Thursday, 22 December 2011

An introduction to Jung (1)

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961), the founder of analytical psychology, was mentored by Freud and the first modern psychiatrist to view the psyche as “religious by nature” making this theoretical paradigm the focus of his academic examination. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and symbolisation. While he was a fully involved and practicing clinician, much of his life's work was spent exploring tangential areas of knowledge, including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, and sociology, as well as literature/the arts.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875 - 1961)
Jung considered individuation (the central concept of analytical psychology), a psychological process of integrating the opposites including the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining their relative autonomy, necessary for a person to become whole.

Many psychological concepts were first proposed by Jung, including the archetype; the collective unconscious; the complex; and synchronicity. A popular psychometric instrument, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), has been principally developed from Jung's theories.

Jung’s best known works are Psychology of the Unconscious (1912) and Psychological Types (1921). Despite Jung’s theoretical focus on the unconscious and dreams, his theories became significantly divergent from those of his mentor, Freud, over time and accordingly they ended their working relationship. Whereas Freud viewed the unconscious mind as animalistic and impulse-driven, Jung perceived it in a more spiritual form. According to Jung, dreams were not an attempt to conceal your true thoughts from your waking mind (by symbolic expression in dream language), but were rather a window to the unconscious – a way of becoming acquainted and communicating with the unconscious mind and a ‘guide’ to the waking self on how to attain wholeness and solution to real-life tensions. Whilst Freud analysed dreams on the ‘object level’ – that is according to the relationship of the dreamer to persons/situations in real-life; Jung focused on the ‘subject level’ – i.e. the idea that the dream reveals (symbolically) some features of individual psychological functioning/internal psychological transformation. Freud’s theory on dreams is retrospective (it reflects on past childhood experiences/traumas to explain dream symbolism/motifs) whereas Jung’s approach is prospective, suggesting that the dream is like a map of the dreamer’s future psychological evolution and the attainment of balance between the self and the ego. Jung thought that Freud’s theory of dreams as wish fulfilment was too simplistic and naive; whilst it might shed light on the mental complexities of the analysand, he argued that it did nothing to unlock the true meaning of the dream itself. Thus, Jung’s dream theory covers a much broader scope, examining the entire consciousness, both individual and collective.

Jung viewed the ego as a sense of ‘self’ and how you are perceived by the external world. Part of Jung's theory is that all things or concepts can be viewed as paired opposites: good/evil, male/female, or love/hate. So working in opposition to the ego, is the counter-ego, which he refers to as ‘the shadow’The shadow represents the rejected aspects of yourself that you do not wish to acknowledge and exists as a more primitive, socially maladaptive, uncultured ‘self’.

Since dreams are a way of communicating with the unconscious, Jung believed that dream images reveal something about yourself, your relationships with others, and situations in your waking life. Dreams guide your personal growth and help in achieving your full potential and Jungian theory argues that manifest content of dreams is just as significant and revealing as the latent content. By simply discussing what is currently going on in your life, it can help you interpret and unlock the cryptic images of your dreams. Jung's method of dream interpretation is placed more confidently on the dreamer which and emphasis on subjective understanding and judgement.

* Jung’s archetypes
Jung noted that certain dream symbols possess the same universal meaning for all men and women. He termed this phenomenon the ‘collective unconscious’. While dreams are wholly subjective, your personal experiences often touch on universal themes and symbols. These symbols are believed to occur in every culture, throughout history and therefore can be seen as a form of ‘psychic inheritance’. Jung identifies seven such symbols in what is referred to as the major archetypal characters:
1.    The Persona:
The image you present to the world in your waking life – a public mask. In the dream world, the persona is represented by the self.  The self may or may not resemble you physically or may or may not behave as your real-life self would. However, you still know that this "person" in your dream is you.
2.    The Shadow:
The rejected and repressed aspects of yourself. It is the part of yourself that you do not want the world to see because it is ugly or unappealing. It symbolises weakness, fear, or anger. In dreams, this figure is represented by a stalker, murderer, a bully, or pursuer. It can be a frightening figure or even a close friend or relative.  Their appearance often makes you angry or leaves you scared. They force you to confront things that you don't want to see/hear/experience. You must learn to accept the shadow aspect of yourself for its messages are often for your own good, even though it may not be immediately apparent.
3.    The Anima / Animus:
The female and male aspects of yourself. Everyone possesses both feminine and masculine qualities. In dreams, the anima appears as a highly feminised figure, while the animus appears as a hyper masculine form. Or you may dream that you are dressed in women's clothing, if you are male or that you grow a beard, if you are female. These dream imageries They serve as a reminder that you must learn to acknowledge or express your masculine (i.e. be more assertive) or feminine side (i.e. be more emotional). 
4.    The Divine Child:
Your true self in its purest form. It not only symbolises your innocence, your sense of vulnerability, and your helplessness, but also represents your aspirations and full potential. You are open to all possibilities. In the dreamscape, this figure is represented by a baby or young child.  
5.    The Wise Old Man /Woman:
The helper in your dreams. Represented by a teacher; father; doctor; priest or some other unknown authority figure, they serve to offer guidance and words of wisdom. They appear in your dream to steer and guide you into the right direction.
6.    The Great Mother:
The nurturer, appearing in dreams as your own mother, grandmother, or other nurturing figure. She provides you with positive reassurance. Negatively, they may be depicted as a witch or suchlike, in which case they can be associated with seduction, dominance and death. This juxtaposition is rooted in the belief by some experts that the real mother, who is the giver of life, is also at the same time jealous of our growth away from her. 
7.    The Trickster:
As the name implies, plays jokes to keep you from taking yourself too seriously. The trickster may appear in your dream when you have overreached or misjudged a situation. Or he could find himself in your dream when you are uncertain about a decision or about where you want to go in life.  The trickster often makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, sometimes mocking you or exposing you to your vulnerabilities. He may take on subtle forms, sometimes even shape-shifting.

Archetypal dreams (also referred to as ‘mythic dreams’; ‘great dreams’ or ‘grand dreams’) usually occur at significant times or transitional periods in your life. They often leave you with a sense of awe or that you have learned something important about yourself. Such dreams have a cosmic quality or an element of impossibility if occurred in reality. They are often extremely vivid and stay in your mind long after you had the dream.

Jung also viewed dreams as a possible attempt to counterbalance a hypertrophied conscious psychological tendency.  Thus, the dream becomes a message from the unconscious, indicating the existence of neuroses in the waking life of the dreamer. This was the concept of compensation - Jung believed the psyche to be a self-regulating organism in which conscious attitudes were likely to be compensated for unconsciously (within the dream) by their opposites. Jung proposed two basic approaches to analysing dream material: the objective and the subjective. In the objective approach, every person in the dream refers to the person they are, whilst in the subjective approach, every person in the dream represents an aspect of the dreamer.

Jung advised against the interpretation of dreams without some knowledge of the dreamer’s personal circumstances as dream symbolism, no matter its collective or universal applicability, is both fluid and dynamic, with one motif having more than one meaning or connotation (i.e. a sword or a snake are entirely different, but both may be interpreted as symbolic of the phallus – depending on the subjective perspective of the dreamer). Jung proposed that dreams be stripped down to their basic symbolism when interpreted – a process known as ‘dream distillation’.

Jung stressed that the dream was not merely a devious ‘puzzle’ invented by the unconscious mind to be deciphered, so that the true causal factors behind it may be elicited. Dreams were not to serve as lie detectors, with which to reveal the insincerity behind conscious thought processes. Dreams, like the unconscious, had their own language and logic. Jung believed that dreams may contain ineluctable truths; philosophical pronouncements; illusions; wild fantasies; memories; plans; irrational experiences and even telepathic visions. Just as the psyche has a diurnal side which we experience as conscious life, it has an unconscious nocturnal side which we apprehend as dreamlike fantasy. Jung would argue that just as we do not doubt the importance of our conscious experience, then we ought not to second guess the value of our unconscious lives.

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