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 called 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, 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, which placed the formation of symbols that unite the conscious and unconscious at the center of the individual’s psyche. This period in Jung’s life, which he would later refer to as his encounter with the unconscious, led to a deep investigation of his own psyche
which resulted 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. Implicit in Jung’s understanding of the archetypes in particular 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, and amplification, 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.