Morgan S. Taylor
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Jung the Mystic
More than a psychotherapist, Carl Gustav Jung was in many respects a healer and a mystic. Inspired by a deep interest in the workings of the human psyche, his theory of Analytical Psychotherapy embodies a vast range of concepts many of which involve esoteric, mythical and mystical connotations and associations which upon first contact can seem daunting to the ordinary individual.
Not only was his work broad and vast, but deep and meaningful as well. Analytical Psychotherapy has been in some ways described as a religion and Jung as a theologian, but I would argue against those perspectives. I would argue that Jung’s work was a deeply spiritual psychology about the inner workings of the soul and ones own personal relationship with the divine, a far cry from religious dogma or blind faith.
Jung’s work was about diving deep into ones own soul and cultivating a personal relationship with the divine, not an abdication of one’s inner knowing some imagined concept of God as dictated by doctrine. It was about wholeness and unity of body and mind not the separation of body and mind which most religions profess. Spirituality is not the same as religion. Religion is not necessarily synonymous with God or the Divine.
Healing and Alchemy
Jung’s Analytical Psychotherapy is a profound process for the development of consciousness for the purpose of achieving a healing at the level of soul. It is an act of “inner alchemy” whereby an individual’s “problems” contain within them the seeds of wisdom with the power to transform one’s perceptual aberrations into spiritual compost for a more integrated, conscious, and holistic life(Corsini and Wedding, 2011).
While all of this pseudo-spiritual talk of soul healing and connection to the divine may appear irrelevant and lacking in any kind of practical application to some, I argue that the opposite is true. The key to understanding how Analytical Psychotherapy can be an effective tool for personal transformation and psychological healing lies in grasping a deeper understanding of some of its basic concepts while proving its relevance through real life applications.
Because Jung’s body of work was so vast, it is not possible to critique all of his theories and concepts in this paper. Therefore for the sake of going deep rather than broad, I will discuss in detail some of the main points as well as limitations, while at the same time weaving in practical applications and case scenarios of how Jung’s theories are applicable and relevant to modern day real life situations.
The Necessity of Personal Analysis
Carl G. Jung was one of the first psychotherapists to insist that an aspiring analyst submit themselves to being personally analyzed while in training and beyond (Corsini and Wedding, 2011). I admire Jung for this stance because I agree that it is a vital part of becoming a successful and effective therapist to look deeply into ones own life, beliefs, emotions and behaviors in order to cultivate the wisdom to truly help others on the path of healing and attaining what Jung calls “individuation”-the reclaiming of undeveloped and/or denied parts of the self or “shadow” and the integration of the male and female polarities which Jung referred to as the anima and animus.(Jung, 1976)
Despite its limitations, Jung was also a proponent of self reflection and self analysis as a necessity in the process of therapy and in fact found that the therapist often must first “face a challenge in his or her own life before something changes in the patient”(Corsini and Wedding, 2011). I agree completely with Jung on this point as I have seen how effective self analysis and self reflection has been in creating balance and integration in my own life.
Keeping in harmony with the position of Jung and his emphasis on the necessity of self reflection and self analysis, I would like to use myself as a case example for the purposes of showing how some of the Jungian concepts actually play out in real life situations and how self examination can be a useful tool to transcend negative behaviors and belief patterns and lead to a more holistic, integrated and self-actualized life. Before I do this however it is necessary to first critique one of Jung’s keystone theoretical concepts.
Keystone Concept: Unconscious and Conscious
According to Jung’s theory of personality, there is what he calls the “collective unconscious” and the “personal unconscious” both of which operate outside the level of ordinary awareness and experience or what Jung calls the “conscious”.
The keystone feature of the nature of change in Jung’s theory lies in the process of cultivating a conscious awareness of how these two elements of the unconscious are functioning and expressing in ones life. The goal of therapy, which Jung refers to as “individuation”, arises from bringing into conscious awareness the unconscious energies that are expressing in ones life and then integrating them via what Jung calls the “development of consciousness”. Analytical Psychotherapy by a professional analyst is one means of accomplishing this goal as is the process of intense self analysis (Schwartz-Salant, 1995).
Proving the Existence of The Archetypes
Before digging into the case example it is helpful to explain a bit more about Jung’s theory on the collective unconscious and personal unconscious. According to Jung, the collective unconscious is informed by universal patterns of energy, or patterns of thought and emotion which Jung calls Archetypes. As patterns of energy, these universal Archetypes are parallel to what modern day biologist Rupert Sheldrake refers to as “morphic fields” and “morphogenesis”; according to Sheldrake, morphogenesis is defined as “the coming into being of form” and it is informed by fields of energy patterns he refers to as “morphic fields”.
Morphic fields are organizing principles of energy that contain within them imprints of information created by patterns of thought, behavior, biological functioning, and even social and cultural practices. Sheldrake likens them to “habits” of nature and behavior, similar to what Jung may call archetypal “instincts” (wwwSheldrake.org)
Like Sheldrake’s morphic fields, Jung’s archetypes are organizing bodies of information and energy that inform our experience and are made manifest into the “personal unconscious” via what Jung called “complexes”-- that is the archetypes take on physical form or energetic expression in ways that are informed by and in coherence with an individual’s personal life experiences as well as social and culturally held beliefs. The complex is the universal energy of the collective unconscious expressing through the filter of ones personal life experiences, beliefs and culture (Jung, 1964)
It is an interesting question to consider that perhaps Sheldrake’s theory of morphic fields may be the modern day language for describing Jung’s ancient and universal archetypes. But why even mention this in this paper? How is this even relevant to my argument for the efficacy and relevance of Jung’s theory of Analytical Psychotherapy?
It is a relevant question for two reasons. The first reason is that one of the things Jung struggled greatly with during his time was “proving” that the archetypes existed and were indeed real. (Jung, 1959) The second reason it is relevant has to do with the nature of the origins of early psychotherapy; psychotherapy emerged from the biological sciences and in today’s world there have been some profound scientific discoveries that may serve to validate and prove what the early theorists could not explain scientifically. Both Jung and Freud were first medical doctors looking for deeper answers to psychosomatic maladies such as hysteria. Let us explore these ideas further.
Jung referred to the archetypes as primal and universal “instincts”, related in some ways to Freud’s psychosexual urges, yet much broader in scope and character. These archetypal “instincts”, says Jung, are primarily hereditary, that is they are passed down via the biology and the ancestral line:“The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition.
While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore have never been individually acquired but owe their existence exclusively to heredity. Whereas the personal unconscious consists for themost part of complexes, the content of the collective unconscious is made up essentially of archetypes.” (Jung, 1959 p.99).
The Biological Origins of the Archetypal Energies
I find this explanation of the collective unconscious as being “exclusively hereditary” absolutely fascinating for several reasons. For one, Jung innately understood there was a strong biological connection between the psyche and the biology. He believed that the contents of the psyche “influenced the biochemical processes, instincts, and determined ones perceptions” (Corsini and Wedding, p, 129.) Second, since the field of psychotherapy arose out of the field of biological medicine it would seem that the role of the biology and heredity must hold some crucial keys to providing the evidence to prove the existence of Jung’s archetypes.
In seeking to prove the existence of his archetypes, Jung was unfortunately limited to the language and concepts of his time using as proof “…the content of. dreams…..active imaginations….and the delusions of paranoiacs” (Jung, 1959 p.100). But in today’s modern world where only hard core scientific data and research are accepted as proof of anything, such nebulous metaphysical wanderings as dreams, imaginations, and paranoid delusions are hardly sufficient evidence.So where can we find any kind of solid scientific evidence to prove the existence of Jung’s archetypes? Sheldrake’s morphic field theory is a starting place, however morphic field theory alone is insufficient evidence as it has been argued to lack conclusive scientific verification.
Archetypes and the Human DNA
Solid scientific research that lends support not only for Sheldrake’s morphic field theory, but also as proof for Jung’s universal and “hereditary” archetypes can be found by the results of ground breaking research done in 1995 by scientist Vladimir Poponin at The Russian Academy of Sciences. Referred to as the DNA Phantom Effect, Poponin’s findings provide rock solid scientific evidence for the biological underpinnings and energetic sources of Jung’s ancient archetypes.
In summary, Poponin and his team of researchers made a vacuum out of a glass tube in which existed nothing else except for photons of light-the stuff that quantum physics tells us all matter in the universe is made up. The photons of light were scattered about the tube randomly and chaotically. They then took a piece of human DNA and inserted it into the tube.
When the human DNA was inserted into the tube the light photons did something remarkable: they moved and organized themselves around the piece of DNA forming into an organized pattern. The scientists were shocked by this. They then hypothesized that when the human DNA was removed from the tube that the light photons would go back to being random and disorganized.. However what they found was exactly the opposite. When the human DNA was removed from the tube, the light photons remained in the organized pattern in the exact same location as if the DNA were still present! (Gariev et al, 1995)
What Poponin concluded from this experiment was profound: the human DNA contains around it some sort of field, or organizing body of information that has an effect on the external physical environment. Rupert Sheldrake refers to this field as a “morphogenetic field” and suggests that “morphogenetic fields work by imposing patterns on otherwise random or indeterminate patterns of activity” and “…that that they are transmitted from past members of the species through a kind of non-local resonance, called morphic resonance…” and that these “….morphic fields underlie our mental activity and our perceptions.”(www.Shelrake.org)
In tying this research into Jung’s theories of the archetypes the DNA Phantom Effect findings and Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields theories provides some scientific grounds of proof for the existence of Jung’s metaphysical archetypes. What Jung had no way of knowing was that the human DNA holds information, beliefs, and experiences in these energetic fields, and that such information is passed down between generations. Like Jung’s archetypes, it is unconscious, instinctual, hereditary, and biological in origin. This field of inquiry has become the central theme to an emerging field of biological sciences called epigenetics.
Modern day epigenetic research may prove that Jung was correct when he said that universal, societal and individual experiences are both instinctual and hereditary. While Jung did not have the language of his day to describe exactly how this occurs, we now understand that this may happen through what is known in the scientific community as genomic imprinting where the memories and experiences of our ancestors are passed along to us through the genetic line (Nova, 2006 ).
What Jung referred to as “patterns of instinctual behavior” (Jung, 1959) expressed by the collective unconscious and its archetypes is supported by the findings of modern day scientific research. This makes Jung’s theory of psychotherapy potentially even more powerful, valid, relevant, and effective than one may have ever imagined.
Archetypes and Synchronicity
These universal patterns of energy are experienced and expressed on a personal and individual level via what Jung called the complexes. “Archetypes he concludes are transgressive, that is they are not limited to the psychic realm. In their transgressitivity, they can emerge into consciousness either from within the psychic matrix or from the world about us or both at once. When both happen at the same time, it is called synchronistic”(Stein, 1998 p.201)
I recall a time in my life where I personally experienced this kind of archetypal synchronicity. I find it useful to share here as I am inclined to self reflect in order to give a real life practical example of how Jung’s concepts play out in one’s life.
When I was 22 I fell in love for the first time in my adult life. In the depths of romantic love I became aware that this was the first man I had loved deeply besides the love I had for the first man in my life-my father. In that realization and as I allowed myself to go deeper into the experience of romantic love, I became aware of feeling the father archetypal energy “die” as the new archetype of romantic love took its place.
I felt a letting go of the role of the child (another of Jung’s archetypes) within me and a rising into the feeling of being an independent woman, loved now by a new male figure in my life. As I was witnessing and experiencing this energetic ‘dying’ of the father archetype in my life experience, my actual father was at the same time diagnosed with cancer. Six months later he died. This would be an example of Jung’s synchronicity-where the psychic energies of the subconscious manifest and express in the physical realm simultaneously (Main, 1997).
Because the complexes and archetypal energies that feed into them are below the level of conscious awareness, they often contain repressed emotional content and denied aspects of the self. They are described as “…frozen memories of traumatic moments that are buried in the unconscious and not readily available for retrieval by the ego. These are repressed memories. What knits the various associated elements of the complex together and holds them in place is emotion” (Stein, 1998, p. 52).
In an effort to find balance and harmony (Jung believed that the seeds of healing existed within the neurosis itself (Corsini and Wedding, 2011)) the personal unconscious material will be unconsciously projected outward onto other people or situations in individuals experience in a subconscious effort of the psyche to try to heal and integrate itself back to wholeness (Jung, 1976).
A Case Example: Self Analysis of Life Experience
“If the patient is to stand on his own feet he must not depend permanently on outside help” (Jung, 196,. p283)Over the course of my life I can find numerous personal case examples of some of the concepts of Jung’s analytical psychotherapy that have played out and the ways that I have found to integrate the experiences for a more holistic life experience. One of the most powerful and profound times where this occurred was during my divorce. During this time the subconscious energies began to get stirred to such a degree that they were made manifest in my immediate surroundings by the people and situations that were occurring in my life.
Divorce: The Transcendent Function
Over my life I have had a habit of somehow getting into intimate relationships with men who turned out to be mean, angry and even crazy at times. I had been in a marriage for ten years with a man who, though kind and loving in many ways, acted out these same qualities of anger, rage, and craziness in ways that eventually proved to be unbearable for maintaining the marriage.
At the age of 33 and a mother of two children I found myself moving out of the house and beginning the proceedings for a divorce. What ensued in the following two years it took to complete the divorce was not only a roller coaster of emotions but a rare opportunity to meet an aspect of myself that had long been repressed and denied. The divorce was a catalyst for a deep healing on the level of my soul. The divorce you could say served as what Jung refers to as the “transcendent function”: the mediating energy that brings about the unconscious material into consciousness for the purposes of cultivating awareness, integration, and ultimately individuation (Corsini and Wedding, 2011).
According to Jung (1964), “The psychological transcendent function arises from the union of conscious and unconscious elements and that”…we need the unconscious contents to supplement the conscious attitude.”(pp. 263-.285). The painful experience of my lengthy divorce brought into my conscious awareness a repressed part of my personality which I had been projecting out onto other people my whole life. This part of me was a part of my disowned self that in my prior relationships and marriage had played out as a “victim complex”. The victim archetype was played out in my life as a complex of energy that left me believing I was helpless, stuck, betrayed and hopeless. As a result I stayed in an unhappy marriage far longer than I desired.
Archetypes, Shadows, and the Crazy Bitch Complex
The process of divorce, the manipulation by my ex husband which included threats of taking my children away, dubious public announcements to friends and family that I was “crazy” and worse, naturally stirred up a load of unconscious repressed feelings and emotions in me.
For the first time in my life I felt into a deep sense of anger, rage, and even a craziness that I had never known. In self analysis of the situation I understood that this part of myself was in fact a shadow side, one of my complexes that was seeking integration and balance in my life. Debbie Ford, in her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers suggests that as we seek to integrate parts of our shadow side it is sometimes helpful to give that piece of our personality a name. So, in my desire to develop consciousness and integrate this aspect of my personality, I took her advice and playfully named this part of my personality-- the “crazy bitch” complex.
According to Jungian theory, ”…complexes are subpersonalities or personality fragments… they are products of experience-trauma, family interactions and patterns, cultural conditioning….and function as the equivalent of instincts in other mammals” (Stein, 1998 p.49). What I came to call my “crazy bitch” complex was an expression of Jung’s archetype of the “Wild Woman” and was an instinctual part of my personal power I had spent most of my life denying.
Angry Man Syndrome and the Victim Complex
Since I had repressed this aspect of my personality my psyche had to projected it onto the men in my intimate relationships in an effort to attempt to become whole. This disowned aspect of myself was also part of what Jung refers to as the “animus”, or the masculine archetype represented as the masculine aspect of my feminine side. Due to childhood influences and the way I had been conditioned as a child, my masculine side had become quite repressed and disowned. I had always been told as child that it was inappropriate for to express anger and I was encouraged to always “be nice”.
Because my negative and more “masculine” emotions were not permitted healthy expression as a child, I stopped expressing them altogether and in turn they became repressed and buried in my unconscious mind. Later as an adult, this repressed material began to play out in my intimate relationships as my psyche began to seek balance and integration of the opposites. In so doing, my unconscious drew to it people and situations that reflected this imbalance which expressed as victim-abuser archetypes—which I interpreted through my filters as ‘mean, angry, crazy men and poor little innocent me’.
What I failed to notice was that these men were only mirroring back to me my own repressed anger, rage, and craziness and that this was an aspect of myself and a vital part of my personal power. It was a reflection of my own animus that had become so out of balance with my feminine side that it had no choice but to seek loud and explosive expression in its desire to get my attention in order to become integrated once again.
The Self Regulating Nature of the Psyche
According to Jung, the only way out of this kind of cycle of polarities is through the development of consciousness(Corsini and Wedding, 2011). Lucky for me I had the ability to engage in deep self analysis and self reflection during this time of my life, and was able to understand, embrace and integrate the “crazy bitch” complex through the development of conscious awareness of the unconscious archetypal energies playing out. Integrating these polarities took a lot of self acceptance for I had to fully experience my own anger and rage and even my own craziness that had so long been denied.
At first these parts of myself expressed in ways that were a bit out of balance, that is the complex played out in an extreme sense as the energy expressed itself for the first time. However as I became more accepting of this side of myself and learned to love it for the gift of wisdom it brought to me—the “crazy bitch” taught me how to stand up for myself, how to love myself, how to ask for what I wanted, and how to express all parts of myself—it eventually became more balanced and softer as I gave it love and honored it with a proper place, role, and expression in my life.
Now that I have met and integrated this “subpersonality”, she expresses as a part of my conscious power rather than as an unconscious denied aspect of self. I also have found that I no longer attract into my life angry or crazy men nor do I live in out a victim complex. I have a more balanced and integrated masculine side or “animus” and the unconscious has been made conscious and the psyche whole again. At least in this area of my life, my psyche no longer has the need to mirror to me anything less than this new integrated self.
Limitations and Weaknesses of the Theory
While Analytical Psychotherapy contains within it many useful tools for personal transformation and healing that are profound and effective, I must admit that I find its biggest weakness to be in its complexity and intellectual nature. Though it offers a way to deep transformational healing at the level of the soul, the psychological alchemy requires a sort of “science of mind approach” that entails deeply intellectual processes that can only be facilitated by an individual of heightened intellectual functioning. There seems to be little emphasis placed on the cultivation of awareness of emotions such as we see in Gestalt therapy, despite the fact that Jung states that the complexes are held in place by emotion itself (Stein, 1998). Emotions are not necessarily created by rational intellectual activities or its byproducts of beliefs and thoughts; rather the beliefs and thoughts are generated and informed by the substrata of emotional experiences and traumas. Therefore this form of psychotherapy is limited to its effectiveness to the degree that the patient is capable of attaining emotional release and healing via the intellectual understanding and associations revealed through the analysis.
Another potential weakness of this theory again lies in its complexity. It takes a highly trained and skilled professional to engage in this sort of analysis and it also appears that this form of therapy may be limited in scope to helping those who are already highly functioning and capable of complex intellectual understanding, self reflection and self analysis.
Despite these limitations, Analytical Psychotherapy is a powerful and profound tool for deep personal transformation and psychological healing. Jung’s theories were profound psychologically as well as spiritually. Jung’s work brings us a rich source of material that both served to inform and influence later theories of his time, and may prove to be of value today in the new discoveries of advanced “power” therapies found in the emerging field of Energy Psychology Therapy. Energy Psychology Therapy is a growing field of therapies where the body-mind connection is again being reconsidered and subconscious emotional content is accessed in ways never before believed possible.
Coupled with the emerging field of epigenetics which is revealing how emotional traumas and memories maybe passed through the genetic line, we may find new connections and harmonies between the world of matter and mind. Jung’s Analytical Psychotherapy with its emphasis on the metaphysical and mystical may serve as some sort of visionary bridge between the physical and the material worlds. When the discoveries and language of the modern day are coupled with alongside the core elements of Jung’s Analytical Psychotherapy, one wonders if perhaps the human soul is indeed the next great frontier.
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