What is Jungian Psychology?
A Psychological System by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss Psychiatrist and depth psychologist.
Jung himself preferred to use the term “Analytical Psychology” to describe his theory of the Psyche formed by psychiatric work, and his study and personal exploration of the conscious and unconscious mind.
Topography of the Psyche
[Courtesy of Jung's Indispensable Compass, Navigating the Dynamics of Psychological Types by James G Johnston]
Seated in the front row are [from right to left] Carl Jung, G Stanley Hall and Sigmund Freud, and top row [from left to right] A.A Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts in 1909.
Analytical Psychology is one of the main dynamic psychiatric systems to have emerged during the early twentieth century, which includes Pierre Janet’s Psychological Analysis, Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology.
Jung embraced the psychological principles of these systems in the development of his analytical psychology and which has a distinct theory about personality or psychological Type. Each psychiatric system gained credibility because of the scientific approach in their development. It is also worth noting that each system was shaped considerably by the personality or psychological type of their originators.
Jung’s personality played a significant role in the evolution of his thinking about psychological types. He emerged from a long period of depression between the years 1913 to 1919 to publish his seminal book, Psychological Types, in 1921. It is a substantial book of 700 pages containing his theory of psychological types; the attitudes of Introversion and Extraversion and thefunctions: Sensation, Intuition, Thinking, Feeling.
Jungian Analysis revolutionised the approach to treating mental illness. It is also a useful and practical application to study the mind, human behaviour and society in general. Although originally conceived of as a form of individual therapy, it can also be applied as an analytical lens to better understand the behaviour of individuals in the workplace.
The aim of an analysis is to help an individual to reach an integration between their conscious mind and the unconscious so that a new wholeness or transformation may be constellated between the diametrically opposed systems of conscious and unconscious within the psyche. This has huge benefits for the individual; a growing awareness and understanding of who they are, how they can develop further as an individual, how to better understand others, improves relationships with other people and transform themselves and their careers. Organisations can benefit too; a greater understanding of people and culture in organisations and achieve business success through people.
Totality of the Conscious and Unconscious
The psyche in Jung’s model is the sum of, or totality, of all psychic processes and contents, conscious and unconscious, illustrated in the image of the psyche shown above. One way to understand the psyche is to describe it using metaphor; imagine the psyche as an interactive theatre with a conscious and unconscious stage in which many actors play a role. The conscious and unconscious stages are separated by a stage curtain.
At the apron of the conscious stage, we meet the first actor, the persona, turned towards the audience who represent social interaction in the world. Jung borrowed the term persona from Greek which means ‘theatre mask’, like an actor’s mask, it is the personal façade that we put on to create a desired impression to others. Jung described the persona as a complicated system of relations between an individual's consciousness and society, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual. It is a social attitude that an individual adopts, for example, because he or she belongs to a certain group, profession, occupation, social class, political party, tribe, clan or nation etc.
The actor behind the mask is the ego, the lead actor on the conscious stage. The ego exerts its influence as the lead identity of consciousness, influencing the behaviour of the individual, however, it does not constitute the unique person. The ego expresses the individual's consciousness using the attitudes [introversion and extraversion] and functions; sensation, intuition, thinking, feeling.
The conscious audience, the world at large or outer objects interact with the ego, like a theatre audience, sometimes applauding, sometimes booing, taunting, conversing, ignoring or supporting the persona and ego; the workplace is a representation of the outer objects.
Behind the ego is a vague psychic scrim, the stage curtain and the threshold of the unconscious realm, the personal unconscious. In a theatre, a scrim is a lightweight transparent curtain that conceals actors or objects behind it when they are not illuminated but reveals them if light is cast upon them. The personal unconscious contains an individual’s memories of the past, personal experiences which are forgotten and are therefore concealed from the conscious stage unless they are illuminated.
These are memories from our childhood or adult life, which with some effort, we can bring back into our conscious mind. However, some memories appear spontaneously and with no effort by the ego, these memories disrupt the ego which is often powerless to suppress them. These memories which cause disruption to the ego are known as complexes, they are autonomous, arriving uninvited and incognito in the conscious mind, growing in number and intensity as the ego engages with the outer world.
Complexes consist of emotionally charged clusters of often long-forgotten content and may trigger compulsive urges or reactions, taking over or possessing the ego, forcing themselves onto the conscious stage. An individual possessed by an autonomous complex can appear to have irrational fears, disproportionate reactions, intense attractions or aversions to certain people. These behaviours often create interpersonal conflict in the workplace.
Behind the personal unconscious, we now enter the deeper layers of the unconscious. Jung uses the term unconscious both to describe mental contents which are inaccessible to the ego and to delineate a psychic space with its own character, laws and functions. The unconscious is a mirror image of consciousness but it has a much quieter and ethereal quality. The conscious stage includes perceptions of, and interactions with, the world at large or outer objects. The counterpart in the unconscious, the inner objects, includes perceptions of, and interactions with, images from the archetypes of the collective unconscious.
There is another actor in the unconscious, hidden within its depths, the shadow. The shadow contains all the attributes the ego has not adopted. Whatever attributes the ego has adopted, the shadow adopts the opposite attributes. If the ego is emboldened with pride, the shadow is timid and incompetent. If the ego is productive, the shadow is reflective. If the ego is loving, the shadow is hostile. If the ego is oriented to the outer world, the shadow will be oriented to the inner life.
The shadow is autonomous and can wreak havoc if ignored or repressed, interrupting the ego’s role on the conscious stage. The ego typically projects the shadow onto others in the world at large, often such shadow projections have been the cause of discrimination, violent personal hatred, mass persecutions, and even genocide. The most severe aspects of the shadow are manifested in racial, social and national prejudice. The shadow contains the personal characteristics that the individual wishes to hide from others and from him or herself.
However, if the shadow is acknowledged progressive personal growth develops towards the emergence of the whole person.
The persona also has its counterpart in the unconscious, the soul, a term that Jung refers to as an inner personality. The soul plays a compensatory role to the persona on the conscious stage, which means that as the persona presents a sort of personality at the threshold of the outer world, the soul presents a personality of the threshold of the inner world.
Like the shadow the soul can also be projected onto the conscious audience. This is inevitable as long as the soul remains unconscious to the individual. While the shadow projects to the outer world in a negative way, the soul often projects a more positive, favourable aura onto others, projecting an idealised image onto some lucky beneficiary or individual, often creating a harmonising effect between individuals in the workplace.
The Collective Unconscious
As we delve deep inside the unconscious, we now encounter the collective unconscious or inner objects. The collective unconscious constitutes the evolutionary experience of humankind. It operates independently of the ego on account of its origin in the inherited structure of the brain. Jung described the inner objects as archetypes, a priori ways of being that are universal to all cultures around the world. The unconscious is the centre of psychological activity and considered objective and instinctual.
The archetypes underpin an individual’s life from built up layers of ancestral experience. Starting with the ‘central fire’ (H) at the bottom, the layers progressively move up from animal ancestors (G) to primate ancestors (F), to large groups [e.g. European, African, Middle Eastern] (E), to nations (D), clans (c), families (B), and finally to individuals depicted as round objects on the small mounds of family lineage [courtesy of Jung’s Indispensable Compass, Johnston J G]. The contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness and cannot be truly known. However, the unconscious has a language which includes metaphor, images, symbols and fantasies. The best way to understand the unconscious is to consider in metaphorical terms, as an image, symbol or even fantasy.
The unconscious is a source of untapped creativity for the individual. The individual is at the centre of the psyche, a centre point which unites both the conscious and the unconscious. The individual should not be confused with the ego in the conscious realm. The individual is the very subject of personality development midway between the conscious and unconscious audiences with access to both, a balanced midpoint with access to all the functional attitudes of extraversion, introversion, sensation, intuition, thinking and feeling. The goal of personality transformation is to become whole i.e. to reach this midpoint or centre through a process called individuation.
“The meaning and purpose of the individuation process is the realisation, in all aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness"
(Collected Works [CW], CG Jung, Volume 8, para.186)
Jung’s approach centres on the dynamics between conscious and unconscious processes in the psyche. Both processes are seen as complementary and diametrically opposed elements to each other. These dynamics can have a transformational effect on the personality known as individuation, this is a process of uniting disparate elements of one’s being into an integrated whole and to differentiating one’s individual attributes from the attributes of others. This means that a person develops unifying balance simultaneously with uniquely differentiated individuality (Jung’s Indispensable Compass, Navigating the Dynamics of Psychological Types, Johnston J G, 2016, p.6).
Individuation is the ultimate goal of Jung’s psychology of consciousness. It is a process of personal transformation toward one’s unique potential through an exploration of one’s conscious and unconscious processes and patterns.
My aim is to assist individuals to navigate the passages of individuation through personality self-assessment, feedback and in-depth discussion.