Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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 Carl 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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