If Carl Gustav Jung, one of the greatest psychiatrists this world has produced, was alive and shown the number of people having depressive tendencies and signs of high neuroticism, he would, with folded hands, take us to the world unfamiliar with us: the ego, the persona, the self, the shadow, the unconscious, the anima, and the animus: the constituent elements of our psyche.
Part of the reason why I am mentioning his model of the psyche has to do with the ‘nothing-makes-sense’ mutterings of despondent folks of our time. (If it is worth trying to pay desperate visits to a growing number of self-help gurus who claim to have some magical power to nip abstract evils in the bud, it’s worth trying to know something about Jung.)
Carl Jung explains ego-consciousness as that aspect of our psyche which has to do with our being conscious of our surroundings. Father, Mother, Friends, and so forth.
We immediately become conscious as we come across someone we have met before, or we are familiar with. Thoughts, memories – our ego consists of.
Ego consciousness is something we all possess. A universal phenomenon. A common sharing. However, on the other hand, how we present ourselves before people – be it in society, in family, in community, in gatherings – is what Jung calls Persona.
We act in ways in society we hardly act in the family. Thus two personas at play. Likewise, we have, within time, developed many personas that we act out at certain times reserved for certain people.
But what if conflict arises between how we present ourselves and how we feel afterwards? A worst-case scenario people are subjected to nowadays. If the intensity of conflict is sky high, one can’t help calling it some full-blown incurable disease, beyond our reach and solution.
And not a disease to be understood and worked through. Can it be solved? We shall come to it later. Along the same lines, Jung has given us the concept of Shadow. An archetype, to be found in every human being. Shadow is that aspect of our psyche which has to do with the thoughts and emotions we have long repressed.
We have not been able to process them. Due to some constraints or helpless situations, we have buried them. Deep, deep down. Within the recesses of our psyche. Forming a shadow: think it in terms of a kind of a circle – inside which all those repressed emotions reside.
In the context of the conflict I stated earlier, what it hints to is that there is a certain trigger, which has let the unconscious contents from the shadow come to the fore. The shadow side of one’s personality has become activated, and the activating agent is wherein the rub and the solution lie. To imagine a situation here – you came across a person who picked on you, and you turned numb and hollow.
The numbness and the hollowness could mean that you have long repressed aggressive tendencies (for whatever reasons) and when you keep on repressing them, they keep on accumulating and making a full-fledged shadow.
The shadow kept on passing you the message, demanding attention from you - as in making you feel numb in the front and resentful in the back.
Such weakness – which could become the cause of depression in the long run – is brought to existence with our failing to confront the shadow and accept its contents, that is to say, aggressive tendencies, as the context goes.
Similarly, we often see people worrying, taking drugs, taking up a small space in their room and spending time in stark despair. Most of the time the reasons are either the person has fallen for a certain person or the certain person has caused the split-up.
Jung has given us the concept of Anima and Animus. The collective unconscious. Collective unconscious is that aspect of the psyche which we all share commonly as human beings. What is in me, is in the American. That sort of equation. Anima is the feminine qualities that can be found in men, and animus is the masculine qualities that are present in women.
The former is shaped by his mother, the latter by her father. If a mother acts overprotective in the life of her son, the son fights with the world to get the air of motherly warmth from. Similarly, if the father acts harsh, the daughter feels unlovable.
When her animus is shaped that way, she becomes obsessed with a certain contra-sexual human being. This is what happens when a person has a sudden realization of finding a girl (in case of a boy) and a boy (in case of a girl) as their permanent soul mates. Within a split second.
Broadly speaking, bad relationship with the contra-sexual image of one’s anima causes one to become excessively obsessed with a certain real woman. Carl Jung calls it complexes. Mother complex. Father complex. Such complexes are not to be straight away labeled as some incurable mental disease, as the people nowadays often desperately call the unconscious processes.
Rather a constant putting in of our efforts actively imagining, letting the images from our unconscious flow through our conscious mind, which may get us to know wherein the rub and the solution lie. What then follows is the integration process, that is to say, integrating those aspects of ourselves which cause anima-animus outward projections into one’s personality to become a unified whole. Balance. This is what the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang speaks of as well.
There are many issues we face nowadays which can be resolved by applying the analytical psychological principles of Carl Gustav Jung. If the psychological issues we face are grave enough to be labeled as absolutely incurable, Carl Gustav Jung would refer to dreams to get the message, the contents, of the shadow, the dark, dark and damaging side of one’s personality.
Confronting one’s shadow, however, is no little task; some have compared it with the mythological dragon-slaying myth. March about and slay the dragon: recognize the hurdles that come in your way while knowing the constituent elements of your shadow and achieving wholeness.
At the same time, one has also to be conscious of not becoming prey to psychosis while doing shadow work, which is to say, immersing oneself in the unconscious to the extent that one loses touch with reality.
And now comes the central point of Jung’s model of the psyche: the self. The self stands between the conscious, things we are aware of, and the unconscious, things we have yet to discover. Self craves the balance of the two. Wholeness - that’s what the sign Mandala symbolizes as well.
Paying heed to the unconscious doesn’t mean abandoning the conscious. It simply means that things which feel esoteric and damaging on the inside must be understood, and let them not have control over us, at least not to the degree of disrupting the daily functioning of our lives.
(The author aspires to be a civil servant.)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.