carl jungOverview

Jung's psychiatry is as much a myth as Freud's, and no more successful in treating mental illness (i.e beyond providing a listening ear), but does provide a broader perspective. Artists are not seen as neurotics, and Jung's archetypes resemble Lakoff and Johnson's schemas.


Carl Jung (1875-1961) rejected the mechanistic and reductive aspects of Freud's work and broadened psychoanalysis to include art, mythology and the thought processes of native peoples. He was much closer to common sense than Freud, and gradually moved away from a causative model of personality. Psychic energy was not entirely or even fundamentally sexual in origin. Not all neuroses were rooted in childhood development: one needed to consider the present circumstances, and what hopes the client entertained towards the future.

Jung saw the psyche or total personality as several interacting systems. In place of Freud's superego, ego and id, Jung recognized an ego, a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious. In the personal unconscious were to be found various complexes, and in the collective unconscious were archetypal dispositions to think, perceive and act in a certain way.


Jung {1} regarded the psychic energy as a basic life-force which would manifest itself as needed (eating, moving, thinking, sex, remembering, etc.) not concentrating through childhood in various body zones (oral, anal, genital) as Freud envisaged. The psychic energy resembled physical energy: it could be exchanged with the external world in muscular effort or ingestion of food, but otherwise remained as a reservoir to be used for thought, sexual activity, artistic creation and so on.

The ego was a person's conception of himself: his sense of identity, his memories, his understanding of his physical and mental makeup. The personal unconscious is interior to the ego, and corresponds to a mix of Freud's unconscious and preconscious. Containing elements of the outside world and of personal experiences repressed by the ego, the contents of the personal unconscious can be accessed by therapy, art and cultural expression. Beneath the personal unconscious lies the collective unconscious, an obscure region inherited as a race memory and peopled by archetypes that appear in the same form in cultures widely separated in time and space: the child, hero, birth, death, numbers, God, etc. But the most important archetypes were the persona, animus, anima, shadow and self. The persona is the mask presented by each individual to society: it may or may not conceal the real personality. The anima is the feminine part of a man, which evolves as a result of a man's experience with women but also recognizes the bisexual nature of all human beings. The animus is the masculine part of a woman. The shadow is the reverse of the outward personality we show to the world. The self is the most important archetype and holds all the other systems together. Achieving oneness and self-realization (individuation, Jung called it) is a long process and one not reached until middle age, if at all. Usually we avoid matters by projecting the contents of our personal unconscious onto other people or events. But first we have to confront and assimilate the shadow archetype, and then the anima (animus if we are women). The anima may have a positive or negative influence on us, but is always difficult to accommodate. Indeed there are stages, perhaps symbolized by Eve, Helen, the Virgin Mary, and the transcending wisdom of Sapentia. Few reach the last stage. {2}

An attention predominantly directed towards the outside world is termed extroverted, and when directed towards the inside is termed introverted. But the personality is always made up of exterior and interior elements, as the ego and personal unconscious operate in opposite directions. Elements which are not directed outwards are repressed into the personal unconscious, so that a strong extrovert attitude will be balanced by a strong growth in the repressed elements, which may become sufficiently extreme to escape and overwhelm the dominant attitude. The functions of thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting have their everyday meanings, though two generally predominate, the other two being repressed. A prophet therefore might be a feeling-intuiting introvert, and a politician a intuiting-thinking extrovert. But all functions and attitudes are needed to live successfully, and there are no pure types.


Jung had a much more optimistic view of mankind than Freud, and of art in particular. {3} Not all was rooted in sexuality, or in personal experience and psychological difficulties. One type, psychological art, certainly drew on the assimilated experience of the psyche, creating work generally intelligible to the community. But there was also another type, visionary, which drew on the archetypes of the collective unconscious, creating work of a deeper and less individual nature. Appearing in dreams, mythology and art, these patterns took the form of images — self-originating, inventive, spontaneous and fulfilling images. In some respects archetypes could be viewed as metaphors which held worlds together and could not be adequately circumscribed.

But they were also emotionally possessive, organizing whole clusters of events in different areas of life, ascribing to us our place in society, controlling everything we see, do and say. Because their work drains energy from the conscious control of personality, artists may be more susceptible than others to psychological illnesses, but their creations should not be written off as individual or infantile aberrations. Art is crucial to society, giving life and cohesion to its fundamental beliefs.


Jung has received less criticism than Freud: his theories are more positive, less reductive and mechanistic, not sexually-based, and accord religion, art and cultural expression a value in their own right. They also draw support from contemporary interest in alternative medicines, oriental religions, mysticism and existentialism. Jung's own writings are somewhat nebulous, however, and would probably evade scientific testing. {4} As a therapeutic technique, Jungian analysis suffers from the drawbacks of Freudian, but has greater appeal to artists since its practices occupy familiar ground.

Jungian psychology's interpretation of mythology can be short-circuited by a more direct treatment of myths: historical, cultural, economic and Structuralist. Depth psychology, a branch of Jungian psychology, is close to that of the classical world, and indeed uses its mythology to personalize archetypes. Minor psychiatric illness is often treated by art therapy, which uses many of the techniques of Jungian therapy without making overt reference to its theories.

This and other pages in the theory section have been collected into a free pdf ebook entitled 'A Background to Literary Theory'. Click here for the download page.


1. Anthony Storr's Jung (1973), C.S. Hall and G. Lindzey's Theories of Personality (1957 and 1970). Also Chapter 8 of Melvin Marx and William Hillix's Systems and Theories in Psychology (1963).
2. Clifton Snider's Jungian Theory: Its Literary Application and a Discussion of the 'The Member of the Wedding' in Joseph Natoli's (Ed.) Psychological Perspectives on Literature: Freudian Dissidents and Non- Freudians (1984).
3. Kathleen Higgins's Psychoanalysis and Art in David Cooper's A Companion to Aesthetics (1995).
4. Dan McGowan's What is Wrong with Jung (1994).

Internet Resources

1. A Brief Outline of Jungian Psychology. Clifton Snider. 2002. Clear summary.
2. Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). Paul Bishop. 2003. Books and Writers article. NNA
3. C.G. Jung. Very full site devoted to life and work of Carl Jung.
4. C.G. Jung Institute of Boston. Useful resources on links page.
5. Jung Reading List. Tom Davis. 2000. theories_of_the_mind/ReadingLists/junglist.htm. Good bibliography, but not online. NNA
6. Jungian, Archetypal, Imaginal, and Depth Psychology. 1995. Brief account of differences.
7. What Is Depth Psychology? Craig Chalquist. Introductory account.
8. Depth Psychology. Selected articles on Jungian and depth psychology.
9. Social Psychology Archives. Stephen A. Diamond. Website of practising Jungian psychologist, with links to articles.
10. Life's Three Stages: Infancy, Ego, and Transcendence. Michael Washburn. 1988. Text of interview by Paul Bernstein.
11. Joseph Campbell Foundation. Focusing on Campbell, but includes message board.