C.G. Jung : Dregs and the Soul

Introduction: Dregs and the Soul
by Ruth Williams

'I must learn that the dregs of my thought, my dreams, are the speech of my soul. I must carry them in my heart, and go back and forth over them in my mind, like the words of the person dearest to me.' Carl Gustav Jung, The Red Book (2009)

We have long known that the period following his break with Freud was one Jung considered a ‘dark night of the soul’, a period of intense personal and spiritual turmoil, out of which Jung’s own mature ideas developed. It was as a result of this self-analysis that Jung became the first to advocate the importance of a training analysis (personal therapy) which is now universally accepted in psychotherapy trainings.

In ways that we might now consider commonplace in psychotherapy, Jung used what he later called 'active imagination’ to elaborate his dreams and visions in a series of notebooks which came to be known as The Red Book. Created between 1914 and 1930 and published for the first time in 2009, The Red Book immediately became an international bestseller, with sales of around 50,000 at a very high cover price indeed. Jung has always had far greater cultural penetration than his relative obscurity in academia would suggest.

The Red Book gives an intimate insight into Jung’s psychological development in both written and artistic form. It presents Jung’s own active imaginations, giving direct access to the innermost workings of his mind in a most experimental form. Of this period, Jung stated:

“The years when I was pursuing my inner images were the most important of my life – in them everything essential was decided. It all began then; the later details are only supplements and clarifications of the material that burst forth from the unconscious, and at first swamped me. It was the prima materia for a lifetime’s work” (1963: 225).

Dreams and dreaming

Working with dreams is central to Jungian analysis. A further core feature is the search for meaning of each individual's life. This is seen as a process of 'individuation’ (distinct from individualism). Nor does individuation necessarily have much to do with sanity or good behaviour!

Increasingly for Jung, the central plank of the work was concerned with the numinous (gripping, arresting, life-changing) which he saw as 'the real therapy'. He saw contact with the numinous as instrumental in releasing one from 'the curse of pathology' (Jung 1973, 1: 377). Other important concepts to bear in mind are typology (introversion /extroversion), synchronicity, the collective unconscious, archetypes and complexes. All of these have entered common parlance. (See Samuels et al, (1986) for definitions).

The post-Jungians

In 1985, Andrew Samuels published his seminal survey of the post-Jungian schools of analysis. He explained that there are three schools. The Classical School works in ways that one might imagine being congruent with Jung's own clinical values. So there is a great stress on experiences of integration. The Developmental School is aligned with Kleinian and object relations psychoanalysis. Clinical emphasis is laid on transference-countertransference and the analysis of infantile experience. The third school, the Archetypal School, pursues the ever-changing play of images in the unconscious, understanding this as structured by the archetype (innate psychological predispositions). Common to all three schools is a commitment to analysing the Shadow – 'the thing a person has no wish to be’.

Jungian institutions

In terms of the organisation of analytical psychology, the international body is the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP), of which Jung was President for life. Founded in 1955, there are over 3,000 members in approximately 40 countries.

In this country we have four constituent societies of the IAAP. In the BPC: Society of Analytical Psychology and British Association of Psychotherapists (Jungian). In the UKCP: Association of Jungian Analysts and Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. There is also an accrediting organisation in UKCP: Confederation for Analytical Psychology.

In 2002, following a conference organised by the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies of the University of Essex, the International Association for Jungian Studies was formed to provide a forum for collaboration between the academic and the clinical domains.




Jung, C.G. (1945). Letter to P.W. Martin (20 August 1945) in C.G. Jung Letters (Ed. Adler). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973.

Jung, C.G. [1963]. Memories, Dreams Reflections. London: Fontana Press, 1995.

Jung, C.G. (2009). The Red Book. London & New York: W.W. Norton.

Samuels, A. (1985). Jung and the Post-Jungians. London & New York: Routledge.

Samuels, A. et al. (1986). A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis. London & New York: Routledge.

Thanks are due to Dr Edward Bloomfield and Elizabeth Scharsach for their helpful comments on drafts of this introduction.

Ruth Williams is a psychotherapist and supervisor working in London and is Hon. Sec. of the Confederation for Analytical Psychology. See www.RuthWilliams.org.uk