Spun from the unconscious, dreams can provide enlightenment in therapeutic sessions

“Our culture in general doesn’t really pay a lot of attention to dreams. In other cultures you’ll find that’s very different.”

By Jill Draper

Many people talk with a therapist at some point in their life, usually when dealing with specific problems or general anxiety and depression. Among these people looking for advice and guidance are two types who seek a Jungian therapist, says Andrew Sherwood: people who have not found traditional psychology helpful and people on a deep search to discover, “Who am I? How should I live?”

Sherwood is one of four Jungian analysts in the metro area, according to KC Friends of Jung. A resident of Lee’s Summit, he counsels clients mainly through online sessions since the pandemic. In the future he hopes to open an office in south KC for his practice called Working with Dreams.

Andrew Sherwood is one of four Jungian analysts in the metropolitan area.

Dreams were crucial research material for Carl Jung, the Swiss-born founder of analytical psychology who died in 1961. Jung is best known for his belief that the human psyche or mind has three parts: the ego, personal unconscious and collective unconscious.

“Jung believed that dreams were exact and intentional, spun from the unconscious,” says Sherwood. “A dream is a message asking the dreamer to pay attention to it, to discern the meaning and to bring that meaning into their life.”

Sherwood finds that Jungian analysis is especially valuable for people at the midpoint of their life, but he counsels a surprising number of clients who are younger, often in their early to mid-30s. He was younger, too, in his 20s, when he attended a weekend film series, “The Way of the Dream” by Fraser Boa. At the time he was living in England and working as a bartender and music writer.

“The films were so powerful that I recognized this as my calling,” he says. “I approached the filmmaker and he took me on as a client.”

Sherwood, who grew up in Canada, enrolled in a Toronto-based Jungian analyst training program. Over the next three decades he earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees, became a licensed clinical social worker and underwent some 150 hours of personal analysis—a requirement for the training program. 

He declines to speak about his own experience, but says that as a person progresses in dreamwork, the dreams become a series with repeated symbols.

There’s no template or dream dictionary, he says, describing the process as a loose and serpentine-like unfolding. “It’s entirely unique. The dreams queue us as how to focus our time.”

He acknowledges that dreamwork is not for everyone. “The unconscious presents material that sometimes is disagreeable. Some people are quite firm about not wanting to investigate that.” 

And some people will explain away a dream based on a TV program they watched beforehand or something they ate for dinner. But Sherwood considers that approach superficial.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) developed many of today’s psychological concepts such as the collective unconscious.

“The unconscious will then present what it wants you to know in a different way,” he says, noting that nightmares often result when the unconscious “ups the ante” in a way that is undeniable.

What about people who don’t remember dreams? Sherwood says this situation usually changes within 72 hours if a person resolves to pay attention and write down any images they had immediately upon awakening. 

Sherwood observes that Jung’s writing is easy to misunderstand, which is why the guidance of a professional is usually beneficial. “Dreams are comprised of symbols, but these symbols are not necessarily interpreted in the same way all the time.” 

And interpretation is not the end goal, he points out. “As Jung would say, the insight isn’t enough. Bringing it into lived experience is necessary. It’s a moral obligation.”

Lately Sherwood has returned to writing music, revisiting some of his earlier compositions and composing new pieces. Thinking about dreams can often lead to a more creative life, he says.

“Our culture in general doesn’t really pay a lot of attention to dreams. In other cultures you’ll find that’s very different.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: