Carl Gustav Jung: Striving for Wholeness and the Unconscious Mind

Carl Jung, one of the most influential minds in the field of psychoanalysis, lived and worked in the Victorian era in Switzerland. Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, both sharing a common interest in the unconscious mind. Like Freud, Jung talked about the psyche, ego, consciousness, and “unconsciousness”. However, Jung’s study saw a significant departure from Freud in his theory of “wholeness”.  

Wholeness refers to the principle that people, throughout their lives, strive for harmony between the conscious and the unconscious. In other words, it is becoming more aware of their unconscious thoughts and how this plays a role in their lives. Consciousness he proposed, exists on three levels, the conscious, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.

The ego is the centre of the conscious mind and houses our accessible thoughts, memories and emotions. The personal unconscious contains repressed memories or forgotten, buried experiences which were once conscious but are not readily available to the conscious mind. The collective unconscious is an internalized shared cultural experience between people made up of images and thoughts which have universal meaning to all individuals (i.e. church ceremonies, cultural rituals) and is populated by instincts and archetypes.  

To Jung, a newborn is imprinted with past experiences from the collective, and this creates a potential for functioning. Archetypes or pre-existent innate psychic predispositions lead people to comprehend, experience and respond to the world through emotional connections which transcend into images. They represent the unconscious and include the self which is the ideal, the opinion of that which is conscious and unconscious and “would allow one to live “to the fullness of being.

Jung’s theories can be quite challenging to understand and relate to. The concept of the collective unconscious and his ideas are seen to be mystical, obscure and less linear but appeal to those who are perhaps more alternative.  

For Freud, a patient is more detached from their counsellor; for instance, they would lie on a couch with their eyes closed recalling memories or experiences. Jung differs in the sense that his approach involved more of eye-to-eye contact, stimulating the creation of a relationship and rapport between patient and counsellor. Jungian psychology thrives today and training in analytic psychology is rigorous. Many concepts are used in other forms of therapy as they highlight the importance of dream and creative work. The Myers Briggs Test is a personality inventory which identifies the 8-Jungian personality types and has been modified for use in human resource departments still to this day!

Carl Jung’s work has fundamentally shaped modern-day psychology; it is theory and practice. His break with Freud led to rifts within early psychoanalysis. However, he was determined and defended his position regarding the development of the human psyche. Jung thought that reducing it to merely psychosexual drives was too simplistic. The collective unconscious opened the door to understand the many layers of the human psyche, and his therapeutic methods allowed patients to strive for individuation in a safe environment. Jung’s work continues to be the forerunner of what today is known as a client-counsellor relationship

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