Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Carl Jung – The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious – The Personal and Collective Unconscious

One of Jung's central issues in his "The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious" is that of integrating the personal unconscious with the collective unconscious. Such integration is meant to allow for patients to reach primal unacknowledged part within him. According to Jung, the splitting of these two types of unconscious allows a person to continue projecting parts of his "shadow" on to others. For Jung, this division does not only mean that we do not take responsibility over our own shadow, but that we also project it onto others. In order to unify both forms of the unconscious Jung thinks that we must make explain the inaccessibility of the unconscious and the manner in which it is hiding from the conscious. The discovery of the unconscious for Jung is not just about personal pathology but also about collective cultural one. When a culture represses some important aspect about it this part might turn into a monster.

Jung argued that the collective unconscious is made up of archetypes, especially: the shadow, the animal, the wise old man, the anima (the feminine side), the animus (masculine side), the mother and the child. All these archetypes are amorphous until they are assigned a with culture specific content. The archetypes of the collective unconscious can serve in therapy to facilitate the process of getting in touch with represses mental content which should, according to Jung, bring about a remedy for psychological problems originating from that repression.

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Carl Jung – The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious – What are Archetypes

one of the central concepts employed by Carl Jung in his "The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious", and one of his more famous ideas in general, it that of archetypes. Archetypes are according to Jung a collection of emotionally charged concepts of forms which are universal in their amorphous shape and more specific with the content that every culture assigns them with. The deeper you go in your psychoanalytical inquiry of a certain archetype the more it depersonalizes and you eventually reach universal human meanings. For Jung, mental problems do not start nor end with one's specific personality or biography, for they originate in places that are outside the individual.

Jung holds that the process of projection is the way through which archetypes can be identified and revealed. Projection places unwanted mental content such as memories, fantasies, desires and feelings with outside objects in order to get rid of them. Before modern times, Jung holds, humans were projecting their hopes and fears on to the gods which serves as objects for projection.

For example, if I say about someone that "he is a real monster" what I am in actual fact referring to is some demonic aspect of my own unconscious (for Jung – my "shadow" archetype). For Jung the shadow archetype is the darker and more unknown side of man. In its basic form, the shadow archetype is the unwanted aspect of the collective unconscious which is rejected, repressed or projected onto some external object.

Archetypes for Jung are such projected parts of our mental existence and collective unconscious which have a universal nature that can take different shapes in different cultures and different individuals, but always boils down to the same abstract form of the archetype.

See: list of Jungian Archetypes + short explanations

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Carl Jung – The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – Subject, Object, Demon and Rationalism

In "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious" Carl Jung distinguishes the "subject level" and the "object level". Elsewhere (in "The Constructive Method") Jung holds that repression, the process of suppressing problematic mental content into the unconscious, is never able to eliminate this content which reappears as neurotic conditions. This problem, a basic of the psychoanalytic tradition, can take place in what Jung calls the "object level" – our relationship with others in our life. The object level is the level which relates to external objects in the patient's world. But Jung adds another level, the "subject level", based on the idea that every object in the patient's life represents a certain aspect of his unconscious – the subject. This is why Jung, unlike Freud and Lacan, is preoccupied with the subject itself, and not his relations with the object.
According to Jung, if we are disconnected from a repressed part of our unconscious this part will be projected on an outside object. A part of the psychoanalytical process is the transference of this projection to the therapist which enables its manifestation and resolution. When psychoanalyzing a dream, for example, we can treat symbols in the dream as manifestations of objects in our life, this is the "object level". In addition, we can interpret them as symbols that point to certain elements in us, this is the "subject level" which is according to Jung more important and therefore should be the focus of psychoanalysis. Freud and Jung were severely disputed on this point.    

A central part of Jung's theory in "The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious" is the concept of "demon". The demon according to Jung is an aspect of our psyche that is experienced as negative and therefore cannot be conceived as part of who we are. Repressing the demon only makes it more powerful and our fear on it increases.  

According to Jung in "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious" the old "naïve" human honestly believed in the existence of god and demons which played various roles in his daily reality. He did not realize that these demons are projections of himself casted on the external world. Man and his world were, therefore, undistinguished. Modern rational man, on the other hand, is aware of the fact that gods and demons are of his own imaginative making and therefore, being rational, denies their existence and represses them into the unconscious. Jung holds that this rationalist process causes mental energy that was previously invested with the gods to be redirected inwards. The "naïve" man was projecting his darker sides to demons, allowing him to remain "clean" in his mental experience. Modern man, on the contrary, overburdens his own unconscious with negative mental energies since he loses touch with his own "demons" which are no longer manifested, only repressed.

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Carl Jung – The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious – summary, review and analysis

Carl Jung is a doubly paradoxical thinker. His thought is both about paradoxes and in itself paradoxical.  Jung, unlike other psychoanalytic thinkers such as Freud and Lacan who focused on interpersonal subject-object relations, focused on the self contained individual psyche and its relations with itself. On the other hand, the emphasis he placed on the collective unconscious makes the subject for Jung anything but self contained. Jung held that the collective unconscious is no less, even more, important than Freud's personal biographical unconscious.  

Laying on his sofa, Freud might ask you about your relationships with your mother. Jung might not be as interested in your mother as he is with the mother. Jung is not so much concerned with how concrete individuals populate our mind; he is more interested with how our mind is populated with abstract figures that represent primeval elements of human existence. What we are dealing with here are the gods.
Much like Freud, Jung divides the psych into three parts: the I (ego), the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. Centering his thought on the collectiveunconscious is what distinguished Jung from other psychoanalytical thinkers and their view of the subject. For Jung, the collective unconscious plays a role which is no less and perhaps even more important than the personal unconscious in determining our personality.    

According to Jung the collective unconscious is something inherited, meaning we are already born with certain ancient knowledge or mental content. The collective unconscious for Jung explains the continuity of culture and our sense of common experience with previous generations.

Jung's collective unconscious is populated by archetypes. Archetypes for Jung are amorphous shapes which are manifested with culture specific content. To understand Jung's concept of archetypes consider the fact that every human being has a mother, and every culture has to relate to the mother in some fashion or the other and assign her with meaning. For Jung, we are born with the idea of a mother (otherwise we wouldn't have been able to survive) that later takes shape in the form that native society perceives and represents the mother archetype. Jungian archetypes are such universal forms like the father, mother, hero, shadow and more.

The "shadow" archetype is one of the central concepts in Jung's theory. The shadow archetype for Jung somewhat resembles Freud's unconscious. The shadow is a form which takes on content perceived by us a negative. The more we are disengaged with the shadow the more it accumulates potency and causes damage to the psyche.

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Jung's Concept of Archetypes – Explanation

One of Carl Gustav Jung's most central and famous concepts is that of archetypes. According to Jung archetypes can serve as our guide in our journey into ourselves, being omnipresent and universal mental forms. According to Jung Archetypes are raw forms found in the collective unconscious that take on meaning within a certain culture. Meaning, Jung's archetypes are universal forms and ideas inherited through culture (therefore the collective unconscious) in the shape that the specific culture assigns them. According to Jung archetypes can be both positive (like "the mother", "the father", "the magician" and more) and negative (such as "the shadow" archetype).

Central to Jung's concept of archetypes are the notions of "anima" and "animus". According to Jung the anima is the feminine aspect of the male collective unconscious while the animus represents the masculine aspect of the female collective unconscious. Detachment from either the anima or animus archetypes blocks the connection to the collective unconscious and prevents one from reaching "himself" and attaining peace of mind. Homosexuality, for example, was infamously explained by Jung as being a (treatable) imbalance between the anima and the animus archetypes. 

Much like anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and his Structural study of myth, Jung focused on oppositions as a central aspect of the human psyche and his psychoanalytical theory. For Jung we could not understand the world if it weren't for oppositions such as good/bad, high/low etc. however, Jung believed that through archetypes one can attain inner balance of these contradictions. Mental energy (Freud's libido) revolves around contradiction (like electric energy which needs both the plus and the minus). Denying the oppositional aspect of the mind leads according to Jung to mental complexes. The ability to adapt to the contradictory nature of the soul is key for Jung if we are to achieve stability and balance.

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