Jung concedes to Freud to the extent that your unconscious can contain repressed sexual instincts and drives, but it is not a given. Taking a broader approach, Jung theorized that the repressed matter in your unconscious may also—or instead—contain, for example, fears and phobias stemming from traumatic experiences, characteristics of yourself that you dislike, memories you find difficult to cope with, and your aspirations that others may have ridiculed.
Jung contended that this repressed material, often referred to as the shadow, may result in neurosis, a sickness of your soul, which he believed could be healed if the repressed matter in your psyche can be brought to consciousness and integrated with your ego—that is, adapted to, not repressed or discarded of—a process he termed “individuation.” Of course, your ego hid that repressed matter for a reason, so it will require great effort on a conscious level to discipline your ego, lovingly but firmly, to allow the defragmentation to begin, thus “Heel the Ego.” Jung believed that human suffering in general stems from the individual’s fragmented psyche. And since we are all one—as he suggests in his theory of the collective unconscious—the healing of a psyche on an individual level will ultimately contribute to mending the psyche of humankind as a whole, thus “Heal Humankind.”
But before you begin the process of heeling your ego and healing humankind, it might be helpful to develop an understanding of the various aspects of the psyche and to develop a corresponding pictorial representation of it. Unlike Freud’s structural model of the psyche—we’ve all heard of the id, the ego, and the superego—Jung’s theoretical structure of the psyche comprises consciousness, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.
Jung’s Structure of the Psyche
Jung’s model of the psyche, what he called the Self, comprises consciousness (the ego and the persona), the personal unconscious (the shadow, projections, complexes, memories, and perceptions), and the collective unconscious (or archetypes). Images and descriptions of Jung’s structure of the psyche are plentiful if you perform a simple Internet search. But in my effort to improve my understanding of this complicated configuration—and to hopefully simplify it for you as well—I have taken the liberty of breaking down what I perceive as the primary components of Jung’s structure of the psyche and described them in a way that makes sense for me, and I also drew a corresponding diagram as a visual aid. (The following reflects only my perception of Jung’s theoretical structure of the psyche at this stage in my development, and it will likely change and grow in complexity as my understanding improves.)
Consciousness is the “I” in your mind, that which you cognizant of, or your self-image, that is, who you think you are, but which is actually an illusion, which your unconscious devised to make perception possible. You might think of consciousness as the psyche’s window to the world. Consciousness comprises the ego and the persona.
- Ego: Your feelings, thoughts, memories, and perceptions.
- Persona: Your mask, which simultaneously strives to influence others’ opinions of you while also hiding from others your true inner self.
The Personal Unconscious is that aspect of your psyche that you are unaware of, yet it expresses itself through your overt behavior, emotions, and attitudes, as well as through your dreams. These unconscious aspects include the shadow, projections, complexes, memories, and perceptions.
- The Shadow: Repressed feelings, thoughts, memories, and experiences: “All we deny, fear, or hate in ourselves collects in the shadow” . Perhaps facing your own shadow is the first step in healing. Jung said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
- Projections: The unconscious repression and then casting of undesirable characteristics onto others. If you find yourself emotionally charged over an apparent flaw in someone else, chances are, if you look honestly at yourself, you will see that the other person is merely reflecting your own flaw.
- Complexes: Interrelated clusters of repressed feelings, thoughts, memories, and experiences that you might have found too difficult to cope with or aspects of yourself that you dislike. To detect these complexes, Jung developed a word association test, in which he read 100 random words while his patients were connected to a device he called a ‘galvanometer,’ which measured his patients’ response time and level of agitation to each word. For example, if a patient were to have a delayed or agitated response to the 18th word “sick,” then the 32nd word “unjust,” and then the 37th word, “child”—it may indicate that the patient unconsciously resents his sick child, a feeling that the patient probably would not want to admit—even to himself, much less to his doctor.
- Memories: Everything you know but are not thinking about at the moment, and everything you once knew but have now forgotten.
- Perceptions: Everything your senses have ever perceived but that slipped by your consciousness without notice.
The Collective Unconscious contains the entire history of the human race and, with it, innate universal themes that can be traced back to the experiences of primitive man. The structure of these instinctual