Thursday, March 04, 2010


Many people have examined the relationship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, especially people in the Jungian community. For a few years the two of them carried on a voluminous correspondence which was published in 1974 in the Freud/Jung Letters. Though Jung came to have serious doubts about some of Freud’s theories, he never failed to credit Freud for both his ground-breaking contributions and for the debt he (Jung) owed to him. Though they had a collegial relationship, the difference in their status and their ages (Freud was 19 years older than Jung) gave a decided father-son cast to their interactions which exacerbated their personal difficulties.

Dr. Callahan, in a previous lecture, has given us an excellent overview of the relationship between the two men and the reasons their relationship did not endure. [Audio of Dr. Callahan’s presentation is available for purchase at] I want to talk about Jungian Psychology today, its various schools, and the foundation for it that Jung laid down in the first half of the 20th C. My overall impression is that today’s Jungians hew much more closely to the thinking of the man Jung than today’s Freudians follow Freud’s ideas. I hasten to add that I know very little about the status of Freudian thought in modern psychoanalytic theories. Part of our reason for joining with the Psychoanalytic community for discussion is to help us all understand better our differences and our commonalities.
There are three schools of Jungian or Analytical Psychology that exists today--the Developmental, the Archetypal, and the Classical. I consider myself a classical Jungian analyst, meaning I believe and practice in the ways I understand Jung’s own fundamental ideas. This apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. An image--and Jung was great on the use of image--will help me explain. Using the analogy of horse and rider, I think the developmentalists put undue emphasis on the rider; they tend to emphasize ego consciousness. The archetypalists, on the other hand, emphasize the horse; they give too little credence to ego consciousness. I think Jung had the horse and rider balance about right--ego consciousness and the unconscious are roughly equals--sometimes one takes the lead, sometimes the other--in a back-and-forth relationship.

With that introduction, now I will turn to some basic Jungian contributions that remain the solid foundation for the practice of analytical psychology today. They include: Complex Theory; Personality Typology; An Approach to Understanding and Working with Dreams; the Archetypal Nature of the Collective Unconscious; the Relationship between the Ego and the Unconscious; the Concept of the Self; the Use of Symbol Systems for Exploring the Collective Unconscious; the Concept of Individuation; the concept of Synchronicity; A Psychotherapy for Both Well and Ill Persons.

Lets look at each of these contributions for what they were and why they endure. Early in his psychiatric career, Jung devised the Word Association Test. Basically he used a list of words, asked individuals to give a one-word response to each word, and noted their reactions. He discovered that certain words had unexplained effects on the subject’s responses--long reaction times; multiple-word, emotion, and delayed responses; galvanic skin measurements that indicated reactions occurring in the body. From this work Jung was able to prove that there are unconscious contents, that is, elements that lie beneath the surface of awareness, that have unintended effects on consciousness. Using our image of horse and rider, there are reactions in the “horse” that are both unknown and uncontrolled by the rider.

Expanding his research from patients in the Burgholzi Clinic to so-called normal subjects, Jung soon discovered that everyone has complexes that interfere with conscious intentionality and response. Diedre Bair in her biography of Jung gives an interesting account of a colleague administering the Association Test to the young Jung in which his own complexes were laid bare.

We all have complexes--mother, father, inferiority, abandonment, money, orphan, failure, etc. One useful way of realizing when we have fallen into one of our own is the mnemonic REPP--Regression, Excess Emotionality, Projection, Perseveration. These are the more obvious complex indicators.

Using the Association Test, Jung went on to work with the Zurich police to examine suspects and expose their guilt; their reactions gave them away. Our modern lie detector test has its roots in this early work as does the TAT, the Thematic Apperception Test.

As Jung was working to understand the profound differences between his own ideas and those of others, primarily Freud and Alfred Adler, he began to study and observe personality type and the ways they impact our thinking and our relationships with others, with the world, and with our inner selves.. In 1921 he published Personality Types. That book is as timely today as it was 90 years ago. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the MBTI, so widely-used now, is based upon it. For several decades the mother-daughter team of Myers-Briggs carried on a lively correspondence with Jung as they expanded and implemented his initial ideas.

Jung parted with Freud, partially over their different understanding of dreams and dream symbolism. In his late-life autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he writes:

“After the parting of the ways with Freud, a period of inner uncertainty began for me. It would be no exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation. . . . I resolved for the present not to bring any theoretical premixes to bear upon (my patients), but to wait and see what they would tell of their own accord. My aim became to leave things to chance. ... patients would spontaneously report their dreams and fantasies to me, and I would merely ask, ‘What occurs to you in connection with that?’ or, ‘How do you mean that, where does that come from, what do you think of it?’ . . . . I avoided all theoretical points of view and simply helped the patients to understand the dream-images by themselves, without application of rules and theories.
Soon I realized that it was right to take the dreams in this way as the basis of interpretation, for that is how dreams are intended. They are the facts from which we must proceed.”

The approach Jung describes here is still the best guide for approaching dream I have found. The dream is like the sentence in a book. That is to say, its meaning is determined by the context that surrounds it, and that context is the life and experiences of the dreamer. The dream compensates and complements the conscious attitude, providing just what is required to move toward a better balance between consciousness and the unconscious.
Jung’s work with patients and his own “confrontation with the unconscious,” as he called it, over time led him to the discovery of contents in the unconscious that were not purely personal, that seemed to transcend time, cultures, and individuals. He discovered collective contents, contents with common symbols and themes, in very disparate peoples. These contents he dubbed “archetypal,” coming from the root words arche and typos, meaning ancient imprint. The meaning of archetypal themes and symbols is derived not only from the personal life of the dreamer but also from a common historical meaning that everyone shares.

Jung further discovered that once his patient worked through the strictly personal--usually of a troubling nature--elements of his/her dreams, archetypal images and themes began to appear. Subtle changes in his patients’ personalities occurred, often with a healing and/or creative effect. He concluded that the unconscious was not only filled with repressed and intolerable contents, but also with contents of an historical, inherited nature that could be invaluable for the conscious, creative life of the dreamer.

The logical next step for Jung was to try to open the lines of communication between the individual and the personal and collective unconscious regions that lay below consciousness. Previously Freud had considered the unconscious to be the trash heap for odious conscious thoughts, feelings, experiences too painful to be consciously realized. Jung discovered it to be much, much more than that.

Jung began formulating his methods--first of all for himself, then for others--for connecting ego consciousness with vitally important unconscious contents hidden in the personal and collective unconscious. He had learned from his study of and collaboration with Freud and from his own experiences how useful dreams could be for bringing unconscious thoughts, feelings, and patterns into conscious awareness for examination and integration. He knew complexes with the affect they carry, when constellated and examined for meaning, can add enormously to self-understanding. From his study of Ignatius Loyola’s spiritual exercises and from his personal experiments with interacting with fantasy figures, he developed the technique of active imagination.

Jung’s methods are about learning to know oneself. Following up on work begun by Freud, he demonstrated how very much of an individual’s totality lay outside of that individual’s awareness. He categorized certain universal unconscious areas--shadow; contrasexual other figures, the animus in a woman, anima in a man; and perhaps the most important, the Self. Similarly he described certain universal symbols and themes that occur in this collective unconscious region of psyche--journey, mother, father, hero, fire, water, sun, moon, stars, etc.

The Self is a uniquely Jungian concept in psychology today. What does Jung mean when he uses the word “Self?” The best way to understand the concept is to circle the ways Jung expressed it:

“The self is the organizing principle in the psyche.” “The child is a symbol of the self.”
“Is there anything more fundamental than the realization, ‘This is what I am’? It (the work in analysis) reveals a unity which nevertheless is--or was--a diversity. No longer the earlier ego with its make-believes and artificial contrivances, but another, ‘objective’ ego, which for this reason is better called the ‘self.’ No longer a mere selection of suitable fictions, but a string of hard facts, which together make up the cross we all have to carry or the fate we ourselves are.” [Vol. 16, Para. 400]
“. . . relationship to the self is at once relationship to others, and no one can be related to the latter until related to him/herself.” [Vo. 16, Para. 446]
“. . . I have observed that the spontaneous manifestations of the self, i.e., the appearance of certain symbols relating thereto, bring with them something of the timelessness of the unconscious which expresses itself in a feeling of eternity or immortality. Such experiences can be extraordinarily impressive.” [Vol. 16, Para. 531]

Our difficulty with understanding precisely what the Self is arises from the fact that it encompasses our ego consciousness. How can we comprehend something from inside it?

In the last decades of his life Jung became immersed in study and explication of various symbol systems that describe the processes unfolding in the collective unconscious. In his study and coming from an impressive dream he had, he stumbled onto alchemy. [A side note here: almost all Jung’s important ideas and researches grew out of his work with his own dreams.] Most moderns dismiss alchemy as the attempt by a few crackpots to turn lead into gold. A simple note that Isaac Newton left thousands of pages of his alchemical scribbling behind should serve to dispel such notions. Newton distilled from his alchemical opus mathematics and physics that still serve us well.

Jung realized that the alchemist in the work and prayer were actually projecting the unconscious background of his/her psyche into the experiments and meditations of the alchemical opus. Through careful study of various alchemical treatises, Jung saw that many of the symbols in the texts also appeared in the dreams and spontaneous fantasies of his patients. From this parallelism Jung concluded that his own discoveries were, in fact, part and parcel of the unfolding of processes in the unconscious over the ages. His contributions were not some aberration but part of the historical record of humankind.

Jung’s notion of individuation, that is, the human process of achieving an undivided wholeness, goes hand-in-hand with his ideas about the Self. Is the Self latent and is discovered through the process of individuation or is the Self a co-creation of the ego and the unconscious? Unanswerable questions to be sure. However, we can readily grasp the idea that our personality development can and does unfold over our entire lifespan. Some of Jung’s ideas and methods are conducive to the ripening of personality.

Still another contribution of Jung’s is the principle of synchronicity. It’s a simple notion but one fraught with extremely wide consequences. Synchronicity describes events that are related but not causally. We have all experienced them, usually dismissing them as coincidence. As with all his researches, Jung started with facts. It is a fact that such events occur regularly. Why and how, he wanted to know? He concluded that there are correspondences between certain psychic states and outer reality that constellate an event. He worked with the Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli to elaborate and explain the principle. The example I like to use is from my own experience. Some 20 years ago, I was walking on a street in a nearby community, thinking about a co-worker I hadn’t seen in 15 years. I turned a corner, and met that man.

I am sure we could spend a great deal of time sharing with each other similar experiences. The main idea I want to convey is that psychic process and physical reality have a much more complex relationship than can be understood rationally. I think this is the reason that psychotherapy based on a strictly rational understanding of one’s circumstances is sometimes not very helpful. Life and the unconscious seem to be irrational at the deepest levels of being while consciousness develops primarily along rational lines.

The last of Jung’s contributions I want to discuss is his methods for psychotherapy which are helpful for people suffering serious psychological distress as well as for those seeking a fuller, more satisfying life. His analytic techniques are oriented toward creating a working alliance between ego consciousness and the unconscious. It is as if we moderns have emancipated our consciousness to such a degree that we have the ability to saw off the limb on which we sit. Jung was intent on showing how understanding and connecting to the “tree” can be conducive to healing, well-being, and personality growth. Returning to our earlier image, Jungian analysis, as it is understood and practiced today, has at root this essential goal: a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship between horse and rider with both oriented toward the goal of life. What that goal is for the individual is only partially determined by the ego. Psyche or the unconscious seems to have a teleological aspect of its own with which the ego must come to terms.

If we sum all the contributions Jung made, they point to one gigantic leap for humankind--a much broader and deeper understanding of what it means to be a human being.