Material aspects: A guillotine in a dream indicates an irrational aspect in our personality, which is trying to queer our pitch. We may be afraid of losing self-control in an everyday situation, or of having part of our personality amputated. We could be aware of an injury to our person or to our dignity.
little fish in round container: could be sperm, or depict becoming, or wanting to become, pregnant. Example: ‘Last week I suddenly started having a recurring dream. In it I woke, walked downstairs, went into the kitchen and looked in the kettle. It was full of little fish’ (Karen).
The fact that Karen goes ‘downstairs’, suggesting the lower part of her body, and the shape of the kettle, which is a round container, make it likely this dream is about pregnancy. See Christ under archetypes; religion and dreams, sea. Idioms: big fish, big fish in a small pond; cold fish; fishing for compliments; fish out of water, queer fish; smell something fishy.
As dreams apparently emerge from what has been named the unconscious, it is helpful to understand ideas regarding it, and something of its nature.
In ancient cultures we occasionally find hints regarding the unconscious, but not definite statements as were presented by Freud. In the dream theories worked out by the Iroquois American Indians, they believed that through dreams the hidden or unconscious area of the psyche makes its desires known (see Iroquoian dream cult).
The Greek stories of the Underworld also clearly depict common unconscious activities.
In general, however, many ancient peoples developed concepts of exterior agents such as devils, angels, spirits and God to account for phenomena which today we connect with the unconscious.
The first philosopher to talk clearly of an aspect of the mind being unconscious was Leibnitz. He observed that one often recalled at a later date some detail of experience which at the time one was unaware of. One must therefore have observed it unconsciously. So in general the word means anything we are not generally aware of in our being.
Freud’s concept of an unconscious element of human nature which influenced conscious behavior was strongly resisted. It was disturbing to many people and questioned the idea of humans being the ‘captain of their soul’.
The Freudian slip has become one of the popular examples of the influence of the unconscious. Saying to guests arriving at one’s house, Tm so sorry—I mean glad—you could come’ suggests one’s real feeling was sorrow at their arrival, not gladness. There is a story of a faculty member of Oxford University who asked the guests at a function to toast the queen, but his actual words were ‘Let us toast our queer dean.’ However such slips might be seen as attempts to conceal our real feelings, rather than evidence of unconscious motivations.
Taking into account not only Freudian and Jungian approaches to the unconscious, but something of more recent research, the term unconscious must be taken to represent many functions and aspects of self, rather than something we can neatly define. Therefore, we might think of the term as being like the word ‘body’, which means a whole spectrum of organs, functions, chemical processes, neurological events, systems, cell activities, as well as one’s experience of these.