Carl Jung was a Swiss psychoanalyst who created a version of psychoanalysis that is still very popular today. His system blends to some degree with New Age thinking, and resonates with a popular cultural trend that is fascinated by mythology, dreams, storytelling, and archetypes.
Carl Gustav Jung was born in Switzerland and spent his life there, except for trips to Africa, India, and America. He visited several tribal societies as part of his interest to find deeper patterns in aboriginal cultures. His father was a minister. Jung spend his childhood in rural Switzerland; later on he lived on the shore of Lake Zurich in Kusnacht. He was an introverted child with a rich imagination. Early in his career he lived on the grounds of a mental hospital and encountered psychotic patients. He married a woman from a wealthy family, Emma, who made it possible for them to live a comfortable life. Emma eventually became trained as a Jungian analyst herself.
After Alfred Adler broke away from Freud, Jung was the next successor chosen by Freud to carry on the psychoanalytic movement, but eventually Jung’s differences from Freud became so strong that he too left the Freudian psychoanalytic circle. Jung attracted many students and followers. He had two ongoing affairs, one with Sabina Spielrein, a Jewish-Russian woman who broke off the affair when Jung refused to father a child for her, and the other with Toni Wolff, another analysand. Emma eventually accepted these extra-marital relationships of her husband. In the early 1930s, Jung began to pursue the study of alchemy. The internal, private mental processes of alchemists paralleled for him the process of individuation. Jung lived a long and productive life, left a remarkable treasure of writings, and a unique body of thought.
Timeline of his Life
1875 Born in Kesswil, Switzerland
1879 Moved to Basel
1895 Student at University of Basel
1900 Graduated from Basel
1900 Assistant physician under Eugen Bleuler
1902 Obtained M.D. from University of Zurich
1902 Went to Paris and heard Pierre Janet
1902 Went to London
1903 Married Emma Rauschenbach
1904 Research in Word Association
1905 Started lecturing at Zurich
1907 First meeting with Sigmund Freud
1909 Gave up work at Burgholzi
1911 Lectured in the United States with Freud
1911 Elected president of the “International Psychoanalytic Society”
1912 Publication of “Psychology of the Unconscious”
1912 Split with Freud
1913 Gave up lectureship at Zurich
1914 Resigned from the “International Psychoanalytic Society”
1920 Went to Tunis and Algiers
1921 Publication of “Psychological Types”
1924 Studied Pueblo Indians
1926 Studied the inhabitants of Mount Elgon in Kenya
1933 Professor of Psychology at the Federal Polytechnical University of Zurich
1933 Edited the “Central Journal for Psychotherapy and Related Fields”
1935 President of the Swiss Society for Practical Psychology
1937 Visited India
1939 Finished editing the “Central Journal for Psychotherapy and Related Fields”
1941 Retired from The Federal Polytechnical University of Zurich
1943 Professor of Medical Psychology at the University of Basel
1961 Died in Kusnacht, on Lake Zurich
The contemporary human condition
For Jung the psyche was the great world within. For him this interior world was just as great as the external world, and embodied much of it. Life is a great mystery to him, of which we know and understand very little. He views the contemporary condition from this interior psychological, yet holistic, point of view. Here are some quotes:
- “Modern man is even more sick in normality than in the asylum. He is a man in search of his soul.” The last thing Jung wanted to do as an analyst was to merely remove a person’s sense of maladjustment.
- “Mankind is in great danger, and the only solution is to become more conscious. The only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the real danger.” Jung was reacting to the mass psychology of fascism & communism. His comments apply as well to the terrorism and the ecological crisis of today.
- “We have forgotten how to live the symbols in ourselves.”
Jung believed that a human being is inwardly whole, but that most of us have lost touch with important parts of our selves. Through listening to the messages of our dreams and waking imagination, we can contact and reintegrate our different parts. The goal of life is individuation, the process of coming to know, giving expression to, and harmonizing the various components of the psyche. If we realize our uniqueness, we can undertake a process of individuation and tap into our true self. Each human being has a specific nature and calling which is uniquely his or her own, and unless these are fulfilled through a union of conscious and unconscious, the person can become sick. He writes:
“Individuation means becoming a ‘single, homogeneous being, and in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it “also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate ‘individuation’ as ‘coming to ‘self-hood’ or ‘self-realization.'” (Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, CW 7, p. 171)
This “becoming self” should not be mis-identified with the ego. If one mixes up these two concepts, individuation becomes nothing but an ego-centric philosophy or way of life.
The Unconscious and its symbols
The unconscious was at the center of Jung’s interests. In a sense it transcends time. Making the unconscious an honored partner of our conscious selves seemed to Jung the only way of healing the problems and splits that have long bedeviled humankind.
Jung writes: “Theoretically, no limits can be set to the field of consciousness, since it is capable of indefinite extension. Empirically, however, it always finds its limit when it comes up against the unknown. This consists of everything we do not know, which, therefore, is not related to the ego as the centre of the field of consciousness. The unknown falls into two groups of objects: those which are inside and are experienced immediately. The first group comprises the unknown in the outer world; the second the unknown in the inner world. We call this latter territory the unconscious.” (cited in Aion, Collected Works of Carl Jung, Vol. 9, ii, p. 3)
A basic tenet was that all products of the unconscious are symbolic and can be taken as guiding messages. Where does the dream or fantasy lead the person? The unconscious will live, and will move us, whether we like it or not. Jung distinguishes between the personal and the collective unconscious. This is one of the defining differences between Jung and Freudian approaches to the unconscious.
Jung distinguishes between a personal and a collective unconscious realm. The unconscious is the aspect of the psyche which does not usually enter the individual’s awareness, but which appears nevertheless in behavior or in dreams. It is the source of new thoughts and creative ideas, and produces meaningful symbols. The personal unconscious includes half-baked intentions, repression of painful thoughts, and feelings that the person cannot easily accept about herself. These elements are also part of the individual personality. By Jung’s definition it includes everything that:
- I know but am not thinking about;
- I was once conscious of but is now forgotten
- Is perceived by the senses but not noticed by my conscious mind
- Involuntarily and without noticing it, I feel, think, remember, want and do;
- Is taking shape in me and will come to consciousness at some point.
The collective unconscious is the aspect of the psyche that manifests inherited, universal themes which run through all human life. Inwardly, the whole history of the human race, back to the most primitive times, lives on in us. Its origin is in heredity, and instinctual patterns. It has a universal character: its structure is more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It “constitutes a common psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in every one of us.” In his explorations through India, China, Japan, and Africa, Jung found dreams that belonged to the whole of humankind. In Africa, he found a witch doctor who drew the same distinction between personal and collective dreams that he did.
The symbol is a central part of Jung’s thinking. It refers to a name, term, or picture that is familiar in daily life, yet has other connotations besides its conventional and obvious meaning. It is a key to discovering feelings or preferences of which we are unaware. It implies something vague and partially unknown or hidden. Many different symbols may be essentially equivalent and reflect the same reality. Dream symbols bring messages from the unconscious to the rational mind.
Jung devoted more time and thought to dreams than probably any other psychologist. He viewed them as specific expressions of the unconscious which have a definite, purposeful structure indicating an underlying idea or intention. The general function of dreams is to restore one’s total psychic equilibrium. They tend to play a complementary or compensatory role in our psychic makeup. He writes, “The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness may extend… in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal dreamer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night.. . .There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all ego-hood. Out of these all-uniting depths arises the dream, be it never so immoral.” (Civilization in Transition, CW 10.)
In working with dreams, Jung emphasized staying in the dream and exploring it as a whole in order to comprehend it in its totality. This is in contrast to the other major post-Freudian way of working with dreams, Gestalt therapy, which includes an openness to “shuttling” back and forth between the dream and the person’s present (or unfinished past) existential realities. The simplest way of working with a dream, Jung said, is to keep it in mind and turn it over and over throughout the day–or week–endeavoring to see what messages it holds for you. Unlike Freud, who viewed most dreams as symbols of masked or disguised representations of unconscious impulses that are unacceptable to the conscious I, Jung thought that some dream symbols are quite transparent and can be taken at face value if we are willing to hear what they tell us.
Archetypes are structures within the collective unconscious. These primordial images reflect basic patterns or universal themes common to us all which are present in the unconscious. These symbolic images exist outside space and time.
The word archetype has been in use for centuries and means the original pattern or prototype from which copies are made. In the collective unconscious contents, we are dealing with archaic, primordial types: universal images that have existed since the earliest times. While the form of an archetype is universal, the specific content is individual, is filled in from personal experience, and cannot be predicted from knowledge of the form alone.
Some archetypes mentioned by Jung include the shadow, animus, anima, the wise old man or woman, the wounded healer, the innocent child, or the “puer eternis” (eternal child). There also seem to be nature archetypes such as fire, ocean, river, mountain, sun. Other possibilities for archetypes that Jung did not mention are family or the group, and enemy, or outside-of-the-group.
I think that this aspect of Jung’s psychology situates him close to Platonic philosophy. His claim that archetypes exist, leads to epistemological problems: how do we distinguish between an archetype and any other image? What is collective, cultural, or personal? How are these archetypes transmitted? Questions like these cannot be answered easily in Jung’s psychology. In addition, Jung’s theory blends psychology and philosophy; the distinction between empirical and theoretical realms is blurred.
The persona is the mask or image we present to the world. It is designed to make a particular impression on others, while concealing our true nature. To a certain extent it is a figure in the unconscious – we do not realize that we are wearing a mask. It prescribes conduct in accord with requirements of everyday life. It also represents the conscious ego with its many variations. It is the person’s adaptation to the world; the form he or she assumes in dealing with social reality. It should not be mistaken for whole person. If someone identifies fully with his or her persona, it becomes a denial of the other parts of the personality, including large parts of the unconscious.
Jung: “One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.” (The Archetypes and the Collective. Unconscious, CW 9, pp. 122)
The side of our personality which we do not consciously display in public. May have positive or negative qualities. If it remains unconscious, the shadow is often projected onto other individuals or groups. The outwardly really bad person, for example, may push his friendly, nourishing sides into the shadow.
In dreams an unknown figure of the same sex as the dreamer often appears. It is an unfamiliar facet of one’s nature that is brought to the attention of the dreamer. It may be negative or unpleasant, or just disowned. To know our shadow involves recognizing dark aspects of the personality as present and real. Our shadow wants to do all the things we do not allow ourselves to do. “I was not myself” or “I don’t know what came over me.” To some extend we are all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When we especially dislike someone, there is often a quality of our own psyche (the shadow) that we find in the other. If we live in a society that is very narrow and restrictive, our shadow will be very large. The shadow is like a dialectical principle. It is unavoidable and we are incomplete without it. It is in the nature of human life that there is light and dark, sun and shade, laughter and sorrow.
Superstition holds that the person without a shadow is the devil himself. We are cautious with someone who is “too good to be true.”
Anima and Animus
In Jung’s system, Anima and Animus are personifications of the feminine nature of a man’s unconscious and the masculine nature of a woman’s. Anima and animus manifest themselves most typically in personified form as figures in dreams and fantasies (dream girl, dream lover) or in the irrationalities of a man’s feeling and a woman’s thinking. As regulators of behavior they are two of the most influential archetypes.
The animus and the anima should function as a bridge, or a door, leading to the images of the collective unconscious, as the persona should be a sort of bridge into the world.
The anima is the archetype symbolizing the unconscious female component of the male psyche. It represents tendencies or qualities often thought of as “feminine.” Anima is latin word for “soul” or “breath of life” –that which animates. In a society in which woman is dominated by man, anima is crucial. It is a personification of the feminine values. Venus, Persephone, Ariadne, and others, are personifications of the anima archetype. They appeared in Jung’s own dreams and his life, and he found them to be an important resource from his unconscious self.
Jung: “Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definitive feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious… Since this image is unconscious, it is always unconsciously projected upon the person of the beloved, and is one of the chief reasons for passionate attraction or aversion.” (The Development of Personality, CW 17, p. 198)
The anima has a predilection for everything that is unconscious, dark, equivocal, and – at a loose end in a woman, and also for her vanity, . . .helplessness, and so forth. (The Practice of Psychotherapy, CW-16, p. 301)
ANIMUS is an archetype symbolizing the unconscious male component of the female psyche. Tendencies or qualities often thought of as “masculine.” In women, animus refers to developing the kind of assertive, capable powers often attributed primarily to men. There is also the other side – the “Animus ridden women” – the problem of career women who overemphasize animus, in a kind of overcompensation, to the detriment of anima.
“In its primary unconscious form the animus is a compound of spontaneous, unpremeditated opinions which exercise a powerful influence on the woman’s emotional life, while the anima is similarly compounded of feelings which thereafter influence or distort the man’s understanding (“She has turned his head”). The animus likes to project itself upon ‘intellectuals’ and all kinds of ‘heroes,’ including tenors, artists, sports celebrities. etc,
SELF. This is the archetype symbolizing the totality of the personality. It represents the striving for unity, wholeness, and integration. It embraces not only the conscious, but also the unconscious psyche.
- “There is little hope of us ever being able to reach even approximate consciousness of the self, since however much we may make conscious, there will always exist an indeterminate and indeterminable amount of unconscious material which belongs to the totality of the self.” (Two Essays on “Analytical Psychology.” (CW: 7, p.l75),
- “The self is our life’s goal, for it is the completest expression of that fateful combination we call individuality.” (Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, (CW 7, p. 238)
- “The self comprises infinitely more than a mere ego…it is as much one’s self, and all other selves, as the ego. Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world – to oneself.” (The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. (CW 8, p. 226.) In this formulation Jung’s conception of self comes close to that of the Yogic conception of the Atman, which is often translated into English as “self.”
People differ in certain basic ways, even though the instincts which drive us are the same. In 1921, Jung wrote the book “Psychological Types,” where he distinguishes two general attitudes: introversion and extroversion; and four functions: thinking, feeling (the judging functions), and sensing, intuiting (the perception functions.) Jung’s system of personality types influenced later research in character studies, for instance the well-known Myers-Briggs test is based on his typology.
- Extrovert: Outwards-directed, need for sociability, chooses people as a source of energy, often action-oriented.
- Introvert: Inner-directed, need for privacy and space; chooses solitude to recover energy, often reflective.
- Thinking function: Logical, sees cause & effect relations, cool, distant, frank, questioning.
- Feeling function: Creative, warm, intimate, a sense of valuing positively or negatively. (Note that this is not the same as emotion)
- Sensing function: Sensory, oriented toward the body and senses, detailed, concrete, present. Takes things as they seem to be, no more or less.
- Intuitive function: Sees many possibilities in situations, goes with hunches, impatient with earthy details, impractical, sometimes not present. The function that is opposite to sensation. Intuition is a perception of realities that are not known to consciousness, and that come via the unconscious.
Jung stated that one of these functions is dominant most of the time, but one rarely finds pure types. It helps to recognize that the people around us operate in a different way and are not just obtuse or lack insight. Neurotics typically have developed one function so highly that others are very neglected. Intuitives often neglect sensation, and even their own bodies. Thinking types often neglect feeling.
- The extroverted thinking person tends to be tied to facts, may believe his ideas represent absolute truth and that “the ends justify the means.” dislikes and fears the irrational. Repressed feelings are likely to burst out violently and attach to unsuitable partners, resulting in unfortunate love affairs.
- Introverted thinking person is interested not in facts but ideas. May seem odd. Pays little attention to relationships with the world.
- Extraverted feeling person often seems to be well adjusted. May be tactful, charming, concerned with personal relationships. At best she is sympathetic, helpful, and charming; at worst superficial and insincere and artificial.
- Introverted feeling type: ‘Still waters run deep” –much sympathy & understanding of intimate friends, or people who are suffering. Doesn’t play roles well. Not easily adaptable. May express self in music, poetry, religion.
- Extroverted sensing type– the obiect arousing the sensation is the important thing.
- Introverted sensing types–may have trouble expressing themselves.
- Extroverted Intuitive lives thru intuitive faculty. The important things are possibilities. Dislikes the familiar, safe, well-established. No respect of custom. Neither religion nor law are sacrosanct. May squander life in possibilities while others reap fruits of his energy & enterprise.
- Introverted intuitive – concerned with the collective unconscious. Has the potential to have visions, or revelations of religious or cosmic nature, prophetic dreams, etc.
Psychological Problems and Disorders
While he worked at the mental hospital, Jung looked for the meaning in people’s stories. He concluded that every person has a story, and when derangement occurs, whether major or minor, it is because the personal story has been denied or rejected. Healing and integration comes when the person discovers or rediscovers his or her own personal story.
Usually unconscious and repressed, complexes are clusters of symbolic material, infused with certain emotions, but they are incompatible with consciousness. Conglomerations of thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns, and somatic forms of expression are stuck together. This can cause constant psychological disturbances and neurotic symptoms. Therapeutic interventions can make these complexes conscious and greatly reduced in their impact.
Complexes are so central to Jung’s ideas that he originally named his system “Complex psychology”. Historically the term originated with Theodor Ziehen, a German psychiatrist who experimented with reaction time in word association test responses. Complexes are psychic fragments which have split off due to traumatic influences or certain incompatible tendencies, interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb conscious performance, produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations, appear and disappear according to their own laws, and can temporarily overwhelm the ego or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. (The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, p. 121)
A complex is a part of the shadow. “Strongly accentuated emotionally, a pair of ill-fitting glasses through which one sees situations and other people in exaggerated or otherwise distorted form.” When emotions that are based in these complexes become overwhelming, we experience hallucinations, illusions or delusions, like in the “savior complex.” When a complex is activated, the person has a sense of being out of control. This may arise from a one-time traumatic incident, or an oft-repeated experience. Frequent parental criticism can produce a “criticism complex.” Complexes may take on the guise of “splinter psyches” that can appear in waking behavior but seem foreign to the subject. In a sense, complexes can seem to be like independent beings. In the voices heard by the mentally ill they may even take on a personal identity, like in multiple personality disorder, or they appear as “spirits” that possess the ego, or they appear through such means as automatic writing.
Neurosis is caused by a conflict between two tendencies, one expressed consciously, the other by a complex split off from consciousness. The neurotic usually does not know understand her internal conflict very well. The neurotic condition interferes by intruding unexpectedly into consciousness or by attracting so much energy that conscious and directed activity suffers. Every neurosis is an attempt to compensate for a one-sided attitude to life, and a voice drawing attention to a side of personality that has been neglected or repressed. A neurosis should not be viewed as something entirely negative; it also opens new possibilities for development that can be found within the neurotic material.
Symptoms are not just the effects of long-past causes; they are unsuccessful attempts at a new synthesis of life, with a core of value and meaning. A neurosis may be miId. We all suffer to some extent from neurotic tendencies. Jung thought that what we consider normal is often the force which disrupts and shatters the personality of the patient. When people try to fit in, but the social norm conflicts with the inner nature, pathology can arise. Noting that there is a tendency towards social compliance, Jung wondered why psychiatrists were not more interested in what their patients had to say.
Jung also believed that in the second half of life, the cultural or spiritual drive is more important than sexuality, power, or some other drive. A neurosis can appear on many levels; it is a psychic disturbance which interferes with the life and often the health of the sufferer. This can also manifest in the form of interpersonal conflicts or psychosomatic symptoms.
The goal of the treatment is individuation, which involves a deeper contact with one’s own spirit, as well as a greater recognition of the common experiences shared with others. Much has been written about the techniques of Jungian analysis. The approach is somewhat flexible, and the treatment can be considered to be a success under a variety of conditions:
- Unwanted symptoms have vanished,
- There is satisfactory development from a childish state or particular fixation on an early conflict or crisis.
- A new and better adaptation to life has been achieved,
- The patient no longer feels stuck, which means that they don’t suffer from having little meaning in their life, or having no idea what they want to do with their life.
Early in his career Jung worked with psychotics in a mental hospital. Later he found that those who were most receptive to his approach were people in midlife who had been successful in conventional terms, but found themselves asking, “Now what?”
Transference in Jungian analysis. When analysts work with transference, the emphasis lies not on the treatment goal, but on the relationship between analyst and patient. Jung has compared this meeting of two personalities to the contact of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed. I have written more about transference in various psychoanalytic schools here.
Other concepts used by Jung
- Active Imagination. This concept refers to a group of techniques aimed at activating our imaginal processes in waking life in order to tap into the unconscious meanings of our symbols.
- Amplification. This technique aims at increasing amplifying the sense of a dream. It spreads out the associations surrounding the dream by referring to mythology, art, literature, music. (“Where have we heard this before?”) The goal is to elaborate and clarify a dream-image by means of directed associations and searching for parallels from cultural sources, mysticism, folklore, history of religion, ethnology, and so on.
- Association. The linking of ideas, perceptions, etc., according to similarity, coexistence, opposition, or situational dependence. Free association is the method used in Freudian dream interpretation, which relies on spontaneous ideas occurring in the dreamer, and which may or may not refer directly to the dream situation. Jungian dream interpretation sometimes uses a method of directed or controlled association, where the associations to a given dream situation are continually linked back, until a deeper realization about the meaning of the dream occurs.
- Projection. Jung thought this process is very important. “Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.” We blame the other for what we will not recognize in ourselves.
- Inflation. Expansion of the personality beyond its proper limits by identification with the persona or an archetype, or in pathological cases with a historical or religious figure. It produces an exaggerated sense of self-importance and is a compensation for feelings of inferiority, (Influence of Alfred Adler?)
- Mana. This Melanesian word describes an extraordinarily effective power, emanating from a human being, an object, action, or event, or from supernatural beings and spirits. It denotes health, prestige, the power to work magic and to heal. It is a primitive concept of psychic energy, with the implication that something sacred lies underneath.
- Mandala. The Sanskrit word for circle. For Jung, the mandala was a symbol of wholeness, completeness, and perfection. It symbolizes the self. A circle is magical because it represents unity and it is the prime form of a symbol itself. One can also overlap the circle with the square, which represents quaternity, as in the yantras of the Hindu gods and goddesses.
- Quaternity. “The quaternity…is an archetype of almost universal occurrence. . .For instance, if you want to describe the horizon as a whole, you name the four quarters of heaven…There are always four elements, four prime qualities, four colours, four castes, four ways of spiritual development, etc. So, too, there are four aspects of psychological orientation…..The ideal of completeness is the circle or sphere, but its natural minimal division is a quaternity. (Psychology and Religion: West and East,)
- Soul. “I can only gaze with wonder and awe at the depths and heights of our psychic nature. Its non-spatial universe conceals an untold abundance of images which have accumulated over millions of years of living development and become fixed in the organism. My consciousness is like an eye that penetrates to the most distant spaces, yet it is the psychic non-ego that fills them with non-spatial images. And these images are not pale shadows, but tremendously powerful psychic factors.” (Freud and Psychoanalysis, CW,pp. 331) .
- Synchronicity. Jung used this term for the coincidence of psychic and physical states or events which have no causal relationship to each other, but their coincidence creates new meaning. The connection may be so compelling that this “can no longer be regarded as pure chance but, for lack of a causal explanation, has to be thought of as meaningful arrangements. Their ‘inexplicability’ is not due to the fact that the cause is unknown, but to the fact that a cause is not even thinkable in intellectual terms.”