Carl Jung and His Theory of Growth
Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology. He is best known for his theories of the Collective Unconscious, including the concept of archetypes, and the use of synchronicity in psychotherapy. Jung, along with Freud and Alfred Adler, is considered to be one of the principle founding fathers of modern psychology.
Inspired by Life
Carl Jung was an introspective young boy who, inspite of less than ideal childhood grew into a sensitive and concerned young man. His quietness and solitude during his own childhood provided the basis for many of his explanations for the working of the mind. The precocious self awareness, with which he experienced his own childhood, resulted in him being quite the scientific adventurer – diagnosing and curing himself of many anxieties, even those which had remote behavioral symptoms.
Jung’s travels to India, Africa and New Mexico; and his journey through the spiritual religions of the world made him a man who believed in God, spirituality and committed to the idea of the collective consciousness.
Inspiration From Peers
He wrote a book in his first years as a working professional psychiatrist and sent a copy to the then famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. A friendship that can only be described as impassioned followed for six years, ending in an equally dramatic separation. Both men and their ideas gained as much from the alliance, as from the parting of ways.
Jung's primary disagreement with Freud stemmed from their differing concepts of the unconscious. Jung saw Freud's theory of the unconscious as incomplete and unnecessarily negative. According to Jung (though not according to Freud), Freud conceived the unconscious solely as a repository of repressed emotions and desires. Jung believed that the unconscious also had a creative capacity, that the collective unconscious of archetypes and images which made up the human psyche was processed and renewed within the unconscious (one might find similarity with the ideas of French philosopher Felix Guattari, who wrote several books with Gilles Deleuze and once stated 'The unconscious is a factory, not a theatre.')
Aside from Freud, Jung was highly influenced by Eugen Bleuler, who worked on schizophrenia to find that the physical deterioration of the brain, was not fully responsible for the disease. He found evidence of the effect of the presence of conflicting beliefs and desires within the psyche. From Pierre Janet’s work with mental patients, there had emerged the possibility that traumatic incidents generate powerful emotionally charged beliefs which, although forgotten or otherwise pushed out of conscious recall, often continue to exert a powerful influence on the individual's emotions and behaviors for many years.
His dreams of a flood of blood overtaking Europe and eternal winters killing thousands in 1913 preceded the spread of Nazism in Europe. It made Jung think about how the mind could predict a future event. His explorations divulged many frauds but led him to contsruct the concept of the Collective Unconscious.
It was what Jung named what he believed to be the source of innumerable panhuman archetypes which influence our longings and relationships. These influences and motivating presences in our lives are more unconscious and cut across all cultural boundaries, are a memory of the species of primordial images, inherited at birth. Examples are the archetypal images of the Mother, the Father, the Child, the Healer, the Wise Man/Woman and so on. As support for such a theory, he spoke of the immediate attachment infants have for their mother, the inevitable fear of the dark seen in young children, and how images such as the sun, moon, wise old man, angels, and evil all seem to be predominate themes throughout history.
The only explanation he offered for this construct was that vague and amounted to a shared physiology of the species. To understand Jung, his theory must be seen in the context of him being a mystic and spiritual man, who dabbled in astrology, Kabbalah, alchemy etc.
The more famous of these archetypes is that of the animus/anima, the shadow, and the self. The animus is the masculine side of the female and the anima is the feminine side of the male. Both exist in each gender. The archetype opposite to the gender exists unconsciously. Its principal purpose is to guide the psyche in looking for a perfect mate. Another archetype is called the shadow which is basically the unconscious negative or dark side of our personality, Jung called it the Devil. Finally, the self archetype is the unifying part of all of us that finds balance in our lives. Working with the ego (which is partly in our personal unconscious), it helps us manage the other archetypes and helps us feel complete.
Integration and Differentiation
Jung’s is a very positive theory. The mind is seen as a force which encourages growth as it finds a balance between the drive to integrate the new (differentiation), and the need to bring harmony amongst all that the Self already knows. Success can be short-circuited by traumatic events and social or familial conditioning, repressing the individual's natural drives. The result is varying degrees of mental illness in the form of clusters of emotional context called complexes. Complexes are on a continuum of intensity so the most healthy mind has them as the most disturbed and they are necessary for the former.
Purpose of Life
Jung saw harmony as the purpose of life. He felt life should be explored as it were an unfolding drama even until and then beyond death. Thus there were no stages and no deadlines and no predications he made about crises in life and gave no advice on how they must be resolved. His was a theory embracing life and all its possibility in all the realms if consciousness and mysticism.
Acceptance within mainstream psychology
Because of its complexity and inherent mysticism, Jung's theories have received limited acceptance within mainstream psychology. Many complain that Jung's work cannot readily be applied to the problems of everyday life. Ironically, it was a conversation with Carl Jung that led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and likewise all related 12 Step Programs. Jung advised a chronic alcoholic known only as "Roland H.": "I can only recommend that place yourself in the religious atmosphere of your own choice, that you recognize your own hopelessness, and that you cast yourself upon whatever God you think there is. The lightning of the transforming experience may then strike you." This advice worked where no psychological, religious, or medical therapy had previously succeeded and the prescription was shared with Bill W., the now famous founder of A.A.
Jung's theory of mind is warmly recived by the New Age spiritual movement, some of whose constituents view him as a part of some great "wave of light", a spiritual effort or "plan" to bring humanity out of the dark ages both literally and figuratively. But Jung himself did not see the purpose of life as being the victory of light over dark. Rather his own vision was one of wholeness.
- C.G. Jung
- NNDB - Tracking the Entire World