James Hillman (1926–) is a contemporary American depth psychologist who works in the tradition of Carl Jung, although some of his rather radical departures from this tradition sets him at odds with other Jungians. Most strands of depth psychology approach dreams as messages from the unconscious mind that have been shaped by our mental state, and which can thus serve as indicators of our psychological problems. In each of these schools of thought, dreams are regarded as vague communications that require some form of interpretation to reveal their true meaning. This basic interpretive orientation is evident in Gestalt therapy.
Hillman vehemently challenges this formulation of the task of dream interpretation. He questions the assumption that dreams must always be dissected and re-patterned to make sense to the rational waking mind, which necessitates extending the domain of daylight consciousness into nighttime consciousness and making the dreaming mind serve the purposes of the waking mind. Why not, Hillman asks, listen to dreams and allow them to transform the waking mind rather than vice versa? Hillman’s proposal is less radical than it sounds, however, because of his fundamentally Jungian understanding of dreams, which sees in dreams the symbolic language of mythology and poetry. Thus, Hillman’s proposal is more of a protest against the literalizing, objectivist consciousness of the modern world that he views as a deadening influence on the human psyche than it is a serious proposal to reshape our waking consciousness in the image of dreams.