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Overview Of The Importance Of Symbols And Archetypes In Carl Jung's Work

Carl Jung was a famous psychologist that worked directly with the famous Sigmund Freud. Although a student of Freud, due to differences in the way they perceived human psychology, they went their separate ways. Although there were similarities between the way they perceived how the human mind and psyche affected people, it is from the work of Carl Jung that we have been able to learn about symbols and archetypes. Jungs work led him to discover more than traditional psychology such as spiritual and esoteric subjects such as deeper meanings in dream analyses, astrology, I Ching, and of course symbols. Let's look at the work of Carl Jung, what symbols and archetypes are, and how all of this relates to what he calls the collective unconscious.

Origins Of Carl Jung

Carl Jung was a psychologist that began to realize that the human mind, also called the psyche, was divided up into three separate layers. This included the ego, what he referred to as the personal unconscious, and then there is the collective unconscious from which symbols and archetypes originate. The ego is simply representative of the personality that you have. It is the collective representation of your emotions, thoughts and memories. It allows you to have this feeling of identity that we all have individually, allowing us to have continuity in our daily lives. The second part of the human mind was called the personal unconscious. This may include repressed memories and forgotten information. It is within the personal unconscious that we all have what are called complexes. These are represented by single concepts which have been formed in our mind based upon our experiences, feelings, thoughts, attitudes and the memories that we have retained. Complexes that are extremely diverse are the ones that affect us the most in our lives. It lies right beneath the surface of the way that we conduct ourselves. It actually provides the habitual activities of our ego or personality, acting in the background like subroutines on a computer. The third layer of the human mind is called the collective unconscious. This is representative of all of the complexes that have been formed throughout history. Jung believed that we were all interconnected in mind, and that we could also draw upon symbols and archetypes within the collective unconscious.

Symbols And Archetypes In The Collective Unconsciousness

This was actually not a new idea. The philosopher Plato actually referred to the collective unconscious, and the symbols and archetypes within it, as the eternal Realm of Forms. Jung believed that all cultures shared similar archetypes, and had a great influence on all of humanity. They essentially formed the basis from which all thoughts and choices were made, and also in the development of different cultures. Archetypes were broken down into many different types, but he focused primarily on for which were called the Persona, Animus, Shadow and the Self. The Persona could be likened to how a person is acting on stage. It is that representation of yourself that you show others in certain situations. Animus referred to sexuality, specifically how both males and females share characteristics of both masculine and feminine tendencies. The Shadow is what he referred to as the animal or survival side of our personality. Finally, the Self is representative of who we really are, and our goal is to self-actualize, a concept that is most famously represented by Abraham Maslow, or what Carlos Castaneda referred to as the path of heart.

By understanding that your mind is representative of multiple layers, and that the collective unconscious has symbols and archetypes, we can begin to understand how we have developed in our own lives. It is akin to computers that are connected via the cloud, sharing information all over the world, and sometimes we inadvertently access this information which can play a significant role in the course of our lives. Carl Jung was a philosopher and psychologist, an individual that truly did understand how the human psyche operated. By using this information, it is possible for people to better understand how they have arrived at the current place they are in their lives, and how they can self-actualize into the person they truly want to become.


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