Saturday, April 10, 2010

We have examined Jungian concepts of personality types, complex, persona, shadow, anima/animus, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious. Now we will consider how these psychic components interact. First, a brief review:

Personality typology has to do with characteristic ways an individual meets the world—extraverted/ introverted, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/pecerceiving. Complexes are the sore spots in the personal unconscious that can get activated and cause us great discomfort, even grief. Persona refers to our adapted selves, the ways we have learned to get along with family, friends, workers, society in general. Shadow consists of all the traits I refuse to acknowledge because unacceptable or repulsive but which belong to my personality and remain unconscious. Anima or Animus is the unconscious feminine element in a man or, similarly, the unconscious masculine elements in a woman. Personal unconscious refers to unconscious contents that have been repressed, suppressed, or forgotten that could enrich the personality if made conscious. Collective unconscious is that part of psyche that is common to all human kind and is composed of archetypal contents.

These are words that describe typical ways psyche expresses itself. [We will be discussing other psychic elements—archetypes and Self—in the remaining weeks of our course.] Much of great literature can be discussed in terms of these psychological concepts. For example, the protagonist in Crime and Punishment in a young man wholly identified with his thinking function. His unconsciousness toward issues that demand a feeling response allows him to commit a heinous crime without a hint of remorse or understanding of others’ reactions to him. In Robertson Davies’ novel, The Manticore, we journey with David Staunton as he comes to terms with powerful and extremely destructive complexes.

There is an ancient myth, “Inanna’s Descent to the Goddess” that typifies a regularly-occurring psychic situation: when the ego is identified with the persona, then the shadow and the anima or animus are bound together in the unconscious. It is this psychic situation that gets played out in reality in complicated and often tragic love triangles.

In this myth, Inanna has to abandon her queenly garments and descend to the underworld for the funeral of Ereshkigal’s husband and come to terms with a decidedly hostile Ereshkigal. In a psychological translation, we have the ego identified with the persona (Inanna in her finery). Shadow and animus are bound together in the unconscious (Ereshkigal married to Gugalanna). The story revolves around Inanna’s sacrifice--a requirement for the descent; the burial of Ereshkigal’s husband; and the eventual reconciliation of Inanna and Ereshkigal.

When unconscious, shadow and animus are seen only in projection. The shadow is some hated, envied, or otherwise powerful person who draws the ego’s projection. The animus is a male figure who carries the projections of a woman's unrealized masculine potentiality. Often the animus is an idealized figure, but he can just as easily be seen as demonic or oppressive. The common denominator for both shadow and animus projections is energy; the projection carriers for each carry a lot of energy for the ego. Often, once the projections are withdrawn, the ego is left in wonderment when she relates with the real human being who was previously the projection carrier. What was the big deal? A similar situation may exist in a man’s psychology, in which case we speak of anima.

How might we recognize a similar Inanna-Ereshkigal-Husband psychic setup closer to home? When shadow and animus get together (as, say, might be dramatized in a dream), the ego is left in a bereft feeling place. The drama of the dream will show the dynamic, and the ego will awaken in a distressed state.

The parental complexes play a huge role in the overall psychic setup because the way the budding ego develops a really fine persona (and often identifies with it) is by pleasing the parents, the primary authorities for consciousness. Of course, the finer the persona, the more outer worldly success is guaranteed. At midlife when the inner world makes itself felt, as it often does, the battle is engaged. You can see how devastating it is for one to have to sacrifice one's identity with the persona (and often how costly!).

You can also see how difficult it is to own for oneself the qualities one has projected--the distasteful, hateful ones that we have to accept with the attendant humbling and the positive, attractive ones that we have to accept and take responsibility for. I am the one who does these terrible things that I find so unacceptable. I am the one with these potentialities that I have to work like crazy to develop and put to use. Much easier that I let someone be my bad guy and someone do all those marvelous things I so admire.

Rose F. Holt