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The Jungian Approach to Psychotherapy

The Jungian approach

Carl Gustav Jung sometimes compared his work to Gnosticism which taught that there was a primordial oneness of all reality and existence and that there is an inherent longing for a return to this unity. The Gnostics also believed that wisdom comes through experience leading to individual insight rather than received dogma backed up by authority.

He drew from many sources including eastern philosophies leading to a belief in individuation, meaning the realization or actualisation of the potentials inherently existing in the self. Jung was a psychiatrist and collaborated with Freud from 1907-1913 but the two were so different that there was an irrevocable split, although looking back it can be seen that the two ways are quite complementary. At the time though, they did not see it that way!

Theoretical assumptions

The theory of psychological opposites lies at the basis of Jung’s approach. For example a person may be murderously angry with another person, while still loving them, and of course there are all the feelings in between. Jungian psychology is itself a synthesis of two opposites, the spiritual quest for self-knowledge and a scientific approach to the working of the mind. Both extremes of the continuum have caused him to be rejected in some circles! Perhaps in this day and age it is easier to accept the apparent contradiction and to welcome both approaches at once.

Jung propounded the theory of the collective unconscious, the locus of universal motifs which are shared by all humans throughout space and time. This includes the idea of archetypes which concern inherited patterns in the psychosomatic unconscious. In this way he links opposites: the psyche and soma and instinct and image.

Some important constructs: 


Synchronicity is where two or more events appear to coincide in time and/or place without any seeming causal connection but with a meaningful relationship.


This consists of the ego at the centre of consciousness (the “I”), and the persona also lies in the conscious sphere and is the mask that the individual presents to the world. The shadow is in the unconscious and represents those aspects that are undesirable to the ego and are therefore repressed.

The archetypes originate in the collective unconscious and act unconsciously through projection when activated through an outer object, for example when we fall in love. The self is the totality, and mediates the opposites. It offers the possibility of wholeness through the conjunction of opposites.


This is the study of personality differences, one current model being the Myers-Briggs model, the purpose being to show how different basic types make it difficult to understand others. The basic concepts are attitude to the world and ways of functioning within it. The measures for attitude are introversion and extroversion and for functioning, sensation, intuition, thinking and feeling, making up eight general patterns.

Psychological disturbance and health 

Jung believed that a psychologically healthy person was one who is free to interact with a degree of autonomy and a disturbed individual is one who finds the inner or outer world too persecutory to relate to freely. He rejected Freud’s theory of early traumatic experience as the source of disturbance as being too deterministic; he thought that looking for causes in the past kept the person tied to the past.

Instead he looked for archetypal cause at the centre of each neurotic symptom and started with looking at the phenomena, what they are for and what they are leading to. This shows the purpose of symptoms and how and why they are experienced. One key in the perpetuation of disturbance is the ability to separate from the real and archetypal mother. This process is called individuation and is one fraught with potential problems. One result of an imperfect individuation is depression if the individual elevates the unconscious to a position of superiority resulting in the conscious feeling inferior and worthless.

 Shaun Brookhouse


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