Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and one of the very influential psychoanalysts of the 20th century. He was a student of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. While Jung and Freud were the firm believers of the unconscious mind, they had many ideas that went against each other.
Carl Jung devised his own version of the psychoanalysis, analytical psychology, for which he is considered the founder and the forerunner. Jung’s analytical psychology expanded the field of the human unconscious through the integration of religion, evolution, symbolism, archetypes, anthropology, and philosophy with the psychiatry and psychoanalysis.
While Freud was limited to sexual instincts and fear of death (much later in his career) to explain the human nature and mental illness, Jung did a great job seeing the whole picture or at least didn’t oversimplify while seeking the truth.
What is more impressive about Jung was he divided unconscious into the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious and delineated each with eclectic sources and paradigms. It is very hard to do that because the unconscious mind doesn’t manifest itself as obvious as a conscious mind, and most of what comprises the unconscious mind is hidden into the darkness of mental faculty.
The Unconscious Mind
As hidden as it is, the impact of the unconscious mind in the lives of human beings, especially while we are talking about the mental, social, and existential wellness, is huge and very mysterious.
Many people who consider the visible and observable evidence as the only reliable source of enquiry, according to Jung, make a grave mistake of ignoring the source of truth and light. We learn to deal with darkness only through the enquiry of it, avoidance just keeps the possibility of discovery. In his book, Jung (1933) describes the nature of our investigation as follows:
“When we must deal with problems, we instinctively refuse to try the way that leads through darkness and obscurity. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness.
But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer; as I have already said, we must even indulge in speculations.” (Jung, 1950, pg. 97)
This type of venture into the unconscious mind has been the heart of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. This was the important step because, in Jung’s view, the integration of shadow or evil aspect of our personality is made possible through such exploration into the darkness. Every individual searching for the wholeness of self has to confront the chaos within oneself.
This principle has been the essence of steps adopted by a highly successful rehabilitation organization called Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) which has an estimated membership of over two million. In an article by M. Addenbrooke (2017), the involvement of Carl Jung in the foundation of A.A. is mentioned and the steps that this organization implements to treat millions of alcoholics reside on the “Jung’s idea that alcoholism represents a misguided search for wholeness.”
The same article also mentions that the steps that made the treatments of all those possible “facilitate acceptance of and confrontation with shadow aspects of oneself as an essential element in recovery” (Addenbrooke, 2017).
Archetypes, Individuation, Healing, and Identity
Another important feature of the unconscious mind is that it acts as the storage-basket of personal and archetypal myths. In simple language, the myths are the untruthful or alternative perception of the reality based on the imagination, experiences, and emotions. The relation of personal myths and archetypal myths with the individuation process is highly stressed in analytical psychology.
In analytical psychology, the individuation process plays a vital role in the healing of patients who suffer from deeply rooted anxiety, fear, crisis, and depression. Whoever have developed the dysfunctional forms of personal myths, they assess the situations and most importantly the dangers around them in an ineffective manner.
If that happens, the appearance of anxiety, fear, and stress over irrelevant matters is inevitable: a person’s danger perception can predict his/her behaviour in the face of any hazard (Veschikova, 2014). An adaptive response to threat results in well-being while a dysfunctional one predicts the danger of psychological illness. So, the study of personal myths has some potential in the therapeutic journey of the patients suffering from fear, anxiety, crisis, and depression.
Similarly, the journey into the archetypal world of the unconscious mind and the manifestation of the personal unconscious is considered an important part of Jung’s analytical psychology. Through the investigation, an analyst connects the ego or the personal unconscious of the patient with a significant and most relevant archetype.
This way, after the investigation and effective interpretation of the archetype, the hidden personal complexes come into the consciousness of the patient’s mind. Once the identification is done, the room for changes expand. If one continues to be under the grip of the dysfunctional complexes, the healing process is delayed.
So, the patient knowing the actual cause of his complexes must sacrifice his/her identification with his ego/complexes and connect with his self. The development of self (i.e. individuation process) starts as soon as the patient loosens the grip with his/her dysfunctional complexes. Thus, the upwelling of the complex is very important for the therapeutic journey.
However, it is suggested that more than the dissolution of the complexes, the long-term healing requires the individual to be conscious of the complexes and identify themselves with “an aptitude to change” (Sullivan, 1996).
While talking about the myths that are prevalent in the unconscious of the individuals, it is also important to talk about family myths. A child’s development in the presence of the controlling and perfectionistic parents make the child identify himself with the archetypal influence of the family myth. Such type of myth, Jung describes, hampers the psychological development of the children as they tend to identify the situations and people outside their family with the childlike archetype.
This idea of the childlike principle of Jung in the psychological development of a child is a deviant from that of Freud’s who ascribed most of the developmental processes to Oedipal or Electra complexes. While Freud based his theory fully on sexual impulses, Jung realistically based his idea on parental control and the inability of the child to escape the childlike archetype (not being monistic about it), sometimes even though there is no presence of parents.
As a result of such tendency, some individuals are identified with features such as “the puer aeternus, with deficits in the ability to work, form stable adult relationships, and create a separate nuclear family”. Hence, the identification of such myths is very essential (Kradin, 2009). Such identification helps, as discussed above, in envisaging the possible attitudinal and behavioural changes. Some of such changes can be the development of personal mythologies.
Such myths help individuals navigate through life, especially through the life crisis. Everybody needs at least some degree of standard and meaning to which they can identify themselves with. How does that work anyway? Feinstein, Krippner, & Granger (1988) have summarized some of the principles that seem to govern the development of individual myths.
In the same paper, they also have evaluated some of the characteristics of “mythologies associated with higher levels of personality integration” (Krippner, & Granger, 1988). After understanding these principles, their personality, and their needs, individuals can develop some personal myths themselves, with the assist of analytical psychologists.
Another way to find the meaning is through the use of imagination. Since the meaning is subjective to the individuals, anybody can linger into their imagination and fantasy that “touches the larger impersonal archetypal patterns” (Jean Knox, 1994). Thus, in the development of personal myths, the final call again goes to the exploration of a form of the unconscious mind which is the source of all the archetypes, the collective-unconscious.
The Scientific Value
Even though we have known some of the principles, theories, and claims of Jungian philosophies, we must also ponder on the practical effectiveness of the Jungian ideas on the unconscious mind and the archetypes in the real world and scientific community. Very early in this paper, we saw that the most popular organization in the world of rehabilitation, Alcoholics Anonymous have integrated the Jungian ideas of darkness and the shadow personality into their treatment methods.
This evidence that substantiates the effectiveness Jungian principles cannot be understated. Further, Roesler (2013) wrote an article in which he assessed several reports, research projects, and empirical studies on Jungian psychotherapies.
Several patients who went through the therapy process were able to show “significant improvements” against their problems along with the improvements in “level of personality structure and in everyday life conduct.”
Also, the study of several health insurance reports makes it evident that the patients who went through Jungian psychotherapy utilized fewer healthcare facilities than the average population. The analysands reported long term psychological well-being. Through his analysis of such documents and researches, Roesler went on to conclude that the Jungian psychotherapy now has empirical evidence to substantiate its effectiveness in the therapeutic process.
Not only for the healing process, Roesler’s (2013) narrative study of some life stories suggest that Jungian principles have significance also in the overall lives of people. His examination of 20 autobiographical stories has produced some interesting findings. All the 20 storytellers have integrated some archetypal patterns into their life stories.
Archetypal stories like hero story, tragic life, victims etc. were extracted from the lives of the participants of the study. Such archetypes help to form an identity, develop effective personal myths to deal with life/reality, as well as a guide through the crisis.
To cap it all, through many documented papers, it is evident that the Jungian notion of archetypes and the process of diving into the unconsciousness play a significant role in the individuation process.
The same process is initiated in many clinical practices of analytical psychology by encouraging patients to explore the darkness of the unconscious mind. In other words, healing requires going into the unknown territory, finding a way to control the monster, and also bringing the treasures (hidden in the dark world of the unconscious) that suits us.
Jung, through his eclectic reading, clinical experience with patients, and logical reasoning, explored the dark territory of unconscious mind very effectively and provided the anecdotes to the chaos. He felt the need to integrate the darkness into the personality, utilize it, and figure out the most functional way to bring order in our lives.
Also, thanks to Sigmund Freud, who came up with the concept of the unconscious mind.
Jung, C. G. (1950). Modern man in search of a soul. New York: Harcourt.
Sullivan, M. (1996) The analytic initiation: the effect of the archetype of initiation on the personal unconscious. Journal of Analytical Psychology. 41(4):509-527.
Veschikova, M. I. (2014). A Review of Studies of Danger Perception and Prospects of its Study in Clinical Psychology Development. Psychological Science & Education, 6(4), 169–181.
Kradin, R. (2009). The family myth: its deconstruction and replacement with a balanced humanized narrative. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 54(2), 217–232.
Jean Knox, R. (1994). Living Myth: Personal Meaning as a Way of Life (Book). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 39(2), 277.
Feinstein, D., Krippner, S., & Granger, D. (1988). Mythmaking and Human Development. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 28(3), 23.
Roesler, C. (2006). A narratological methodology for identifying archetypal story patterns in autobiographical narratives. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 51(4), 574–586.
Roesler, C. (2013). Evidence for the Effectiveness of Jungian Psychotherapy: A Review of Empirical Studies. Behavioral Sciences (2076-328X), 3(4), 562–575.