Feb 3, 2022

A man stands on a small pier over a lake, considering the nature of reality.
Photo Credit: Nathan Boadle via Unsplash

The nature of reality may be a complex philosophical question, but from a psychological viewpoint, reality is largely a question of adaptation to the truths of our inner and outer worlds. How well do we manage psychic life and the electric bill? Science fiction writer Philip Dick pithily states: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” Multiple realities challenge us. We live in shared social realities, from embracing niceties to being steeped in beliefs and a need to belong. We also may access the objective realities of verifiable facts and scientific data. And we experience subjective realities of emotion, intuition, and unconscious influences. We can feel our feelings, differentiate between levels of reality, and choose which to apply to a particular situation or decision. Unclouded acceptance of reality is medicinal.

Here’s the dream we analyzed:

“I found myself somehow back living in the attic of a property I managed years ago, an old parish house. I was very comfortable with this and glad to be there. A high school sweetheart came to visit unexpectedly, and we fell into our old way of being together rather quickly. We had been very close when young, and in real life, we maintained contact for years, though at the time of this dream, we had not spoken for a long time. I was excited at the prospect of rekindling our relationship anew as adults and was a little nervous. She asked where she could smoke a cigarette, and I suggested the roof. It was a warm, inviting night, and although I had quit smoking decades ago, I felt young again and accepted her offer of a cigarette. We were on a flat roof with a parapet. She went to sit on the parapet wall and purposefully leaned back, intentionally flinging herself off of the roof. There was a dreadful moment of suspended time before I heard her body hit the ground many floors below. Terrified, I started running down the flights of stairs toward ground level. At one of the landings, I encountered the building’s plumber, an older man I had known for years who was working on some old piping. I started to tell him what just happened, but he knew already, and with incredible calm, told me there was nothing to be done and to just forget about it. This hardly registered as I continued my frantic flight down the stairs, only to discover that the stairwell never ended or that I was somehow lost, even though there was only one way down. The further I went, lights were burnt out and the steps increasingly irregular, forcing me to slow down and test each step.”


C.G. Jung. The Function of Religious Symbols. Collected Works, Volume 18.

William Glasser, M.D. Reality Therapy: A New Approach to Psychiatry.



Learn to Analyze your own Dreams: https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/

1 Comment

  1. Simcha

    Dear TJL,

    I had to listen to this podcast a few times before I got the idea that fireworks were being delivered as sparks from static electricity…

    In other words: big messages about truly explosive current events delivered in tiny (non-explosive) packages.

    I hear this podcast as a warning about what is going on NOW in society – the podcast was, however “tiny,” a terrifying warning.

    I had expected a talk about how to engage more intensively with reality – especially for traumatized people who might suffer from learned helplessness – but perhaps that might be a future episode.

    In the meanwhile, thanks for a sobering podcast.



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