sense during dreams where we see everything from an unconscious perspective.
When Freud analyzed dreams, he noticed that many of his clients had reoccurring dreams - many were frightening in nature. He believed these dreamers’ subconscious thoughts and feelings related to their libido (sexual desires). For example, the snake was a “phallic symbol” representing attraction between males or male figures in one’s life while referencing men’s reproductive organs.
Sigmund Freud believed that dreams of snakes were connected to the male reproductive organ. He thought people dreamt about these because they felt sexual power, and it symbolized a hidden fear of transformation in males since one may think he is transforming into another being (a snake). Sigmund Freud’s work was associated with psychoanalysis, and his famous works on dreams and their meanings from a psychological viewpoint included “The Interpretation Of Dreams” and other texts. His model for describing how humans functioned is all based on id, ego, and superego - which are now taught at many universities today!
When asked about his famous quote, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” Freud explains how the snake symbolizes male sexual power. He believed that males are attracted to female snakes because of their ability to procreate. This connection between them implies fertility in dreams - an implication often associated with masculinity.
Symbolism is an integral part of Freud’s theory, especially in dreams. When speaking about male symbols, he believes the snake to be one of the most prominent ones as it represents a bond between man and woman that can lead to fertility - feelings which are considered as sexual power for men by Freud.
One psychologist, McConnell (Freud’s views on the snake dream were based on sex), challenged Freud’s claim that it is a “repressed male desire.” He believed that Freud used his analysis of sex because of its association with religion, and snakes are associated with sinful acts. This was an anti-Freudian viewpoint as well. In another view, he never specifically discussed actual penises to be compared to snakes in any books I have read written by him so far – which includes “The Interpretation Of Dreams” and “Civilization And Its Discontents.” Freud believed that male sexual symbols in dreams were snakes, reptiles, and fish. He mentioned this briefly on page 155 of Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, where he also stated that a snake symbolizes the penis.
He did carry out some introductory lectures (Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, SEX V page 155) - where Freud believes male sexual symbols in dreams are snakes, reptiles, and fish. However, his most detailed explanation was found later when he elaborated for many pages about their symbolism to represent the human body as well as how they relate to sexuality (SEX I).
In the late 1800s, Freud began to learn about dream meanings from his patients. He realized that many of them had strange dreams and mental health issues, including a patient known as Anna O., who he wrote about in 1895. While under hypnosis for her nervous condition, one day she described being attacked by a snake while at home with her father when they were both young children. Later on, we also found out through Freud’s writings that this attack happened in real life, but instead it was shown after Anna looked down at herself during the dream only to see snakes where fingers should be which bit both herself and her dad until finally vanishing towards the end of the dream.
Dreams are not just random images that form in our minds when we sleep. Instead, Freud believed dreams reproduce time because they often mirror what the dreamer wishes might happen in real life. This is especially true for his patient Anna who had fallen ill with her father’s illness and wanted him out of misery, so she secretly wished he would die by being bitten by a snake instead of dying miserably by suffering several long years under the clutches of an illness - which was precisely what happened in a dream during one night while she slept!
Carl Jung was a famous psychologist who used dreams to aid in his understanding of the unconscious mind. He believed we had three psyches (the ego, personal consciousness, and the collective consciousness), but surprisingly the serpent symbol played an essential role in his spiritual journey. The snake has appeared throughout cultures as both good or evil depending on its association with Christ or Satan, which embodied this duality for him. So, it held great significance during these times when he sought meaning from symbolism without any regard for social norms.
Jung believed that the snake appeared in many different ways, both consciously and subconsciously. It is not clear from his writings if he supported Freud’s interpretation of the phallic meaning of the snake.
In Jung’s mind, snakes can be associated with our autonomic nervous system. This is based on brain research that shows a stem in the human brain that has been identified as being part of what we call the “reptilian” stage of our evolution on this planet. In other words, this means it belongs to an ancient race known for its endurance and wisdom. Additionally, he believed they were healing symbols because people would often use them during religious ceremonies while praying for good health or recovery from illness/injury.
In Jung’s book The Secret of the Golden Flower, he mentions that if a person dreams about snakes, it could represent many different things. For example, in one case, his patient had a dream where she was holding onto a snake and did not want to let go because she feared no longer being able to control it or herself. In this instance, since there is already an established connection between Christ and serpents from Biblical times (Genesis 3:14-15), then perhaps the meaning can be interpreted as connecting with God himself through your unique personal power. It should be duly noted that you must use such powers very responsibly and only for good or benevolent purposes rather than for selfish reasons.
In a dream, the priest went to a museum and saw that a stuffed snake came alive. He believed this was associated with our conscious mind as well as spirit and instinct. According to Carl Jung’s model of psychic activity, there is an intuitive aspect at play here that helps us develop our mind through learning while dreaming. For example, when something like an animal is crawling on the ground in a dream and then later in waking life, it manifests itself. Such an event carries symbols from your subconsciousness such as snakes symbolizing ability and power.
Irrespective of what Freud and Jung observed, analyzed, hypothesized, theorized, and promulgated, snakes represent a Divine Energy at the base of every individual soul, which when awakened completely leads to super consciousness or the merger of the individual self with the supreme Self of all creation. That Divine Energy is known across various cultures as The Kundalini. Not every serpent-based dream should be interpreted as a sign of an awakening Kundalini but such a dream may be hinting that the dreamer should also develop the spiritual aspect of his being along the course of life.
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