What is Analytical Psychology?
Analytical psychology approaches psychotherapy and depth analysis in the tradition established by the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung. As originally defined by Jung, it is distinguished by a focus on the role of symbolic and spiritual experiences in human life, and rests on Jung’s theory of archetypes and the existence of a deep psychic space or collective unconscious. Following Jung’s original work ongoing research in this tradition incorporated findings from other disciplines and schools of depth psychology, making analytical psychology a vibrant and growing field of inquiry and therapeutic innovation.
The goal of Jungian analysis is what Jung referred to as individuation. Individuation should not be confused with simple individuality, or eccentricity. Rather, individuation refers to the achievement of a greater awareness of the factors influencing how a person relates to the totality of his or her psychological, interpersonal, and cultural experiences. Jung identified two deep levels of psychological functioning that tend to shape, color, and sometimes compromise a person’s experience of life. Along with Freud, Jung recognized the importance of early life experiences, which he referred to as personal complexes that arise from disturbances in the person’s life all of which are found in the personal unconscious. Jung also developed a theory of the personality, built around a typology that has remained one of the most influential aspects of his work. Jung’s particular insight, however, was his recognition that we are also influenced by factors that lie outside our personal experience, and which have a more universal quality. These factors, which he called archetypes, form the collective unconscious, and give shape to cultural narratives, myths, and religious phenomena. While archetypes take many forms, among the most conspicuous are the anima and animus, which define balancing or compensatory dimensions of the individual’s gender or sexual identity, the persona, which shapes a person’s presentation to others, and the shadow, which defines those aspects of a person’s life that they find unacceptable to their conscious sense of themselves. An overarching archetypal structure, which Jung referred to as the Self (https://iaap.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/The-Self.pdf), establishes order in the structure of the psyche and gives shape to the individual’s overall sense of their experiences.
Jung’s own life work provided the basis for these concepts, and his work still informs the process of analytical work. As a young psychiatrist, Jung worked closely with patients suffering from major psychiatric disorders. But Jung realized that under the surface these patients were attempting to construct order out of deep psychological experiences. This insight was a major point of conflict between Jung and Freud and contributed to the final break between the two in 1913. Jung’s response to the break was to undertake his own investigation of the deep psyche, which resulted in his formulation of a new approach to the analytic process, which he referred to as active imagination. Active Imagination is essentially a form of meditative practice that allows for the emergence of symbolism uniting the conscious and unconscious. This process, which Jung referred as the transcendent function, is central to the integration of the individual’s psyche. In addition to active imagination, analytical psychology continues to place emphasis on the dreams as essential elements in the dynamics of the psyche. Jung’s approach to dreams, however, is distinctly different than Freud’s classic understanding of dreams. For Jung, the manifest form of the dream is not a disguise for repressed desires, but rather a commentary by the unconscious on the present moment. Jung compares the obscurity of dreams to a text written in a foreign language, but a language that can be translated and understood. For Jung, translation of dreams or other psychic phenomena can be compared to the work of the philologist in linguistics for whom comparison to other languages, and the historical reconstruction of an unknown language gradually reveals its full meaning. Jung referred to this approach to this interpretation and translational process as a synthetic method, as distinct from Freud’s analytic method, that involved the gradual amplification of the symbolic elements through historical and other comparative associations to the material.
Jung formulated his approach to the psyche through experiences in his own life, which he would later refer to as his encounter with the unconscious, that led to a deep investigation of his own psyche resulting in the composition of The Red Book, an account of the images that formed themselves during his own process of active imagination.
Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious as a level of the psyche that is universally shared and the archetypes, which give rise to common themes in myth and religious practices throughout history, prompted Jung to investigate historical patterns that corresponded to his developing model of the psyche. Foremost among these investigations was his interest in alchemy, which Jung interpreted as a precursor to modern psychology as well as a precursor to modern science. Late in life, Jung engaged with the quantum physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, in the investigation of phenomena that were in part associated with the work of the psychological aspects of alchemy in which psychological and material states are associated with one another. These phenomena they referred to as synchronicities. Underlying synchronistic phenomena, Jung and Pauli speculated, was a profound unity within nature that they referred to as the psychoid dimension of reality. Jung associated the experiences associated with synchronicity and the psychoid with the anthropological notion of participation mystique, the felt sense of a fundamental unity within nature.
The analytic process is intended to bring these factors, both personal and collective, into consciousness, allowing the individual to see more clearly what forces are at play in his or her life. In addition to active imagination and other symbolic processes such as sand tray work, analytical psychology continues the tradition of dream interpretation, as a part of the analytic process. Unlike classical psychoanalysis, however, Jung viewed the dream as focused on the individual’s current circumstances and the course of development going forward. Implicit in Jung’s understanding of is the sense of a telos, or goal toward which one’s life can be directed. The role of the analyst is to help facilitate the individuation process and accompany the analysand on his or her personal journey. Using many of the concepts of psychoanalysis, such as transference and countertransference, but adding characteristically Jungian concepts such as active imagination, the analyst and the analysand work collaboratively to explore and enlarge the analysand’s experience and understanding of their life, and its relation to the deep structures of the psyche.
George Hogenson is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Chicago. He earned the Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University, an MA in clinical social work from the University of Chicago, and the Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago. He is the past President of the Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts, and past Vice President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology. He has published widely on the history and theory of Analytical Psychology, and lectures regularly in the United States, Europe, and Asia.