What is Jungian Analysis?
“My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation, and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious conditions and to experience itself as a whole.” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections p.3)
Jungian psychology came to be through the work of C.G. Jung. Using the above quotation from Jung himself, I want to explain briefly a few basic things about what Jungian analysis is and how it works.
Life is a process of bringing to consciousness – to our knowledge, the unconscious, which has its own ways of calling to us and reaching us. This life long process of understanding and knowing more is called individuation, becoming more whole and more connected with awareness. Connection is to ourselves, to others and to the world. This process is not easy at all especially when one has to integrate within oneself those aspects which we don’t want to see in us, which we disown, and project onto others. These are our shadow aspects. There are also other parts that we need to learn about and integrate within one whole personality that can function harmoniously. There is our persona – the mask, not understood in a pejorative sense but referring to what is immediately accessible to the outside and which is meant to both protect us and present us to the world. The persona is our shell. Some people put enormous investment into this and neglect the inner person. That would need addressing. Then there are another two aspects: our feminine and masculine sides which also need understanding, developing and integrating. These two aspects can be thought of as our inner guides and often influence our relationships with women and men and how we present ourselves as women and men in the world. Of course, there is much more and this is only a brief presentation.
What we do in analysis is make this process of wholeness possible, not by forcing it but rather by creating the right conditions of openness to allow it to happen and then understand its meaning for our life. We open a channel of communication between consciousness and unconsciousness, learn to read what the unconscious is seeking to show us, dialogue, take ownership and employ our ego to make change happen.
The unconscious speaks symbolically as if its messages are so to speak encrypted. Unconscious messages come to us personally through our dreams, visions/fantasies, anything we come across that strikes us and stays with us, through somatic symptoms, mental health conditions, our creative work. The unconscious comes to us through others especially in relationships because others present us with those qualities that we love and hate. Through the other, we learn to see and embrace that which is different from us. And if we engage, we have a lot of learning to do when we are challenged to understand, accept, dialogue, experiment and so on.
In analysis we also look at the past especially at those areas of trauma which hold us captive repeating patterns and unable to feel good and right in ourselves. With the analyst we have the opportunity to work through transferences that we keep projecting onto others to maintain the status quo of safety rather than move on into more wholeness. To do this work we need to build a strong, resilient ego. Our ego steers our way through life, it sits in the driver seat and in that position, we need a force that is reliable, flexible and able.
The unconscious speaks to us as a collective too and human beings have been seeking answers and knowledge about living and dying since time immemorial. We are past, present and future. There isn’t just us today. There is a whole cosmos filled with many mysteries and although we may not see and understand, it does not mean that life is not. What is special about Jungian analysis is that it creates a safe container and an understanding of the psyche including methods of work where our individual transformation can happen not just our adaptation to the world. And the Jungian analyst is more the midwife than the prescriptive doctor.