An Overview of Jungian Analytical Psychology

By Cian Kerrisk 2011

What is Jungian (Analytical) Psychology?

Analytical Psychology is the psychotherapeutic approach created by Carl Gustav Jung and extended by numerous 'Post-Jungian' theorists and practitioners over subsequent years. It has been described as essentially a therapeutic relationship aimed at “facilitating growth, healing and a new synthesis of the patient’s personality at a higher level of functioning”. It is also said to offer a “map of the human psyche that encompasses conscious and unconscious elements, including both transpersonal (archetypal and spiritual) and personal layers of the unconscious” (Douglas, 1995, p.95-108). The overall goal of Analytic Psychology or Psychotherapy is seen as bringing about a wholeness of the personality through “individuation”, the process of “becoming and being one’s unique self” (Sedgwick, 2001, p.10).

About Carl Jung

To gain an understanding of Jungian Psychology, it is necessary to contextualize its development by taking a look at the history of the man himself. Jung was born in 1875 in the German speaking part of Switzerland into a family strongly represented by theologians and physicians and his early life was influential in forming his perceptions of the psyche and the human condition.  As well as Protestantism, Jung was privy to more unorthodox forms of belief including spiritualism and the occult. His fascination with esotericism continued throughout his life and is evident in his research into symbolism, myth, alchemy and religion. Although interesting, it is unfortunate that these topics are often erroneously seen as reflecting Analytical Psychology as a whole, while the practical strengths of his approach are ignored (Sedgwick, 2001, p.2).

 Jung’s interests led him to specialise in Psychiatry and from 1902 until 1909 he worked at the Burgholzi psychiatric hospital under the mentorship of Eugene Blueler. He undertook groundbreaking research with Schizophrenia and developed psychological tests which led him into contact with Sigmund Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis. Although initially viewed as the “heir apparent” to Psychoanalysis, Jung and Freud parted ways some years later due to differences in theoretical and personal perspectives. Jung did not reject psychoanalysis, but expanded and reinterpreted some of the basic premises into a wider context with different methods and philosophies.

Jungian Treatment & Theoretical Approaches

 Some of Jung’s early methods are now commonplace including his face-to-face way of working with clients (as opposed to the patient lying on a couch while the analyst sits behind), the necessity for therapists to have their own analysis/therapy and the importance of working with counter-transference - not as something that is a hindrance, but as a useful therapeutic tool for attuning with the patient's process (Sedgwick, 2001, p.1). As Analytical Psychology has grown, various factions have developed including the ‘developmental’, ‘archetypal’ and ‘classical’ schools (Samuels, 1990; Sedgwick, 2001). Today, Analytical psychotherapists continue to see clients on a basis of mutuality in regular sessions (1-3 times per week), often utilising creative methods and incorporating other theories such as Object Relations, Self Psychology and Transpersonal Psychotherapy or integrating techniques such as visualisation, mindfulness or creative interventions into their repertoire.

The Self and Individuation

A central concept in Jungian psychotherapy is the Self, which encompasses the sum total of one’s conscious and unconscious processes and is the organising and energising centre of personality, on which rests the Ego or ones sense of purpose and identity (Walker, 1995, p.84).  One of the primary instincts of the Self according to Jung is “individuation”, which is this inherent drive towards wholeness and synthesis. Carl Jung’s principal therapeutic focus was on reconciling conflicting aspects of the self into a synthesis, to facilitate this process and bring about an integrated balanced whole, which encompasses both conscious and unconscious aspects of one’s being.

The Personal & Collective Unconscious

The conscious and unconscious can be seen to have two dimensions (the personal and collective). The personal unconscious is related to ones individual history and inner world, while the collective relates to world ancestry and collective themes  inherent within individuals. From this collective unconscious come “myths, visions and religious ideas which were common to various cultures”(Storr, 1975, p.39).  Archetypes are primordial images or themes in, and expressions of, this collective (transpersonal) unconscious within which there are tendencies to perceive the world in certain ways which are shared by all human cultures and peoples, similar to original patterns, or prototypes.

The Jungian conception of the unconscious was not however a seething font of dangerous drives and aggressive or sexual energy as in Freud’s early summations, or the internalisation of significant others and early development experiences as viewed by some later Object Relations theories. Rather, it consisted of both good and bad, creative and destructive energies and drives. Furthermore, it is also thought to contain within it “wellsprings of creativity and sources of guidance and meaningfulness” (Kaufman, 1979, p.95) that can assist the individual towards their goal or growth and becoming whole.

Types of Archetypes

Jung discussed how Archetypes manifest in figures, events and motifs. Common figures include the great mother, king/father, divine child, wise old man/woman, trickster, warrior, hero, and lover. Archetypal images underlying people’s experiences of the opposite sex are termed ‘amima’ and ‘animus’. The Animus being a woman’s male ‘soul-image’ and the anima being a man’s image of the feminine. Another key concept is the ‘persona’ which the image (or mask) that a person presents of themselves to society (Hyde & McGuiness, 1992, p.91; Sedgwick, 2001). Archetypal events include birth, death/resurrection, separation, initiation, marriage, and union of opposites to name but a few. Archetypal motifs could include the Apocalypse, the Deluge or great flood, the Creation, etc. These symbols are inherent in the religions and myths of diverse cultures and people's of the world, and while each culture is unique, repeating themes and universal commonalities do seem to occur (Walker, 1995).

Balancing of Opposites: The Light and the Dark

In Jung's view, all archetypes develop positive and negative, light and dark aspects (Jung, 1959, p.267; Jacobi, 1978). But they are not good and bad, but two necessary sides of a coin. Just as all archetypes have a positive, favourable, bright side that points upwards and is light, so also they have one that points downwards and embraces the darkness (Jung, 1981). Both aspects were potentially of equal value for Jung, as he sought for what he termed a union of opposites (Jung, 1941/1959, p. 168). As he argued “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light', 'but by making the darkness conscious' (Jung, 1983, p.16). Similarly with respect to the individuation process itself, it results in the self balancing the bright and dark, male and female, and going beyond dualities. Jung used the symbolism of Alchemy is his descriptions of such processes – and we can see how in Alchemy the base metals or prima material (dirt or the shit that happens to us in life, and our own base nature) can be refined and transformed into the philosophers stone or the alchemical Gold (Jung, 1983).

Jung explained this further when he said: "…real liberation comes not from glossing over or repressing painful states of feeling, but only from experiencing them to the full.… By accepting the darkness, the patient has not, to be sure, changed it into light, but she has kindled a light that illuminates the darkness within. By day no light is needed, and if you don't know it is night you won't light one, nor will any light be lit for you unless you have suffered the horror of darkness" (Jung, 1950/1959, pp. 335, 337).

 Psychological types and Symptoms : A Key to the Cure?

Jung also devised a system of eight ‘psychological types’ in which ones dominant type is a combination of ‘introvert’ or extrovert’ combined with sensation, thinking, feeling or intuitive tendencies. It is suggested that “locating the person’s type enables the analyst to better make sense of the individual’s worldview and value system” (Hyde & McGuiness, 1992, p.82) and assist them in gaining insight into their own nature. From a Jungian perspective symptoms such as emotional and mental distress or pathology can contain within them the key to the cure. It is thought that the unconscious has an innate drive towards wholeness and well-being and that symptoms such as insomnia, depression, or panic attacks for example are actually the psyche’s way of telling us that something is out of balance or not right in our lives and that we need to take notice.

The Therapeutic Process & Stages in Jungian Psychotherapy

The therapeutic process of  “Jungian analysis or therapy is similar to many other Depth Psychology approaches in that it is important to experience and feel the process that occurs as “mere intellectual understanding is insufficient” and does not bring about structural change and true transformation. When it comes to therapeutic technique Jung advised students to be flexible and “learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul” (1973, cited in Sedgwick, 2001, p.8). Some key ‘Jungian’ techniques include active imagination “which allows unconscious contents to be exposed in a waking state” (Hyde & McGuiness, 1992, p.172). Another technique called ‘amplification’ helps the patient in connecting an image from a dream with universal imagery such as myths or fairy-tales which brings about a synthesis of the personal and collective with the conscious and unconscious (Hyde & McGuiness, 1992, p.172). Another difference with many other Psychodynamic approaches is that Jungian psychotherapy does not only focus on the impact of early experiences or past development history, but also considers the present and future potentialities of the patient (Sedgwick, 2001).

 With respect to treatment length Analytical Psychology is a long ongoing process that can take years. Analytical Psychology has four stages to the therapeutic process. In Jung’s approach the first phase is ‘confession’, during which time the patient shares their story, experiences and problems with the therapist. Secondly, ‘elucidation’ involves working out the transference relationship which may involve interpretation. The third stage of ‘education’ extends the insights and expands them into the social, behavioural and archetypal dimensions, while the fourth stage of ‘transformation’ assists the patient in the process of individuation (Samuels, 1990, p.177).

Transference: A Jungian Perspective

Jung also proposed four stages to the analysis of transference (Douglas, 1995, p.112), which is seen as “the crux or at any rate the crucial experience” during psychotherapy (1958, cited in Sedgwick, 2001, p. 13). An explanation of Jung’s four stages of transference in the treatment process (Tavistock Lectures, 1935c/1980) is listed below:

  1. Transference projections onto the therapist mirror the personal history of the patient who relates to them as though they were the problematic person/s from the past. The goal of therapy at this stage is to help the patient realise the links between past people and experiences and the present as these dynamics are replayed. The patient can them start to withdraw the projections from the therapist and integrate them as a conscious part of their own personality.
  2. In the second stage patients learn to distinguish between the personal and impersonal aspects of the transferential dynamics. That is to differentiate what if from their own unconscious and what is from the cultural, social, or “collective unconscious”.
  3. Thirdly, the personal reality of the therapist becomes differentiated from the images placed on it by the patient through transference. There is an exploration of the role of the images and ideas projected onto the therapist symbolically and what this means for the patient.
  4. In the fourth stage with the transference having been worked through the patient gains a greater self-knowledge and self-realisation takes place. A more straightforward and mutual connection eventuates between therapist and patient. This could be summarised as a shift to the “real relationship” (Clarkson, 2003). Often in this stage the therapist may be more disclosing of their personal thoughts, feelings and life as the person-to-person relationship as opposed to the transference relationship is now paramount.

Comparison with other Psychodynamic Approaches?

In some ways Jungian developments have mirrored or even preceded contemporary advances in psychoanalytic theory and similarities are evident with concepts of Object Relations (e.g. Winnicott), and the Self Psychology approach of Heinz Kohut (Corbett, 1989). Fortunately many Jungian therapists have similar views and are not adverse to drawing on what works from other dynamic approaches. As Andrew Samuels (1985) has mentioned Jung himself anticipated many modern developments within psychoanalysis, including some aspects of self psychology. Roazen likewise outlines the closing of lines of division by claiming that  "few responsible figures in psychoanalysis would be disturbed today if an analyst were to present views identical to Jung’s in 1913" (Samuels, 1985, p. 9).

Although in some ways Jungian orientated psychotherapy has many surface similarities with the Relational Psychoanalytic approach, there are some fundamental differences. Analytical Psychology is “principally concerned, not with interpersonal relationships, but with processes of growth and development seen as taking place within…the individual psyche” (Storr, 1975, p.10).  While Jung believed that patients' “psychological problems are usually expressive of difficulties in the total family system” or social and interpersonal realm (Samuels, 1995, p.165-166) he argued that “interpersonal relationships cannot contain the whole of a man’s (sic) inner world” (Storr, 1975, p.47). Ultimately he said very little about relationships as he believed they are “distorted because we tend to project images upon another person which derive from inside ourselves” (Storr, 1975, p.56).

Conclusion and Clinical Suggestions

In summary it can be said that Jungian Analysis or analytical psychotherapy emerged as an alternative to Freudian Psychoanalysis but has continued to evolve and grow over the decades. Through his many volumes of writing and his willingness to explore the outer dimensions of human consciousness Carl Jung has contributed greatly to the development of psychology and the studies of myth and consciousness in general, and to depth psychotherapy in particular.

I propose that a therapeutic approach incorporating both the developmental and relational/interpersonal dimensions and the intrapsychic and transpersonal dimensions is necessary for a truly holistic treatment to occur. While Jungian/Analytic therapy provides (in my opinion) much needed depth and spirituality to the therapeutic process it falls short when it comes to a coherent and formulated theory of personality development. In my own approach I would therefore advocate for an integrative approach that draws the best from both Jungian and contemporary Psychoanalytic theory.


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