The Collective Unconscious and other associations

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The Independent Online
In the textbooks, Jung is usually described as the disciple of Freud who was greeted with open arms: "It is only his arrival on the scene," wrote Freud, "that has removed the danger of psychoanalysis becoming a Jewish national affair." But then they had a famous split in 1911 when Jung rejected Freud's exclusive concentration on sexuality and developed his own theory of the libido as a life energy.

Born in 1875, the son of a Swiss pastor, he studied at the university of Basle and became a practising psychiatrist at Burgholzli mental hospital in Zurich. His two contributions to mainstream psychology were developing the word association test - "What comes into your mind when I say the word bicycle?" - as a way of detecting repressed emotional traumas, and introducing the ideas of the extrovert and the introvert as the two basic psychological types.

But the theory for which he is most famous is the collective unconscious. This exists both within each of us and also somehow beyond us, and contains race memories stretching back to distant ancestors. When we tap into it we experience its contents in the form of archetypes - The Eternal Boy, the Great Mother, the Hero, the Trickster - which is why they appear again and again in myths and stories from cultures all over the world. By contacting the archetypes through dreams and visions, Jung taught, we can achieve psychic wholeness.

Psychotherapy as it is practised today is rooted in the ideas of Freud, Jung and the other pioneers but most practitioners are fairly eclectic in their methods, claiming to use whatever is useful for the client. It also tends to be fairly quick. Pure Freudian psychoanalysis, or Jung's equivalent - analytical psychology - is much more specialised, sticking closely to the methods of the master and often requiring five sessions a week for years.

While some of Freud's ideas have come into the mainstream - many therapists regularly use such concepts as repression or projection - the Jungian approach has remained rather more self-contained. Few therapists and psychiatrists make use of the idea of the collective unconscious, for instance. However, with such books as Man and his Symbols, which talk about symbolism and mythology in everyday life, Jung has reached a much wider lay audience than Freud. Another attraction of his approach is that, rather than focusing on the rather limited traumas of early childhood, he addresses such issues as how the individual develops in middle age.

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