Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology (Campbell, 1971). His influence continues to grow in many areas, such as psychological types, dream work, play therapy, and the role of spirituality and religion (Aziz, 1990; Johnson, 1989; Jung, 1933, 1964). This brief essay focuses on his contributions to positive psychology.
The Importance of Meaning
The positive psychology of Viktor Frankl (Wong, 2007) and Jung can be classified as depth positive psychology because both of them emphasize the need to integrate the unconscious realm. Both can be considered fathers of contemporary positive psychology because of their focus on the innate human potential for growth through meaning and spirituality.
Craber (2004) wrote about Carl Jung: “He, like Frankl, saw the therapeutic possibilities of the human spirit—that is their strong theoretic link” (p. 179). Thomas Peterson (1992) correctly pointed out that both Frankl and Jung emphasized the connection between meaning systems and mental health.
Jung (1933) stated: “A psycho-neurosis must be understood as the suffering of a human being who has not discovered what life means for him…The patient is looking for something that will take possession of him and give meaning and form to the confusion of his neurotic mind” (p. 225). Like Frankl, Jung (1964) also recognized the value of meaning in suffering: “Man can stand the most incredible hardships when he is convinced that they make sense” (p. 76).
The Duality of Human Nature
Probably influenced by Eastern philosophies and religions, Jung adopted a dualistic framework of positive psychology. Jung (1933) recognized that duality is the fact of human nature: “Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing that is good can come into the world without directly producing a corresponding evil. This is a painful fact” (p. 199). One example of this duality is that we cannot achieve wholeness without integrating the dark side of the self.
The archetype of the Self represents the center of the psyche and is commonly expressed by the symbol of a Mandela. The Self signifies wholeness, the product of integrating the consciousness and unconscious aspects of the psyche through individuation. One cannot actualize selfhood without getting in touch with the Shadow, the archetype of the dark and rejected parts of the self.
The Shadow contains the libido, forbidden feelings such as lust and rage. The Shadow wants to be acknowledged and brought into consciousness. Jungian analysts Zweig and Wolf (1997) point out if we embrace and “romance” the Shadow, we will channel it to productive use and gain access to vitality and creativity.
It takes courage to undertake the “Shadow work” because it can be painful to come to terms with one’s negative emotions painful aspects of life, such as personal traumas and family secrets. However, if we ignore the Shadow, it will become darker and denser, and sooner or later it will surface in some destructive way.
Individuation—The Process Towards Wholeness
The process of individuation is to reconcile and integrate the various differentiated components into a coherent and balanced whole. Thus, it integrates the Ego (center of consciousnesses) with the Shadow, Anima (the feminine personality characteristics) with the animus (the masculine characteristics), the rational (thinking and feeling) and irrational (sensing and intuition) psychic functions.
This is an innate and natural process of being human growth. However, because of our secular, materialistic, and narcissistic culture, we become disconnected with humanity and spirituality. Our focus on scientific and rational thinking further makes us ignore the creative and spiritual aspects of the Self. As a result, we become unbalanced and stunned in our psychological growth. Since neurosis and depression result from a disharmony between consciousness and unconsciousness, healing and wholeness must come from restoring harmony within oneself and with the external world.
In order to facilitate this process of individuation, one must be open to parts of oneself that have been ignored or denied. One needs to pay attention to messages from the unconscious and the spiritual realms through dream analysis, word associations, and interpretation of symbols, metaphors and creative activities. Understanding the symbolic meaning of the unconscious archetypes is a major step towards attainment of meaningful living.
Individuation is essential for fulfilling one’s full potentials and flourishing, but it is a painful process. One of the common themes in Jungian analysis is that just as there is no rebirth without death, there can be no wholeness without realizing our brokenness, and no self-actualization without suffering.
- Aziz, R. (1990). C. G. Jung’s psychology of religion and synchronicity. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.
- Campbell, J. (Ed). (1971). The portable Jung (R. F. C. Hull, trans.) New York, NY: Penguin Books.
- Graber. A. V. (2004). Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy: Method of choice in ecumenical pastoral psychology. Lima, OH: Wyndham Hall Press.
- Johnson, R. A. (1989). Inner work: Using dreams and creative imagination for personal growth and integration. San Francisco, CA: Harper.
- Jung, C. G. (1933). Modern man in search of a soul. New York: Harcourt.
- Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2009). Viktor Frankl: Prophet of hope for the 21st century. In A. Batthyany, & J. Levinson (Eds.), Existential psychotherapy of meaning: Handbook of logotherapy and existential analysis. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen. (Early version available here.)
- Zweig, C., & Wolf, S. (1997). Romancing the shadow. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Wong, P. T. P. (2009). The depth positive psychology of Carl Jung. In S. Lopez (Ed.), Encyclopedia of positive psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 545-546). Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.