Understanding Jungian Psychology

June 16, 2013 at 4:59 am

Jungian PsychologyThe psychological approach, known also as analytical psychology, envisaged by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), a Swiss psychiatrist and early proponent of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories. The Jungian system adopted a broader perspective than that of Freud by including spiritual and futuristic factors; it also interpreted disruptive emotional processes in the individual as a search for wholeness, termed individuation.

Jung, the son of a Protestant cleric, showed from childhood an inclination toward solitude, daydreaming, and imaginative thinking; he also admired archaeology and hoped to make it his career (but ended up studying medicine and related sciences). These early tendencies greatly influenced his adult work. After graduating in medicine in 1902, Jung developed a diagnostic system in which patients were asked to respond to stimulus words; this technique of “word association” revealed the presence of what Jung called “complexes.” This novel approach became widely adopted and led to a close collaboration with Freud, whose book The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) Jung had read. Subsequently, Jung became one of Freud’s disciples and protégés; Freud referred to him as the “crown prince.”

However, a divergence of views began to grow between the two after a fairly short period of formal association. Perhaps the most basic points of disagreement between Freud and Jung focused on the nature of libido (psychic energy or instinctual manifestations that tend toward life) and the structure of the psyche (mind or personality). Their differences became pronounced with the publication of Jung’s Psychology of the Unconscious, in which he deemphasized the role of sex and expressed a different view of the biological force Freud had labeled the libido. Jung continued on this independent path, and his break with Freud, whom he still admired, became total in 1914. During the next 47 years, Jung cultivated his own theories, drawing on a wide knowledge of religion, mythology, history, and non-European cultures; he observed native cultures in Asia (India), North America (New Mexico), and Africa (Kenya) and found his own dreams and the fantasies of his childhood to be quite relevant to the cultures he was observing. In 1921, he published Psychological Types, in which he dealt with the relationship between the conscious and unconscious and proposed the “extrovert” and the “introvert” personality types.

Whereas Freud saw the libido in predominantly sexual and “savage” terms, Jung perceived the libido to be generalized life energy, with biological-sexual drives constituting only one of its parts. Jung saw this energy as expressing itself in growth and reproduction, as well as in other kinds of human activities depending on the social and cultural milieu. Thus, according to Jung, libidinal energy in the presexual phase (3 to 5 years of age) is basically asexual; it serves the functions of nutrition and growth—not the Oedipal complex, as Freud postulated. Conflict and rivalries develop among siblings dependent on a mother for the satisfaction of such basic needs as food and safety. As the child matures, these essentially nonsexual needs become overlaid with sexual functions. Libidinal energy takes a heterosexual form only after puberty.

With reference to the structure of personality, Jung saw the psyche, or mind, as consisting of three levels: the personal conscious, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. Like a small island in the ocean, the tip visible above the water corresponds to the personal conscious, the submerged portion that can be seen corresponds to the personal unconscious, and the invisible foundation that connects the island to the earth’s crust corresponds to the collective unconscious. This paradigm reflects the influence of archaeological stratigraphy on Jung’s worldview.

Jung’s approach to therapy may be seen as holistic; it rests on a rationale of showing the close parallels between ancient myths and psychotic fantasies and explaining human motivation in terms of a larger creative energy. He aimed at reconciling the diverse states of personality, which he saw as being divided into the introvert-extrovert polarity mentioned earlier, as well as into the four functions of sensing, intuiting, feeling, and thinking. And by understanding how the personal unconscious is unified with the collective unconscious, a patient can achieve a state of individuation, or wholeness of self.

See Also Archetype ; Psychological Approach.


Adler, Gerhard. 1948. Studies in Analytical Psychology. New York: W. W. Norton. El-Shamy, H. 1980. Folktales of Egypt.Chicago: University of Chicago.

Jung, C. G., and C. Kerenyi. 1969. Essays on a Science of Mythology. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Progoff, Ira. 1953. Jung’s Psychology and Its Social Meaning. New York: Grove. Schultz, Duane. 1987. A History of Modern Psychology. New York: Academic.

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

El-Shamy, Hasan. “Jungian Psychology.” FolkloreAn Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art. Ed. Charlie T. McCormick and Kim Kennedy White. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 754-756. Gale Virtual Reference Library.