Tag Archives: psychology

Jung

The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung was born in 1875, the son of a poor pastor of the Reformed Swiss Church. Mild early childhood neuroses had led him to become interested in psychology, even though it was not a prestigious occupation at the time. He studied medicine at the University of Basel, and practiced in Zurich.

C.G. Jung

Jung is best known for his ideas of archetypes, introversion and extroversion, and the collective unconscious. His method led to an entire Jungian school of practice, including the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. In some quarters, his mystical writings on topics like alchemy and synchronicity have made him a kind of Godfather of the new age movement. In Jung, we see the intersection of standard, accepted scientific practices and occult mysticism. Jung maintained his entire career, however, that he was a scientist, not a mystic.

ARCHETYPES

Archetypes are idealized images of personality that we emulate. the four primary archetypes are the self, the shadow (that which one hides from the world and even from oneself), anima or animus (the idea of the opposite gender), and persona. There are many persona an individual can take on. These are idealized forms that we aspire to:

Jungian archetypes of persona

INTROVERTS AND EXTROVERTS

The archetypes relate to introversion and extroversion. Jung relates the ancient archetype of Apollo to introversion: dreaming, reflecting and visioning. Extroversions is related to the ancient archetype of Dionysius: one who wants to participate in the world – politics, intrigue, family, etc.

COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS

The collective unconscious is a reservoir of unconscious experience that a species can tap into. This is distinguished from an individual’s unconscious – the collection of personal experiences that he or she draws from. As Jung put it in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (1996, 43):

My thesis then, is as follows: in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.

JUNG CONTRA FREUD

Jung was cutting his teeth in Psychotherapy in the shadow of Freud, but as its most promising young star. When the two first met, they famously had a half-day long conversation. But Jung’s openness to seemingly non-scientific matters led to a rift between the two great psychotherapists that never healed. Differences in wealth (Jung married a very wealthy heiress, while Freud struggled) and youthfulness (Jung had to carry  the sick Freud at a conference) led to antipathy  between them.

LATE LIFE AND CAREER

At the age of 40, Jung felt that he had achieved all that a person could ask for, professionally and personally. He even said that “life begins at 40, the rest [the earlier period] is just research.”  Jung began a series of eccentric self-explorations, such as painting the inside of a tower on his property, studying alchemy and writing and illustrating The Red Book, a kind of exposition of his own personal unconscious, including dreams and visions. He claimed that all his late work was derivative of The Red Book. Because of its personal nature, the book was only shown to less than a dozen people and kept in a safety deposit box for a half-century before finally being released in 2009 by his grandson.

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Image from The Red Book (New York Times)

Along with the posts on RousseauPlatoBaconMachiavelliSaid, Marx and Locke, this post, and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project (as you can see it’s not all philosophy!) – stay tuned.

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How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: If you’ve stumbled on this post, Iʻm still working on it. Check back later.

My favorite TV show by far is the BBC/Masterpiece show Sherlock, but as my previous attempts to write about TV met with little interest, I thought I’d write about what really interests me in Holmes: how he thinks. Indeed, many of my recent posts, I realized, have been about how to think (The Psychology of Mālama ʻĀina, Philosophy as Therapy, Reason’s End, Sovereignty and Mental Models). So it was with great interest that I read Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, which I heard about from a Big Think video, and planned to read this summer. The book allowed me to muse over my favorite TV show, but also over the workings of my own mind. I found that I’d unconsciously been doing a lot of things right all this time.

THE BRAIN ATTIC

Konnikova compares Holmesʻs brain attic to Shel Silverstein’s conception – the light in this attic really can be turned on or off

The primary focus of the book is what Holmes (or more accurately, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) calls “the brain attic.” This attic is a flexible, but not infinitely flexible, physical space in this conception: “maybe it has a chimney …  maybe it doesn’t,” but according to Holmes/Doyle, a person’s brain “is  like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose” (Konnikova, 26). From a very young age, I chose my furniture based on importance – to me, there were four domains of important information: literature, philosophy, history and art (actually, that’s an updated version, but basically it was those categories). I know that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs and Roger Maris hit 61 in a season, but there my sports knowledge ends (although I’ll admit I do know a lot of running stats). At age 9, while others were watching the world series or reading A Wrinkle in Time, I was reading Brave New World. I just had the feeling that this “furniture” in my mind would be of much more use someday than sports statistics or children’s books.

Thinking of the mind in this way is also helpful in reverse, allowing one to do what Sherlock is so good at: “guessing at the contents of a person’s attic from his outward appearance becomes one of Sherlock’s surest ways of determining who that person is and what he is capable of.” If you don’t know what I mean by this, just watch the video below.

This scene was modified from the original in The Sign of Four, but replaced a pocket watch with a cell phone.

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