What Makes Jung, Jung?
This article was published in:
The article was published in a special section on Jung, which was also co-edited by Christopher Hauke.
The text of this article can be read below:
What Makes Jung, Jung?
On this 50th anniversary of Jung’s death I am grateful to have the opportunity to write briefly about the qualities that drew me to Jung’s approach to individual psychology and the collective psyche of modernity. I find that Jung’s ideas and his celebration of human potential offers me freedom to bring my own personality and perspectives in my approach to psychotherapy work without restriction from dogmatic theoretical views. What I find so valuable about Jungian and post-Jungian concepts is the contribution they make to our being more truly ourselves and more fully human.
As a psychotherapist at the beginning of the twenty-first century, you may find Jung’s analytical psychology overlooked in terms of its influence and relevance to modern psychotherapy. He certainly gets less mention than CBT and other approaches. But in fact Jung is the psychologist who first used terms and concepts such as the complex, extraversion, introversion, devised the first psychological experiments in his Word Association Test and produced an analysis of personality types eventually used throughout the world as the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory.
In the consulting room, Jung’s humanistic, egalitarian perspective was demon- strated by his preference for sitting face-to-face with his clients and his emphasis on how it was not only the client who must be willing to change but the therapist him or herself must also accept they will be influenced through their work together. In my own experience this has been an invaluable way of working, and one which requires a full and ongoing attention to the therapist’s own inner process.
Jung was particularly interested in what psychological approach best suited modern times as such titles Modern man in search of a soul (1933), ‘The meaning of psychology for modern man’ (1934) and ‘The problems of modern psychotherapy’ (1929) suggest. It is now seen by many that the personality of Jung the man coincided with certain qualities and tendencies in Western humanity in general so that his story, and his psychological theories, are truly the ‘story of our time’. Jung concluded that both the neurotic distress of individuals he treated, and the general dis-ease in collective cultural and political life, arose from a one-sided psychological emphasis that prevails in modern times. This is the prioritising of a rational, linear and pragmatic conscious attitude that ignores and devalues other possibilities and ways of knowing ourselves and the world which arise from the imagination, dreams, fantasies, the symbolic and the irrational. In modern times these are abandoned by consciousness and driven into the unconscious mind where they continue to influence us. By focusing our efforts on the rational, conscious side of the balance, and ignoring the other, we become out of tune with ourselves. In drawing attention to the mental capacities we tend to ignore, and by restoring value to historical aspects of our functioning like symbol and myth, Jung has been seen as a creative critic of modern times and, as such, part of the postmodern critique on contemporary life (Hauke, 2000; Alister & Hauke, 1998).
The postmodern view of Western civilisation grew out of a cynicism and mistrust of modern values and ‘grand narratives’ of science and social beliefs. At the start of the twentieth century, doubt in such certainties was reinforced by Freud’s analysis of the unconscious indicating that the conscious ego was ‘no longer master of its own house’. In the outer world, the upheaval of the Great War (1914-18) equally undermined the confidence of the Western psyche. Living through this entire era (1875-1961) Jung was influenced by the troubled century. This led to him being very much ahead of his time in questioning, for example, single minded views such as the prescribed roles of men and women. In analysing what are typical human archetypes in us all, he conceived of the anima and animus – the compensatory opposite gender element in men and women respectively. However, in a society dominated by masculinist values and ways of seeing, Jung saw how the repressed unconscious came to be expressed in terms of the repressed ‘feminine’ values within all of us – men and women alike – overshadowed within our dominant patriarchal society. As such, he is close to feminist psychologists like Julia Kristeva, Nancy Chodorow and Susie Orbach – though the language he uses is very different. Also like them, Jung could not agree with Freud’s idea of the personality being derived from the vicissitudes of a fundamental sexual instinct involving castration fears and aggressive and incestuous fantasies towards the parents. Not only did this describe a narrow conception of a bourgeois family group and the boy-child’s perspective, but he saw that psychic energy had many applications of which sexual reproduction was just one. For Jungians (as with Lacanians) such ideas are far more understandable in a symbolic and metaphorical sense.
The creative unconscious
Freud’s psychoanalytic ideas claimed that human civilisation is achieved and maintained through the repression of our instinctual life-offering a picture of the unconscious that is monstrous and needs to be held in check. Jung’s emphasis is far more positive:
‘The unconscious is not a demonic monster, but a thing of nature that is perfectly neutral as far as moral sense, aesthetic taste and intellectual judgement go. It is dangerous only when our conscious attitude to it becomes hopelessly false’
(Jung, 1933, para. 17)
Furthermore, Jung finds that a great deal of our creative power is also suppressed in the unconscious due to the narrowing effect of knowledge and beliefs that are dominant in the time and place we live. Humans have historically known and enjoyed insights and wisdom that the modern age with its over-emphasis on scientific rationalism has ignored. Like postmodern trends elsewhere in architecture, art and literature, in psychology Jung’s positive view of the unconscious is one with which we are offered the chance to restore and rediscover what has been repressed. In so doing we are in a better position to enhance our potential for full humanity.
The postmodern attitude places value on individual subjectivity and a plurality of ‘truths’ (Samuels, 1989). This emphasis may be found in Jung’s conception of the mind as a collection of part-selves or complexes which, in health, act in cooperation.
Introspection – a general human orientation which has typified the whole psychotherapy movement throughout the twentieth century – is thought to have arisen with the collective trend towards the mistrust of social forces in their ability to make human lives better. With its wars, upheavals and the Holocaust, the twentieth century certainly gave pause for thought to any who believed – as the Victorians did – that human progress was good, guaranteed and unstoppable.
In Jung’s psychology, introspection combined with individual responsibility in the context of a distrust in the social gets expressed in his concept of individuation – becoming the person you were always intended to be – which is one of the aims of Jungian psychotherapy. Importantly this does not mean individualism which would imply a separation from the collective. Jungians reckon that authentically confront- ing oneself and fulfilling one’s own potential leads to a person becoming more fully human and consequently more intimately linked with their fellow men and women collectively. Jung’s psychological ideas and his analysis of the human mind are unique in the way that they not only take into account the social and cultural context of modern humanity, but also make a direct link between the collective life and mind of human beings and the mental process of each individual. Furthermore, Jung does not do this reductively by simply scaling the individual process up to its social equivalent as do some psychoanalytical ideas such as those which claim student protest movements, for example, to be equivalent to, and little more than, a mass emotional reaction to parents or fathers. In Jung’s scheme of things there is no need for a scaling up or down between the individual and society. His concept of the mind includes a collective and a personal unconscious which mutually influence each other – there is a two-way street between our individual lives and our lives as members of the social collective.