A few years ago I was walking my dogs, Camus and Kafka (both named after existential philosophers), on our daily trek to a district with plenty of coffee shops. A few blocks from my house a neighbor came speeding up in her BMW driving on the wrong side of the road. She was screaming at the top of her lungs saying that I owed her a small amount of money. I told her to back off but she did not listen. As far as I was concerned she was having a psychotic break with reality—acting all wild-eyed and crazy. I was worried that she might try to hit me or my dogs with her car. I took a moment to reflect on the situation and decided it was intolerable. I handed the reigns over to my shadow and he kicked her car door—crushing it like a beer can. She immediately snapped back into reality. In retrospect, I may have overreacted and made the wrong decision. Yet it is comforting to know I have my shadow to take care of me in time of need.
Freud. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. Neurology is a branch of medicine that deals with nervous system disorders. Psychoanalysis is one method of treating mental illness through dialogue between patient and psychoanalyst. The Freudian cognitive model makes the ego (or consciousness) the decision-maker who must choose between the internal values of the inward id (or self or soul) and the external authority of the superego (or government). Behaviorism chooses the superego while existentialism chooses the id. Behaviorism is the psychological theory employed throughout Canada contending that all human activity can be known through visible behavior and appearance—thereby denying the existence of consciousness and the possibility for self-awareness. Behaviorism demands the ego submit to the baseless authority of the superego. Existentialism contends that we all have total freedom and total responsibility with our decisions.
Jung. Carl Jung (1875–1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. Analytical psychology focuses on individuation (or self-awareness), which is the process of integrating opposites like consciousness and unconsciousness while still maintaining their independence—like the Taoist symbols of yin and yang. He considered becoming self-aware to be the essential process in our development. Jung introduced psychological concepts like the archetype, the collective unconscious, complexes, and extroversion and introversion. Jung said the realization of the self was his life’s work. He was an existentialist as his approach makes people better decision-makers.
The Psyche. The term psyche refers holistically to both mind (consciousness) and soul (unconsciousness). Jung believed that the psyche is whole at birth and during childhood, and often becomes fragmented during adulthood—and may or may not become whole again later in life. The definition of ego is the same for both Freud and Jung. It is the decision-maker of the psyche that chooses which thoughts, feelings, senses and intuitions to let into the mind. It is because of the ego that we experience the continuity of the psyche from one moment to the next.
Consciousness. Consciousness is the only component of the psyche that is directly accessible to the individual. In speaking of the importance of consciousness in the structure of the psyche, Jung wrote, “In the final analysis, the decisive factor is always consciousness.” Consciousness is broken down into thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. There are also the attitudes of extroversion and introversion. Extroverts tend to the external, objective world and introverts tend to the inner, subjective world. Self-awareness is the process by which consciousness becomes differentiated from others. The goal of becoming self-aware is to know oneself as thoroughly as possible. A person who does not know himself is not self-aware.
Personal Unconsciousness. Experiences that the ego does not admit to the consciousness go into the personal unconsciousness for storage. It is a receptacle that houses psychic material that the ego considers either unimportant or distressing. Dreams access the personal unconsciousness in order to sort out the psychic material and hopefully make it conscious. It sometimes takes years or even lifetimes for the material in the personal unconsciousness to emerge into consciousness. Psychic energy travels back and forth between the ego and the personal unconscious. Psychic energy is no different than the energy which operates the universe.
Collective Unconsciousness. While Jung’s notion of complexes was of major importance in the discipline of psychology, it was his notion of the collective unconscious that put him on the map. It reveals that individuals are linked to their past including our evolutionary history. The collective unconscious puts the psyche in context of the evolutionary process. It is a latent reservoir of primordial images and signs that lead all the way back to three-and-a-half billion years ago to when the first two amino acids were getting together to begin the glorious assault on the abyss that is evolution. As we progress through life the psychic material of the collective unconscious tends to become conscious.
Complexes. Complexes are a related group of psychic ideas that are repressed to some degree and may cause psychic conflict that leads to uncharacteristic mental states or behavior. They are a central pattern of emotions and memories that exist in the personal unconscious and are organized around a common theme. Jung said, “One does not have a complex, the complex has him.” In my youth I developed a need-to-explain complex. As I became self-aware, the complex moved from unconscious to conscious and in turn allowed me to make better arguments and decisions. I am now focused on making arguments that are simple, beautiful and reasonable. Archetypes crossover from the collective unconscious into the personal unconscious and become the seeds that grow into complexes.
Archetypes. Archetypes exist in the collective unconscious and are also known as Platonic forms. Jung spent much of the last forty years of his life studying archetypes. The more important archetypes include the persona, anima, animus, shadow and self. The persona archetype is the mask we wear in conforming or not conforming in our daily lives. It is necessary to survive. Parents sometime project their persona onto their children in an attempt to validate their own way of being. While the persona is the outward face of the psyche, the anima and the animus are the inward faces. The anima is the female side of males and the animus is the male side of females. People tend to choose mates that most suitably align with their anima or animus.
The Shadow Archetype. While the anima and animus are the projection of the opposite sex, the shadow is the projection of the same sex. In some special people the shadow walks the razor’s edge between genius and madness. When the shadow and the ego work in harmony a person is often highly functional and more alive. A person who suppresses their shadow may act in a civilized manor but may also cut themselves off from wisdom, insight and creativity. A life without a shadow is shallow and out of touch with the inner, subjective self. A strong shadow may overwhelm the ego once in a while and a person may appear temporarily unstable. Christian teachings are committed to behaviorism which in turn subdues the shadow. Rejecting the shadow inhibits the personality. The shadow can be of great assistance in times of crisis as shown by my car-kicking episode.
The Self Archetype. According to Calvin Hall, “The self is the central archetype in the collective unconscious, much as the Sun is the centre of the solar system.” It makes a person whole. The self is the inner guiding light and often does not emerge until later in life. Achieving self-awareness depends largely on the cooperation of the ego. The goal man faces in achieving self-awareness requires extreme discipline, constant effort and determined wisdom. The self makes conscious that which was previously unconscious. Self-awareness is sometimes achieved through the study of dreams. By realizing the self, man experiences less annoyances and hindrances by recognizing their origin in his unconscious. According to Jung, “My life’s goal is the realization of the self.” DH Lawrence said, “Everything that can possibly be painted has been painted, every brush-stroke that can possibly be laid on canvas has been laid on. Then suddenly at age forty I began painting myself and became fascinated.”
Conclusion. Starting with Freud’s cognitive model (ie. id-ego-superego), we can see that Jung’s structure of the psyche adds to it and lays out the path to self-awareness. Understanding the psyche, consciousness, unconsciousness, complexes and archetypes are pieces of the puzzle that lead to inner peace and happiness. The goal of philosophy and science is to replace ignorance with knowledge. Similarly, both Jung and existentialism aim to take that which is unconscious and make it conscious. From this we may then recognize the permanence of Jung the existentialist in our development.