Friday, January 8, 2010

Carl Jung’s Theory of Personality

Biographical information about Jung portrays him as a complex person who had a troubled childhood and tense relations with his father. He originally intended to study archeology but a dream motivated him instead to study medicine. No wonder he suggested that recurring dreams were of special relevance to understanding personality and its growth. If Freud was pessimistic about human prospects, Jung was optimistic. Unlike Freud who professed atheism, Jung gave strong importance to religion, spirituality, mysticism and occult in his understanding of human beings. He argued that the techniques used to study humans had to reflect human complexity and uniqueness but the scientific method was only of limited value in understanding that complexity and uniqueness. However, he accepted both, causality by which he meant that personality is determined by past experience, and teleology, which suggests that what we do, is determined by our anticipation of the future. In addition he believed in synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, as a major influence in a person’s life.

But Freud’s influence on Carl Jung is undeniable in the early stages of their relationship. In Jungian psychology, the human psyche contains an ego (similar to Freud’s concept of ego), a personal unconscious consisting mainly of repressed experiences from one’s life, and the collective unconscious, which is a phylogenetic or racial memory. The collective unconscious is made up of archetypes that are inherited predispositions to respond emotionally to certain categories of experience and aspects of the world. Archetypes result from common human experiences through eons of our evolutionary past.

The more highly developed archetypes include the persona--the tendency to select only a part of ourselves to offer to the public. Another archetype is the anima—the female component of the male psyche, and correspondingly, the animus—the male component of the female psyche. The shadow is another major archetype which is that part of our psyche that we share with non-human animals and is characterized by our darkest propensities. Because of the shadow, humans have a strong tendency to be immoral, irrational and aggressive. And most important of all the archetypes is the self which attempts to harmonize all other components. Self represents the human striving for unity and wholeness. All the archetypes taken together make up the collective unconscious. According to Jung, not unlike Abraham Maslow, the primary goal in life is to approach self-realization, a state characterized by a fully integrated and harmonious psyche which results when an individual has come to grips with his unconscious mind. Self-realization must be consciously and seriously sought. It does not occur automatically. In this regard, spirituality was to Jung a major vehicle in the journey towards self-realization.

Discussion Questions: How do you evaluate Freud’s and Jung’s theories in the light of your personal understanding of your own self?

Describe how synchronicity might have played a role in your life?


Synchronicity said...

There's a new forum being creating for discussing the phenomenon of synchronicity. Please consider joining and posting your thoughts on there:

Marcia Dream said...

You can find out more about Jung's dream archetypes at