Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Reality of Psyche: The Foundation of Analytical Psychology (Part 1)

Editor's note: Part 1 of this essay by the editor reviews some of the relevant literature and sets forth the basic postulates of analytical psychology, postulates which distinguish analytical psychology from all other applied psychologies. Of particular importance is the understanding that psyche and psychic phenomena are realities that structure and guide human behavior. [Due to the editor's limitations in mastering the blog's editing commands, please note that long citations are set-off from the main text in two ways, the font of the quotations is one size smaller than the body of the text and is italicized.] Please be sure to read "Notes From The President and Editor," a monthly feature of the e-journal which follows this paper.

In the introduction to her biography of Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz (1975), an analyst and collaborator with Jung, begins her subject in a way that is highly appropriate to the beginning of this series of essays in analytical psychology. Because of its relevance, I quote von Franz here at length. She begins:

To write about C.G. Jung’s effect both in and on the culture of our day and to do justice to the subject is an uncommonly difficult assignment. As a rule, outstanding individuals are influential chiefly or exclusively in their own professional fields. In Jung’s case, however, his original, creative discoveries and ideas had to do with the whole human being and have therefore awakened echoes in the most varied areas outside that of psychology…. Jung was so far ahead of his time that people are only gradually beginning to catch up with his discoveries. There is also the fact that his perceptions and insights are never superficial, but are so astonishingly original that many people must overcome a certain fear of innovation before they are able to approach them with an open mind. Furthermore, his published works include an enormous amount of detailed material from many fields, and the reader must work through this wealth of information in order to be able to follow him. Jung once remarked that “anything that is good is expensive. It takes time, it requires your patience and no end of it” (von Franz, 1975, pp. 3, 4).

In this passage von Franz does a number of things. First, she presents the reader with the enormity of her task - the difficulty in doing justice to what is basically her two-fold subject, Jung and his psychology. She then lists the reasons for this: Jung’s creativity and originality, his subject matter (the whole human being), the depth of his insights and the wide scope of his interdisciplinary researches. Finally, and for these reasons, von Franz suggests that those seeking access to Jung and his work must pay a high admission price, since understanding only comes with time and through diligence and perseverance in the study of the material. Implicit in all of this is her message that to truly understand Jung, one must dedicate oneself to a process of learning that involves a deep level of commitment and eschews quick answers, easy answers, or absolutes. In a certain sense von Franz offers both an invitation and a warning to her reader: have patience, be persistent and keep an open mind. To this purpose, von Franz sets forth the conditions guiding her study of Jung and his psychology, for to understand Jung’s psychology one must understand Jung; the man and his approach are intertwined. To prepare the reader for what lies ahead, von Franz echoes the tone of the oracular statement that Jung had carved on the lintel above the entrance door to his Kusnacht home, Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit, that is, “Called or not the god will be present” (Jung, 1975, p. 611; Jaffe, 1979, p. 136). Jung (1975) explains that:

It is a Delphic oracle.…It says: yes, the god will be on the spot, but in what form and to what purpose? I have put the inscription there to remind my patients and myself: Timor dei initium sapientiae [The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom]. Here another not less important road begins…to God himself and this seems to be the ultimate question (p. 611).

This recognition of the presence of a transcendent power is the principle that directed the course of Jung’s life and work, and that guides the psychotherapeutic practice of analytical psychology today.

Jung’s psychology is complex. Its development spans over half a century; it crosses disciplines, and has as its concern the empirical study of psyche. Jung’s focus, specifically, is the psychological investigation of psychic phenomenon - all that an individual experiences psychologically (thoughts, fantasies, affects, and dreams) as well as all that is somaticized or expressed physically. The individual’s every behavior is studied for what those facts reveal about his or her psyche - personality structure, relationship to the Self, relationships in the world. The essence and origin of psyche were identified by Jung as ultimately unknowable within the boundaries of psychology, but that did not prevent him from hypothesizing about psyche or from moving beyond what are considered the legitimate borders of science into other domains. This strength and weakness of Jung’s - to speculate about matters other than observable fact, an integral part of all his work especially in later life – will be discussed in later essays.

The most basic tenet of Jung's psychology is that psyche is a reality. In order for one to comprehend Jung’s work and that of his followers, the psyche must be acknowledged as fact and just as real as physical phenomenon. Whatever we experience is experienced through and because of our psyche, and is therefore real whether an actual material fact or not. Psyche “exists,” writes Jung (1969a), “but not in physical form. It is almost an absurd prejudice to suppose that existence can only be physical. As a matter of fact, the only form of existence of which we have immediate knowledge is psychic” (p. 12). Psychic phenomena are to be taken just as they are - Jung (1968a; 1969b) calls this “just so” - unexplainable, irreducible and existing facts of the individual’s inner experience, not to be discounted as less than or other than real for the person experiencing them. In other words, psychological phenomena are not “just” psychological (imaginary and therefore not real) any more than physical phenomena are just physical. Since matter exists as energy at the subatomic level (Jaffe, 1984), psyche and soma, like two sides of a coin, make up the whole of reality. To consider these two parts of unitary reality as distinct and separate or to place a higher value on one over the other is to fall into the error of Cartesian dualism in the first instance, and into the fallacy of scientific positivism on the one hand or religious dogmatism on the other, in the second instance (Lockhart, Hillman, Vasavada, Perry, Covitz & Guggenbuhl-Craig, 1982).

Objective unconscious and subjective unconscious, archetype and complex, libido and projection are some of the terms used by Jung to identify psychic phenomena and psychic processes. They are concepts that Jung either adapted to his use or created in order to talk about psyche and to work with psychic phenomenon. By speculating in this way, Jung has been criticized by theologians and religionists for hypostasizing or concretizing psyche (Heisig, 1979; Hostie, 1957), that is, for reducing the unknown to the known, while at the same time has been denounced as unscientific by scientists for his “metaphysical” straying from “factual reality.” These criticisms highlight a major sticking point for many regarding the validity of Jung’s approach, and, although justified to a certain extent, they are nevertheless incorrect. Jung (1969c; 1970) of course defended his psychological approach to psyche and its products, as did his collaborators (Adler, 1968; Neumann, 1954; von Franz, 1975). This is discussed in another essay because it pertains directly to his synthetic method, which is intimately connected to his hypotheses concerning psyche. To return to the main point, Jung created a working model of the psychic structure of the unconscious and of its function in influencing and supporting the development of consciousness. In this sense, Jung’s (1968b) psychology can be broadly thought of as a science of consciousness, since we only know of the unconscious as it presents itself to consciousness through dreams, symbols, fantasies, and the like. Thus, the unconscious psyche is a dynamic entity that is discernable only through its reflection in consciousness by a perceiving consciousness. This is an understanding grounded in the phenomenological approach and in no way should be construed as intending to mean that analytical psychology is an ego-based psychology concerned only with the personalistic layer of psyche (unreflected consciousness) or similar to the non-depth psychological approaches that view psyche as a byproduct of brain processes.

Jung was not the first to develop a theory of mind that encompassed both consciousness and unconsciousness; Freud was. Jung, however, went beyond Freud’s narrow view of the unconscious as only a repository of repressed, suppressed and forgotten personal material. Based on his clinical work, combined with an academic training in the classics and a predilection for philosophy, mythology, and world religions (Hostie, 1957; Jung, 1963; McLynn, 1996), Jung formulated an open theory of the human psyche that reached far beyond the personal sphere of an individual’s unconscious. Jung postulated a collective unconscious or a transpersonal universal sphere of the unconscious encompassing all psychic material held in common by humanity past, present, and to come - humanity’s “phylogenetic memory,” (Gordon, 1993) composed of the archetypes, the formless structuring elements of psyche “that only under certain conditions are disposed to crystallize into form or forms” (Neumann, 1989, p. 21). Within Jung’s (1982) model, “consciousness, no matter how extensive…must always remain the smaller circle within the greater circle of the unconscious” (p. 178). In this way, the relationship of consciousness to the unconscious is, Jung (1982) suggests, similar to “an island surrounded by the sea; and, like the sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless, self-replenishing abundance…depths and potentialities, for they [archetypes] are capable of infinite variation and can never be depotentiated” (p. 178).

Jung’s working model of psyche is a dynamic one, with the Self as the center from which all psychic processes unfold. Within Jung’s model, the central archetype of Self is both psychic totality and psychic organizer. Fordham (1994) suggests that this conceptualization of Self is contradictory in that Self is conceived as being both form and process. However, if we use the analogy of a prism for Self, Jung’s conceptualization of Self works. Think of a many-faceted glass prism where each facet, although part of the whole, is separate, so that the reflection presented by each is dissimilar. The integrity of the whole is not changed by this difference. The glass prism is still a glass prism whose function is to brighten by way of refracted light. The prism effects this brightening through its multi-faceted surfaces. Acting as light catchers and diffusers, each cut plane reveals a slightly different perspective dependent on the angle at which the light hits. The total effect is the same; only the particular perspective presented by each plane, although contributing to the whole, is different.

The Self as the totality of archetypes functions in a similar way to the prism, that is, similar to the facets of the prism, all symbols or archetypal representations, although distinct, are manifestations of the Self, the central archetype. Through their action ego-consciousness emerges out of the unconscious during the formative years of life, and then, at mid-life, archetypal action redirects consciousness so that the tasks of latter life can be achieved. This is Jung’s greatest achievement, the discovery of this archetypal psychic process of the unfolding of Self in the individual under the direction of the Self, the archetype of totality and organizer of psyche. This is a difficult concept to grasp, and some Jungians, uncomfortable with Jung’s straying so far from empirical science, distance themselves from it. Fordham (1994) consolidates Jung’s various definitions of Self to take into account the two levels of abstraction at work in this concept; the Self can be conceptualized as the organized totality of conscious and unconscious systems.

Jung (1963) initially focused on the role of Self in development, that is the transformation or development of the individual psyche “by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious” (p. 209), but eventually went beyond the empirical basis of his data to what was implied, the controlling, guiding influence of a greater force, external to, though a part of, the individual. Far from being a contradictory stance, the evolution of Jung’s understanding of psychic process is traceable throughout his writings and shows the natural development of his thought and insight into the psychic condition of humanity as well as his willingness to acknowledge publicly views he had always held, if not always understood, as he himself approached death (Jung, 1963; 76b). The equivalent of Jung’s conceptualization of Self as “other” can be found in religious-philosophical systems such as in Christianity with the immanent and transcendent Christ and in Hinduism with Atman. Jung (1969d) writes:

as an individual phenomenon, the [S]elf is ‘smaller than small’; as equivalent of the cosmos, it is ‘bigger than big.’ The [S]elf, regarded as the counter-pole of the world, is ‘absolutely other,’ is the sine qua non of all empirical knowledge and consciousness of subject and object. Only because of this psychic ‘otherness’ is consciousness possible at all (p. 171). The psychic unfolding of Self, then, not only directs the development of individual consciousness, but is the force external to the individual – the “otherness” that “lives and endures underneath the eternal flux” (Jung, 1963, p. 4) - and is the force that engenders it.

Central to the dynamic process of psychic activity is the compensatory and complementary relationship of the unconscious to consciousness. Within the self-regulating psychic system, the unconscious psyche, guided by the Self, both drives and restrains ego consciousness in order to effect its teleological function of growth toward individuation and wholeness. Jung’s (1982) theory of complementarity whereby everything has its counterpart (the theory of enantiodromia and the principle of implicate and explicate order within a unitary field illustrate this phenomenon, as does the dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis) accounts for the purposeful and dynamic nature of psyche. The action of the archetypes and complexes, under the growth-oriented function of the Self, drives the process of individuation or of self-realization “by which a person becomes a psychological ‘in-dividual,’ that is, a separate indivisible unity or ‘whole’ ” (Jung, 1969d, p. 275).

Individuation is distinct from individuality. Whereas individuality concerns the uniqueness that marks every person as an individual just as “every stone on the beach and every cloud in the sky” is distinct, individuation concerns “the integration of personality and the shift in the center of gravity from the ego to the Self” (Neumann, 1989, p. 123) that occurs most dramatically at mid-life on. It is this shifting of focus in mid-adulthood from ego maturation and the demands of the external world of material things, to the internal world of Self which forms the work of (classical) analytical psychotherapy and is the goal that psychotherapy helps move along. It is important to remember that archetypes and complexes are forms of psychic energy; Jung mapped out the psyche, but did not build a system (Fordham, 1995). He described psyche’s processes and functions, and named them in order to provide a context in which to work with psychic phenomenon as an analyst. He did not seek to explain or solve the riddle that is psyche (Fordham, 1995).

To facilitate the work of analytical psychotherapy, Jung used already familiar terms or created ones with which to describe the processes and functions of psyche (Jaffe, 1984). Because his interest was in facilitating his work with psychic phenomena, rather than in explaining their origin, the language of analytical psychology is not as precise or as definitive as is usual in a science. Terms and their definitions are also confusing at times as one thing overlaps or seemingly contradicts another. What must be kept in mind is that Jung was an explorer in an uncharted world. Each new discovery presented a paradox, the possibility of confirmation of one hypothesis as well the need to formulate another as he stepped forward into the new realms of mystery. In order to understand Jung and appreciate the value of his approach to working with psychic material one must bear with the discomfort of speculation since certainty is not a possibility when dealing with psyche and psychic phenomena.

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