Chapter 3: Jung – Analytical Psychology

Part 2: Jung’s Basic Concepts

In order to distinguish his own approach to psychology from others that had come before, Jung felt that he needed a unique name.  Freud, of course, had chosen the term “psychoanalysis,” whereas Alfred Adler had chosen “individual psychology.” Since Jung admired both men and their theories, he chose a name intended to encompass not only their approaches, but others as well.  Thus, he chose to call his approach analytical psychology (Jung, 1933).

Analytical psychology, as presented by Jung, addresses the question of the psyche in an open-minded way.  He laments the overly scientific approach of the late 1800s and efforts to explain away the psyche as a mere epiphenomenon of brain function.  Curiously, that debate remains with us today, and is still unanswered in any definitive way. Jung did not accept the suggestion that the psyche must come from the activity of the brain.  This allowed him to consider the possibility of a collective unconscious, and fit well with his acceptance of the wisdom of Eastern philosophers. Indeed, Jung suggests that psychology will find truth only when it accepts both Eastern and Western, as well as both scientific and spiritual, perspectives on the psyche (Jung, 1933).

Dynamic Psychic Factors

Jung believed in a dynamic interaction between the conscious and unconscious minds, in a manner quite similar to that proposed by Freud.  However, as we will examine below, his concept of the psyche included elements of an unconscious mind that transcends the individual, and may be considered a combination of the spirit, or soul, and one’s thoughts and sensations.  This inner psychic realm is capable of affecting the brain and its functions and, therefore, can influence one’s perception of external reality. In addition, Jung thought of the libido somewhat differently than Freud. Although Jung considered sexuality to be an important aspect of the libido, primarily he thought of libido as a more generalized life energy (Douglas, 1995; Jarvis, 2004).  Jung believed that as the human species evolved, the nature of sexual (or survival) impulses transformed. For example, early in human evolution we needed, as do other species, to be able to attract mates for procreation. Over time, these attraction behaviors generalized to behaviors such as art or music. Thus, a Freudian might say that creating music is a sexual act, but according to Jung “it would be a poor, unaesthetic generalization if one were to include music in the category of sexuality” (Jung, 1916/1963).

An important element of Jung’s conception of the psyche and libido is found in the nature of opposites.  In accordance with this view, Jung felt that the psyche sought balance, much like the concept of entropy from the field of physics.  Entropy, in simple terms, is a thermodynamic principle that all energy within a system (including the universe) will eventually even out.  Jung applied this principle to motivation, believing that we are driven forward through our lives in such a way that we might reduce the imbalance of psychic energy between opposing pairs of emotions (such as love and hate; Jarvis, 2004; Jung, 1971).  Borrowing concepts from physics was certainly not a strange thing for Jung to do. As mentioned previously, Freud’s theories were motivated in part by advancements in science and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Jung was personally acquainted with the Nobel Prize winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, and the two published essays blending psychology and physics in a book entitled The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche (Jung & Pauli, 1955).  However, entropy and motivation are focused forward in time.  Such an orientation toward the future marks another distinction between the theories of Freud and Jung.

Jung did not simply study symbolism, such as that in dreams, to uncover evidence of past repression.  Jung believed that dreams could guide our future behavior because of their profound relationship to the past, and because of their profound influence on our conscious mental life.  Jung proposed that dreams can tell us something about the development and structure of the human psyche, and that dreams have evolved with our species throughout time. Since consciousness is limited by our present experience, dreams help to reveal much deeper and broader elements of our psyche than we can be aware of consciously.  As such, dreams cannot easily be interpreted. Jung rejected the analysis of any single dream, believing that they belong within a series. He also rejected trying to learn dream analysis from a book. When done properly, however, dream analysis can provide unparalleled realism (see Jacobi & Hull, 1970; Jung, 1933).

There is a particular challenge to understanding what dreams point to, and that is the situation under which a therapist typically learns of someone’s dreams:  in therapy. Jung suggested that if therapists could continue to observe the journey of one’s dreams after therapy was successful, then the therapist, and possibly the client as well, might begin to more clearly understand the meaning and direction of the dreams.  Still, dreams themselves are about both health and sickness, in keeping with Jung’s principle of opposites. As such, Jung wrote that “dreams are the natural reaction of the self-regulating psychic system.” The theory of entropy allows for an imbalance of energy in a closed-system.  We may think of our conscious mind as such a closed system. When we dream, however, the ongoing effort of our psyche to balance itself takes over, and the dreams counteract what we have done to imbalance our psychological selves. Thus, it is within the context of dreams, not the details, that meaning is to be found (Jung, 1959a, 1968).

The Unconscious Mind

Perhaps Jung’s most unique contribution to psychology is the distinction between a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious.  The personal unconscious is not entirely different than that proposed by Freud, but is more extensive.  In addition to repressed memories and impulses, the personal unconscious contains undeveloped aspects of the personality and material arising from the collective unconscious that is not yet ready for admission into conscious awareness.  The personal unconscious is revealed through clusters of emotions, such as those resulting in a particular attitude toward one’s father or other father figures, which Jung referred to as a complex (Douglas, 1995; Jarvis, 2004).  In this sense, a complex is not synonymous with a psychological problem, as the term is often used today, but rather any general state of mind common to certain situations.  In this context, it is quite similar to the schemas discussed by cognitive theorists.

Jung arrived at his theory of complexes as a result of his research into schizophrenia, under the direction of Dr. Bleuler.  Bleuler had assigned Jung the task of studying the Word Association Test, a test in which a list of 100 words is read to the patient, and the therapist watches for evidence of emotional arousal, such as pauses, failures to respond, or physical acts.  In addition, Jung noticed that even with schizophrenic patients, the patterns of word association were often centered on a particular theme. That theme could then be regarded as a complex (which, again, could be either positive or negative).  Sometimes, complexes remain unresolved, such as one’s feelings about parents if the parents have died. In relatively healthy individuals, these unresolved complexes could result in dreams, visions, or similar phenomena pertaining to the object(s) of the unresolved complex.  These complexes might even become personified. In the extreme situation of personified complexes, such as in a person suffering from schizophrenia, the patient cannot distinguish the personification of the unresolved complex from the seeming reality of being another person. Hence, the schizophrenic “hears” voices in their head, “spoken” by someone else.  As Jung further investigated the nature and themes of complexes in psychiatric patients, he found common themes that could not always be attributed to the patient’s personal history. And so, he began to form his concept of the collective unconscious (Douglas, 1995; Jarvis, 2004; Jung, 1959b, 1961; Storr, 1983).

According to Jung, the collective unconscious is a reservoir of psychic resources common to all humans (something along the lines of psychological instinct).  These psychic resources, known as archetypes, are passed down through the generations of a culture, but Jung considered them to be inherited, not learned.  As generation after generation experienced similar phenomena, the archetypal images were formed. Despite cultural differences, the human experience has been similar in many ways throughout history.  As such, there are certain archetypes common to all people. According to Jung, the most empirically valid archetypes, and therefore the most powerful, are the shadow, the anima, and the animus (Jung, 1959c).

Jung described the shadow as “the inferior and less commendable part of a person,” and “a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality” (Jung, 1940, 1959c).  It encompasses desires and feelings that are not acceptable to society or the conscious psyche. With effort, the shadow can be somewhat assimilated into the conscious personality, but portions of it are highly resistant to moral control.  As a result, we tend to project those thoughts, feelings, or emotions onto other people. When they have moved beyond one’s control, such as when we lose our temper, these projections isolate the individual from their environment since they are no longer approaching situations realistically.  Jung described these circumstances as tragic when people continue to ruin their lives, and the lives of others, because they cannot see through the illusion of how their shadow has been projected, and consequently interfered with their ability to live a healthy life (Jung, 1959c).

The shadow is not, however, entirely evil.  Rather, Jung described it as unadapted and awkward, much like a child trying to function in the company of adults.  Trying to entirely suppress the shadow is not the appropriate solution, since the shadow is driving us forward in our efforts to achieve balance between the unconscious and conscious realities.  In other words, just as a child may act inappropriately while trying to grow up, the shadow may cause inappropriate behavior in opposition to the accepted rules of society. Nonetheless, it is important for us to have that driving force pushing us toward self-development (and the development of the human species), so that we don’t simply live a life of passivity and/or reaction to outside events.  It is the shadow that pushes us forward (Jacobi & Hull, 1970; Jung, 1961).

Although many people emphasize the differences between men and women, psychologically their common traits can readily be observed.  Jung described the anima as the female aspect of the male psyche, and the animus as the male aspect of the female psyche.  Jung intentionally addresses this difficult concept in mythological terms, but he also makes it clear that this is a natural phenomenon for each person, and not a substitute for one’s mother (in the case of the anima) or father (in the case of the animus).  While the presence of a feminine aspect within the male psyche and the presence of a masculine aspect within the female psyche have some positive benefits, such as making it possible for men and women to relate to one another, the unfortunate reality is often the opposite.  In 1959(c), Jung described the difficulties that men and women have relating to family and friends of the opposite sex due to fundamental differences in style. Although men may contain the anima, they are still primarily masculine, whereas women, despite the animus, are still primarily feminine.  As with the shadow, relationship problems can arise from the anima or animus when we allow our archetypal image to be projected onto others. As Jung himself noted, many men project a desired image onto a woman that would require her to be a sexually vivacious virgin, something of a contradiction in terms.  Thus, over time, such a man’s relationships may suffer as a result of his learning more about the real life of his companion, even though she has done nothing but be herself (Jung, 1940, 1959c).

Jung did not place a limit on the number of possible archetypes, and he described quite a few in his writings.  It did not matter to Jung whether archetypes were, in fact, real. In a perspective quite similar to cognitive theorists, he wrote that “insofar as the archetypes act upon me, they are real and actual to me, even though I do not know what their real nature is” (Jung, 1961).  One of the more important archetypes is the self, which represents the integration of the whole personality.  Indeed, Jung described the self as the goal of all psychic development.  A special type of image often associated with the self, and with Jung himself, is the mandala.  A mandala is a geometric figure that represents wholeness, completeness, perfection (Jung, 1958).  They also tend to be symmetrical, representing the natural balance of opposites. Although they typically have religious or spiritual significance, it is not required.  Jung was very interested in mandalas, and from 1916 to 1918, he drew a new one every morning (Wehr, 1989). Mandalas can appear in dreams as an image of wholeness, or in times of stress they may appear as compensatory images (Douglas, 1995).  Their potential healing ability stems from their connection between the uniqueness of our present consciousness and the depths of our primordial past.

It is important to note that archetypal images are considered to be ancient.  Although we talk about them as if they are still forming, and that may well be possible, the fact is that there were countless human generations long before recorded history.  Jung has referred to archetypes as primordial images, “impressed upon the mind since of old” (Jung, 1940). Archetypes have been expressed as myths and fables, some of which are thousands of years old even within recorded history.  As the eternal, symbolic images representing archetypes were developed, they naturally attracted and fascinated people. That, according to Jung, is why they have such profound impact, even today, in our seemingly advanced, knowledgeable, and scientific societies.

Table 4.1: Common Archetypes in Jung’s Theory of the Collective Unconscious
Self Integration and wholeness of the personality, the center of the totality of the psyche; symbolically represented by, e.g., the mandala, Christ, or by helpful animals (such as Rin Tin Tin and Lassie or the Hindu monkey god Hanuman)
Shadow The dark, inferior, emotional, and immoral aspects of the psyche; symbolically represented by, e.g., the Devil (or an evil character such as Dracula), dragons, monsters (such as Godzilla)
Anima Strange, wraithlike image of an idealized women, yet contrary to the masculinity of the man, draws the man into feminine (as defined by gender roles) behavior, always a supernatural element; symbolically represented by, e.g., personifications of witches, the Greek Sirens, a femme fatale, or in more positive ways as the Virgin Mary, a romanticized beauty (such as Helen of Troy) or a cherished car
Animus A source of meaning and power for women, it can be opinionated, divisive, and create animosity toward men, but also creates a capacity for reflection, deliberation, and self-knowledge; symbolically represented by, e.g., death, murderers (such as the pirate Bluebeard, who killed all his wives), a band of outlaws, a bewitched prince (such as the beast in “Beauty and the Beast”) or a romantic actor (such as Rudolph Valentino)
Persona A protective cover, or mask, that we present to the world to make a specific impression and to conceal our inner self; symbolically represented by, e.g., a coat or mantle
Hero One who overcomes evil, destruction, and death, often has a miraculous but humble birth; symbolically represented by, e.g., angels, Christ the Redeemer, or a god-man (such as Hercules)
Wise Old Man Typically a personification of the self, associated with saints, sages, and prophets; symbolically represented as, e.g., the magician Merlin or an Indian guru
Trickster A childish character with pronounced physical appetites, seeks only gratification and can be cruel and unfeeling; symbolically represented by, e.g., animals (such as Brer Rabbit, Wile E. Coyote or, often, monkeys) or a mischievous god (such as the Norse god Loki)

Table Source:  Kelland, M. (2017). Personality Theory. OER Commons. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from  Licensed under CC-BY-4.0.

Supplemental Materials

Carl Jung: The Psyche, Archetypes, and the Collective Unconscious 

This video [10:47] describes Jung’s concepts of the psyche, collective and personal unconscious, complexes, and archetypes.



Text:  Kelland, M. (2017). Personality Theory. OER Commons. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from  Licensed under CC-BY-4.0.

Academy of Ideas.  (2016, January 9). Introduction to Carl Jung-The psyche, archetypes, and the collective unconscious.  [Video File]. Retrieved from Standard YouTube License.


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PSY321 Course Text: Theories of Personality by The American Women's College Psychology Department and Michelle McGrath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.