Jungian Psychology In Theory And Practice

By Julia Thomas

Updated May 26, 2020

Reviewer Kristen Hardin

Carl Jung was perhaps the best-known associate of Sigmund Freud. However, Jungian psychology has a unique theory. When practiced in clinical settings, this type of psychology can help people find greater balance within themselves. Here's a brief look at what Jungian theory is all about and how Jungian therapy works.

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Jungian Theory

Carl Jung drew inspiration from many sources when he developed his psychological theory. Freud's psychoanalytic method, of course, influenced him greatly. His own experiences, as well as his time spent as a therapist in a hospital, also had an impact. Jung was an avid reader, too, often studying texts from ancient times and other civilizations. The theory he developed has several core components.

Individuation

Jung saw individuation as a process you go through to become a unique individual or the self. It's also the path to self-realization. There are multiple phases to this process. To explain individuation thoroughly would be beyond the scope of this article, but essentially, it is about bringing the subconscious, including dreams, into conscious thought and combine the two. Jung was a strong believer in the importance of dreams and bringing them to the conscious mind in order to grow.

In Jung's view, failing to go through each phase in its time could lead to mental disorders, including phobias, depression, or psychosis. His goal was to help people accomplish each phase so they could develop a more cohesive self and reach their highest level of experience.

Archetypes

While some psychological theorists suggested that the human mind begins as a blank slate, Jung believed that people start with the knowledge gained through the evolutionary process. He saw this as being already present in each person's brain (in other words, the unconscious) at birth as archetypes.

An archetype in Jungian psychology is a universal pattern or image that resides in the collective unconscious. Then, the person builds their self on top of the archetype. Jung's examples of archetypes include the mother, the flood, and the wise old man. The four main archetypes Jung dwelt on were:

  • The persona, or mask you show the world
  • The anima/animus, which is a component of the self that is opposite of the person's physical gender
  • The shadow or the darker side of psyche that we may try to repress from the world, such as things are not perceived as acceptable to society
  • The self, or the wholeness of the individual

Collective Unconscious

So, what is this collective unconscious? It's the part of the mind that holds the experiences and memories common to everyone. It's related to the inherited structure of the brain, meaning everyone is born with the same information. The collective unconscious is different from the individual unconscious, which only contains impressions from the person's history.

Synchronicity

Like many theorists in all fields, Jung coined several terms as he developed his theory. One was synchronicity. Synchronicity is defined as a way that two seemingly unrelated things happen together. This is different from coincidence because synchronous events happen together meaningfully rather than randomly. The example from Jung's work was that a client had a dream about a rare type of insect and the very next day, the same type of insect, unusual for their geographical location, flew into the window during her session with Jung. Jung did not write this off as a simple coincidence but helped her find meaning in this to associate and help her move forward in her therapeutic work by proving renewal and revitalization.

Dream Interpretation

In Jungian psychology, dreams represent the psyche's work as it tries to communicate information from the unconscious to the conscious mind. Dreams hold symbols of what lies, unknown to the dreamer, within the unconscious. Dreams can show up as compensations for things that are lacking in waking life.

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Dream objects can be objectively related to things in the real world, or they can be taken on the subjective level in which every dream object is related to the person's psyche. Jung also related dreams to the collective unconscious and its archetypes.

Complexes

In Jung's theory, complexes are emotionally-charged ideas clustered around an archetype. He saw complexes as neutral, although their effects could be negative. Complexes can stop you from doing what you most want to do. They often come from trauma. A complex is something that creates discord within your psyche, although that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Jung suggested that without such discord, the psyche would come to a complete standstill.

Jungian Therapy

Jungian psychology is practiced through a form of analytical talk therapy. The goal is healing and wholeness, which happens when the conscious and unconscious minds are integrated and balanced. To do this, the therapist helps you look past the face you present the world and find the deeper elements of your psyche.

Conditions Treated

Jungian psychology can be used to treat a variety of mental health problems. If you are seeing an eclectic therapist, they may use Jungian techniques along with techniques from other types of psychology. Some of the conditions that can be treated with Jungian methods include:

  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Relationship issues
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trauma

Jungian Therapy Techniques

Your therapist may use a broad range of Jungian therapy techniques to help you understand yourself better and transform your life into a more integrated whole. Some of these techniques are:

  • Confession and catharsis
  • Assessing personality type
  • Dream interpretation
  • Dream journaling
  • Creative Experiences

Confession and Catharsis

For most if not all of history, people have understood that confession can help relieve emotional burdens. In Jungian psychology, though, confession has a specific goal. As you talk about the problems that are bothering you, you reveal to yourself the unconscious thoughts and images underlying your distress.

Once your inner world comes out into the open, you feel a sense of catharsis or a sense of release and relief. At the same time, your words and emotions illuminate areas you need to work on more. Confession and catharsis form an ongoing process that you'll likely continue in later therapy sessions.

Assessing Personality Type

Personality is an important component of Jungian psychology. Your therapist may use several different methods to assess your personality type. They'll determine whether you're more extroverted or introverted, and in what situations. They'll also determine whether you function best in thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuition. Once they've identified your personality type, they'll understand better how to help you find emotional healing.

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Dream Interpretation

Most Jungian therapists spend some of their time with patients interpreting their dreams. Since Jung saw dreams as powerful tools for accessing the unconscious mind, dream interpretation is one of the cornerstone treatments of this form of therapy.

As a patient, your part is easy, although it might be distressing at times. You simply describe a dream that has made a significant impression on you. You tell all the details that seem important, what you did, what happened to you, and how you felt during the dream. Your therapist may ask you questions to clarify your description or help you recall the dream better.

Finally, your therapist will guide you as you look more closely at the meaning behind the dream. They'll help you identify elements of your unconscious that are out of balance. They'll use their expertise and knowledge of common archetypes to help you discover the real you that is emerging through the counseling process.

Dream Journaling

Your therapist may also ask you to keep a dream journal. For this, all you have to do is keep your journal by your bedside and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. This ensures that you remember the dream more accurately than if you went about your day and only tried to recall the details during your therapy session.

You can use several methods to help you remember your dreams. For example, you can tell yourself before you go to bed that you'll remember them when you wake up. Also, if you read earlier dreams before you go to bed, you'll be in the right frame of mind to remember the full experience of the current night's dreams.

At first, your therapist may take you through your dream journal and work with you based on the images and feelings you've written down. As your therapy progresses, you may be able to understand your dreams on your own as well.

Creative Experiences

Jungian therapists often use creative experiences to help you express elements of your psyche that you aren't consciously aware of. These experiences can include making art, dancing or doing other creative movements, listening to or making music, writing poetry, and other creative activities. After the experience is over, you and the therapist can discuss how the unconscious elements in the creation relate to your journey of self-realization.

Reaching the Goal of Jungian Therapy

Although you may decide to see a Jungian therapist to get relief from psychiatric symptoms, the true goal is to achieve self-realization, wholeness, and balance. The good news is that once this happens, the symptoms may disappear or at least become manageable.

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When Jungian psychology is used as the only therapeutic method, therapy takes a major personal and time commitment. On the other hand, if it's used in combination with other methods, it provides a deeper understanding of issues that may not be easily resolved with shorter-term therapies.

If you'd like to gain a deeper understanding of your mental health issues, you can connect with a therapist at BetterHelp. Counselors that work through the site may use Jungian psychology or any of a wide range of other psychological approaches. You can get started right away, anywhere that you have an internet connection and a smart phone, tablet, or computer. Get started today!


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