Five Ways Jung led us to the Inner Life

by

Gary S. Bobroff

 

Lying behind much of the way we talk about the inner life today is the work of the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung. He revolutionized how we discuss dreams and archetypes and gave us our words “introvert,” “extravert” and “synchronicity.” However, what made him a true psychological pioneer was that he looked inside himself in a way that is still unique today.

#1) Dreams

From earliest beginnings of human civilization, we have considered dreams a doorway to the soul. Jung saw that they showed us parts of ourselves that were being rejected by our waking consciousness: strengths unexpressed and shadow figures run amok; qualities that we were missing about ourselves; and desires that we’d rather not acknowledge. The mission of dreams was to balance us, to compensate for our often one-sided attitude toward life and lead us to integrate what we need for health and growth. We know today that dreams can have messages for us that are not only psychologically relevant, but even biologically urgent, relaying information about illness. Jung introduced the term “wholeness” to describe the aim of the unconscious: the further filling out of ourselves; an increasing completeness in the unique being that we are.

#2) Personality Types

Jung saw the differing pathways in our personalities. He observed that some people got energy from interacting with people, while others were drained by it. Introvert or extravert, intuitive or sensate, thinking or feeling; he described these differing forms as Psychological Types and they led to today’s MBTI categories. In normalizing different kinds of personality, Jung helped us to get over our natural biases against other types.

While he recognized variety in human personality, Jung believed that there was no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. He saw each individual as having a unique blueprint for growth, an untold inner story, and he knew – from his own experience – that one man’s medicine is another’s poison.

 “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” – C. G. Jung

#3) Archetypes

Jung also saw that the unconscious sometimes conveys information beyond the personal. He saw that the dreams of his patients sometimes echoed mythological motifs from far-flung foreign cultures. He saw the action of peoples’ lives following forms depicted in Greek tragedy. He discovered ancient, even timeless, pathways that energy flowed into: toward some things and away from others, attracted to some things, repulsed by others. This level of the psyche is beyond the personal and Jung called it the collective unconscious.

“I thought of Jung as a noetic archeologist, [he] provided maps of the unconscious.” – Terence McKenna

The collective unconscious shows us eternal, dynamic qualities in our nature: they are alive and timeless. One of these archetypes is our inner opposite sex figure and soul guide–what Jung called the Anima or Animus. We encounter it both in our dreams and when just the right person walks up to us and we fall in love at first sight. Even though we experience this figure through others, but it is ultimately up to us to integrate it for ourselves.

Once we’ve learned to recognize these archetypes, we see them throughout classic literature and film and even in modern sitcoms. However, we may not really discover them for ourselves until we’ve been battered and bruised and are wondering how we got into this mess (again). Usually we need a little help to gain sight of these figures in our own lives.

You don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it.” – Robert Stetson Shaw

#4) Synchronicity

Jung’s psychology is only really understood when it is a lived experience, and nothing exemplifies this more than the mystery of synchronicity. Jung coined the term synchronicity to refer to extraordinary moments when outer happenings reflect inner states. What we see in such a coincidence of events is a meaningful interplay alive in our reality. The notion that there’s a deeper principle actually operating in the world can be frightening to people from a culture that believes that it’s the only conscious force in the universe. Yet at the same time, discovering that there’s more going on can be experienced as a profound relief. In order to get through our resistance to such experiences, it helps to hear others’ stories and share our own (and you can do so here). Incorporating the meaning of these experiences for ourselves requires something authentic from us – a real inner change, the genuine achievement of a new attitude.

It is addressing life in the present that cleanses and heals a festering wound.  Jung never tired of saying this.  After the past is explored, additional inquiry into yesterday does not lead to further healing.  A change of attitude into the present does, and this change of attitude is exactly the business of a synchronicity.” – J. Gary Sparks, At The Heart of Matter

#5) Our Inner Life is Real

Tending to the unconscious, to dreams and to the inner voice are the acts that define Jungian psychology, but it’s not just the act that’s definitive, it’s the attitude. Jungian psychology recognizes that we’re more than just our ego and that there is more to the psyche than just the conscious mind. With this in mind, engagement with the inner voice is pursued not as a form of inner housekeeping, but rather in the humble service of the development of a relationship with an intelligence present within us but greater than our own. Committing to that service means relating more deeply to our inner nature; its only end-goal is the whole-bodied, whole-hearted, full blossoming of who we really are.

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Thank God I’m a Jungian: Reflections for Thanksgiving

By Jason E. Smith
 

Carl Jung was ambivalent about the idea of training institutes being established in his name. This ambivalence is amply reflected in a statement he is reported to have made in reference to this development. “Thank God I am Jung and not a Jungian,” he declared.

This is not a very comforting sentiment for someone like me who identifies as a Jungian, who trained at just such an institute, and who has dedicated most of his adult life to the study and practice of Jungian Analysis. 

How can I reconcile having taken on the title of Jungian Analyst when the great man himself was so disparaging of the idea?

In his attempt to cast some light on the phenomena of the psyche, Jung knew that he was investigating a great mystery, which he called “the densest darkness it is possible to imagine.” Presumably, his comment about the relative merits of being Jung vs. a Jungian point to his concern that his followers would become slavish imitators, forgoing the mystery and concretizing his concepts, effectively turning them into a kind of dogma.

Jung, it should be said, was also distrustful of groups and preferred to emphasize the importance of the individual. However, this distrust has the effect of thrusting all groups, including the family and the community, into the collective shadow. Jung’s statement also creates the possibility that the experience of being a Jungian becomes colored by a sense of inferiority.

Certainly, the danger of imitation is very real. When I started training as an analyst, I had a cherished image of Jung – one that, in many ways, I sought to emulate by trying to read what Jung read and seek out similar visionary experiences to those that Jung experienced. I even considered starting to smoke a pipe and wear tweed jackets with patches on the elbows, just like Jung. And I was certainly not the first, nor the only, person to succumb to this temptation.

In light of this danger, it seems to me, the real problem would not so much be in wanting to become a Jungian, but in wanting to be Jung. In light of this, I suggest a moratorium on this particular saying. For, while the statement may have been right for Jung to make for himself, for the rest of us it would be more correct to reverse it and to say: “Thank God I am a Jungian, and not Jung.” 

Read the rest here . . .

Shadows & Light: Understanding Our Archetypal Nature

by Gary S. Bobroff
 

“I thought of Jung as a noetic archeologist, [he] provided maps of the unconscious.” – Terence McKenna

Most of us imagine that we know ourselves pretty well.  But like a periscope that thinks it’s the whole submarine, our self-image makes no accommodation for the fact of the unconscious.  Yet there are maps that can help us.  If we are honest, we can come to discover how to orient ourselves in the tidal pathways of the unconscious; we may come to see that our shadows and strengths fall into archetypal patterns.  If we are lucky, these maps may help us to come into possession of the greatest possible treasure–our inner gold.

In the 1920’s, after they had finished developing their ideas on Psychological Type – the root of today Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ – Antonia “Toni” Wolff and Carl Gustav Jung discovered that they felt like something was still missing.  Not fully satisfied, Toni soon identified larger psychological structures that were evident, yet hitherto unnamed.  Calling them Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche, she initiated the process of identifying the primordial forms of the human psyche, forms which we know today by the singular term, archetype.

She observed two poles, two axes, in our internal world.  On the first, she saw displayed a natural split in how our energy flowed toward people: for some it moved toward people in a collective sense, toward the group, the family, the team, the tribe, society and the social group; for others it moved toward people in the one-on-one sense, with thought and concern primarily flowing toward individuals, friends and lovers. Toni saw this difference in what we were fascinated by and drawn to; what compelled us forward in life; in the differing pathways our libido took toward our fellow humankind.  In her observations, she brought consciousness to an inherent dialectic tension in human nature.

This characteristic tension is highlighted in bright psychedelic neon in the last fifty years of American history.  It is the divide between belonging and freedom from belonging; between a value system that is group-oriented and one that is individual-oriented; one emphasizes escape from society and other connection to it.  It has provided us with two opposing views of goodness in American life: the redemption in community of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life versus the redemption in breaking away from community of Kerouac’s On The Road and Kesey’s Acid Test and Cuckoo’s Nest.  Of course, this split goes back to our earliest days: we can see it in our ancient mythologies and philosophies. It is evident in perhaps the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet, wherein ‘to be or not be’ also has a lot to do with ‘to belong or not to belong.’

Read the rest here . . .

Renewal of the Feminine

by Dr. KD Farris

Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, saw peace as a dove whose right wing was the masculine and left wing was the feminine. "Without both wings," he said, "the dove of peace cannot fly."

In this way, the masculine and feminine are forever finding balance with each other, the kind of balance that allows for their flight because both sides move together in grace as they soar in a harmonious direction.

REVOLUTION BEFORE RENEWAL

As a consequence of the industrial revolution, knowledge birthed by the principles of the feminine fell farther and farther away from daily culture. Prior to mass-produced farming, food, home, and hearth, were the domains of the feminine guild, and through the feminine, the power of the masculine was held in balance; a partnership between the sexes was achieved. 

Having lost that which held the two wings of peace in place, the feminine archetype was marginalized as the masculine charged headlong into the creation of a new world. From this new world emerged technological advances, scientific discoveries, and aeronautic achievement. Welcome to the 20th century.

Read the rest here . . . 


Is Dream Analysis Really Useful?

by Jason E. Smith

 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud declared that dream analysis was the royal road to the unconscious. Over a hundred years later, despite extensive research into the process of sleep and dreams, as well as the experience of countless thousands of people who have been helped by engaging in the process of dream analysis, prejudice over the value of dreams in psychotherapy and in everyday life continues to persist.

It’s Only a Dream! 

In the scientific study of dreams, one of the qualities most often remarked upon that differentiates dream activity from other forms of mental activity is the bizarre and almost hallucinatory quality of the images that are often encountered during dreaming. The bizarreness of dreams, and our own tendency to accept the weird happenings in our dreams at face value, is what most distinguishes the dream experience from that of normal waking life.

It is just this peculiar quality, together with the uncanny nature of so many of our dream images, that makes it so hard for our waking minds to accept the dream as having meaning and value. 

As Carl Jung points out:

“The dream is often occupied with apparently very silly details, thus producing an impression of absurdity, or else it is on the surface so unintelligible as to leave us thoroughly bewildered.”

Read the rest here . . .

On Liminal Space

by Dr. KD Farris

ON LIMINAL SPACE

In 1906, anthropologist Arnold van Gennep writes about his cross-cultural observation of tribal rituals, which he calls rites de passage, noting that they consistently contain three distinct stages: separation, limen (liminality), and aggregation. In other words, they always have a beginning, middle, and an end. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Victor Turner picks up van Gennep's work, expanding on these ideas and contributing language through which we can see our contemporary lives taking shape, mirroring these same archetypal structures.

In the tribal rituals that both van Gennep and Turner observe, the beginning stage is established by successfully separating the "initiates" from their known world so they may freely enter the middle stage of liminality. The middle stage, which is the longest lasting of the three, is the prime subject of this lecture series. This stage is orchestrated so as to prepare the initiates to take on their "new station in life," a concept which nowadays is barely known and rarely understood. The third and final stage serves to integrate the initiates back into society where they will then fulfill their new station. Traditional uses for these tribal rites of passage are to demarcate predictable life transitions such as birth, adolescence, marriage, pregnancy, and death. But many other transitions occur which are common yet unpredictable, and which carry the same need for preparation, support, and acknowledgment.

In contemporary life, our awareness of our own "first stage" is often a sudden and abrupt occurrence which serves to "rupture" our sense of being. These days, our culture lacks proper rituals to mark the time and space of these ruptures, their critical role, and subsequent changes. Consequently, we are often plunged into transitions of great magnitude without identification or ceremony. Rupture characterizes our descent into this disorienting terrain, while disorientation characters our experience as we enter and begin to move through it.

Read the rest here . . .

Synchronicity & Romantic Fate

By Gary S. Bobroff

 

For those of us of the romantic disposition, imagining new love objects to be Ms. or Mr. Right is a chronic condition.

Such idealization is made even more irresistible when there are ‘fated‘ events, when we run into him or her coincidentally or when other synchronicities to do with them occur. When we meet them and, for example, after a lengthy chat, we reveal that we’ve been holding in our hand a black heart-shaped rock all this time and she opens her hand and shows us a white one just the same.

When a real out-of-the-ordinary meaningful coincidence happens, we fall immediately and blissfully into the presumption that ‘it’s fate’that this person is ‘the One.’

However, while synchronistic events are known to occur at the beginning of life-long happy partnerships, they also occur as a part of less successful, or even tragic, relationships. Coming to understand the truth of this latter possibility involves a loss of naïveté, but if we are lucky often something else is gained too.

Jung observed that synchronicities arrive in relation to the emotional activation of an individual “we observe them relatively frequently at moments of heightened emotional tension, which need not however be conscious.”[i] In noticing such a pattern in our world however, Jung was not discovering something entirely new, such an understanding is found throughout the ancient world.

In the East, it was the basis of the Tao and I Ching and in the West we find one example of it in the writings of a teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas:

“A certain power to alter things indwells in the human soul and subordinates the other things to her, particularly when she is swept into great excesses of love or hate or the like. For a long time I did not believe it…[but] I found that the emotionality of the human soul is the chief cause of all these things.”

~ Albertus Magnus, 1200-1280

It is a profound revelation and deeply meaningful, that we live in an era in which we are becoming aware of the way in which feeling extends beyond the body in these special moments but conscious apprehension of the meaning of these events also requires discrimination on our part.

Synchronistic incidents are drawn into form by the presence of emotional conditions in us and they point toward something active and alive, but unconscious in ourselves; toward something that we can come to learn about ourselves.

Here, a special meaning is evident—the ancient person might say that it shows the presence of the Gods—but we cannot say whether it is a blessing or a curse. Seeing past romantic illusions allows us to begin to draw insight from such experiences and to start to uncovering the meaning behind the larger patterns of who we are attracting.

In general, attributing to fate the role of bringing us our ‘right‘ or best romantic partners, gives away much of our power. “Faith is a disability insofar as it constrains you from self-interest,[ii] says Solomon and having too much faith in the universe demonstrates an abandonment of the power to choose; a natural authority given up; an unwillingness to exercise conscious, mature choice.

And it is just this royal authority in us, the ability to consciously say no to some and yes to others, that is a necessity for entering into mature partnership, for choosing to say ‘I do.’

Part of the shadow of the romantic type is pointed to here. Archetypally, the inability to choose consciously reflects the absence of the inner King or Queen, the quality in us that blesses and places value appropriately. The King or Queen archetype represents the natural flow of libido and feeling toward those qualities that serve our interests.

The psyche of the romantic type is often dominated by the opposite archetype, that of the child—that in us that resists parenting ourselves and prefers play and following the dictates of feeling. Going with the flow has its place, but it also reflects a refusal to stand up when it is needed, and often this is an on-going and regressive life-pattern.

However, within all of us there is also a larger instinct toward wholeness, toward the integration of all the parts of who we can be, toward the discovery and conscious development of our inner King or Queen.

Sometimes we must struggle to recover this part of our natural inheritance.

Synchronicity in our romantic lives is often a signpost pointing us that direction. While it may not indicate the blessing of a relationship, it almost always directs us toward pieces of ourselves that we need to reclaim to become more whole. These pieces might be recovered through loving, but they may are also sometimes recovered through leaving the relationship.

Sometimes we gain what we need in ourselves by learning to say ‘no.’

In synchronicity, the world reveals its nearness to us. It is active and responding to our inner life producing meaning to help us grow, but can we drop our ego’s need to make that meaning fit into a pretty little heart-shaped box for us?

It is terribly difficult not to get swept up into assuming that a new relationship is fated and blessed when synchronicities abound. Tragically, however, not every synchronicity is a blessing from Aphrodite. And, in an era infused with New Age thinking and naïve romanticism that sees all synchronicity as a simple romantic blessing, it is especially important that we learn that there is more than one God alive in us and seeking redemption.

Can we drop our ego’s agenda and still feel the wonder of being alive in a world filled with such mysterious, mischievous and occasionally un-pretty, meaning-making magic?


[i] Letters, vol. 2.

[ii] Far From The Tree, p. 33.