Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Reality of Psyche: The Foundation of Analytical Psychology Part 2

(Editor's note: Part 1 of this essay appeared in the January issue and can be accessed by going to the end of this essay or to the January 2009 "Archives." Also, long citations are differentiated from the body of the text in the following ways: they are set off from the main text and set in smaller italicized font.)

Jung’s theory of the unconscious - its structure, functioning, and purpose – and its relationship to consciousness is a “living” theory; he continued to revise it until his death and actively supported other analysts such as Henderson (1990), von Franz (1980; 1994), and Neumann (1990) in their investigations. Both Henderson’s and von Franz’s elaboration of the geography of the unconscious appropriately fine-tune Jung’s conceptualization of it while also emphasizing the impact of the cultural psyche. Neumann does this also, not with a mapping of the psyche, as the other two have done, but with his lens on the problem of evil in the form and process of shadow projection and on the solution centered on the individual’s engagement with archetypal stages of development.

The reality of psyche is the conceptual and experiential axis around which Jungian psychology is organized; everything else such as archetypes and collective unconscious, the components of psyche, as well as psyche’s teleological or purposeful function, originate from this primary understanding. The reality of psyche means exactly that. It is real and not just a metaphorical construct to be taken up and used when convenient and then set aside when not, as is often the case when a body of specialized knowledge becomes accepted by mainstream culture. Popularization, unfortunately, can result in the over-simplification of a field, leading to its misunderstanding and ultimate debasement. The reality of psyche or psyche as fact is based upon the phenomenologically derived data of the immediate experience of human behavior, both psychic as evinced in the symbolic language of dreams and the symbolic or latent meaning contained in language, and somatic, as evinced by the symbolic expression embodied in physical behavior and in physical symptoms of dis-ease. When we accept the reality of psyche, everything that we say and do takes on a meaning distinctly different from, although integral to, our behavior’s overt function and ordinary expression. Below the surface of the cause and effect transactions common to our everyday life - life lived on the surface - there exists another realm structuring our life course, so that what we say and do, and what we leave unsaid and undone, is indicative of the particular pattern or archetype within which our life takes shape, its meaning potentially available to us when we attend to its unfolding through its archetypal representation, the symbol. When the elements of this transpersonal realm are “reduced to the data of a purely personalistic psychology,” writes Neumann (1954), “the result is an appalling impoverishment of individual [and collective] life” (p. xxiv). This is so because connected to the understanding of psyche as reality and its products or manifestations as psychic realities is the correspondent awareness that psyche has a religious function, purposefully guiding us in a lifelong process toward individuation. Psyche regarded suprapersonally is “a numinous world of transpersonal happenings” (Neumann, 1954, p. xxiv). The religious function of psyche and individuation will be discussed in future essays.

Jungian terminology is familiar ground to most people. Jung (1961) preferred using words already existent when possible, believing that this use of already accepted terms would simplify and thus enhance the accessibility of his psychology. Even when he was forced to create terms for his specialized approach, he attempted to coin words that would convey their meaning. Possibly for these reasons, the elements and processes of psyche which are central to Jungian psychology, such as personal unconscious, collective unconscious, Self, archetype, complex, psychological types, and projection, are all part of common usage within Western culture today. The benefit of their inclusion within the collective lexicon is, of course, that common use suggests accessibility and even acceptance of what once was particular knowledge limited to a specific field. Unfortunately, familiarity does not necessarily or automatically bring understanding. Jung’s psychology is both deceptively simple and confusingly complex. It is a depth psychology that mines the archaeological strata of the mind while also exploring borderline phenomena, the “meaningful coincidences” of mind-matter phenomena that “call into question… the established image and system of depth psychology and the theory of the unconscious” (Neumann, 1989, p. 17). It is also a psychology of breadth in that it crosses the boundaries of disciplines for a synthetic understanding of psyche. It is a many-layered approach to human personality. Jung (1954) calls this layered aspect of his work its “double-valence” of meaning (p. 90), while Conforti (1999) broadens it further by conceptualizing multiple interactional fields of influence. An apt metaphor for analytical psychology is the onion, with the peeling away of each successive layer eventually revealing the onion’s core, which is itself a replication of the onion as a whole. In other words, the psychotherapist helps the patient peel away the layer of his or her personality that is presented at the moment while always being presented with the entirety of the patient’s psyche - everything that makes the patient who he or she is, the past, the present, and what they both point to.

Jungian psychology is not a “nothing but” psychology – “nothing but” being a term Jung (1961) borrowed from William James, a psychologist he much admired and by whom he was greatly influenced, to describe any psychology that reduces psychic phenomena such as symptoms to a primary cause and a general explanation of human behavior (Heisig, 1979; Hoden, 1977; Jung, 1976; 1975; Meier, 2001; Schabad, 1977). This point - that Jung’s psychology is not reductionistic in the sense of seeking a cause and effect relationship which reduces a phenomenon to a fundamental source - is key to understanding his approach to psyche (Brooke, 1991; Jung, 1954). Without this awareness, one will invariably misconstrue the Jungian approach (Brooke, 1991) and equate it with either the positivist-oriented psychologies that are the dominant models for human behavior today or, alternately, classify it as a philosophical and/or religious metaphysical system. Jung’s psychology has been criticized as being one or the other and, at times, as both. These criticisms, coming from two principle directions - religion on the one side and science on the other - have haunted Jungian psychology (as they did James’ psychological study of the religious (Jung, 1976; Perry, 1935) since its inception early in the twentieth century, and continue to do so to this day (Brooke, 1991; Jung, 1976; 1969a; McLynn, 1996; Noll, 1994). Because these criticisms are misrepresentative of the intent of Jung’s psychology, they will be discussed at length here. Two interconnected points need to be made: first, like all systems of ideas - and Jung’s psychology is a system of ideas or theories concerning psyche and psychic phenomenon, albeit an open one – and second, analytical psychology is a metaphysic in that it goes beyond what is directly observed and experienced by speculating or hypothesizing on what these data infer. In this sense, then, analytical psychology is not a purely phenomenological approach, but goes beyond phenomenology to metaphysics (Brenneman, personal communication), and analytical psychology’s reach beyond the physical to what it suggests is as much a part of the other sciences as it is for religion and religious-philosophical systems. As a metaphysic or system of ideas concerning psyche, analytical psychology can be narrowly construed as psychologistic in the Husserlian sense as “a species of view that philosophy is reducible to a factual science, in this case psychology” (Nakhnikian cited, Husserl, 1990, p. x). This understanding, however, misses the intent of Jung’s approach to psyche and psychic material and what takes place in the psychotherapeutic endeavor. Although Hillman (1975) embraces psychologism as being essential to the soul’s coming to knowledge, it was adamantly denied though never sufficiently addressed by Jung.

A major complaint made by the prominent religious scholar, Martin Buber, among others, concerning Jung’s religious oriented psychology is that Jung’s psychology is psychologistic or reductive because it reduces the religious, the unknowable power that moves us (also known as the numinous, sacred, holy or God) to a function of the psyche (Jung, 1976; Wasserstrom, 1999). In this way, Buber contends, God is supplanted by the human psyche (Edinger, 1996; Jung, 1976; 1969a). Jung (1973; 1976) denies this, as do those who worked closely with him (Adler, 1968; Jacobi, 1973). Buber and others rest their assertion of psychologism on the complex system of concepts by which Jung, as a psychologist, attempted to understand psyche by formulating hypothesizes based on the empirical data of patient observations. Jung’s psychological study of psyche does differ from Otto’s (1973) qualitative investigation of the numinous in that he created a typography of personality in which the energetic processes by which psyche functions, for example libido, projection, and archetype, are delineated and named. Similar to Otto, Jung’s (1969a) concern is with the quality and influence of the numinous or transpersonal on the individual as it is experienced through psyche. The two main stumbling blocks seem to be Jung’s identification of libido, the general energetic process by which psyche functions, and projection, a more specific process of mind which can both aid and hinder the growth of consciousness. Jung considered these to be no more than working hypotheses, to be revised or discarded as new information presented itself. Jung's guiding principle of the reality of psyche - psyche as irreducible - further belies this criticism of psychologism.

The claim of psychologism seems to be related to a limited understanding of the concept of projection. In Jungian psychology, projection is a psychological process whereby one unconsciously projects one's affective experience or displaces it outside onto another person or object, who then carries it. That such an action is accepted as occurring is evinced by the number of names given it in our lexicon: scapegoat, dupe, and fall guy all refer to the carriers of projection and the negative consequences of projection, while angel, saint, and treasure refer to its positive valuation. In Jungian psychology, projection is the autonomous psychic process that makes consciousness possible. An affective experience is projected outward, thus making it observable to the individual, who then has the opportunity to introject or “take back the projection” through self-reflection of consciousness. With each projection that is taken back and made conscious through the act of self-reflection, consciousness is enlarged. Self-reflection, in turn, is made possible because of the dialectical relationship that exists between consciousness and the unconscious. Consciousness stands in opposition to the unconscious, both being necessary for the functioning of psyche as a whole. Without the unconscious, there would be no consciousness (Hostie, 1957; Jung, 1963; Neumann, 1954; von Franz, 1986; 1993); we come to know ourselves through our psychic reflection mirrored back to us by way of projection (von Franz, 1975). Projection is simply the name given to this psychodynamic process. As Jung (1969b) notes, “it is only separation, detachment, and agonizing confrontation through opposition [italics added] that produce consciousness and insight” (p. 171). Projection enables us to come to know the world as it is and as it gives itself to us, rather than through the cloud of our assumptions and biases of the natural attitude. Jung (1969b) writes eloquently about his experience of this while on Safari when

from a low hill in the Athi plains of East African I once watched the vast herds of wild animals grazing in soundless stillness, as they had done from time immemorial, touched only by the breath of a primeval world…The entire world round me was still in its primeval state; it did not know that it was. And then, in that one moment in which I came to know, the world sprang into being, without that moment it would never have been. All Nature seeks this goal and finds it fulfilled in man [sic], but only in the most highly developed [differentiated] and most fully conscious man. Every advance, even the smallest, along this path of conscious realization adds that much to the world (pp. 95, 96).

In this passage, Jung is writing not about his just discovering the physical fact of nature – he knows that the world and all that it contains exists – but about his phenomenologically based experience of it. At that particular moment, Jung experienced his surroundings in a new way and as a result came to a new and deeper understanding of what formerly he had taken for granted. What once was accepted because it was there now was known for what it actually was.

What religionists seem to specifically object to in this construction of psyche is the idea that everything is ultimately a projection, and that once a psychic content is no longer projected, there is nothing beyond the subjective ego. Of course this is not what Jung is saying. As a psychologist, Jung’s focus is on the psyche and the way in which it works; his speculations, although based on scientific observation supported by comparative research, are just that, speculative and always open to revision. He is clear on this matter and his psychological perspective throughout his writings. He does not in any way set out to prove God’s objective existence, which would be meaningless, but to “reckon with the existence of a God-image” (Jung, 1969c, p. 278). The archetype of the God-image is the image that humans hold concerning God, it is nothing more nor less than this. Its existence certainly does not preclude the existence of God: in fact, the universal nature of this archetype of God can be seen as evidence of the psychic reality of God. Jung is clear that he knows that God, whatever this means, does exist psychically because it is a universal psychic experience. As Jung moved away from the purely scientific stance of his early clinical work and into the symbolical researches that were to preoccupy him for the remainder of his life, he eventually began equating the archetype of Self with an absolute though “undetermined and undeterminable” guiding principle, thus further alienating religionists as well as scientists (Hostie, 1957; Jung, 1973; 1975; 1976;). This is somewhat surprising since, as Fordham (1994) points out, Jung’s (apparent) hypostasization of psyche “brought the [S]elf into relation with theological speculation about ultimate reality” (p. 10). Fordham (1994) considered this unnecessary and even counterproductive since, as he writes, Jung makes the psyche whose “real nature is obscure enough … an end in itself” rather than allowing “the sense of mystery [that is psyche]…to act as a stimulus to further enquiry” (p. 10). However, based on Jung’s work from mid-life on - his explorations into gnosis, alchemy, and religions and their symbolical significance to the growth of consciousness and individuation - his eventual relating of Self and absolute reality seems a quite natural development. Be that as it may, strictly speaking, the fact that Jung’s investigations into psyche specifically involve the qualities of psychic energy, that is, the archetypes and their symbolic representations, automatically opens his work to a charge of hypostasy no matter what he says or his intent (Brooke, 1991: Heisig, 1979; Hostie, 1957; Goldbrunner, 1956). That said, Fordham’s criticism may stem in part from his developmental perspective which, as mentioned earlier, has a different focus from that of classical analytical psychology (Fordham, 1995; Samuels, 1985).

Some of the confusion regarding Jungian psychology can be laid at Jung’s door, since he is not always clear about his intention, sometimes leaving a particular word’s meaning to be discerned through context or through a comprehensive knowledge of his writings (Heisig, 1979; Hostie, 1957). A good example of this is Jung’s use of “soul,” an ambiguous term at best for philosophers, theologians, and psychologists alike. Jung uses the word soul in two essentially different ways - in its common theological sense as referring to the essential spiritual or divine nature that humans embody, as well as in a psychological sense for a specific function of psyche (anima-animus) that each individual expresses in a way unique to himself or herself (Jung, 1982; 1971). Thus, if the reader does not understand that soul for Jung has at least a dual function, and possesses both a common general meaning as well as a technical one specific to Jungian psychology, Jung’s intention will be lost or misunderstood. This applies also to certain other words such as religion, religious, and God which are used by Jung, not in their normative and delimited sense as referring to organized faith systems and to an anthropomorphic higher being, but in a less restrictive, more all-inclusive way. Edinger (1996), a Jungian interpreter of this “psychology of religion,” as Jung (1969a) sometimes referred to his approach, writes that the Latin word religio or religion has two etymological roots; one is religere, the other is religare. The more ancient of the two, religere means “to take into careful account,” while the other, religare means “to tie oneself back to some prior state of existence” (p. 35). Religion certainly can and does encompass both of these two meanings (Schoeps, 1968), but for Jung its use is limited. Jung’s use of religion, religious, and God is founded on the first root, religere, which refers to an attitude that is “watchful, wary, thoughtful, careful, prudent, expedient and calculated …towards the powers-that-be” (Jung cited, Edinger, 1996, p. 39) - thus the inscription over Jung's door. The difference between the two meanings is significant, with the first in line with Otto’s psychological study of the numinous, while the second is in keeping with Eliade’s (1954) approach of returning to the eternal sacred. Thus, religere is enough different from religare, the etymological form that St. Augustine used, and which is the basis for Western religion, to cause major problems when not analyzed carefully.

Although Jung was a scientist and thus an empiricist in the sense of deriving knowledge through experience, reductionism (as a means to an end) was not his aim, unlike Freud, who with his psychoanalytic approach reduces all neurotic behavior to early unresolved issues of sexuality, or Adler who with his individual psychology reduces neuroses or psychological disturbance to issues of will and power. By fitting psychic data into a fixed theoretical framework, reductionists such as Freud and Adler explain the symptom as the visible manifestation of some traumatic event or developmental crisis rooted in the past. In this causal-mechanistic approach to phenomena, the symptom is reduced to an initial cause which, through a presumed link between the present to the past, points back to how a symptom came to be. This straight-line cause and effect approach, whereby the symptom is reduced to its basic element(s) and first cause, results in a narrow therapeutic focus; that is, it is regressive rather than progressive. This reductive approach is merely tautological in that it admits no possibility other than an individual’s past and so is insufficient and “incapable of leading to the patient's full development” (Hostie, 1957, p. 87).

The question of “why” is answered, such as “why is the patient Mr. Smith depressed?” Freud would conclude that his or her depression (effect) was due to early issues of sexuality (cause) and would treat Mr. Smith psycho-dynamically by regressing him back to the initial fact or fantasy of the sexual trauma. Through a process of abreaction or emotional catharsis, Mr. Smith re-experiences what has been repressed by the unconscious and expressed through the symptom of depression. Mr. Smith’s affective re-living of the trauma along with the therapist’s explanatory interpretation effects a change, that of eradicating the depression. Alternately, a therapist working from the medical approach would likely say that Mr. Smith’s depression was due to a brain chemistry imbalance, and prescribe a drug or suggest certain behavioral changes in order to shift the patient’s sleep pattern from sleeplessness to sleep. Although these two approaches are very different in the theory that guides the treatment - Freud’s psycho-dynamic approach is based on the division of psyche into consciousness and the unconscious, and the medical approach is based on psyche as an epiphenomenon of the brain resulting from neurological functioning - they are similar in their causal standpoint of treating the manifest symptom to effect a cure. Certainly, this outlook has its advantages—such as, in the case of drug treatment, relief from pain and discomfort so that the sufferer can continue functioning in the day to day world. As a medical doctor, Jung understood the usefulness of the reductionistic approach, for example in treating young children whose nascent ego-consciousness requires a more direct approach to working with psyche, and in prescribing drugs when necessary (Hostie, 1957; Jaffe, 1984). However, based on his understanding of psyche, Jung (1969d) believed that any treatment that did not seek understanding of the whole person was a mere band-aid for a “definitely localized, sharply delimited phenomenon” (p. 355) and thus inadequate to addressing psychic suffering and deciphering the symbolic language of psyche.

For Jung, "Why?" is not the essential question. The questions of “what” and “where,” as in what does the symptom mean for the patient, and where is it pointing (both unaddressed in the causal approach) have far more relevance to the issue at hand because they address the immediacy of the present and its implications for the future. What and where concern the present and the future, respectively - both periods of time where change is possible - but the question of why, because it is situated in the past, cannot be changed. The past can be used to understand the present, but can no more change it than one can put an egg back into its broken shell. Yet, reductive psychologies attempt to do just that. Reduction is a basic step in the scientific model that guides the dominant psychologies today (Jung, 1961). Based on his experience, however, Jung knew that the contents of psyche cannot be fitted neatly into an already existent framework. Psychic fact

as a living phenomenon…is always indissolubly bound up with the continuity of the vital process, so that it is always something that on the one side is and on the other is becoming and therefore always creative…Because it is becoming, it also prepares for the future event. Were this not so, intentions, aims, the setting up of goals…would be psychological impossibilities (Jung cited, Jacobi, 1953, p. 17).

Jung required another method to study psyche, one that took into account the reality of psyche as a living phenomenon and only known as such as it presents itself in the immediate moment to a perceiving consciousness. He developed a new technique, a synthetic qualitative descriptive approach that utilizes the hermeneutical phenomenological method for “handl[ing] the class of phenomena, collectively termed ‘primordial’ or ‘archetypal images’” (Fordham, 1995, p. 86) which he had discovered by way of comparative research. Regarding this many-layered approach, Jung (1971) states,

I use constructive and synthetic to designate a method that is the antithesis of the reductive. The constructive method is concerned with the elaboration of the products of the unconscious…it takes the unconscious product as a symbolic expression which anticipates a coming phase of psychological development…We conceive the product of the unconscious…as an expression oriented to a goal or purpose, but characterizing its objective in symbolic language….The aim of the constructive method, therefore, is to elicit from the unconscious product a meaning that relates to the subject’s future attitude…(pp. 422, 423).

The constructive or synthetic method is a “building up” (Jung, 1971, p. 422) of the patient’s associative material (the subjective or manifest level of the patient’s psychic communication) through a process of amplification whereby comparative material from other disciplines is explored for symbolic parallels and the underlying archetypal dynamic (Jung, 1971). The patient’s psychic material expressed symbolically is collated with corresponding material found in history, religion, and mythology, for example, and provides a context from which to understand his or her personality development. Personality development in an adult (which differs from that of a child) basically refers to the extent to which the patient has integrated or needs to integrate into consciousness psychic material from the unconscious (Neumann, 1954) Jung’s synthetic method is a hermeneutical phenomenological encounter with psyche whereby the practitioner uses and, in fact, relies upon all of his or her experience, personal observations and judgement to discern psyche from the initial question that is active within the dialectic of the therapeutic dynamic, for example, through the interpretive process, leading irrevocably to the next step and so on to the conclusion. The conclusion, discernment of meaning rather than explanation, however, is never really an ending since the interpretive endeavor is ongoing. There is no seeking of a definitive explanation or final answer to the patient’s dilemma as in other psychologies. Instead, because psychic phenomena are engaged with phenomenologically, in other words, through the subjective experience of epoche rather than by way of unreflected consciousness and/or externally imposed conditions, they can be seen for what they are and engaged with. In this way, “Nature,” Jung (cited, Hostie, 1957) writes, referring to psyche, is allowed “to answer out of her fullness,” (p. 9). Jung believed that although the religious function of psyche – and the meaning it expressed for the individual - could be discerned symbolically in the full range of human behavior, from the most mundane thoughts, fantasies, dreams and physical actions to the highly complex mental and physical creations of theology, mathematics and art, for example, the reality it revealed could only be known in part, never fully due to the limitations of consciousness. Analytical psychology is a tool that aids in uncovering this reality which is itself an irreducible religious principle guiding and directing the individual’s development throughout life’s course, a process Jung named “individuation” (Jung, 1969c; Fordham, 1994;1995; Sidoli, 1989).


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-Stephanie Buck

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