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Analytical psychology of C.G.Jung: a brief introduction

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Analytical psychology of C.G.Jung: a brief introduction

Carl Gustav Jung was the best known member of the group that formed the core of the early psychoanalytic movement—followers and students of Sigmund Freud. After completing his medical studies, Jung obtained a position at the Burghoelzli Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland.

C. G. Jung

Carl Gustav Jung was the best known member of the group that formed the core of the early psychoanalytic movement—followers and students of Sigmund Freud. After completing his medical studies, Jung obtained a position at the Burghoelzli Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland. There he worked with patients suffering from schizophrenia, while also conducting word association research. In 1904 Jung corresponded with Freud about this latter work and also began to use Freud’s psychoanalytic treatment with his patients. In 1906 Freud invited Jung to Vienna, and they began a professional relationship. Freud soon began to favor Jung as his successor in the new and growing psychoanalytic movement. Through Freud’s efforts, Jung was appointed Permanent President of the Association of Psycho-Analysis at its Second Congress in 1910. Jung and Freud held in common an understanding of the profound role of the unconscious. Their understanding of the nature of the unconscious, however, began to diverge. This led to a painful break between the two men in 1913 after Jung’s publication of a major article on the psychology of the unconscious which emphasized the role of symbolism (Jung, 1912). Freud felt personally betrayed by Jung’s departure from his theoretical views. Jung likewise felt betrayed, believing that Freud, because of his inflexibility, had failed to support this extension of their mutual work.

In the years from 1913 to 1917, when Jung was largely ostracized by the psychoanalytic community, he embarked upon a deep, extensive, (and potentially dangerous) process of self-analysis that he called a “confrontation with the unconscious” (Jung, 1961, chap. 6, pp. 170-99). Jung emerged from this personal journey with the structures in place for his theories on archetypes, complexes, the collective unconscious, and the individuation process. These theories, along with his understanding of the symbolism found in dreams and in other creative processes, formed the basis of his clinical approach, which he called analytical psychology. Throughout his long life, Jung continued to develop and broaden his theoretical framework, drawing both on his clinical practice and his study of such wide-ranging subjects as alchemy, Eastern religions, astrology, mythology, and fairy tales.

Jungian Theory

Jungian theory is very much experience driven. It is an approach which keeps one foot in the world of outer events and the other on the inner realm of fantasies, dreams, and symbols. Jung himself largely moved from human observation to theory. He constructed his concepts on the evidence derived from his clinical observations and personal experience, including an extended period of deep and intense self-analysis (see Jung, 1961). Jung drew upon an enormous variety of mythical and anthropological material to amplify and illuminate (rather than to prove) his theory. Samuels notes that awareness of this sequence is of great help in understanding Jung’s often extremely dense writings:

[Jung] begins from the human interaction in analysis or from observation of life, develops a theory which is then illustrated by comparative material or further observation. Only then could the mass of imagery and data from many sources be organised. The organisation itself then helps to understand one aspect or other of human behavior. Thus the process is circular: human material – theory – illustration – application to human behavior (1985, p. 5).

Although some of Jung’s structural terms were drawn from the Freudian psychoanalytic lexicon of the day, they are not necessarily used in the same way. (This is, of course, also true for the various neo-Freudian usages of this terminology.)

In the Freudian conceptualization, ego refers to a psychic structure which mediates between society (superego) and instinctual drives (id). Jung’s usage is in contrast to this. For Jung the ego can be understood in a much more dynamic, relative, (and fragile) way as

a complex, a feeling-toned group of representations of oneself that has both conscious and unconscious aspects and is at the same time personal and collective. Simply put, too simply perhaps, the ego is how one sees oneself, along with the conscious and unconscious feelings that accompany that view (Hopcke, 1989, p. 77).

The ego, as one complex (see below) among many, is not seen by Jungians as the goal of psychological development. As the carrier of the individual’s consciousness, it is the task of the ego to become aware of its own limitations, to see its existence as only a small island — though an essential one — in the much greater ocean of the personal and collective unconscious.

A major part of the ego’s task — and a major goal of psychotherapy — is to develop an appropriate relationship with what Jung termed the Self, the archetype of wholeness. The Self can be understood as the central organizing principle of the psyche, that fundamental and essential aspect of human personality which gives cohesion, meaning, direction, and purpose to the whole psyche.

Resting (for the most part) close to the surface of the unconscious are those personal attributes and elements of experience which have been excluded from the ego, usually because of parental and societal disapproval. These elements are known as the shadow, and they tend to be projected on less favored individuals and groups. While in general these qualities are negative ones, the shadow may also contain positive aspects which the individual has been unable to own. Typical of the latter are qualities disparaged by the individual’s family and/or peers with labels such as “unmanly,” “unfeminine,” “weak,” or “childish.”

Finally, the persona — the Greek word for an actor’s mask — is the face shown to others. It reveals certain selected aspects of the individual and hides others. Hopcke writes: “Jung saw the persona as a vital sector of the personality which provides the individual with a container, a protective covering for his or her inner self” (1989, p. 87). A well-developed individual may have several personae appropriate to business and social situations. The problem comes not in having a persona but in identifying with it to the neglect of the person’s inner life.

The concept of the archetypes is perhaps the most distinctive of the Jungian concepts (Jung, 1934b, 1936). It is a concept which Jungians understand as a given in human experience but which often baffles those from other psychoanalytic schools. Jung began to observe, in his work with patients’ dreams, the appearance of symbols which seemed to have little or no personal meaning for the dreamer and yet which often had great emotional charge. He observed that many of these symbols had appeared again and again throughout history in mythology, religion, fairy tales, alchemical texts, and other forms of creative expression. Jung became convinced that the source of this symbolic material was what he identified as the collective unconscious, a pool of experience accessible to all humans through history which lies below the personal unconscious. The archetypes were, for Jung, “typical modes of expression” arising from this collective layer. The archetypes are neither images nor ideas but, rather, fundamental psychic patterns common to all humans into which personal experiences are organized.

As a result of Jung’s early word association research, he came to recognize the existence of clusters of ideas, thoughts, memories, and perceptions, organized around a central affective and archetypal core. He termed these clusters “feeling-toned complexes” (Jung, 1907, par. 82). Feeling-toned complexes are the basic structural units of the psyche.

Jung saw complexes as “the living units of the psyche” (1934a, p. 191), as distinctive part personalities

each carrying a splinter consciousness of its own, a degree of intentionality, and the capability of pursuing a goal. They are like real personalities in that they contain images, feelings, and qualities, and if they engulf the ego, they determine behavior as well (Sandner and Beebe, 1995, p. 302).

In ordinary human experience, the experience of being taken over by a complex is what we point to with language such as “I was beside myself” or “I don’t know what got into me.” Jung wrote vividly of the autonomous quality of the complexes:

Reality sees to it that the peaceful cycle of egocentric ideas is constantly interrupted by ideas with a strong feeling-tone, that is, by affects. A situation threatening danger pushes aside the tranquil play of ideas and puts in their place a complex of other ideas with a very strong feeling-tone. The new complex then crowds everything else into the background. For the time being it is the most distinct because it totally inhibits all other ideas; it permits only those egocentric ideas to exist which fit its situation, and under certain conditions it can suppress to the point of complete (momentary) unconsciousness all ideas that run counter to it, however strong they may be. It now possesses the strongest attention-tone (Jung, 1919, p. 41).

 Jungian Analysis/Psychotherapy

Jungian psychotherapy, as it is currently practiced, covers a wide range of perspectives, ranging from a primary stress on the analysis of the archetypal material of dreams and fantasies to a major focus on the unraveling of early developmental issues, and including a strongly clinical emphasis which combines these two elements. A number of authors have attempted to classify Jungians by school (especially see Samuels, 1985), an attempt which seems only partially successful in capturing the great diversity found among Jungians, precisely because the theory is experience driven. Joseph Henderson notes that

. . . we individual practitioners have had to reformulate our therapeutic experiences when they differ from those of the master. This is to be expected since individuation . . . implies that no psychotherapist can be called Jungian without first becoming as differentiated an individual as he or she can be in response to his or her own personal analysis (1995, p. 10).

Although there are differing emphases and styles in Jungian psychotherapy, there are fundamental goals which almost all Jungians hold in common. Murray Stein summarizes these as follows:

Jungian analysis, which takes place in a dialectical relationship between analyst and analysand, has for its goal the analysand’s movement toward psychological wholeness. This transformation of the personality requires coming to terms with the unconscious, its specific structures and their dynamic relations to consciousness as these become available during the course of analysis. Transformation also depends upon the significant modification of the unconscious structures that shape and control ego-consciousness at the beginning of analysis, a change that takes place through the constellation of archetypal structures and dynamics in the interactive field between analyst and analysand (1995, p. 33).

A primary aim of Jungian psychotherapy/analysis is to establish an ongoing relationship between consciousness (ego) and the unconscious, between what is happening in the unconscious and what is taking place in day-to-day life. Jungian theory understands the psyche as containing a drive toward balance and wholeness, differentiating and incorporating the various elements of the personal unconscious and establishing access to the collective unconscious. Jung called this the process of individuation. In psychotherapy, this unconscious material gradually manifests itself symbolically in dreams, in products of active imagination, and in the transference/countertransference relationship between therapist and patient.

Given an adequate relationship, setting, and time, the client’s psyche tends toward healing itself. Whitmont writes:

Eventually the unconscious will begin to provide not only descriptions of the existing impasse but also positive suggestions for possibilities of development which could reconcile the opposing positions, showing us what avenues of development are available to us, what paths are required of us or closed to us, according to the inherent plan of the Self (1969, p. 294).

Jungians are generally reluctant to overdirect the therapeutic process, believing that the patient’s psyche rather than the therapist’s is the appropriate guide. Karen Signell speaks of the therapeutic process, from a Jungian perspective, as

respect[ing] the . . . guidance of one’s center—the source of one’s deepest intuitions, feelings, and values (1990, p. 22).

Analytical psychology for International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAPP)

Analytical Psychology


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Signell, K. A. (1990) Wisdom of the heart: Working with women’s dreams. New York: Bantam.

Stein, M. (1995). The aims and goal of Jungian analysis. In M. Stein, Ed., Jungian analysis (2nd ed.). Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court.

Whitmont, E. (1969). The symbolic quest. New York: Putnam.


Susana L. Ruiz


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