Jungian Analysis

What is Jungian Analysis?

Jungian analysis is a form of psychoanalysis that is appropriate for people who feel compelled to seek a deep, integrated understanding of their own psychological nature and of psychological forces active in the social world. While one might seek insight about, and find relief from, a particular situation or symptom in analysis, analysis has aims that go beyond symptom resolution.

The Jungian viewpoint is that, contrary to what we might like to believe, our conscious (ego-based) perspective often leads us to perceive the world in a limited or unbalanced way. In analysis, we seek to expand our self-awareness by learning to understand and work with the unconscious, which we understand to include two basic aspects:

  • The personal unconscious includes the ongoing influences of past experiences, learned familial and cultural attitudes, and undeveloped aspects of our innate personality. Exploration of these important areas is a central and grounding feature of every analysis.
  • The collective unconscious refers to the shared human reservoir of significant types of experiences and meanings that tend to manifest symbolically, for example in dreams, moving personal experiences, and in the spiritual and mythic aspects of human expression. Analysis can help us understand our experiences with this archetypal realm of our inner life, which can be very poignant, but difficult to interpret on our own. This understanding can open up our process of self-development and our capacity to humanize our personal experiences within a larger, more objective context.

By teaching us how to maintain an active, open bridge of understanding between the challenges of our everyday life and these unconscious perspectives, Jungian analysis helps us learn to utilize inner resources that can help us to feel more whole and integrated.

Jungian analysis embraces and supports the varied and unique aspects of each person’s innate personality, encouraging full discovery and expression of one’s individuality. Esteem for the expression of vitality by individuals carries over to create great interest in literary, artistic, political, and religious expression by groups and across cultures, and to understanding the influences that are active between the individual and the group or collective.

At a larger level, the Jungian perspective carries hope that as we each learn to more humbly understand our past, our values, our capabilities and aspirations, and the nature of our interactions and conflicts, we can more effectively participate in creating a conscious and humane world.

Concepts and content unique to Jungian analysis and psychotherapy

From a Jungian perspective, certain elements of the unconscious need to be brought to awareness if we are to live a more whole existence. These include:

  • Complexes – these are emotionally charged ideas and inner conflicts and the ways we have become bound-up or influenced by them, often with negative consequences. We must find a compassionate way to understand and live with our complexes, and not to be ruled by them. (These are called “neuroses” in Freudian terms, but Jungian psychology identifies a more diverse range of inner conflicts and biases).
  • Shadow – suppressed, shame-ridden, or vulnerable aspects of our human nature that our conscious perspective has ignored or dismissed, but need to be attended to if we are to live with full vitality (examples today include the striving professional who has neglected important relationships, or the scientist who has devalued his/her creative side).
  • Self – a very deep aspect of the psyche, the core of which cannot be directly known, but which generates symbolic forms of expression (appearing in dreams, fantasies, creative endeavors, and specific experiences that catch our attention) that are absolutely vital to the discovery and expression of one’s authentic nature. The Self is by no means accessed through an act of will, but rather by a long and challenging encounter with one’s complexes and shadow, generally occurring at some cost to the ego.
  • Anima and animus – the inner expression of the feminine in a man and the masculine in a woman, respectively, often compensating for the nature of one’s outer personality. An insightful relationship with this aspect of one’s self facilitates, among other things, better romantic relationships and more fluent access to one’s creative potential.

A growing familiarity with these unconscious elements can help us learn to interpret the symbolism inherent in significant personal experiences, dreams, or forms of creative expression as the language of a profound self-healing process that can form a path to a greater sense of meaning.

  • Jungian psychology is unique in its ability to explicate the nature of symbolic images that appear in the life of individuals (i.e., in dreams or artwork) and in cultural groups (i.e., in cultural and religious symbolism, ritual and mythology).
  • While Freud demonstrated that the unconscious can utilize symbols to reveal the nature of specific inner conflicts related to sexuality and aggression, Jung’s work went further to show that we can develop a relationship to our unconscious that helps us to use symbols to work through a wider range of conflicts and concerns, including those that have bearing on meaning, value, purpose, and spiritual development.
    While non-Jungian paradigms of psychoanalysis tend to emphasize the impact of childhood experiences, Jungian psychology also offers great insight about many of the challenges and conflicts of adult life that may be only partially influenced by childhood experience.

Jung’s theory of Psychological Types (in which he described, for example, introversion and extraversion) offers a very accepting view of different personality types and the development of personality over time.

Jungian psychology is particularly helpful in understanding tensions that can exist for the individual when one’s personal path of meaning is in conflict with the expectations and desires of family or community. In this regard, a Jungian approach can be particularly helpful in addressing creative, ethical, and spiritual concerns.

Modern Jungian theory has extended the understanding of individuals’ complexes to help us explain attitudes and behavior within and between large groups, through the notion of the “cultural complex”.

What does the perspective of Jungian Analysis contribute to the psychotherapy?

Psychological growth continues throughout our life, as we come to terms with our inner conflicts and psychological complexes, understand our unique personality and temperament, and define and elaborate the interests and activities that are most creative and meaningful to us. Emotional difficulties are often the result of our not being true to our own nature or not exploring our particular personality and expressing ourselves authentically. Very often this is because we are caught in a familial pattern or cultural attitude that prevents us from seeing the best way for us to live. Jung’s psychological approach can inform us about how to overcome the internal and cultural factors that interfere with this essential self-discovery and expression.