Jungian Psychology Theory

Carl Jung was a psychologist and scholar who pioneered the unique field of analytical psychology. The field is characterized by complex and obscure theories that cover various intricate concepts, such as spirituality and the symbolic dynamics of personality. Many of Jung’s theories mirror the abstraction of the concepts that they try to explain. Despite its ambiguity, Jungian therapy nevertheless presents the field of psychology with valuable ideas about the human personality, as well as innovative implications for therapy. It is highly comprehensive, addressing and conceptualizing a great diversity of concepts, such as creativity, religion, spirituality, and personality. In addition, Jungian therapy can be successfully compared to other forms of therapy. Its psychoanalytic background gives it many connections to the theories of classical psychoanalysis and Freudian therapy, while its goals and liberal approach to therapy makes it much more similar to humanistic therapy. However, several questions arise when analyzing the applicability of Jungian theory to the scientific field of psychology and psychotherapy.

While his complex concepts allow his theories to explore the hidden depths of the human mind, his lack of precise operational definitions for those concepts makes it difficult for any of his theories to be empirically tested. Similarly, several of his concepts are very vague and offer more questions than answers. Nevertheless, despite an obvious absence of a scientific base for his theories, the effect Jung has had on the field of psychology and on other fields is undeniable. His ideas led therapists to look to fields such as art and music in order to incorporate new and creative methods into therapy that, while more aesthetic than scientific, proved to be very effective. Among these methods are dream interpretation, music therapy, and art therapy. It is important, however, to note that Jungian psychology is not the right approach for all therapists and clients. Only a specific group of people would find Jung’s theories appealing and useful. Therefore, its lack of universality can be seen as another important issue. That being said, much more can still be done to test and evaluate the full use of Jungian theory in psychology.

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Overall, Jungian theory holds a positive view of people, believing in that they have the inherent potential to stand out as unique individuals. However, the process of individuation is complicated, making a person become aware of and reconcile conflicts with the unconscious parts of his personality before he can truly individualize. Individuation is the means through which people can achieve self-actualization, or self realization. If people are not able to individualize, then they can never reach self-actualization, which is the ultimate goal of Jungian therapy and, according to Jung, it is the ultimate goal of living (Harris, 1996).

The process of individuation is very complex and involves individuals integrating various concepts into their lives that may be beyond their current, conscious understanding of the world. In therapy, there could be two levels, one that is shallow and one that is deeper. In the first one, the client can experience a problem, begin to understand it, and then learn how to cope with it or to solve it (Harris, 1996). However, in the second level, the clients look beyond their obvious problems and begin to explore hidden parts of their psyche so that they may not only find a solution to their problem, but so they could also go through a whole transformation process, in which they undergo dramatic changes that allow them to gain deeper meanings about what distinguishes them from other people (Harris). Analytical psychotherapy attempts to create a link between the conscious and unconscious so that concepts that seem illogical could become understandable and interpretable.

Structure of the Psyche

The Jungian view of personality is based on understanding the structure of the psyche. The psyche is what Jung believed to be the complete and total personality of an individual. It is the vessel of a continuous flow of energy that moves between the consciousness and the unconsciousness. This energy manifests itself in a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The psyche itself consists of many subsystems that are oppositional, yet very interdependent with one another. Those interdependent systems can be grouped into the conscious, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The conscious consists of perceptions that an individual is constantly aware of, such as immediate memories, thoughts, and feelings. (Jung, 1971a).

At the center of the conscious is the ego, which is the conscious’ main reference point and the psyche’s unifying element. It consists of immediate thoughts, feelings, memories, and other experiences. In addition, it creates the framework for people’s view themselves and their identity (Jung, 1971b). Covering the ego is the persona, which is the public image one allows other people to see. It is the conscious component of the self – usually developed in childhood – that manifests itself in everyday roles at work, school, and other social institutions. Likewise, it reconciles the conflict between personal desires and the requirements of society, thus making it a mediator (Jung, 1971a). In terms of the goal of individuation, the persona is what hinders an individual’s journey towards that goal. The more one focuses and acts on the social self, the less one can have access to the inner world and thus moves further from individuation and self-actualization. Similarly, disregarding the persona by over-focusing on internal experiences leads to social conflicts and limited awareness of the outside world (Jung, 1959a).

Lying deeper than the conscious is the personal unconscious, which is made up of material that is repressed or forgotten but for the most part it can be easily retrieved, usually with the help of therapy. Material in the personal unconscious is unique to the individual (Jung, 1971a). Just as the ego is the center of the conscious, the self is the center of the personal unconscious. The self regulates and stabilizes the personality, and it is also the mediator between the conscious, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious (Jung, 1959b). The self is also dependent on the other systems of personality, as it cannot until begin to develop until other systems become fully developed, which usually happen around middle age. Its development begins when individual starts to become more spiritual and philosophical, which is a sign of the blending of the conscious and the unconscious. The self is surrounded by the shadow, anima/animus, and a various complexes, the details of which will be discussed after a brief description of the collective unconscious (Jung, 1959a).

The collective unconscious is the deepest part of the psyche and is perhaps Jung’s most complex and most misunderstood concept. Unlike the personal unconscious, which consists of content that was once in the conscious but then forgotten, content in the collective unconscious never existed in the conscious nor did it even contain any personal, individual experiences. (Jung, 1971c). Likewise, it was never acquired by the individual; rather it was inherited from primordial generations. It consists of symbolic material, such as complexes and archetypes. Jung’s basis for the idea of the collective unconscious is based in the belief that all individuals possess generic images, myths, and symbols that are biologically passed down through generations and that are partially responsible for guiding how people think, feel, and act. The collective unconscious includes concepts such as light and dark, heaven and hell, and birth and death. Though it can never be directly accessed by the conscious, the collective unconscious nevertheless presents itself in images, visions, and/or archetypes (Jung).

Archetypes and Symbols

Archetypes are themes that have manifested themselves in various cultures throughout all of history. Jung (1971b) also calls them “primordial images,” namely because they are so ancient. Certain archetypes, such as the anima/animus and the shadow, have developed so fully that they now stand as separate systems in the personality. They are supported by common patterns or universal motifs, making up the fundamental content of tales, myths, and legends. They begin to surface usually in the form of dreams and visions (Harris, 1996). The anima/animus is the masculine and feminine archetype, a concept that is similar to the idea of the ying and the yang. Anima represents the feminine qualities in men, and animus represents the masculine qualities in women, with the qualities being those that are stereotypically associated with each sex. An example would the anima emerging as sensitivity in males and the animus emerging as aggression in females. Jung (1971b) believed that the purpose of the anima/animus is that it allows men and women to understand and properly interact with one other. This archetype came from many centuries of males and females living together and taking on each other’s personalities (Jung, 1951b).

The shadow, which was mentioned before, is a part of both the personal and the collective unconscious. It is the internal content that is usually repressed to its socially unacceptable and uncivil nature. The shadow represents the darker and more evil aspects of the personality that people usually deny even exist because of the strong opposition of society. The shadow occurs in the form of negative thoughts and actions that are rooted in animal instincts. These negativities could be aggression, sexual desire, selfishness, and any other traits and qualities that are considered evil by society. In essence, the shadow is the direct opponent of the persona, the public image. The shadow from the personal unconscious is usually more easily identifiable and manageable than the shadow from the collective unconscious, which is rooted much deeper (Jung, 1971b). In therapy, the acknowledgment and awareness of the shadow is an essential part of moving towards the resolution of conflicts and coming closer towards individuation. This acknowledgement, however, is by no means simple, as it comes into conflict with the socially acceptable and positive image one wishes to present to society. Consciously integrating the shadow into personality is usually the first stage of the therapeutic process (Harris, 1996).

Conceptualization of Conflict

Application to Psychotherapy I: Therapeutic Process

As mentioned before, the main goal of Jungian therapy is to help the client come to a higher state of self-actualization, or self-realization. This is an ongoing process that the individual engages in throughout his entire life, from childhood to late adulthood, and it never fully comes to end. The concept of self-realization is more ideal than real and it is the actual process of moving towards self-realization, rather than achieving it, that should be the goal of every individual. In fact, Jung believed that full self-realization can never happen, precisely because self-realization is not real. (Harris, 1996). Sometimes, however, the process may be hindered if in childhood a person grew up in a harsh environment where the parents were unreasonably strict. When the self-actualization process is halted, certain personality dysfunctions, such as neurosis and psychosis, tend to form. When in such a state, a person does not have a balance between the subsystems of his personality. The people who come for therapy have either completely lost touch with their inner world or are overly focused on and preoccupied with it. The therapist must therefore help recreate the bridge between the inner and the outer worlds while still keeping them separated and preventing them from merging together (Dehing, 1992).

The relationship between the therapist and the client is one element in Jungian therapy that distinguishes it from many other approaches. In Jungian therapy, the client is not viewed as someone who needs treatment and the therapist is not someone who is the curer. Rather Jungian therapists are people who help guide other people to delve into the unconscious and to create meanings in their lives (Dehing 1992). The therapists are experts because they have the knowledge of the structure and functions of the psyche, and so the therapist can teach, give support, scold, or reflect on the client’s processes and experiences. However, much of Jungian therapy is dependent on an equitable relationship between client and the therapist, and in order for this relationship to exist, the therapist must abandon any feelings of superiority and authority, as well as the desire to influence the client’s therapeutic process. In addition, Jung affirmed that the therapists should be just as equally involved in their own self-realization process as their clients (Dehing).

The therapy process itself consists of four stages. During the confession stage, the client acknowledges his problems and limitations. He becomes aware of both his own weaknesses and the weaknesses of humankind, to which he is unavoidably tied to. This is a cathartic process during which transference occurs, and the client begins to transfer thoughts and feelings onto the therapist, thus causing many unconscious elements to come to the surface. This content that is brought to the surface is clarified by the therapist in elucidation, the second stage, during which the client learns about the origin of his problems. In the third stage, the education stage, the clients learns to integrate the new meanings and insights he gains from therapy into his personality. In the final stage, transformation happens are a result of innovative changes and dynamics in the client-therapist relationship that go beyond the environmental realm and that create an active movement towards self-realization (Harris, 1996).

Application to Psychology II: Therapeutic Techniques

Overall Jung was reluctant to implement specific therapy techniques, as he felt that they would restrict clients in their process of exploration and self-realization. He did recognize, however, that assessments were necessary in order to be able to learn about the client’s history and understand how past conflicts lead to maladjustments (Harris, 1996). Using psychological types was the most important technique for assessment. Jung created an outline of the major attitudes that make up a one’s personality. The two most fundamental attitudes are the contrasting extroverted personality and introverted personality, with the first characterized as outgoing and social and the second characterized as introspective and shy. While everyone’s personality consists of a combination of the two attitudes, there is always one that is dominant and is in consciousness and one that is inferior and is in the unconsciousness. In addition to the attitudes, thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting are four major functions that also distinguish one’s personality type (Jung, 1971d).

The four functions are also divided into contrasting pairs, sensing with intuiting and thinking with feeling. Sensing and intuiting characterize how one experiences and perceives the world, and intuiting and thinking characterizes how one evaluates their experiences. Sensing types perceive the world by using conscious acknowledgment of what they can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Intuiting types perceive the world unconsciously through unexplained hunches and random moments of insight. From there, thinking allows one to understand phenomena by way of reason and logic, while feeling allows one to judge an event emotionally (Jung, 1971d). From the characteristics associated with the psychological types, later researchers created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a 166 item inventory identifying a person as an extraverted or introverted type and as a feeling, thinking, intuitive, or sensing type (Ryckman, 2004).

In addition to the using the psychological types, Jung also used word associations to assess his clients. Through the use of word associations Jung aimed to identify complexes. Clients had to give rapid responses to stimulus words by saying whatever words occurred to them. The stimulus words were chosen so as to stimulate all complexes that have been found in practice. Times were recorded between the presentation of the stimulus and the client’s response. Any sort of hesitation or error that occurred was identified as the underlying conflict or complex. Upon discovering the complexes the therapist brings them into the conscious awareness of the client so they may be further explored (Ryckman, 2004).

Jungian therapy also consists of various exploratory techniques. Among them the most prominent is dream interpretation.

Relation to Freudian and Humanistic Psychology

Because of Jung’s psychoanalytic background, many comparisons can be made between his theories and the theories of his contemporary Sigmund Freud. However, when analyzing the Jungian approach to counseling and therapy, there is a much stronger parallel with the humanistic approach, especially with Gestalt therapy. Jung’s theories can be compared to Freud’s on concepts such as personality development, conflict, and the structure of the unconscious. In terms of personality development, both Jung and Freud stress the importance of the development of a healthy and stable self. In Freudian theory that self is the genital character and in Jungian it is the individualized character. However, unlike Freud, Jung did not believe that development could ever have a resolution. As mentioned before, the Jungian concept of personal development is characterized by a constant movement towards self-realization and the consistent balancing of the inner and the outer self. For the most part, this cannot fully happen until all parts of the personality become developed, which is not until adulthood. This differs greatly from Freud who believed that the larger part of an individual’s personality forms in childhood.

Similarly, the two differ in how they view and conceptualize conflict. For Freud, psychopathology and other dysfunctions are rooted in negative childhood and past experiences, such as abuse or neglect. In order to cope with such experiences, a person develops various defense mechanisms, the most common of which are repressions and fixations. These defense mechanisms hinder development in that they do not allow one to successfully complete all the stages of development. Jung, on the other hand, did not view the unsuccessful completion of the stages of development as the source of conflict, partially because he rejected the idea of the stages of development having completion. Conflict, in Jungian theory, comes from an internal imbalance between the subsystems of personality. Likewise, contrary to Freud, conflict is not ignited by a traumatic or painful childhood event. Rather conflict is something that is present in individuals from the very beginning and is a natural part of personality. The Jungian idea of conflict can be described in terms of the cosmological idea of chaos. Before the creation of the world, there was only chaos. Then in a slow process, order came to chaos and the world was able to fully form. It is the same with the individual, who starts life conflicted but then slowly is able to gain internal balance and stability.

It is quite evident that the Jungian concept of the unconscious is based on Freudian theory. Both theories emphasize the immense importance of the unconscious and its affect on the individual, stating that conflicts are centered in the unconscious. In Freudian psychology the main unconscious process is the struggle between the superego and the id. In Jungian psychology, such struggles also exist, mainly in the conflict between the persona and the shadow. Likewise, both Freud and Jung divided the human mind into three levels: the conscious, preconscious (or subconscious), and unconscious in Freudian theory, and the conscious, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious in Jungian theory. Jung’s personal unconscious can be equated to Freud’s preconscious. Both levels are deep, but not beyond access, and both contain content that became lost to the conscious. Jung’s collective unconscious is similar to Freud’s unconscious in that it is beyond the reach of the conscious, but usually manifests itself in the form of dreams and symbolic images. However, unlike the Freudian unconscious, the Jungian unconscious is not solely made up of repressed aggressions and sexual desires. It is much more complex, containing both personal repressions and archetypal ideas of the greater humanity.

Jungian therapy is connected to humanistic therapy in its goals and approach to therapy, specifically the relationship between the client and the therapist. In both therapies the ideal goal is the realization and actualization of the self. In therapy, this goal is met by placing strong emphasis on awareness of experiences. Like humanistic therapy, Jungian therapy acknowledges the importance of the past, but prefers to focus on the immediate present and the impending future. Specifically, past experiences are only viewed in terms of their implications on the present and future. However, unlike the humanistic approach, Jungian therapy places more emphasis on unconscious processes and how they affect the conscious. Jungian therapy is also similar to humanistic, particularly to Gestalt, in the way it views the role of the therapist and the relationship he has with the client. Like Gestalt therapy, Jungian therapy views the therapist as being equal in position and superiority to the client, having expertise only in terms of having more knowledge of psychological processes.


In general, Jungian therapy and analytical psychology presents very strong and well supported ideas, even while being, at times, complex and ambiguous. The theories are solid and comprehensive, covering a wide range of psychological phenomenon. It can therefore be used alone, without the conjunction of a different form of therapy. It builds on certain pre-existing theories from classical psychoanalysis, yet offers a completely different and unique perspective to them, in addition to adding new concepts. Jungian therapy is especially unique in its strongly philosophical nature that emphasizes abstract rather concrete concepts. Such concepts include spirituality, symbolic images, and the connection between the individual, humankind, and the greater cosmos. This unique factor of Jungian therapy can be viewed as both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength in that it outlines and conceptualizes ideas that are usually limited only to philosophy, despite having such important roles in personal development. Every person at some point attempts to search for the higher and deeper meanings in life. Jungian therapy recognizes and supports this need. However, its philosophical approach is also a major weakness. One reason for this is that it lacks empirical evidence due to its abstract nature. Another reason is that the concepts are very complex and require a specific type of mentality in order to understand them. This makes it difficult for Jungian therapy to be applicable to all clients.

I believe the types of clients that would probably receive the most benefit from Jungian therapy are people who can think abstractly and who are very patient. These people view the world in terms of symbols that are in constant need of interpretation. They have to be fond of constructing meanings of both their own internal experiences and the universal, macrocosmic phenomena. People with problems such as severe depression, personality disorders, and schizophrenia may be greatly helped by Jungian therapy. These are people who have lost or were not able to find greater meaning in life, thus causing them to plunge into the confusion and chaos that characterizes the mentioned disorders. Jungian therapy would be able to help find that meaning, as well as give them a strong conceptualization of their experiences. However, clients who prefer a more concrete and direct approach to therapy would most likely be very frustrated with a Jungian therapist and would probably not be aided by the process. If anything, their condition may only worsen from being overly confused and frustrated. Clients with OCD, phobias, and other anxiety disorders should probably be treated with a different therapeutic approach, as Jungian therapy may not be the most appropriate technique for them. Therefore a therapist must be very careful when choosing to use the Jungian approach. The therapist should first be able to assess the client’s mentality and determine whether Jungian therapy would be harmful or beneficial.

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