Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology. A contemporary of Sigmund Freud, he had an abiding interest in the Unconscious – the portion of the psyche of which we are usually unaware, but that offers us nearly limitless potential for creativity and development. Jung drew inspiration for his studies of the unconscious from alchemy, dreams, mythology, astrology, world religion, philosophy, and art – as well as certain inexplicable, mystical experiences that occured within his own personal life.
As he developed his theory of the human psyche, Jung came to see it as a “self-regulating system”. This meant, essentially, that if all the aspects of the psyche were working in harmony together then a person’s growth and true fulfillment would occur as naturally and inevitably as the budding of a flower. Guiding this process, according to Jung, were certain universal forces (or symbols) that he called archetypes. The archetypes are a kind of blueprint for the potentialities of human beings. They have appeared in all cultures, throughout every age, in dreams and in more visible forms of expression like the arts. Seen from this perspective, neurosis represents some kind of disharmony between the individual consciousness and the archetypal reality.
To the psychologist, dreams are one of the most prominent means by which the unconscious communicates with the conscious mind. Working with his patient’s dreams thus became the focus of Jung’s work, and he analyzed thousands throughout his career. The recurring themes that he encountered throughout the course of this work led him to conceive of a kind of map of the human psyche and the unconscious. One of its elements is the Shadow, which represents aspects of one’s personality that one cannot accept and thus relegates into some dark basement of the psyche. Jung also used the term anima to personify the feminine elements within the psyche of a man, and animus to personify the masculine elements within the psyche of a woman. The Complexes, in Jungian terminology, were defined as disturbing elements in the mind that work to create the state of disharmony between one’s conscious attitudes and the unconscious. The main thrust of Carl Jung’s work can be seen as an attempt to isolate his patient’s complexes and rob them of their stranglehold on the inner mind. Once these obstructions were cleared away. the process of individuation could unfold unimpeded.
This work required great courage and commitment on the part of patients. They had to be willing to accept the image of themselves that they received from the mirror of their dreams and confront the complexes that kept them shut off from the flow of life and stuck in all kinds of compulsory behavior. Carl Jung was renowned for saying, “What man does not confront in his own unconscious, he will encounter in the world as Fate”. This statement is important because it illustrates his belief that the only way to truly change oneself – and, by extension, the world at large – is to cultivate the soul and battle the demons within.
Carl Jung developed analytical psychology to help clear away the obstacles that stand in the way of the unfolding of the human soul. Ideally, he maintained, this unfolding would occur as naturally as the growth of a tree. But modern man’s reliance upon cnscious reason, and his relative ignorance of the unconscious and its messages, has disrupted the process. Analysis, then, must be the means by which we re-establish our connection with these deeper portions of our own psyches – and feel an onrush of personal empowerment and sense of our true life paths as a result.