Jung concedes to Freud to the extent that our 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 our unconscious may also contain fears and phobias stemming from traumatic experiences, characteristics of ourselves that we dislike, memories we find difficult to cope with, and our 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 the soul, which he believed could be healed if the repressed matter in our psyches can be brought to consciousness and integrated with our egos—that is, adapted to, not repressed or discarded of—a process he termed “individuation.”
Of course, our egos repressed that matter for a reason, so it will require great effort on a conscious level to convince ego, lovingly but firmly, that bringing repressed matter to consciousness is the first step in the healing process. Only then can we begin to integrate with our egos those “undesirable” aspects of ourselves, honor them—for better or for worse—as we strive for that universal feeling of wholeness.
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 the world, thus, heal within, heal the world.
To understand how healing on an individual level contributes to healing on a collective level, we may find it helpful to understand Jung’s theory on the structure of the psyche. 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).
Consciousness is the “I” in our minds, that which we are cognizant of, or our self-image, that is, who we think we are, but which is actually an illusion, which our unconscious devised to make perception possible. We might think of consciousness as the psyche’s window to the world. Consciousness comprises the ego and the persona.
- Ego: Our feelings, thoughts, memories, and perceptions.
- Persona: Our masks, which simultaneously strive to influence others’ opinions of us while also hiding from others our true inner selves.
The Personal Unconscious is that aspect of our psyches that we are unaware of, yet expresses itself through our behavior, emotions, and attitudes, as well as through our 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” . Identifying the matter in our shadows 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 we might have found too difficult to cope with or aspects of ourselves that we 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 50th word “unjust,” and then the 55th 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 we know but are not thinking about at the moment, and everything we once knew but have now forgotten.
- Perceptions: Everything our senses have ever perceived but that have slipped by our consciousness without notice.
The Collective Unconscious contains the entire history and potential 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 patterns—such as the lesser archetypes