The Can of Worms – The Collective Unconscious and Jung’s split with Freud

In the last blog entry, I referred to how Jung’s intuitions about a broader unconscious caused tension with Freud that, in the end, could not be reconciled.  Jung’s intuition had to do with a deeper layer of the unconscious that was not just material that was at one time conscious and then repressed.  Instead, Jung believed that there was a deeper layer to the unconscious – one that had never been conscious to individuals, only discoverable by consciousness. 

Jung called this stratum of the unconscious the collective unconscious or, sometimes, the objective psyche – objective because it existed without the subjective realm of personal unconscious, really, without us entirely.  The collective unconscious is universal, and exists across cultures and history.  Jung writes: “The collective unconscious comprises in itself the psychic life of our ancestors right back to the earliest beginnings.  It is the matrix of all conscious psychic occurrences…(CW 8, para. 230). The collective unconscious expresses itself in the form of myth; fairy tale; folk tales; the “big dreams” common in cultures where ritual connection with this realm is encouraged and respected; and often in the delusions of those suffering from severe mental illness.

This is the richness of Jung’s work, and is often the initial catalyst that intrigues us and brings us to workshops and lectures.  It is the connection to the numinous we so often seek, the connection to deeper and wider vistas from which to understand ourselves.

I look forward to seeing you all in a couple of weeks for the lecture and workshop on consciousness and change!

Hallie Durchslag, LISW

Freud’s Theory of the Unconscious

Sigmund Freud’s and Carl Jung’s relationship began while Jung was a young psychiatrist at a mental hospital in Switzerland.  (Freud’s medical practice was in Vienna.)  It is hard for us to imagine now, with our well-established culture of seeing therapists, or uttering the words, “you need to talk to a shrink!” (no one wants to hear that, right? J), but Freud was the first psychiatrist to engage in “talk therapy.”  This talk therapy mostly centered around dream analysis and a free-flow exploration of his patients’ fantasy life (free association) in order to access unconscious material.  

Freud believed the unconscious material expressed in dream and fantasy was rooted in the repression of instinctual drives (often pigeon-holed as sexual drives, which is not entirely the case).  The theory was that the desire for pleasure and self-gratification young children experience conflicted with the limitations imposed through family dynamics and societal norms.  Therefore, the unacceptable thoughts or behavior had to be repressed or converted into some other form.  Symptoms and mental illness arose when these repressed drives could no longer be adequately sublimated and would take hold of the patient in the form of compulsions and symptoms.  Dreams and free association allowed Freud’s patients to access the initial conflict between the biological drive and family and culture.  The conscious acknowledgment of such conflict allowed the symptoms involved in repressing it to diminish. 

 When Jung heard about this new talk therapy, he was inspired!  He sent Freud a letter hoping to meet him.  Jung looked at Freud as a psychological pioneer, and was eager to learn all he could.  The two would share intellectual and clinical commonalities for many years.  In fact, Freud used to say that Jung was the “heir apparent” in the field of psychoanalysis. 

 However, all that changed when Jung began to think, hmm, what if there is more at work in the unconscious than just this personal compromise between pleasure-seeking drives and its modification during childhood development?  Oh boy.  There’s a can of worms.  But for Jungians, it was the beginning of an era that continues to deepen our experience of what it means to be human.  More next week about that can of worms…

(P.S. No blog next week)

What is “DEPTH Psychology?”

Last week, we re-affirmed that the roots of psychology rest within an attention to soul and the “invisible” essence of life that breathes within and around us. 

This desire to somehow bridge connection between mind and the invisible is an ancient philosophical dilemma, beginning with Western philosophers from the time of Aristotle!  However, the scientific revolution of the Renaissance and Enlightenment ushered in a new era, and era that would split the invisible from the visible.  A culture of Cartesian dualism (mind vs. matter) took its strong-hold. From that point forward, if there were to be any attention to this invisible, soulful realm, it would be through the church, not through science.  Psychology followed suit with one exception: Dr. Sigmund Freud. 

A psychiatrist, trained in medicine, Freud noticed that his clients manifested physical symptoms that could not be explained through medicine and physiology, nor could clients control these various physical compulsions.  After careful evaluation of his cases, Freud posited that there must be some unseen force, not body and not conscious will, which drove these symptoms.  He termed this unseen force the unconscious, and with that, depth psychology was born.

At its simplest, depth psychology means “psychology of the unconscious.”  When we speak of depth psychology we are speaking of a family tree that began with Freud and grew outward once Jung’s convictions about the unconscious parted from Freud’s.  Today, depth psychology consists of both psychoanalysis (Freud’s legacy) and analytical psychology (Jung’s legacy).  Next week, we’ll take a brief look at what finally split Jung and Freud.  Much has been said about this split between the founders of depth psychology – books written, movies made – but next week we will look at the theory alone: different theories of what the unconscious is and how it manifests itself.  Have a wonderful week!

Hallie Beth Durchslag, LISW

A second look at the term Psychology

I am sure each of us has our own loose definition of psychology.  Its vestiges exist everywhere – the self-help section of the bookstore, reality shows, talk shows…Many of us have been involved with psychology because we have sought help in the therapy room, or from our primary care physicians in the form of a prescription, to relieve symptoms of “anxiety” or “depression.”  If we seek out therapy, we may have received different messages from different professionals – different solutions to the symptoms we feel:  Take this pill and come back in 4-6 weeks.  Or, Make a list of goals and complete them (as if we wouldn’t have already done that if we could have done that).  Or, Tell me about your childhood…Which brings us to all of the different “schools” of psychology.  So not only do we have a loose definition of psychology floating somewhere in our minds, but now we have to make sense of all of these different messages and approaches which have fancy titles – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Psychoanalysis, Jungian Psychology…What is all of this?  What is psychology?!

The Latin roots of the word come from psyche and logos.  Previous blogs have explored psyche in greater detail, but in simplest form, from its Latin roots, psyche refers to breath, spirit, or soul.  The second root word, logos, refers to the theory of, or the study of.  Therefore, psychology defined in its truest sense, is the study of soul.

In contrast, the most powerful governing branch of American psychology (American Psychological Association, or APA), wants psychology to be defined as a STEM science – meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Here, everything must be measurable and observable.  This is not a place where soul can thrive, if even survive.

But if we remain true to psychology as the study of psyche as we’ve discussed previously, then we have entered the realm of depth psychology.  Next week we’ll explore that term, depth psychology, in greater detail, and place the work of Carl Jung within that framework.

In the meantime, remember, we are more than a sum of measurable functions.  We are complex and wonderful human beings…

Hallie Durchslag, LISW

Ushering in Spring

Spring officially began on March 20th.  Unfortunately, as the snow on the ground shows us, the weather and the spring solstice sometimes have little to do with one another.  We curse Cleveland weather and its propensity to keep us frustrated and stuck in the cold.  We can only anticipate warm weather to come through the markers of daylight savings time, growing light in the evenings, Easter, Passover.  And yet somehow, somewhere in the midst of anticipation and disappointment, we blink and realize that the crocuses have popped, the buds have appeared, and the snow plows have gone into hibernation.  The shift of season has occurred.  This seems hauntingly psychological.  And since the past several blogs have focused on our relationship to nature and psyche as a means of understanding ourselves in connection to the larger anima mundi, how might we conceptualize the coming of spring from a Jungian perspective? 

In fact, spring is the spoils of the hard-earned work of autumn and winter.  Buds and new growth are only possible because of the decay of the autumn and the dormancy of winter.  The buds, the flowers, the greenery, come from things laid bare and stark.  This death and re-birth cycle is a core piece of personal growth, as well.  Mostly, though, and unjustly, we tend to value spring, the spoils of personal growth, without recognizing that emptiness and confusion, our personal winters, are its precursor.  Perhaps an appropriate psychological lens to the coming of spring might be less a sense of a “thank goodness horrid winter and cold are leaving,” sentiment, and more a quiet celebration of the wisdom of nature that knows the process it needs to grow and flourish again.  This wisdom guides our own psyche, and is at the root of the individuation process.  Individuation is cyclical, not linear, just like the seasons.  So ushering in this season, perhaps we can reflect on how indebted we are to the work of winter in bringing us the flowering or spring of new psychic energy. And now it is our responsibility to tend to the soil that has been prepared for us.  Happy gardening!!

Connection to the Environment

I think it’s fitting that we’ve been talking about our connection with nature because, scanning a couple of Jungian journals, I found that both Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture and Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche have both chosen to center their Winter editions on our relationship to the environment and how it influences psyche.  Much of the discussion relates to, without necessarily naming it, Jung’s later conceptualization of the Psychoid, which expanded his definition of the collective unconscious to include all of the natural world.  Hillman, too, focused much of his attention to the living natural world and our responsibility to attend to it as much as, or more than, we attend to our own egos and internal lives.  Called different things by different people, it seems many are coming to the same point – that we are intrinsically a part of our environment, and abusing it has dire consequences for our own well-being – our personal and collective psyche, and the anima mundi, or “soul of the world.”

An article in Jung Journal (2012) focuses on the thought of anthropologist, deep ecologist, and professor, David Abram.  His language, an ecological language, captures the essence of what is variously called Psychoid, or unus mundus, or anima mundi beautifully when he writes:

“…we and other animals don’t really live on the Earth.  After all, this invisible air we’re continually imbibing – this unseen atmosphere that we exchange among ourselves here in this room but also with the herbs and trees outside the building – this gusting medium of air is entirely a part of the Earth.  The space between us is not a void; it’s not an empty space continuous with the space between the planets.  Rather the air is a thick, meaning-filled plenum – rich with whiffs and pheromones and unseen clouds of pollen drifting this way and that, thick with messages moving between the bees and the blossoms.  That is, although the medium around us cannot normally be seen, it is nonetheless palpable, tangible, and filled with consequential happenings.  The unseen air has its flavor and its ever-shifting smells, its turbulence and its calms.  The atmosphere is a planetary membrane that extends right up to the clouds and beyond, an invisible layer of Earth.

Hence we don’t really live on the Earth; we live in the Earth.” (volume 7(1), pp. 109-110)

What this means for us from an action standpoint can seem overwhelming.  Albrecht (2012) has called this “eco-paralysis,” which “occurs when there is an overload of negative ecological information against which persons can do nothing sufficiently positive” (Spring, 88, p.14).  I, personally, feel I fall into this category.  However, if I continue to do what I can in my small universe, and support others who are brave enough to advocate at national and international levels, I can revel in what is still right with our environment.  And I believe there is plenty that is still “right” with our environment in Northeast Ohio.  Plenty to do, but also plenty of pleroma in which to find our sustenance to move forward.  With hope,

 Hallie Durchslag, LISW

 If you would like to find out more about David Abram, he provides a website for his work, I have not explored it, myself, but perhaps others will share their thoughts in the blog.  A note about the RSS feeds: they have been difficult for me to figure out, myself. I will share simple “how-tos” once I have found them…

Alignment with Psyche in our everyday lives

I had some more thoughts regarding psyche sparked by a beautiful photograph Rev. Daniel Budd sent.  (As many of you know, Rev. Budd is reverend at the Unitarian Universalist Church where we hold many of our programs.  He is also the President of the Jung Cleveland Board.)  I’ve attached it to this blog entry.  I find it a phenomenal expression of the power of nature to embody the larger numinosity of the psyche.  The picture below is of the Madison river in Yellowstone National Park.  When I saw its glow, I immediately thought of the numinous energy right here on earth – in our environments and in our lives.

 I find it a phenomenal example  of nature's  power to embody the larger numinosity of the psyche. The numinous is the glimmer of magic when the psyche breaks through into the mundane activities of our lives, into our connection with nature, and through the miracle of synchronicity.  Many of you may have had the opportunity to attend the recent lecture and workshop with Lionel Corbett.  In his book, Psyche and the sacred: Spirituality beyond religion (2007), Dr. Corbett regards the numinous as a connection that offers a “profound sense of union or oneness with the world and with other people” (p.2).  

 The numinous can touch us in even the most mundane activities.  Allison Moreno, a Jungian analyst and poet, captures this beautifully in an article she wrote for the Jungian journal, Psychological Perspectives (2010).  She writes:

I see my world as being interconnected, each element as related as those around it as the tectonic plates which make up the earth’s surface, whole continents slipping easily over the sphere’s body, yet joining, part of one globe...My writing, my reading, my relationship, my running, my garden, the house that I live in, my job at the bookstore, and my breathing, as all being part of the same thing.  My critic, when manifesting in his negative aspect, does not understand this.  Cannot see that the chard I am washing for my dinner (even the dirt which falls from the chard as I turn the sturdy leaves under the water) bears an intimate relation to the next poem I may write.  The chard may not be in the poem, but it will inform it.  This is crucial, this simple dailyness, a praxis. (p. 56)

 So psyche is not only the stuff of dreams and our unconscious.  It is the living, breathing expression of those magical intrusions of meaning and beauty.  My hope is that all of us can connect with such transcendent beauty in the coming week.  With best wishes…

Hallie Durchslag, LISW