Basic Structure And Dynamics Of The Psyche

At the very apex of the psyche is the ego, which is at the center of consciousness. Jung likes to think of consciousness as an island, and surrounding this island is a very large ocean that represents the unconscious. Stretching away from this island toward the deep is a shadow land Jung calls the personal unconscious. It belongs to the individual and holds countless forgotten experiences; it is formed from impulses, wishes, and subliminal perceptions. Memories can be recalled from this area either through dreams, fantasies, chance associations, or even direct recall.

Jung found that ideas tend to constellate around a center, or become associated with a basic nucleus. The constellating power of the nuclear element corresponds to its value intensity or energy. Jung called these "complexes." They often become the object of treatment during a period of mental illness, and are usually discovered through associations--such as the word association test. A complex may be conscious, partly conscious, or even unconscious. A complex can belong to the personal unconscious, or the collective unconscious--that realm of the psyche that belongs to all humankind.

The collective unconscious is the vast depths of the unfathomed ocean. It is the substratum from which our consciousness emerges. It cannot be defined because we have no knowledge of its boundaries or its true nature. All people share the same basic mental contents, and this is why Jung calls it the "collective" unconscious. As the physical qualities of humans evolved from lower to higher forms of being, so also did the brain, especially that which we call the psyche. The development of the primitive psyche is something that we are all heirs to, and within this dimension are held the common objects that the evolving human mind shares from the dim and distant past. The contents of the collective unconscious are sometimes called primordial images, but they are more generally known as Archetypes. Jung believed they formed during the thousands of years that human consciousness was emerging from, or evolving out of, the animal state. The Archetypes have an enormous impact on the individual; they influence his relationships, form his mental and emotional outlook, and affect his destiny in ways seldom if ever known. The existence of the Archetypes is inferred from Jung's study of his patients' dreams. He discovered in therapy that the content of dreams is expressed as symbols from the unconscious. The coming to consciousness of the symbol is representative of the unconscious Archetype. The Archetypes come in many forms, not only from clinical material, but all the other cultural activities by which man expresses himself.

""The most direct expression of the collective unconscious is to be found when the archetypes, as primordial images, appear in dreams, unusual states of mind, or psychotic fantasies. These images seem then to possess a power and energy of their own--they move and speak, they perceive and have purposes--they fascinate us and drive us to action which is entirely against our conscious intention. They inspire both creation and destruction, a work of art or an outburst of mob frenzy, for they are 'the hidden treasure upon which mankind ever and anon has drawn, and from which it has raised up its gods and demons, and all those potent and mighty thoughts without which man ceases to be man'. The unconscious therefore, in Jung's view, is not merely a cellar where man dumps his rubbish, but the source of consciousness and of the creative and destructive spirit of mankind." 26

The archetypes have their own initiative and specific energy. They can interfere with conscious processes with their own impulses and thought formations, and come and go pretty much as they please. Like complexes, they can obstruct or modify our own conscious intentions. The Archetypes create myths, religions, and philosophies that influence and characterize whole nations and epochs of history. The universal hero myth always refers to a powerful man or god-man who vanquishes evil in the form of dragons or monsters, and liberates his people from destruction and death.

The archetypes are unique in that they can power-up, so-to-speak. Jung uses the term "libido" for psychic energy, and when an archetype 'revs-up' it takes on numinosity, and in some cases, luminosity. Jung uses these terms to describe the aura of great light and warmth that is attached to the archetypes when they become manifest in a strong human experience. When a numinous psychic event takes place, a large concentration of psychic energy centers around it. As energy constellates around the archetypal symbol a complex of psychic contents takes form.

For Jung: "psychic processes seem to be balances of energy flowing between spirit and instinct, though the question of whether a process is to be described as spiritual or as instinctual remains shrouded in darkness." 27 Jung tends to think of the archetype as opposed to the instinct, and uses the example of a man ruled by his instincts with a man seized by the spirit. We can usually see the distinction between the two without too much difficulty. The archetype represents the "authentic" element of spirit, and when the archetypes have a distinct numinous character they "can only be described as 'spiritual', if 'magical' is too strong a word." Thus numinosity takes on a mystical aura about it.

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