The overarching goal of Jungian psychology is the reconciliation of the life of the individual with the world of the supra-personal archetypes. Central to this process is the individual's encounter with the unconscious. Humans experience the unconscious through symbols encountered in all aspects of life: in dreams, art, religion, and the symbolic dramas we enact in our relationships and life pursuits. Essential to the encounter with the unconscious, and the reconciliation of the individual's consciousness with this broader world, is learning this symbolic language. Only through attention and openness to this world is the individual able to harmonize their life with these suprapersonal archetypal forces.
"Neurosis" results from a disharmony between the individual's consciousness and the greater archetypal world. The aim of psychotherapy is to assist the individual in reestablishing a healthy relationship to the unconscious (neither being swamped by it — a state characteristic of psychosis — nor completely shut off from it — a state that results in malaise, empty consumerism, narcissism, and a life cut off from deeper meaning). The encounter between consciousness and the symbols arising from the unconscious enriches life and promotes psychological development. Jung considered this process of psychological growth and maturation (which he called the process of individuation) to be of critical importance to the human being, and ultimately to modern society.
In order to undergo the individuation process, the individual must be open to the parts of oneself beyond one's own ego. In order to do this, the modern individual must pay attention to dreams, explore the world of religion and spirituality, and question the assumptions of the operant societal worldview (rather than just blindly living life in accordance with dominant norms and assumptions).
Also crucial is the belief that dreams show ideas, beliefs, and feelings of which individuals are not readily aware, but need to be, and that such material is expressed in a personalized vocabulary of visual metaphors. Things "known but unknown" are contained in the unconscious, and dreams are one of the main vehicles for the unconscious to express them.
Analytical psychology distinguishes between a personal and a collective unconscious. (see below)
The collective unconscious contains archetypes common to all human beings. That is, individuation may bring to surface symbols that do not relate to the life experiences of a single person. This content is more easily viewed as answers to the more fundamental questions of humanity: life, death, meaning, happiness, fear. Among these more spiritual concepts may arise and be integrated into the personality.
The archetypes of the collective unconscious could be thought of as the DNA of the human psyche. Just as all humans share a common physical heritage and predisposition towards specific gross physical forms (like having two legs, a heart, etc.) so do all humans have innate psychological predispositions in the form of archetypes, which compose the collective unconscious.
In contrast to the objective material world, the subjective realm of archetypes cannot be fully plumbed through quantitative modes of research. Instead it can be revealed more fully through an examination of the symbolic communications of the human psyche — in art, dreams, religion, myth, and the themes of human relational/behavioural patterns. Devoting his life to the task of exploring and understanding the collective unconscious, Jung theorized that certain symbolic themes exist across all cultures, all epochs, and in every individual.
The use of psychological archetypes was advanced by Jung in 1919. In Jung's psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations. A group of memories and interpretations associated with an archetype is a complex, e.g. a mother complex associated with the mother archetype. Jung treated the archetypes as psychological organs, analogous to physical ones in that both are morphological givens that arose through evolution.
According to Jung, Self-realization can be divided into two distinct tiers. In the first half of our lives we separate from humanity. We attempt to create our own identities (I, myself). This is why there is such a need for young men to be destructive, and can be expressed as animosity from teens directed at their parents. Jung also said we have a sort of “second puberty” that occurs between 35-40- outlook shifts from emphasis on materialism, sexuality, and having children to concerns about community and spirituality.
In the second half of our lives, humans reunite with the human race. They become part of the collective once again. This is when adults start to contribute to humanity (volunteer time, build, garden, create art, etc.) rather than destroy. They are also more likely to pay attention to their unconscious and conscious feelings. Young men rarely say "I feel angry." or "I feel sad.” This is because they have not yet rejoined the human collective experience, commonly reestablished in their older, wiser years, according to Jung. A common theme is for young rebels to "search" for their true selves and realize that a contribution to humanity is essentially a necessity for a whole self.
Jung proposes that the ultimate goal of the collective unconscious and self-realization is to pull us to the highest experience. This, of course, is spiritual.
There are constructive and destructive types of shadow.
On the destructive side, it often represents everything that the conscious person does not wish to acknowledge within themselves. For instance, someone who identifies as being kind has a shadow that is harsh or unkind. Conversely, an individual who is brutal has a kind shadow. The shadow of persons who are convinced that they are ugly appears to be beautiful.
On the constructive side, the shadow may represent hidden positive influences. This has been referred to as "the gold in the shadow." Jung points to the story of Moses and Al-Khidr in the 18th Sura (Chapter) of the Koran as an example.
Jung emphasized the importance of being aware of shadow material and incorporating it into conscious awareness, lest one project these attributes on others.
The shadow in dreams is often represented by dark figures of the same gender as the dreamer.
According to Jung the human being deals with the reality of the Shadow in four ways: denial, projection, integration and/or transmutation.
Jung identified the anima as being the unconscious feminine component of men and the animus as the unconscious masculine component in women. However, this is rarely taken as a literal definition: many modern day Jungian practitioners believe that every person has both an anima and an animus. Jung stated that the anima and animus act as guides to the unconscious unified Self, and that forming an awareness and a connection with the anima or animus is one of the most difficult and rewarding steps in psychological growth. Jung reported that he identified his anima as she spoke to him, as an inner voice, unexpectedly one day.
Often, when people ignore the anima or animus complexes, the anima or animus vies for attention by projecting itself on others. This explains, according to Jung, why we are sometimes immediately attracted to certain strangers: we see our anima or animus in them. Love at first sight is an example of anima and animus projection. Moreover, people who strongly identify with their gender role (e.g. a man who acts aggressively and never cries) have not actively recognized or engaged their anima or animus.
Jung attributes human rational thought to be the male nature, while the irrational aspect is considered to be natural female. Consequently, irrationality is the male anima shadow and rationality is the female animus shadow.
Giving a complete description of the process of dream interpretation and individuation is complex. The nature of the complexity lies on the fact that the process is highly specific to the person who does it.
While Freudian psychoanalysis assumes that the repressed material hidden in the unconscious is given by repressed sexual instincts, Analytical psychology has a more general approach. There is no preconceived assumption about the unconscious material. The unconscious, for Jungian analysts, may contain repressed sexual drives, but also aspirations, fears, etc.
The attitude type could be thought of as the flow of libido (psychic energy). The Introvert's flow is directed inward toward concepts and ideas and the Extravert's is directed outward towards people and objects. There are several contrasting characteristics between Extraverts and Introverts: Extraverts desire breadth and are action-oriented, while introverts seek depth and are self-oriented.
Research has shown that there may be a positive correlation between the Introversion/Extraversion types and health deterioration. Introverts may be more inclined to catatonic type schizophrenia and extraverts towards bipolar disorder.
The often misunderstood terms extravert and introvert derive from this work. In Jung's original usage, the extraversion "is an outward-turning of libido",, whereas introversion is an inward-turning of libido. Everyone has both the intraversion and the extraversion mechanisms, and the collectively dominant type determines whether an individual is introvert or extravert.
According to Jung, the conscious psyche is an apparatus for adaptation and orientation, and consists of a number of different psychic functions. Among these he distinguishes four basic functions:
Thinking and feeling functions are rational, while sensing and intuition are nonrational. According to Jung, rationality consists of figurative thoughts, feelings or actions with reason—a point of view based on objective value, which is set by practical experience. Nonrationality is not based in reason. Jung notes that elementary facts are also nonrational, not because they are illogical but because, as thoughts, they are not judgments.
In any person, the degree of introversion/extraversion of one function can be quite different from that of another function.
Generally, we tend to favor our most developed, superior function, while we can broaden our personality by developing the others. Related to this, Jung noted that the unconscious often tends to reveal itself most easily through a person's least developed, inferior function. The encounter with the unconscious and development of the underdeveloped function(s) thus tend to progress together.
Jung saw an archetype as always being the central organizing structure of a complex. For instance, in a "negative mother complex," the archetype of the "negative mother" would be seen to be central to the identity of that complex. This is to say, our psychological lives are patterned on common human experiences. Interestingly, Jung saw the Ego (which Freud wrote about in German literally as the "I", one's conscious experience of oneself) as a complex. If the "I" is a complex, what might be the archetype that structures it? Jung, and many Jungians, might say "the hero," one who separates from the community to ultimately carry the community further.
Jung started his career working with hospitalized patients with major mental illnesses, most notably schizophrenia. He was interested in the possibilities of an unknown "brain toxin" that could be the cause of schizophrenia. But the majority and the heart of Jung's clinical career was taken up with what we might call today individual psychodynamic psychotherapy, in gross structure very much in the strain of psychoanalytic practice first formed by Freud.
It is important to state that Jung seemed to often see his work as not a complete psychology in itself but as his unique contribution to the field of psychology. Jung claimed late in his career that only for about a third of his patients did he use "Jungian analysis." For another third, Freudian psychology seemed to best suit the patient's needs and for the final third Adlerian analysis was most appropriate. In fact, it seems that most contemporary Jungian clinicians merge a developmentally grounded theory, such as Self psychology or Donald Winnicott's work, with the Jungian theories in order to have a "whole" theoretical repertoire to do actual clinical work.
The "I" or Ego is tremendously important to Jung's clinical work. Jung's theory of etiology of psychopathology could almost be simplified to be stated as a too rigid conscious attitude towards the whole of the psyche. That is, a psychotic episode can be seen from a Jungian perspective as the "rest" of the psyche overwhelming the conscious psyche because the conscious psyche effectively was locking out and repressing the psyche as a whole.
John Weir Perry's book The Far Side of Madness explores and fleshes out this idea of Jung's very well. The story is a psychological description of a psychotic episode.
Jung hypothesized a medical basis for schizophrenia that was beyond the understanding of the medical science of his day (and seems to still be beyond present medical science in a satisfactory sense). Twin studies and plenty of clinical material seem to point clearly to a medical basis for schizophrenia. It perhaps can best be said that schizophrenia is both medical and psychological. A medical understanding (again, as yet still lacking) would not change the fact that schizophrenia is lived by those who have it psychologically; that is to say, as theorists and scientists, we may be able to say that schizophrenia happens in genes, brains, and the electrochemical, but for one who has schizophrenia it also happens in their mind and experience. This is to say a purely medical treatment of major mental illness is inadequate, as is a purely psychological treatment of major mental illness.
Robert L. Moore, one of Jung's most dedicated followers, has explored the archetypal level of the human psyche in a series of five books co-authored with Douglas Gillette, which have played an important role in the men's movement in the United States. R. Moore likes to use computerese, so he likens the archetypal level of the human psyche to a computer's hard wiring (its fixed physical components). Our personal experiences of course influence our accessing the archetypal level of the human psyche, but personalized ego consciousness can be likened to computer software (such as Microsoft Word).