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What is Jungian Psychology?

Posted on: January 25, 2022

At its fundamental level, Jungian psychotherapy, also referred to as Jungian analysis, is a thorough, analytical approach to talk therapy that seeks to bring balance and union between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind.

Created by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (also known as Carl Gustav Jung or CG Jung) in the first half of the 20th century, Jungian therapy is built on the idea that the unconscious is a source of wisdom and guidance that can help encourage psychological growth.

Although we now often refer to his approach as Jungian therapy, Jung preferred to call it Analytical Psychology. Furthermore, although Jungian therapy and Jungian analysis are sometimes used interchangeably, Jungian analysis can only be practiced by official Jungian analysts. To become a Jungian analyst, practitioners must complete a training program approved by the International Association for Analytical Psychology.

Jungian psychology is a complex and vast area of depth therapy that can require many years of research and study to get a firm grasp on its various methods and meanings. However, one of its core tenets is that when one’s authentic self is blocked, mental health issues can form and grow into depression, addiction, anxiety and more. This then leads to destructive relationship patterns within one’s life.

Jungian psychology will work with those suffering from these issues through an exploration toward personal growth and defining historical causes of psychological problems, such as childhood trauma. Instead of focusing on specific symptoms, such as anxiety, Jungian therapy utilizes a holistic approach to cultivating wellness in the entire personality. Each treatment is unique to the specific individual being treated and strives to have the client dig into the deeper, sometimes darker, elements of their mind to find their “true” self rather than who they present to the world.

For a more extensive exploration into Carl Jung, his history and the creation of Analytical Psychology, check out Ruth Williams’s C.G. Jung: The Basics.

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Core Concepts of Jungian Psychology

Carl Jung was a prolific writer with an expansive collection of theories that made up his Analytical Psychology. However, below are some fundamental concepts that are central to the study of Jungian psychology:

Jung’s model of the psyche

Jung posited that there are three components that make up the human psyche:

  • The ego
  • The personal unconscious
  • The collective unconcscious

The ego represents the conscious mind that contains the awareness of existing and the sense of personal identity. This is where your personality exists and where your thoughts, intuitions, feelings and sensations are organized. It’s the door between the inner and outer worlds of the psyche.

The personal unconscious is made up of the memories that are subliminal, forgotten and/or repressed. Some of the personal unconscious can be recalled to the conscious mind. Jung believed that for individuation to occur, the personal unconscious and the conscious ego have to be fully integrated.

The collective unconscious, also known as the transpersonal unconscious, is one of Jung’s more unique and controversial additions to personality theory. The idea proposes that there is a universal version of the personal unconscious, which is shared with all other members of the human species. These shared ancestral memories, born from evolution, are called archetypes by Jung and are represented by universal themes that appear in various cultures.

Some of these innate characteristics include being scared of the dark or spiders, for example. However, Jung posited that more than these isolated examples, archetypes have developed into separate subsystems of the personality through ancestral memories and images.

Individuation

According to the American Psychological Association, individuation is “the gradual development of a unified, integrated personality that incorporates greater and greater amounts of the unconscious, both personal and collective, and resolves any conflicts that exist, such as those between introverted and extraverted tendencies.”

In essence, the therapeutic goal of individuation within analytical psychology is the process through which a person becomes a whole psychological individual. The person recognizes their own self-worth and uniqueness and embraces both the consciousness and the unconscious.

Archetypes

Derived from the collective unconscious, Jungian archetypes are depicted as images and themes with universal meanings across a wide range of cultures. These archetypes may appear in dreams, literature, religion or art.

There are numerous archetypes that Jung explored within Analytical Psychology, but below we will explore the main four that are discussed most often:

1. The Persona

The persona, also referred to as the “mask,” signifies the outward face that each human being presents to the world. It’s not our true self but represents our “conformity” within society. Like acting, the persona is the performance we put on for others, which isn’t who we really are.

2. The Shadow

The shadow archetype represents the animal side of our personality. From the shadow, individuals gain both creative and destructive energies, which influence their predispositions. This includes all the things that individuals do not want to know about themselves or do not like. It is the part of the unconscious that is most accessible by the conscious.

3. The Anima/Animus

Jung described the anima/animus as the mirror images of our biological sex. In other words, the unconscious feminine side in men and, vice versa, the unconscious masculine side in women. The anima represents the feminine aspects, while the animus represents the masculine aspects.

4. The Self

The self is an intrinsically important part of Jung’s Analytical Psychology. The self is what proves a sense of unity in the human experience. Every individual should be aiming to achieve a state of selfhood to create a balance between the conscious and unconscious.

Discover more about the complex world of Analytical Psychology from one of Jung's most important and famous books, Psychological Types

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How is Jungian Psychology Different from Freud’s Psychoanalysis?

Freud and Jung were contemporaries who often wrote and researched together during their lives. In fact, Jung initially saw Sigmund Freud as a mentor in the study of human experience. However, there came a certain point where their disparate views and approaches to psychology caused them to end their professional relationship and friendship.

Specifically, Freud chose to end their working relationship due to Jung’s disagreement with many of the key concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis. Although there were complex differences between Freud and Jung’s contributions to the understanding of human psychology, below is a brief breakdown of five key concepts they disagreed upon:

The Unconscious Mind

Freud saw the unconscious mind as the core center of all repressed thoughts, memories and the driver of sex and aggression. He broke the human mind into three main structures: the id, the ego and the superego. The id is the unconscious, which drives sex and aggression, and its only goal is to seek pleasure. The ego is our conscious, which includes our memories and thoughts. Lastly, our superego is the part of our mind that attempts to mediate the id to conform to socially acceptable standards.

Jung also broke the human mind into three parts, but it revolved around the human psyche. As noted earlier, to Jung, the unconscious is divided into the ego, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The ego is the conscious part of the human mind. The personal unconscious encompasses all recalled and suppressed memories. Meanwhile, the collective unconscious refers to the shared knowledge and experiences that humans are born with.

Religion

Freud believed that religion was an “escape” for the masses that shouldn’t be propagated. Conversely, Jung believed that religion played a necessary role in individuation. Jung didn’t practice a specific religion, but he did explore many in his studies, particularly Eastern philosophies and religions.

Sex and Sexuality

This was probably Freud and Jung’s greatest point of conflict. Anyone familiar with Freud’s work will recognize that the ideas of repressed and expressed sexuality are the fundamental motivating forces behind his theories and methods. He felt that sex and sexuality were the main drivers behind all human behavior.

In contrast, Jung felt that it’s psychic energy or life force that drives and influences human behavior, not sex and sexuality. In his understanding of the human psyche, sexuality was just one manifestation of greater psychic energy. He also felt that the Oedipal impulses explored by Freud were incorrect and that the mother and child relationship was actually built upon love and protection, instead of sexuality.

Dreams

Both Freud and Jung believed that dream interpretations were an essential window into the unconscious mind. Freud explained that dreams were indications of our deepest desires, unconstrained by societal standards and that they were often symbolically sexual in nature.

Jung disagreed that most dreams were sexual in nature or had hidden or fixed meanings. He didn’t believe there was a universal dream dictionary that could interpret everyone’s dreams. Instead, he believed that dreams could hold a variety of meanings based on the dreamer’s unique associations. In his approach, dreams held their own distinct meanings created by both the external (day-to-day life) and internal (feelings and emotions) world.

Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul is a great resource for the practical application of dream interpretation. 

Parapsychology

Freud completely disagreed with Jung regarding the paranormal as a complete skeptic. Meanwhile, Jung wholeheartedly believed in the field of parapsychology. Many of his theories were built upon psychic phenomena, such as his controversial theory of synchronicity. He felt that many coincidences weren’t actually coincidences, but instead examples of psycho-psychic phenomena.

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Benefits of Jungian Psychology

In traditional treatments, a Jungian therapist will work mostly in individual therapy sessions to improve the health and wellbeing of the client. However, some Jungian therapy has extended sessions to include couples and families instead of just individuals.

Although you don’t need a diagnosable mental health issue to pursue Jungian therapy, there are many mental health problems that can be helped by treatment, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Trauma
  • Personality Disorders

Jungian therapy works with patients to help them recognize the potential in themselves and work toward personal growth. This holistic approach, which contains many spiritual elements, can help people see what obstacles have been preventing them from living fulfilled lives — and overcome them.

It is important to note that Jungian therapy is a long-term therapy with intensive sessions, so it can be more expensive than other types of therapy.

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Additional Resources on Jungian Psychology

If you’re interested in reading more about Jungian psychology, you can download any of these free chapters: