Carl Jung brought an almost mystical approach to psychodynamic theory. An early associate and follower of Freud, Jung eventually disagreed with Freud on too many aspects of personality theory to remain within a strictly Freudian perspective. Subsequently, Jung developed his own theory, which applied concepts from natural laws (primarily in physics) to psychological functioning. Jung also introduced the concept of personality types, and began to address personality development throughout the lifespan. In his most unique contribution, at least from a Western perspective, Jung proposed that the human psyche contains within itself psychological constructs developed throughout the evolution of the human species.
Jung has always been controversial and confusing. His blending of psychology and religion, as well as his openness to different religious and spiritual philosophies, was not easy to accept for many psychiatrists and psychologists trying to pursue a purely scientific explanation of personality and mental illness. Perhaps no one was more upset than Freud, whose attitude toward Jung changed dramatically over just a few years. In 1907, Freud wrote a letter to Jung in which Freud offered high praise:
…I have already acknowledged…above all that your person has filled me with trust in the future, that I now know that I am dispensable like everyone else, and that I wish for no one other or better than you to continue and complete my work. (pg. 136; cited in Wehr, 1989)
In 1910, hoping that others would also support Jung, Freud wrote to Oskar Pfister:
I hope you will loyally support Jung, I want him to acquire the authority that will entitle him to leadership of the whole movement. (pg. 136; cited in Wehr, 1989)
However, in a dramatic shift just three years later, Freud wrote to Jung:
I suggest to you that we completely give up our private relationship. By this I lose nothing, since for a long time I have been bound to you emotionally only by the thin thread of previously experienced disappointments. … Spare me the supposed “duties of friendship.” (pg. 136; cited in Wehr, 1989)
Later, in 1922, Freud thanked Oskar Pfister for his help in trying to eliminate Jung’s influence on the psychoanalytic community:
With your ever more thorough and ever more clearly demonstrated dismissal of Jung and Adler, you have for a long time given me great satisfaction. (pg. 136; cited in Wehr, 1989)
Who was this man who inspired such profound confidence from Sigmund Freud, only to later inspire such contempt? And were his theories that difficult for the psychodynamic community, or psychology in general, to accept? Hopefully, this chapter will begin to answer those questions. As evidence of his character, and in contrast to Freud, Jung did not turn his back on his former mentor. Following Freud’s death in 1939, and later in 1957, Jung wrote the following:
[Freud’s work was]…surely the boldest attempt ever made on the apparently solid ground of empiricism to master the riddle of the unconscious psyche. For us young psychiatrists, it was a source of enlightenment… (pg. 29; cited in Wehr, 1989)
…Despite the resounding censure I suffered at the hands of Freud, I cannot, even despite my resentment toward him, fail to recognize his importance as a critical analyst of culture and as a pioneer in the field of psychology. (pg. 39; cited in Wehr, 1989)
Brief Biography of Carl Jung
At the beginning of his autobiography, entitled Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung (1961) described his life as “a story of the self-realization of the unconscious.” Jung believed that our personality begins with a collective unconscious, developed within our species throughout time, and that we have only limited ability to control the psychic process that is our own personality. Thus, our true personality arises from within as our collective unconscious comes forth into our personal unconscious and then our consciousness. It can be helpful to view these concepts from an Eastern perspective, and it is interesting to note that “self-realization” was used in the name of the first Yoga society established in America (in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda).
Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26th, 1875, in the small town of Kesswil, Switzerland, into an interesting and notable family. His grandfather of the same name had been a physician, and had established the psychiatric clinic at the University of Basel and the “Home of Good Hope” for mentally retarded children. At an early age he had been imprisoned for over a year, for the crime of having participated in a demonstration supporting democracy in Germany. Rumored to be an illegitimate son of the great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, though there is no convincing evidence, the elder Carl Jung died before his namesake grandson ever knew him. Nonetheless, Jung was greatly influenced by stories he heard about his grandfather. His maternal grandfather, Samuel Preiswerk, was the dean of the Basel (Switzerland) clergy and pastor of a major church. He was one the first people in Europe to suggest a restoration of Palestine to the Jews, thus establishing himself as a forerunner to the Zionists. Samuel Preiswerk also believed that he was regularly surrounded by spirits (or ghosts), something that likely had quite an influence on Jung’s theories (Jaffe, 1979; Wehr, 1989).
Jung’s father, Johann Paul Achilles Jung, married Emilie Preiswerk in 1874. Johann Jung was a scholar of Oriental languages, studied Arabic, and was ordained a minister. In addition to being a pastor at two churches during Jung’s childhood, Johann Jung was the pastor at Friedmatt, the insane asylum in Basel. During Jung’s early childhood he did not always have the best of relationships with his parents. He considered his mother to be a good mother, but he felt that her true personality was always hidden. She spent some time in the hospital when he was three years old, in part due to problems in her marriage. Jung found this separation from his mother deeply troubling, and he became mistrustful of the spoken word “love.” Since his father was a pastor, there were often funerals and burials, all of which was very mysterious to the young Jung. In addition, his mother was considered a spiritual medium, and often helped Jung with his later studies on the occult. Perhaps most troubling of all, was Jung’s belief that his father did not really know God, but rather, had become a minister trapped in the performance of meaningless ritual (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989).
An only child until he was 9, Jung preferred to be left alone, or at least he came to accept his loneliness. Even when his parent’s guests brought their children over for visits, Jung would simply play his games alone:
…I recall only that I did not want to be disturbed. I was deeply absorbed in my games and could not endure being watched or judged while I played them. (pg. 18; Jung, 1961)
He also had extraordinarily rich and meaningful dreams, many of which were quite frightening, and they often involved deeply religious themes. This is hardly surprising, since two uncles on his father’s side of the family were ministers, and there were six more ministers on his mother’s side. Thus, he was often engaged in religious discussions at home. He was particularly impressed with a richly illustrated book on Hinduism, with pictures of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (the Hindu trinity of gods). Even at 6 years old, he felt a vague connection with the Hindu gods, something that once again would have an interesting influence on his later theories. These dreams led Jung into deep religious speculations, something he considered to be a secret that he could not share with anyone else (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989).
Jung’s school-age years were a mixture of experiences. He enjoyed school, in the sense that it was easy for him and he found other children to play with. However, he also began studying Latin with his father and taking divinity classes. He found the classes on religion terribly boring, and the more he got to know his father, the less he believed that his father understood either God, religion, or spirituality. It didn’t help that he was well-aware of the continued turmoil in his parent’s marriage. In a cave in the garden he tended a fire that he meant to keep burning forever, and although he allowed other children to help gather the wood, only Jung himself could tend the fire. At the age of 11 he began attending the Gymnasium in Basel (something like an advanced high school). The other children were quite wealthy, and Jung became aware of how poor they were. Although this led him to feel some compassion for his father, the Gymnasium created a number of problems. Jung simply did not understand mathematics, his divinity classes became unbearably boring, and so, school itself became boring. This led to a severe neurosis at the age of 12 (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989).
Jung had been knocked down by another boy on the way home from school. He hit his head on a rock, and was nearly knocked out. He was so dizzy that others had to help him, and he suddenly realized that he did not have to go to school if he was ill. Consequently, he began having fainting spells any time he was sent to school or to do his homework. He missed 6 months of school due his psychological problems, and Jung loved the opportunity to spend his days exploring the world in any way he wished. He was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy, though Jung himself knew the diagnosis was ridiculous. One day he heard his father expressing great fear to a friend about what would become of Jung if he were unable to earn his own living. The reality of this statement was shocking to Jung, and “From that moment on I became a serious child.” He immediately went to study Latin, and began to feel faint. However, he consciously made himself aware of his neurosis, and cognitively fought it off. He soon returned to school, recognizing “That was when I learned what a neurosis is” (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989).
As he continued through school, his personal life continued to be quite strange. He began to believe that he was two people, one having lived 100 years earlier. He also had heated religious debates with his father. Fueling his courage during these debates was his belief that a vision had led to his understanding of true spirituality:
One fine summer day that same year I came out of school at noon and went to the cathedral square. The sky was gloriously blue, the day one of radiant sunshine. The roof of the cathedral glittered, the sun sparkling from the new, brightly glazed tiles. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight, and thought: “The world is beautiful and the church is beautiful, and God made all this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne and …” Here came a great hole in my thoughts, and a choking sensation. I felt numbed, and knew only: “Don’t go on thinking now! Something terrible is coming, something I do not want to think, something I dare not even approach. Why not? Because I would be committing the most frightful of sins. What is the most terrible sin? Murder? No, it can’t be that. The most terrible sin is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which cannot be forgiven. Anyone who commits that sin is damned to hell for all eternity. That would be very sad for my parents, if their only son, to whom they are so attached, should be doomed to eternal damnation. I cannot do that to my parents. All I need do is not go on thinking.” (pg. 36; Jung, 1961)
However, Jung was not able to ignore his vision. He was tormented for days, and spent sleepless nights wondering why he would have to think something unforgivable as a result of praising God for the beauty of all creation. His mother saw how troubled he was, but Jung felt that he could not dare confide in her. Finally, he decided that it was God’s will that he should face the meaning of this vision:
I thought it over again and arrived at the same conclusion. “Obviously God also desires me to show courage,” I thought. “If that is so and I go through with it, then He will give me His grace and illumination.”
I gathered all my courage, as though I were about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on His golden throne, high above the world - and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder. (pg. 39; Jung 1961)
Jung was overjoyed by his understanding of this vision. He believed that God had shown him that what mattered in life was doing God’s will, not following the rules of any man, religion, or church. This was what Jung felt his own father had never come to realize, and therefore, his father did not know the “immediate living God.” This conviction that one should pursue truth, rather than dogma, was an essential lesson that returned when Jung faced his dramatic split with Sigmund Freud.
When Jung decided to enter medical school, he did not leave his interest in strange spiritual matters behind. His cousin Helene Preiswerk led séances in which she would fall into a trance and channel strange spirits. The climax of these trances was often a mandala (a mandala is a geometric figure that represents wholeness, completeness, and perfection), which she would dictate to Jung, and then attempt to translate what was told to her by the spirits. Eugen Bleuler urged Jung to publish his studies on occult phenomena (remember that Bleuler defined schizophrenia), which Jung did, under the title On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult Phenomena. Another important event that occurred early during Jung’s medical training was the death of his father. The church had no provisions for the family of a deceased minister, but one of his uncles loaned Jung the money he needed to continue his studies. Upon completing medical school, he joined Dr. Bleuler in Zurich at the Burgholzli Mental Hospital, and soon became the first assistant physician. The Burgholzli clinic was a renowned institution. Bleuler was considered one of the two most influential psychiatrists of the day, and the clinic had come to prominence under his predecessor Auguste Forel, who was the first person to formally publish the theory that neurons communicate through synaptic junctions (though just how was not well understood at the time; Finger, 1994). Jung worked hard at Burgholzli, as Bleuler expected nothing less. He also spent some time in France, at the internationally recognized Salpetriere hospital, where he met Pierre Janet. Janet is a curious figure in the history of psychoanalysis. He claimed that he developed everything good in psychoanalysis, and that everything Freud developed was bad. Janet also apparently suggested that only the corrupt city of Vienna could be the source of a theory that traces the development of personality to sexual urges (Freud, 1914/1995). Jung spoke favorably of what he learned from Janet; Freud soundly rejected Janet’s claims, but did grudgingly acknowledge that Janet did some important work on understanding neuroses (Freud, 1914/1995; Jung, 1961).
In 1906, Jung sent Freud a copy of his book The Psychology of Dementia Praecox (an earlier term for schizophrenia), which Freud found quite impressive. The two met in February, 1907, and talked for nearly 13 straight hours. According to Jung, “Freud was the first man of real importance I had encountered…no one else could compare with him.” Very quickly, as evidenced in the letters quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Freud felt that Jung would become the leader of the psychoanalytic movement. In 1909, Jung’s psychoanalytic practice was so busy that he resigned from the Burgholzli clinic, and he traveled to America with Freud. During this trip the two men spent a great deal of time together. It quickly became evident to Jung that he could not be the successor that Freud was seeking; Jung had too many differences of opinion with Freud. More importantly, however, Jung described Freud as neurotic, and wrote that the symptoms were sometimes highly troublesome (though Jung failed to identify those symptoms). Freud taught that everyone was a little neurotic, but Jung wanted to know how to cure neuroses:
Apparently neither Freud nor his disciples could understand what it meant for the theory and practice of psychoanalysis if not even the master could deal with his own neurosis. When, then, Freud announced his intention of identifying theory and method and making them into some kind of dogma, I could no longer collaborate with him; there remained no choice for me but to withdraw. (pg. 167; Jung, 1961)
Clearly Jung could not accept a dogmatic approach to psychoanalysis, since he believed that God Himself had told Jung not to follow any rigid system of rules. Even worse, this was when Jung first published his “discovery” of the collective unconscious. Freud wholly rejected this concept, and Jung felt that his creativity was being rejected. He offered to support Freud in public, while extending honest opinions in so-called “secret letters.” Freud wanted none of it. Almost as quickly as their relationship had grown, it fell apart (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989).
The loss of his relationship with Freud, following the loss of his father, led Jung in a period of personal crisis. He resigned his position at the University of Zurich, and began a lengthy series of experiments in order to understand the fantasies and dreams that arose from his unconscious. The more he studied these phenomena, the more he realized they were not from his own memories, but from the collective unconscious. He was particularly curious about mandala drawings, which date back thousands of years in all cultures. He studied Christian Gnosticism, alchemy, and the I Ching (or: Book of Changes). After meeting Richard Wilhelm, an expert on Chinese culture, Jung studied more Taoist philosophy, and he wrote a glowing foreword for Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching (Wilhelm, 1950). These extraordinarily diverse interests led Jung to seek more in-depth knowledge from around the world. He traveled first to North Africa, then to America (to visit Pueblo Indians in New Mexico), next came East Africa (Uganda and Kenya), and finally India. Jung made every effort to get away from civilized areas, which might have been influenced by other cultures, in order to get a more realistic impression of the local culture, and he was particularly successful in this regard in meeting gurus in India (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989).
Through it all, he continued his work in psychology. He had developed his concept of psychological types, one of his most significant contributions, and published his work shortly after the break with Freud. He continued to develop his own form of psychoanalysis. Jung’s family was also an important part of his life. He had married Emma Rauschenbach in 1903. They had four daughters and one son, followed by nineteen grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. Emma Jung was very supportive of her husband, especially during the more turbulent periods of his career (including the break with Freud), and she was no stranger to his work. She had done some analytical work with Freud herself, she wrote essays on Jung’s concept of anima and animus, and she was the first president of the Psychological Club of Zurich. When his wife Emma died in 1955, Jung wrote in a letter that the loss had taken a lot out of him, and that at his age (80 years old) it wasn’t easy to recover. Yet two years later, he began dictating his autobiography to Aniela Jaffe. Looking ahead to the end of his life, Jung said:
The world into which we are born is brutal and cruel, and at the same time of divine beauty. Which element we think outweighs the other, whether meaninglessness or meaning is a matter of temperament. If meaninglessness were absolutely preponderant, the meaningfulness of life would vanish to an increasing degree with each step in our development. But that is - or seems to me - not the case. Probably, as in all metaphysical questions, both are true: Life is - or has - meaning and meaninglessness. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and win the battle.
When Lao-tzu says: “All are clear, I alone am clouded,” he is expressing what I now feel in advanced old age. Lao-tzu is the example of a man with superior insight who has seen and experienced worth and worthlessness, and who at the end of his life desires to return into his own being, into the eternal unknowable meaning. The archetype of the old man who has seen enough is eternally true. (pp. 358-359; Jung, 1961)
Carl Jung died at home in 1961, in Kusnacht, Switzerland, at the age of 85. As psychologists today examine more deeply the relationship between Eastern and Western perspectives, it may be that Jung’s legacy has yet to be fulfilled.
Discussion Question: Even as a child, Jung had vivid dreams that he believed were giving him insight and guidance for the future. Have you ever had dreams so vivid, dreams that left such a powerful impression on you, that you felt they must have some special meaning? How did you respond, and what consequences, if any, followed your responses?
Placing Jung in Context: A Psychodynamic Enigma
Carl Jung holds an extraordinary place in the histories of psychiatry and psychology. Having already been an assistant to the renowned psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, he went to Vienna to learn more about the fledgling science of psychoanalysis. He became Freud’s hand-picked heir to the psychoanalytic throne, and was one of the psychiatrists who accompanied Freud to America. Later, however, as he developed his own theories, he parted ways with Freud. Freud eventually came to describe Jung’s theories as incomprehensible, and Freud praised other psychiatrists who also opposed Jung’s ideas.
The most dramatic contribution that Jung made to psychodynamic thought was his concept of the collective unconscious, a mysterious reservoir of psychological constructs common to all people. Jung traveled extensively, including trips to Africa, India, and the United States (particularly to visit the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico), and he studied the cultures in those places. He also observed many basic similarities between different cultures. Those similarities led Jung to propose the collective unconscious. How else could so many significant cultural similarities have arisen within separate and distant lands? Jung did not reject the concepts already developed by Freud and Adler, including the dynamic interaction between the conscious mind and the personal unconscious, but he extended them in order to connect them with his own theory of our underlying collective unconscious. As strange as this theory seemed to Freud, and Freud wondered whether it even made sense to Jung, such a concept is not difficult to understand from an Eastern perspective.
Initially Jung’s theories had more influence on art, literature, and anthropology than they did on psychiatry and psychology. More recently, however, cognitive-behavioral theorists have begun to explore mindfulness as an addition to more traditional aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapies. As psychologists today study concepts from Yoga and Buddhism that are thousands of years old, Jung deserves the credit for bringing such an open-minded approach to the modern world of psychotherapy. Many famous and influential people admired Jung’s work, including psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, psychologist Erich Fromm, the authors Hermann Hesse and H. G. Wells, and Nobel Laureate (Physics) Wolfgang Pauli (for a number of interesting testimonials see Wehr, 1989). In addition, Jung’s discussion of how the libido has transformed throughout the evolution of the human species sounds very much like sociobiology, which was not an established field until the 1970s. Clearly Jung did not simply dabble in a wide range of ideas, but rather, he had an extraordinary vision of the complexity of the human psyche.
In order to distinguish his own approach to psychology from others that had come before, Jung felt that he needed a unique name. Freud, of course, had chosen the term “psychoanalysis,” whereas Alfred Adler had chosen “individual psychology.” Since Jung admired both men and their theories, he chose a name intended to encompass not only their approaches, but others as well. Thus, he chose to call his approach analytical psychology (Jung, 1933).
Analytical psychology, as presented by Jung, addresses the question of the psyche in an open-minded way. He laments the overly scientific approach of the late 1800s and efforts to explain away the psyche as a mere epiphenomenon of brain function. Curiously, that debate remains with us today, and is still unanswered in any definitive way. Jung did not accept the suggestion that the psyche must come from the activity of the brain. This allowed him to consider the possibility of a collective unconscious, and fit well with his acceptance of the wisdom of Eastern philosophers. Indeed, Jung suggests that psychology will find truth only when it accepts both Eastern and Western, as well as both scientific and spiritual, perspectives on the psyche (Jung, 1933).
Dynamic Psychic Factors
Jung believed in a dynamic interaction between the conscious and unconscious minds, in a manner quite similar to that proposed by Freud. However, as we will examine below, his concept of the psyche included elements of an unconscious mind that transcends the individual, and may be considered a combination of the spirit, or soul, and one’s thoughts and sensations. This inner psychic realm is capable of affecting the brain and its functions and, therefore, can influence one’s perception of external reality. In addition, Jung thought of the libido somewhat differently than Freud. Although Jung considered sexuality to be an important aspect of the libido, primarily he thought of libido as a more generalized life energy (Douglas, 1995; Jarvis, 2004). Jung believed that as the human species evolved, the nature of sexual (or survival) impulses transformed. For example, early in human evolution we needed, as do other species, to be able to attract mates for procreation. Over time, these attraction behaviors generalized to behaviors such as art or music. Thus, a Freudian might say that creating music is a sexual act, but according to Jung “it would be a poor, unaesthetic generalization if one were to include music in the category of sexuality” (Jung, 1916/1963).
An important element of Jung’s conception of the psyche and libido is found in the nature of opposites. Indeed, all of nature is composed of opposites:
…The concept of energy implies that of polarity, since a current of energy necessarily presupposes two different states, or poles, without which there can be no current. Every energic phenomenon…consists of pairs of opposites: beginning and end, above and below, hot and cold, earlier and later, cause and effect, etc. The inseparability of the energy concept from that of polarity also applies to the concept of libido. (pg. 202; Jung, 1971)
…opposites are the ineradicable and indispensable preconditions of all psychic life… (pg. 170; Jung, 1970)
In accordance with this view, Jung felt that the psyche sought balance, much like the concept of entropy from the field of physics. Entropy, in simple terms, is a thermodynamic principle that all energy within a system (including the universe) will eventually even out. Jung applied this principle to motivation, believing that we are driven forward through our lives in such a way that we might reduce the imbalance of psychic energy between opposing pairs of emotions (such as love and hate; Jarvis, 2004; Jung, 1971). Borrowing concepts from physics was certainly not a strange thing for Jung to do. As mentioned in Chapter 3, Freud’s theories were motivated in part by advancements in science and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Jung was personally acquainted with the Nobel Prize winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, and the two published essays blending psychology and physics in a book entitled The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche (Jung & Pauli, 1955). However, entropy and motivation are focused forward in time. Such an orientation toward the future marks another distinction between the theories of Freud and Jung.
Jung did not simply study symbolism, such as that in dreams, to uncover evidence of past repression. Jung believed that dreams could guide our future behavior, because of their profound relationship to the past, and their profound influence on our conscious mental life. Jung proposed that dreams can tell us something about the development and structure of the human psyche, and that dreams have evolved with our species throughout time. Since consciousness is limited by our present experience, dreams help to reveal much deeper and broader elements of our psyche than we can be aware of consciously. As such, dreams cannot easily be interpreted. Jung rejected the analysis of any single dream, believing that they belong within a series. He also rejected trying to learn dream analysis from a book. When done properly, however, dream analysis can provide unparalleled realism (see Jacobi & Hull, 1970; Jung, 1933):
…I cannot prove in every case that dreams are meaningful, for there are dreams that neither doctor nor patient understands. But I must regard them as hypothetically meaningful in order to find courage to deal with them at all…We must never forget in dream-analysis, even for a moment, that we move on treacherous ground where nothing is certain but uncertainty…When we take up an obscure dream, our first task is not to understand and interpret it, but to establish the context with minute care. What I have in mind is not a boundless sweep of “free associations” starting from any and every image in the dream, but a careful and conscious illumination of those chains of associations that are directly connected with particular images. (pp. 11-12; Jung, 1933)
In the final analysis, there is a particular challenge to understanding what dreams point to, and that is the situation under which a therapist typically learns of someone’s dreams: in therapy. Jung suggested that if therapists could continue to observe the journey of one’s dreams after therapy was successful, then the therapist, and possibly the client as well, might begin to more clearly understand the meaning and direction of the dreams. Still, dreams themselves are about both health and sickness, in keeping with Jung’s principle of opposites. As such, Jung wrote that “dreams are the natural reaction of the self-regulating psychic system.” The theory of entropy allows for an imbalance of energy in a closed-system. We may think of our conscious mind as just such a closed system. When we dream, however, the ongoing effort of our psyche to balance itself takes over, and the dreams counteract what we have done to imbalance our psychological selves. Thus, it is within the context of dreams, not the details, that meaning is to be found (Jung, 1959a, 1968).
Discussion Question: Jung believed that the source of our motivation was a psychological drive to achieve balance (the effect of entropy on the psyche). Have you ever felt that you were being pushed or pulled in the wrong direction, or in too many directions at once, and simply wanted to achieve some balance in your life? In contrast, have there been times that your life was unfulfilling, and you needed something more in order to feel whole
The Unconscious Mind
Perhaps Jung’s most unique contribution to psychology is the distinction between a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious. The personal unconscious is not entirely different than that proposed by Freud, but is more extensive. In addition to repressed memories and impulses, the personal unconscious contains undeveloped aspects of the personality and material arising from the collective unconscious that is not yet ready for admission into conscious awareness. The personal unconscious is revealed through clusters of emotions, such as those resulting in a particular attitude toward one’s father or other father figures, which Jung referred to as a complex (Douglas, 1995; Jarvis, 2004). In this sense, a complex is not synonymous with a psychological problem, as the term is often used today, but rather any general state of mind common to certain situations. In this context, it is quite similar to the schemas discussed by cognitive theorists.
Jung arrived at his theory of complexes as a result of his research into schizophrenia, under the direction of Dr. Bleuler. Bleuler had assigned Jung the task of studying the Word Association Test, a test in which a list of 100 words is read to the patient, and the therapist watches for evidence of emotional arousal, such as pauses, failures to respond, or physical acts. In addition, Jung noticed that even with schizophrenic patients, the patterns of word association were often centered on a particular theme. That theme could then be regarded as a complex (which, again, could be either positive or negative). Sometimes, complexes remain unresolved, such as one’s feelings about parents, if the parents have died. In relatively healthy individuals, these unresolved complexes could result in dreams, visions, or similar phenomena pertaining to the object(s) of the unresolved complex. These complexes might even become personified. In the extreme situation of personified complexes, such as in a person suffering from schizophrenia, the patient cannot distinguish the personification of the unresolved complex from the seeming reality of being another person. Hence, the schizophrenic “hears” voices in their head, “spoken” by someone else. As Jung further investigated the nature and themes of complexes in psychiatric patients, he found common themes that could not always be attributed to the patient’s personal history. And so, he began to form his concept of the collective unconscious (Douglas, 1995; Jarvis, 2004; Jung, 1959b, 1961; Storr, 1983).
…from the standpoint of the psychology of the personality a twofold division ensures: an “extra-conscious” psyche whose contents are personal, and an “extra-conscious” psyche whose contents are impersonal and collective. The first group comprises contents which are integral components of the individual personality and could therefore just as well be conscious; the second group forms, as it were, an omnipresent, unchanging, and everywhere identical quality or substrate of the psyche per se. This is, of course, no more than a hypothesis. But we are driven to it by the peculiar nature of the empirical material…
Whereas the contents of the personal unconscious are acquired during the individual’s lifetime, the contents of the collective unconscious are invariably archetypes that were present from the beginning. (pp. 7-8; Jung, 1959c)
Thus, according to Jung, the collective unconscious is a reservoir of psychic resources common to all humans (something along the lines of psychological instinct). These psychic resources, known as archetypes, are passed down through the generations of a culture, but Jung considered them to be inherited, not learned. As generation after generation experienced similar phenomena, the archetypal images were formed. Despite cultural differences, the human experience has been similar in many ways throughout history. As such, there are certain archetypes common to all people. According to Jung, the most empirically valid archetypes, and therefore the most powerful, are the shadow, the anima, and the animus (Jung, 1959c).
Jung described the shadow as “the inferior and less commendable part of a person,” and “a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality” (Jung, 1940, 1959c). It encompasses desires and feelings that are not acceptable to society or the conscious psyche. With effort the shadow can be somewhat assimilated into the conscious personality, but portions of it are highly resistant to moral control. As a result, we tend to project those thoughts, feelings, or emotions onto other people. When they have moved beyond one’s control, such as when we lose our temper, these projections isolate the individual from their environment, since they are no longer approaching situations realistically. Jung described the circumstance as tragic when people continue to ruin their lives, and the lives of others, because they cannot see through the illusion of how their shadow has been projected, and consequently interfered with their ability to live a healthy life (Jung, 1959c).
The shadow is not, however, entirely evil. Rather, Jung described it as un-adapted and awkward, much like a child trying to function in the company of adults. Trying to entirely suppress the shadow is not the appropriate solution, since the shadow is driving us forward in our efforts to achieve balance between the unconscious and conscious realities. In other words, just as a child may act inappropriately while trying to grow up, the shadow may cause inappropriate behavior in opposition to the accepted rules of society. Nonetheless, it is important for us to have that driving force pushing us toward self-development (and the development of the human species), so that we don’t simply live a life of passivity and/or reaction to outside events. It is the shadow that pushes us forward (Jacobi & Hull, 1970; Jung, 1961).
Although many people emphasize the differences between men and women, psychologically their common traits can readily be observed. Jung described the anima as the female aspect of the male psyche, and the animus as the male aspect of the female psyche. Jung intentionally addresses this difficult concept in mythological terms, but he also makes it clear that this is a natural phenomenon for each person, and not a substitute for one’s mother (in the case of the anima) or father (in the case of the animus). While the presence of a feminine aspect within the male psyche and the presence of a masculine aspect within the female psyche have some positive benefits, such as making it possible for men and women to relate to one another, the unfortunate reality is often the opposite. In 1959(c), Jung described the difficulties that men and women have relating to family and friends of the opposite sex, due to fundamental differences in style. Although men may contain the anima, they are still primarily masculine, whereas women, despite the animus, are still primarily feminine. As with the shadow, relationship problems can arise from the anima or animus when we allow our archetypal image to be projected onto others. As Jung himself noted, many men project a desired image onto a woman that would require her to be a sexually vivacious virgin, something of a contradiction in terms. Thus, over time, such a man’s relationships may suffer as a result of his learning more about the real life of his companion, even though she has done nothing but be herself (Jung, 1940, 1959c).
Jung did not place a limit on the number of possible archetypes, and he described quite a few in his writings. It did not matter to Jung whether archetypes were, in fact, real. In a perspective quite similar to cognitive theorists, he wrote that “insofar as the archetypes act upon me, they are real and actual to me, even though I do not know what their real nature is” (Jung, 1961). One of the more important archetypes is the self, which represents the integration of the whole personality. Indeed, Jung described the self as the goal of all psychic development. A special type of image often associated with the self, and with Jung himself, is the mandala. A mandala is a geometric figure that represents wholeness, completeness, perfection (Jung, 1958). They also tend to be symmetrical, representing the natural balance of opposites. Although they typically have religious or spiritual significance, it is not required. Jung was very interested in mandalas, and from 1916 to 1918 he draw a new one every morning (Wehr, 1989). Mandalas can appear in dreams as an image of wholeness, or in times of stress they may appear as compensatory images (Douglas, 1995). Their potential healing ability stems from their connection between the uniqueness of our present consciousness and the depths of our primordial past:
…The psyche is not of today; its ancestry goes back many millions of years. Individual consciousness is only the flower and the fruit of a season, sprung from the perennial rhizome beneath the earth; and it would find itself in better accord with the truth if it took the existence of the rhizome into its calculations. For the root matter is the mother of all things. (pg. xxiv; Jung, 1956)
It is important to note that archetypal images are considered to be ancient. Although we talk about them as if they are still forming, and that may well be possible, the fact is that there were countless human generations long before recorded history. Jung has referred to archetypes as primordial images, “impressed upon the mind since of old” (Jung, 1940). Archetypes have been expressed as myths and fables, some of which are thousands of years old even within recorded history. As the eternal, symbolic images representing archetypes were developed, they naturally attracted and fascinated people. That, according to Jung, is why they have such profound impact, even today, in our seemingly advanced, knowledgeable, and scientific societies.
Table 4.1: Common Archetypes in Jung’s Theory
of the Collective Unconscious*
Integration and wholeness of the personality, the center of the totality of the psyche; symbolically represented by, e.g., the mandala, Christ, or by helpful animals (such as Rin Tin Tin and Lassie or the Hindu monkey god Hanuman)
The dark, inferior, emotional, and immoral aspects of the psyche; symbolically represented by, e.g., the Devil (or an evil character such as Dracula), dragons, monsters (such as Godzilla)
Strange, wraithlike image of an idealized women, yet contrary to the masculinity of the man, draws the man into feminine (as defined by gender roles) behavior, always a supernatural element; symbolically represented by, e.g., personifications of witches, the Greek Sirens, a femme fatale, or in more positive ways as the Virgin Mary, a romanticized beauty (such as Helen of Troy) or a cherished car
A source of meaning and power for women, it can be opinionated, divisive, and create animosity toward men, but also creates a capacity for reflection, deliberation, and self-knowledge; symbolically represented by, e.g., death, murderers (such as the pirate Bluebeard, who killed all his wives), a band of outlaws, a bewitched prince (such as the beast in “Beauty and the Beast”) or a romantic actor (such as Rudolph Valentino)
A protective cover, or mask, that we present to the world to make a specific impression and to conceal our inner self; symbolically represented by, e.g., a coat or mantle
One who overcomes evil, destruction, and death, often has a miraculous but humble birth; symbolically represented by, e.g., angels, Christ the Redeemer, or a god-man (such as Hercules)
Wise Old Man
Typically a personification of the self, associated with saints, sages, and prophets; symbolically represented as, e.g., the magician Merlin or an Indian guru
A childish character with pronounced physical appetites, seeks only gratification and can be cruel and unfeeling; symbolically represented by, e.g., animals (such as Brer Rabbit, Wile E. Coyote or, often, monkeys) or a mischievous god (such as the Norse god Loki)
*For more information read The Integration of the Personality (Jung, 1940), Aion: Researches Into the Phenomenology of the Self (Jung, 1959c), and Man and His Symbols (Jung, et al., 1964).
Discussion Question: What is your impression of the concept of archetypes? Think about mythic heroes and gods, or concepts of motherhood or being a father. Can you identify commonalities between different cultures, now or throughout time, which seem to suggest themes that are common to all people?
Across Cultures: Symbolism
Throughout Time and Around the World
Near the end of Jung’s life, he was asked to write a book that might make his theories more accessible to common readers. Jung initially refused, but then he had an interesting dream, receiving advice from his unconscious psyche that he should reconsider his refusal:
…He dreamed that, instead of sitting in his study and talking to the great doctors and psychiatrists who used to call on him from all over the world, he was standing in a public place and addressing a multitude of people who were listening to him with rapt attention and understanding what he said… (pg. 10; John Freeman, in his introduction to Man and His Symbols, Jung et al., 1964)
Jung then agreed to write the book that became known as Man and His Symbols, but only if he could hand-pick the co-authors who would help him. Jung supervised every aspect of the book, which was nearly finished when he died. Written purposefully to be easily understood by a wide audience, the book presents an astonishingly wide variety of symbolism from art, archaeology, myth, and analysis within the context of Jung’s theories. Many of the symbols were represented in dreams, and symbolic dreams are the primary means by which our unconscious psyche communicates with our conscious psyche, or ego. It is extraordinary to see how similar such symbolism has been throughout time and across cultures, even though each individual example is unique to the person having the dream or expressing themselves openly.
Symbols, according to Jung, are terms, names, images, etc. that may be familiar in everyday life, but as symbols they come to represent something vague and unknown, they take on meaning that is hidden from us. More specifically, they represent something within our unconscious psyche that cannot ever be fully explained. Exploring the meaning will not unlock the secrets of the symbol, because its meaning is beyond reason. Jung suggests that this should not seem strange, since there is nothing that we perceive fully. Our eyesight is limited, as is our hearing. Even when we use tools to enhance our senses, we still only see better, or hear better. We don’t comprehend the true nature of visual objects or sounds, we only experience them differently, within our psychic realm as opposed to their physical reality. And yet, the symbols created by our unconscious psyche are very important, since the unconscious is at least half of our being, and it is infinitely broader than our conscious psyche (Jung et al., 1964).
Jung believed that the symbols created in dreams have a deeper meaning than Freud recognized. Freud believed that dreams simply represent the unconscious aspects of one’s psyche. Jung believed, however, that dreams represent a psyche all their own, a vast and ancient psyche connected to the entire history of humanity (the collective unconscious). Therefore, dreams can tell a story of their own, such as Jung’s dream encouraging him to write a book for a common audience. Thus, his dream did not reflect some underlying neurosis connected to childhood trauma, but rather, his unconscious psyche was pushing him forward, toward a sort of wholeness of self by making his theories more readily accessible to those who are not sufficiently educated in the wide variety of complex topics that are typically found in Jung’s writings. By virtue of the same reasoning, Jung considered dreams to be quite personal. They could not be interpreted with dream manuals, since no object has any fixed symbolic meaning.
What makes the symbolism within dreams, as well as in everyday life, most fascinating, however, is how common it is throughout the world, both in ancient times and today. In their examination of symbols and archetypes, Jung and his colleagues offer visual examples from: Egypt, England, Japan, the Congo, Tibet, Germany, Belgium, the United States, Bali, Haiti, Greece, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Cameroon, Java, France, Kenya, India, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Australia, China, Hungary, Malaysia, Borneo, Finland, the Netherlands, Rhodesia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Ireland, Brazil, Monaco, Burma, Bolivia, Cambodia, Denmark, Macedonia, and Peru, as well as from Mayan, Celtic, Babylonian, Persian, Navaho, and Haidu cultures. There are also many Biblical references. It would be safe to say that no one else in the history of psychology has so clearly demonstrated the cross-cultural reality of their theory as is the case with Carl Jung.
Of course, as with dreams, many of these symbols are unique to the culture in which they have arisen. Therefore, it takes a great deal of training and experience for a psychotherapist to work with patients from different cultures. Nonetheless, the patterns represent the same basic concepts, such as self, shadow, anima, animus, hero, etc. Once recognized in their cultural context, the analyst would have a starting point from which to begin working with their patient, or the artist would understand how to influence their audience. One important type of art that relies heavily on cultural images and cues is advertising. Cultural differences can create problems for companies pursuing global marketing campaigns. Jung’s theory suggests that similarities in how we react to certain archetypal themes should be similar in different countries, but of course the images themselves must be recognizable, and we may still be a long way from understanding those fundamental images:
…Our actual knowledge of the unconscious shows that it is a natural phenomenon and that, like Nature herself, it is at least neutral. It contains all aspects of human nature – light and dark, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, profound and silly. The study of individual, as well as of collective, symbolism is an enormous task, and one that has not yet been mastered. (pg. 103; Jung et al., 1964)
One of Jung’s most practical theories, and one that has been quite influential, is his work on personality types. Jung had conducted an extensive review of the available literature on personality types, including perspectives from ancient Brahmanic conceptions taken from the Indian Vedas (see below) and types described by the American psychologist William James. In keeping with one of Jung’s favorite themes, James had emphasized opposing pairs as the characteristics of his personality types, such as rationalism vs. empiricism, idealism vs. materialism, or optimism vs. pessimism (see Jung, 1971). Based on his research and clinical experience, Jung proposed a system of personality types based on attitude-types and function-types (more commonly referred to simply as attitudes and functions). Once again, the attitudes and functions are based on opposing ways of interacting with one’s environment.
The two attitude-types are based on one’s orientation to external objects (which includes other people). The introvert is intent on withdrawing libido from objects, as if to ensure that the object can have no power over the person. In contrast, the extravert extends libido toward an object, establishing an active relationship. Jung considered introverts and extraverts to be common amongst all groups of people, from all walks of life. Today, most psychologists acknowledge that there is a clear genetic component to these temperaments (Kagan, 1984, 1994; Kagan, Kearsley, & Zelazo 1978), a suggestion proposed by Jung as well (Jung, 1971). Of course, one cannot have an orientation to objects without consciousness, and consciousness cannot exist without an ego. For Jung, the ego is a complex, so it is associated with both the conscious psyche and the personal unconscious. According to Jung, “it is always in the center of our attention and of our desires, and it is the absolutely indispensable centre of consciousness” (Jung, 1968).
Jung’s four functions describe ways in which we orient ourselves to the external environment, given our basic tendency toward introversion or extraversion. The first opposing pair of functions is thinking vs. feeling. Thinking involves intellect, it tells you what a thing is, whereas feeling is values-based, it tells what a thing is worth to you. For example, if you are trying to choose classes for your next semester of college, perhaps you need to choose between a required general education course as opposed to a personally interesting course like Medical First Responder or Interior Design. If you are guided first by thinking, you will probably choose the course that fulfills a requirement, but if you are guided by feeling, you may choose the course that satisfies your more immediate interests. The second opposing pair of functions is sensing vs. intuition. Sensing describes paying attention to the reality of your external environment, it tells you that something is. In contrast, intuition incorporates a sense of time, and allows for hunches. Intuition may seem mysterious, and Jung freely acknowledges that he is particularly mystical, yet he offers an interesting perspective on this issue:
…Intuition is a function by which you see round corners, which you really cannot do; yet the fellow will do it for you and you trust him. It is a function which normally you do not use if you live a regular life within four walls and do regular routine work. But if you are on the Stock Exchange or in Central Africa, you will use your hunches like anything. You cannot, for instance, calculate whether when you turn round a corner in the bush you will meet a rhinoceros or a tiger - but you get a hunch, and it will perhaps save your life… (pg. 14; Jung, 1968)
The two attitudes and the four functions combine to form eight personality types. Jung described a so-called cross of the functions, with the ego in the center being influenced by the pairs of functions (Jung, 1968). Considering whether the ego’s attitude is primarily introverted or extraverted, one could also propose a parallel pair of crosses. Jung’s theory on personality types has proven quite influential, and led to the development of two well-known and very popular instruments used to measure one’s personality type, so that one might then make reasoned decisions about real-life choices.
Discussion Question: Jung described two attitudes (introversion-extraversion) and four functions (thinking-feeling, sensing-intuition) as the primary basis for psychological types. Think about yourself and/or some of your close friends and family members. Can you use the eight types described by Jung to get a reasonable impression of the people you know, or does Jung’s theory seem to fall short?
1923, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers learned of Jung’s
personality types and became quite interested in his theory. After spending 20 years observing individuals
of different types, they added one more pair of factors based on a person’s
preference for either a more structured lifestyle, called judging, or a more flexible or adaptable lifestyle, called perceiving. There were now, according to Briggs and
Myers, sixteen possible personality types.
In the 1940s, Isabel Myers began developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in order to help people learn
about their personality type. To provide
just one example of an MBTI profile, an individual who is extraverted and
prefers sensing, thinking, and judging (identified by the initials ESTJ) would
be described as: “Practical, realistic,
matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move
to implement decisions. Organize projects
and people to get things done…Forceful in implementing their plans” (Myers,
1993; Myers & McCaulley, 1985; see also the website for the Myers &
Briggs Foundation, at www.myersbriggs.org).
While it is relatively easy to find shortcut tests or variations of the
MBTI online, if one plans to make any meaningful decisions based on their
personality type they should consult a trained MBTI administrator. What sort of decision might one make? The MBTI has become a popular tool for
looking at career choices and workplace relationships. A number of popular books, such as Do What You Are (Tieger &
Barron-Tieger, 2001) and Type Talk at
Work (Kroeger, Thuesen, & Rutledge, 2002), are available that provide
information intended to help people choose satisfying careers and be successful
in complex work environments. In
addition to its use in career counseling, the MBTI has been used in individual
counseling, marriage counseling, and in educational settings (Myers, 1993;
Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers & Myers, 1980). Another popular instrument, based once again
on Jung’s theory and compared directly to the MBTI, is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.
David Keirsey uses plain language in an effort to make personality types
easy to comprehend. Setting aside
introversion vs. extraversion, he has identified eight character portraits: mentors, organizers, monitors, operators,
advocates, engineers, conservators, and players. When Keirsey adds extraversion and
introversion back into the mixture, he can identify one’s personality type even
more clearly: monitors become either
supervisors (E) or inspectors (I), players become performers (E) or composers
(I), engineers become inventors (E) or designers (I), etc. As with the MBTI, Keirsey provides concrete
recommendations regarding how one might use the results of his temperament
sorter to make decisions about one’s choices in life (Keirsey, 1987).
Table 4.2: Jung’s Eight Personality Types*
Focused on own internal thoughts and ideas, do not communicate well, can be highly conflicted and will lash out at critics, generally stubborn and do not get along well with others
Tend to be silent, inaccessible, and melancholy, have deep emotions but hide them and appear cold and reserved on the surface, tend to be suspicious of others, most are women
Guided by subjective impression of real-life objects, often express their sensations through artistic endeavors, the objective world may seem make-believe and comical
Tend to be peculiar and lack contact with reality, may be completely misunderstood even by those who are close to them, may seem like a mystical dreamer and seer on one hand but just a cranky person on the other, may have vision but lack convincing power of reason
Seek intellectual conclusions based on objective reality, seek to influence others, suppress emotion, can be rigid and dogmatic (tyrannical when others penetrate their power province)
Feelings harmonize with objective situations, can be highly emotional, will avoid thinking when it proves upsetting, most are women
Immersed in realism and seek new experiences, whole aim is concrete enjoyment, most are men
Always seek new opportunities, may seize new opportunity with enthusiasm and just as quickly abandon it if not promising, has vision, often found among business tycoons and politicians, but have little regard for welfare of others
*For more information read Psychological Types (Jung, 1971).
Jung believed that “everyone’s ultimate aim and strongest desire lie in developing the fullness of human existence that is called personality” (Jung, 1940). However, he lamented the misguided attempts of society to educate children into their personalities. Not only did he doubt the abilities the average parent or average teacher to lead children through the child’s personality development, given their own personal limitations, he considered it a mistake to expect children to act like young adults:
It is best not to apply to children the high ideal of education to personality. For what is generally understood by personality - namely, a definitely shaped, psychic abundance, capable of resistance and endowed with energy - is an adult ideal…No personality is manifested without definiteness, fullness, and maturity. These three characteristics do not, and should not, fit the child, for they would rob it of its childhood. (pp. 284-285; Jung, 1940)
This is not to suggest that childhood is simply a carefree time for children:
No one will deny or even underestimate the importance of childhood years; the severe injuries, often lasting through life, caused by a nonsensical upbringing at home and in school are too obvious, and the need for reasonable pedagogic methods is too urgent…But who rears children to personality? In the first and most important place we have the ordinary, incompetent parents who are often themselves, all their lives, partly or wholly children. (pg. 282; Jung, 1940)
So, if childhood is a critical time, but most adults never grow up themselves, what hope does Jung see for the future? The answer is to be found in midlife. According to Jung, the middle years of life are “a time of supreme psychological importance” and “the moment of greatest unfolding” in one’s life (cited in Jacobi & Hull, 1970). In keeping with the ancient tradition of the Vedic stages of life, from Hindu and Indian culture, the earlier stages of life are about education, developing a career, having a family, and serving one’s proper role within society:
Man has two aims: The first is the aim of nature, the begetting of children and all the business of protecting the brood; to this period belongs the gaining of money and social position. When this aim is satisfied, there begins another phase, namely, that of culture. For the attainment of the former goal we have the help of nature, and moreover of education; but little or nothing helps us toward the latter goal... (pg. 125; Jung, cited in Jacobi & Hull, 1970)
So where does one look for the answers to life? Obviously, there is no simple answer to that question, or rather, than are many answers to that question. Some pursue spiritual answers, such as meditating or devoting themselves to charitable causes. Some devote themselves to their children and grandchildren, others to gardening, painting, or woodworking. The answer for any particular individual is based on that person’s individuation.
Individuation is the process by which a person actually becomes an “individual,” differentiated from all other people. It is not to be confused with the ego, or with the conscious psyche, since it includes aspects of the personal unconscious, as influenced by the collective unconscious. Jung also described individuation as the process by which one becomes a “whole” person. To some extent, this process draws the individual away from society, toward being just that, an individual. However, keeping in mind the collective unconscious, Jung believed that individuation leads to more intense and broader collective relationships, rather than leading to isolation. This is what is meant by a whole person, one who successfully integrates the conscious psyche, or ego, with the unconscious psyche. Jung also addresses the Eastern approaches, such as meditation, as being misguided in their attempts to master the unconscious mind. The goal of individuation is wholeness, wholeness of ego, unconscious psyche, and community (Jung, 1940, 1971):
Consciousness and the unconscious do not make a whole when either is suppressed or damaged by the other. If they must contend, let it be a fair fight with equal right on both sides. Both are aspects of life…It is the old play of hammer and anvil: the suffering iron between them will in the end be shaped into an unbreakable whole, the individual. (pg. 27; Jung, 1940)
Discussion Question: Jung identified the first half of life as a time to take care of the biological needs of the species (e.g., raising children). It is in the second half of life, according to Jung, that one looks within oneself for the guidance and motivation to fulfill the needs of society and one’s culture.
Jung was deeply moved by his ability to help patients, and he took the process of analysis very seriously. This is not to say, however, that he considered a specific process to be necessary. He was suspicious of theoretical assumptions, he focused on each individual in therapy, and was just as likely to adapt Adlerian techniques as he was to adapt Freudian techniques. In fact, he considered general professional experience to be an important aspect of one’s ability to be a good analyst. He did consider training to be very important, and that it should include medical training. He was not opposed to lay analysts (those with a Ph.D., rather than an M.D.), but felt that they should be supervised by a psychiatrist (Jung, 1961).
He built his general system of psychotherapy on four tenets: the psyche is a self-regulating system, the unconscious has creative and compensatory components, the doctor-patient relationship is crucial, and personality growth takes place throughout the lifespan. In addition, the process of psychotherapy involves four stages: confession, elucidation, education, and transformation (see Douglas, 1995). The confession and elucidation stages involve the patient recounting elements of their personal history, dreams, and fantasies, followed by the analyst bringing attention to symptoms, transferences, and attempting to help the patient gain insight on both intellectual and emotional levels. The education stage then involves moving the patient into the realm of an individual, hopefully as an adapted social being. Education focuses mostly on the persona and the ego, whereas confession and elucidation serve the role of exploring the personal unconscious. The education stage also involves trying to provide the patient with realistic options for changing their behavior. The final stage, transformation, was described by Jung as being similar to self-actualization. Also like self-actualization, not every patient (or person) makes it to this stage. Addressing the archetypal image of the self, the image of wholeness, requires working with the whole range of the conscious, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious psyches. The final goal is to inspire the patient to become a uniquely individual self without losing a sense of responsible integrity (the collectiveness inherent in the collective unconscious; see Douglas, 1995).
Since Jung did not want to be tied to any specific technique(s), he incorporated a variety of techniques as appropriate for each patient. Like Freud, Jung experimented with hypnosis early in his career, but discarded the technique as ineffective. He used dream analysis regularly, but did not consider each dream to be necessarily important. Instead, he looked for patterns in dreams over time, particularly recurring dreams. Jung taught his patients to get in touch with their own unconscious psyche through an active imagination technique. This meditative imagery procedure is somewhat similar to that of the Buddhist mindfulness techniques taught by Gotama Buddha some 2,600 years ago, but involves much more active cognition. Jung’s active imagery technique was also extended into actual physical activity. Jung found it helpful, especially with particularly withdrawn patients, to have them act out their thoughts and feeling. Jung would even mimic their movements to help himself better understand what his patients were trying to communicate (Douglas, 1995). The importance of physical states, as reflective of psychological states, was developed in more detail in the somatic psychology theories of Wilhelm Reich. In addition, Jung extended his therapeutic approach to group therapy, family and marital therapy, art therapy, child therapy, and the recurrent nightmares of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress. Through it all, Jung paid special attention to complexes, as representative of the psychic processes of the patient. Once an analyst understands both the symptoms and the complexes of the patient, Jung believed, the analyst has found the key to treatment (Douglas, 1995).
Like Freud, Jung felt that analytical psychology could serve a greater purpose beyond just helping individuals, so he turned his attention to society in several of his books. In Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Jung, 1933), Jung addressed the spiritual problems of our times. A modern person, according to Jung, is one who is whole, aware of their conscious psyche and their unconscious psyche (both personal and collective). Though such people are few and far between, Jung believed he saw evidence of a need for understanding the unconscious psyche. One obvious piece of evidence was the rise of psychology as a discipline at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in contrast to Jung’s personal preference, psychology has largely moved away spiritual pursuits, with its preference for a scientific evaluation of the human mind. Religion, in Jung’s opinion, has also moved away from spirituality, in favor of the dogma of human rules and regulations. Jung believed that we can learn a great deal from Yoga and Buddhism in terms of blending psychology and spirituality in order to understand the whole nature of human beings. In The Undiscovered Self (Jung, 1957), Jung continues this argument in a more personal way. He suggests that modern psychological approaches to “self-knowledge” are at best superficial, and don’t address the real psychic processes that lead to individuality. As a general condemnation of our obsession with science, he questions any theory based on statistical averages, since those averages say very little at all about the unique units being studied, whether they are people or some other object. In Civilization in Transition (Jung, 1964), the tenth volume of Jung’s collected works, he addresses the problems of American psychology, and what all Westerners can learn from the ancient wisdom of India about studying our own unconscious psyche. The importance of understanding the true and complete nature of our psyche is that until we do we cannot live our lives to the fullest:
Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components…Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. (pp. 235-236; Jung, 1961)
A Final Note on Carl Jung
It can be something of a challenge to view Jung’s work as psychological. It lends itself more readily to, perhaps, the study of the humanities, with elements of medieval pseudo-science, Asian culture, and native religions (an odd combination, to be sure). With titles such as Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (Jung, 1959c) and Mysterium Conjunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy (Jung, 1970), Jung is not exactly accessible without a wide range of knowledge in areas other than psychology. Alchemy was of particular interest to Jung, but not in terms of turning base metals into gold (alchemy is a strange mixture of spirituality and chemistry). Rather, Jung believed that psychology could find its base in alchemy, and that it was the collective unconscious that came forth in the ongoing human effort to understand the nature of matter (Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1961; Wehr, 1989). He even went so far as to write about flying saucers, the astrological seasons of time, and the prophesies of Nostradamus (Jung, 1959c; Storr, 1983).
And yet, Jung addressed some very important and interesting topics in psychology. His theory of psychological types is reflected in trait descriptions of personality and corresponding trait tests, such as Cattell’s 16-PF and the MMPI. The value Jung placed on mid-life and beyond, based largely on the ancient Vedic stages of life, suggests that one is not doomed to the negative alternative in Erikson’s final psychosocial crises. So Jung’s personal interests, and his career as a whole, straddled the fence between surreal and practical. He may always be best-known for his personal relationship with Freud, brief as it was, but the blending of Eastern and Western thought is becoming more common in psychology. So perhaps Jung himself will become more accessible to the field of psychology, and we may find a great deal to be excited about in his curious approach to psychodynamic theory.
Theory in Real Life: Synchronicity -
an Experience with Mystical Spirituality?
Many people are deeply religious and many others consider themselves to be just as deeply spiritual, though not connected to any specific religion. As important as religion and spirituality are in the lives of many people, psychology has tended to avoid these topics, primarily because they do not lend themselves readily to scientific investigation. Jung certainly did not avoid these topics, and he studied a wide range of spiritual topics. For example, he wrote the foreword for Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching (Wilhelm, 1950), he wrote psychological commentary for a translation of The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (Evans-Wentz & Jung, 1954), he discussed the psychology of evil in Answer to Job (Jung, 1954), he wrote about Gnostic traditions at length (see Segal, 1992), and one of the volumes of his collected works is entitled Psychology and Religion: West and East (Jung, 1958). In addition to his varied spiritual interests, Jung became interested in psychological phenomena that could not be explained in scientific terms. Such phenomena do not necessarily require a spiritual explanation, but in the absence of any other way to explain them, they are often thought of in spiritual terms. One such topic is synchronicity.
Jung uses the term synchronicity to describe the “coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or a similar meaning” (Jung & Pauli, 1955). In particular, it refers to the simultaneous occurrence of a particular psychic state with one or more external events that have a meaningful parallel to one’s current experience or state of mind. I would like to share with you two experiences of synchronicity from my own life. Having a Ph.D. in physiological psychology, and having spent a number of years conducting biomedical research, it seems rather strange to be sharing experiences that can be classified as extrasensory perception, or ESP. Jung also found it difficult to address this topic:
…If I have now conquered my hesitation and at last come to grips with my theme, it is chiefly because my experiences of the phenomenon of synchronicity have multiplied themselves over the decades…As a psychiatrist and psychotherapist I have often come up against the phenomena in question and could convince myself how much these inner experiences meant to my patients. In most cases they were things which people do not talk about for fear of exposing themselves to thoughtless ridicule. I was amazed to see how many people have had experiences of this kind and how carefully the secret was guarded. So my interest in this problem has a human as well as a scientific foundation. (pp. 5-6; Jung, in Jung & Pauli, 1955)
Synchronicity Experience #1: In February, 1992, our first son, Mark David Kelland, Jr., died at birth. Later that year, I was traveling across the country, taking a whole week to get to a neuroscience convention in California, and I decided to hike up Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico (13,161 feet). I arrived a little late in the day, but decided I had enough time to make the climb and get back down off the ridge before dark. I just made it, but still had a few miles to go on the jeep trail down to the parking lot. Along the way, I stopped and looked back up at Wheeler Peak. I turned off my flashlight, and in the dark I could just make out the outline of the mountain against the night sky. I prayed to God for a sign that our son was in Heaven. The instant I said “Amen,” a brilliant shooting star streaked across the sky and descended behind Wheeler Peak! I took it to be the sign I had asked for.
Synchronicity Experience #2: While growing up, we lived next door to Bill and Jackie O’Reilly, who co-owned the corner drugstore in the center of Foxborough, MA. When I was young I mowed their lawn in the summer and shoveled their driveway in the winter. When I was old enough to get a regular job, I asked Mr. O’Reilly for a letter of recommendation for a job at the local newspaper. He declined, saying he wanted me to work at their drugstore. But he didn’t say anything else, until Mrs. O’Reilly told him to give me a job. So, I worked at the drugstore from the age of 15 to 20 years old. I even began college at the same school they had attended: the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. Although I changed schools and switched my major to psychology, I was always hopeful that the O’Reilly’s would be proud of me. Unfortunately, Bill O’Reilly died a week after I graduated from college. Jackie O’Reilly retired and sold their building, and the old corner drugstore in the center of town ceased to exist.
Eventually I moved away, pursued my career in psychology, got married and had children, and visits to Massachusetts became few and far between. One night, about 25 years after I had worked at the drugstore, I had a very vivid and moving dream. I was standing in the center of Foxborough, looking at the building where the drugstore had been. I was overwhelmed by a profound sense of sadness, sad that things must change with time and cannot remain the same, no matter how much we may long for the past. I awoke from that dream astonished by its sense of reality and its emotional impact. The next morning my mother called me, and told me that Jackie O’Reilly had died during the night! Was it merely a coincidence that I dreamt about O’Reilly’s Pharmacy and felt the sadness of watching time pass away, while Jackie O’Reilly was in reality passing away, or was it something more? There can be no scientific explanation. I searched my mind for anything that might have coincidentally caused me to think about the drugstore the day before, but nothing came to mind except for an alternative explanation, which was not at all scientific. Had Jackie O’Reilly’s spirit passed by and said goodbye, on her way to the great beyond?
In the quote cited above, Jung wrote that he was amazed by how many people have had experiences of synchronicity. The questions I would pose to you are quite simple. Have you ever experienced synchronicity? If you have not, do you consider it possible that such events occur as something more than simple (if improbable) coincidence?
Before dismissing synchronicity as non-scientific, keep in mind the circumstances that led Jung to this theory. In addition to personally knowing Wolfgang Pauli, Jung also knew Nils Bohr and Albert Einstein (both of whom, like Pauli, had won a Nobel Prize in physics). Although these men are considered among the greatest scientists of modern times, Einstein perhaps the greatest, consider some of their theories. For instance, Einstein proposed that time isn’t time, it’s relative, except for the speed of light, which alone is always constant. In recent years, experimental physicists have exceeded the speed of light, broken Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (which, by definition, couldn’t be broken), and proposed that it might be possible to get something colder than absolute zero. How can we accept things that cannot be observed or proved as scientific, while rejecting something that Jung and many others have observed time and time again? Jung was impressed by the possibility of splitting atoms, and wondered if such a thing might be possible with the psyche. As physics suggested strange new possibilities, Jung held out the same hope for humanity (Progoff, 1973).
Regardless of whether the strangest of Jung’s theories are ever proven right or wrong, at the very least they provide an opportunity for interesting discussions! There also happens to be another well-known person in the history of psychology who has experienced synchronicity and who talked about many of her patients having had out-of-body and near-death experiences: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. In her book On Children and Death (Kubler-Ross, 1983), Kubler-Ross describes even more serious concerns than Jung about discussing this topic, but as with Jung, she has also met many, many patients who have had these experiences:
…I have been called every possible name, from Antichrist to Satan himself; I have been labeled, reviled, and otherwise denounced…But it is impossible to ignore the thousands of stories that patients - children and adults alike - have shared with me. These illuminations cannot be explained in scientific language. Listening to these experiences and sharing many of them myself, it would seem hypocritical and dishonest to me not to mention them in my lectures and workshops. So I have shared all of what I have learned from my patients for the last two decades, and I intend to continue to do so. (pg. 106; Kubler-Ross, 1983)
Discussion Question: Jung studied and wrote about topics as diverse as alchemy, astrology, flying saucers, ESP, the prophecies of Nostradamus, and synchronicity. Does this make it difficult for you to believe any of his theories? If you don’t believe anything about any of these topics, are you still able to find value in other theories proposed by Jung?
Review of Key Points
- As a child, Jung was introduced to a wide variety of cultural and religious perspectives from around the world. As a result of these experiences, he was open to many different perspectives throughout his career.
- Jung had extremely vivid dreams, many of which he interpreted as visions (or unconscious communications) intended to guide his actions.
- Jung called his approach “analytical psychology” in order to distinguish it from Freud’s “psychoanalysis” and Adler’s “individual psychology.”
- An important starting point for Jung’s theories was the concept of entropy, which proposes an eventual balance of all energy. Jung applied this concept to the psychic energy present in the conscious and unconscious psyches.
- Jung proposed two distinct realms within the unconscious psyche, the personal and the collective.
- According to Jung, the personal unconscious is revealed through its complexes.
- Jung advanced the Word Association Test as a means of examining the complexes contained within the personal unconscious.
- The collective unconscious communicates through archetypal images. Jung believed the most readily observed archetypes are the shadow, the anima, and the animus.
- Another important archetype is the self, the representation of wholeness and the completed development of the personality. The self is often symbolically represented by mandalas.
- Jung developed a framework for recognizing particular personality types. He proposed two attitudes, introversion and extraversion, and four functions, thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuition.
- Jung’s type theory provided the basis for some practical personality tests. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter are both well-known in the field of psychology.
- Jung believed that everyone’s ultimate goal is to fully develop the potential of their personality. Jung called this process individuation.
- Development during the first half of life involves the natural aims of survival and procreation. The second half of life offers the opportunity to seek cultural development and the fulfillment of one’s self.
- Jungian analysis follows a basic series of stages, involving confession, elucidation, education, and transformation. However, Jung suggested it was better to avoid being locked into a rigid procedure. As a result, he utilized many different techniques, based on each individual patient.
- As Freud had before him, Jung developed a grand vision of how analytical psychology might help society as a whole. One unique proposition was that the Western world had much to learn from Eastern cultures.
- Jung’s interest in topics such as alchemy and extrasensory perception did not sit well with colleagues seeking to establish psychology as a scientific discipline. This opposition to Jung remains quite strong today, though Western psychology is broadening its perspective.