Man and his symbols by Carl Jung

Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung

Man and his Symbols by Carl Jung is the last piece he wrote before his death, yet it serves as an introduction to his life-work. Jung is best known for his illumination of the unconscious mind. He believed that for a person to become a wholebeing they must go through the process of self individuation which can be understood as making the unconscious conscious.

To help with this process Jung used a therapy known as dream interpretation or dream analysis. According to Jung, dreams can’t be understood with typical logic but only through analyzing symbols, which serve as metaphors for things our conscious mind is not yet aware of.

Jung noticed that the same symbols and motifs appeared through different regions and time periods. This lead him to develop the theory of the collective unconscious which states that there is part of mind that is a depository for all human experience since the beginning of time.

Although certain symbols have recurring meanings, every dream and every symbol can only be interpreted through the unique experience of the person who dreamed it.

Understanding the unconscious mind is a vital part of our development and there are few people that can help us understand it as well as Carl Jung.





Part 1 – Approaching The unconscious 

The Importance of Dreams 

-A symbol is a term, name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning.

-What we call the “psyche” is by no means identical with our consciousness and its contents

-Only the material that is clearly and visibly part of a dream should be used in interpreting it.

-The anima is the female element in the male unconscious

-This “feminine” aspect is essentially a certain inferior kind of relatedness to the surroundings, and particularly to women, which is kept carefully concealed from others as well as from oneself.

-The animus is the male element in the female unconscious

-Consciousness naturally resists anything unconscious and unknown

-The dream should be treated as a fact, about which one must make no previous assumption except that it somehow makes sense; and the dream is a specific expression of the unconscious

-Unconscious contents of the mind behave as if they were conscious and that you can never be sure, in such cases, whether thought, speech, or action is conscious or not

-In addition to memories from a long-distant conscious past, completely new thoughts and creative ideas can also present themselves from the unconscious — thoughts and ideas that have never been conscious before.

-Images that seem contradictory and ridiculous crowd in on the dreamer, the normal sense of time is lost, and commonplace things can assume a fascinating or threatening aspect.

The function of dreams 

-Each word means something slightly different to each person, even among those who share the same cultural background. The reason for this variation is that a general notion is received into an individual context and is therefore understood and applied in a slightly individual way.

-As long as concepts are identical with mere words, the variation is almost imperceptible and plays no practical role. But when an exact definition or a careful explanation is needed, one can occasionally discover the most amazing variations, not only in the purely intellectual understanding of the term, but particularly in its emotional tone and its application. As a rule, these variations are subliminal and therefore never realized.

-The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium.

-Dream symbols are the essential message carriers from the instinctive to the rational parts of the human mind, and their interpretation enriches the poverty of consciousness so that it learns to understand again the forgotten language of the instincts.

-No dream symbol can be separated from the individual who dreams it, and there is no definite or straightforward interpretation of any dream.

-A recurring dream is usually an attempt to compensate for a particular defect in the dreamers attitude to life; or it may date from a traumatic moment that has left behind some specific prejudice. It mat also sometimes anticipate a future event of importance.

The analysis of dreams 

-Learn as much as you can about symbolism; then forget it all when you are analyzing a dream.

-The individual is the only reality. The further we move away from the individual toward abstract ideas about Homo Sapiens, the more likely we are to fall into error.

The Problem of Types 

-A sane and normal society is one in which people habitually disagree, because general agreement is relatively rare outside the sphere of instinctive humans qualities.

-Since any deeper analysis of dreams leads to the confrontation of two individuals, it will obviously make a great difference whether their types of attitude are the same or not.

-The interpretation of dreams and symbols largely depends upon the individual circumstances of the dreamer and the conditions of his mind

The archetype in dream symbolism 

-Instincts are physiological urges, and are perceived by the senses. But at the same time, they also manifest themselves in fantasies and often reveal their presence only by symbolic images. These manifestations are what I call archetypes.

-I am inclined to the view that things were generally done first and that it was only a long time afterward that somebody asked why they were done.

-We regard the personal complexes as compensations for one-sided or faulty attitudes of consciousness; in the same way, myths of a religious nature can be interpreted as a sort of mental therapy for the sufferings and anxieties of mankind in general — hunger, war, disease, old age, death.

-Many ancient rituals were done unconsciously …. as in not knowing why they were done

The Soul of Man 

-There is a strong empirical reason why we should cultivate thoughts that can never be proved. It is that they are known to be useful. Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give a meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe.

The Roles of Symbols 

-The main task of dreams is to bring back a sort of “recollection” of the prehistoric, as well as the infantile world, right down to the level of the most primitive instincts.

-The symbols are natural attempts to reconcile and reunite opposites within the psyche.

Healing the split 

Part 2 – Ancient Myths And Modern Man 

The eternal symbols 

Heroes and hero makers 

-The essential function of the heroic myth is the development of the individuals ego-consciousness – in a manner that will equip him for the arduous tasks with which life confronts him.

The Archetype of initiation 

-Each human being has originally  a feeling of wholeness, a powerful and complete sense of the Self.

-The emergence of the ego can never become final without severe injury to the original sense of wholeness.

Beauty and the Beast 

Symbols of transcendence 

-Symbols of transcendence represents man’s striving to full realization of the potential of his individual self

Part 3 – The process of Individuation 

-To fulfill one’s destiny is the greatest human achievement, and that put utilitarian notions have to give way in the face of the demand of our unconscious psyche.

-Although many human problems are similar, they are never identical. All pines trees are very much alike, yet none is exactly the same as another. Because of these factors of sameness and difference, it is difficult to summarize the infinite variations of the process of individuation. The fact is that each person has to do something different, something that is uniquely his own.

-It is well known that children often forget events that seem impressive to adults but keep a vivid recollection of some incident or story that no one else has noticed. When we look into one of these childhood memories, we usually find that it depicts (if interpreted as if it were a symbol) a basic problem of the child’s psychic make-up.

-When an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in other people – such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions — in short, all the little sins about which he might previously have told himself: “That doesn’t matter; nobody will notice it, and in any case other people do it too.”

-If you feel an overwhelming rage coming up in you when a friend reproaches you about a fault, you can be fairly sure that at this point you will find a part of your shadow, of which you are unconscious.

-It is particularly in contacts with people of the same sex that one stumbles over both one’s shadow and those of other people. Although we do see the shadow in a person of the opposite sex, we are usually much less annoyed by it and can more easily pardon it.

-In dreams and myths, therefore, the shadow appears as a person if the same sex as that of the dreamer.

-The shadow usually contains values that are needed by consciousness, but that exist in a form that makes it difficult to integrate them into one’s life.

-Whatever form it takes, the function of the shadow is to represent the opposite side of the ego and to embody just those qualities that one dislikes mist in other people.

The anima: the woman within 

-The anima is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies in a man’s psyche, such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, and — his relation to the unconscious.

-In its individual manifestation the character of a man’s anima is as a rule shaped by his mother.

-If he feels that his mother had a negative influence on him, his anima will often express itself in irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, insecurity, and touchiness.

-Another way in which the negative anima in a man’s personality can be revealed is in waspish, poisonous, effeminate remarks by which he devalues everything.

-If, on the other hand, a man’s experience of his mother has been positive, this can also affect his anima in typical but different ways, with the result that he either becomes effeminate or is preyed upon by women and thus is unable to cope with the hardships of life.

-The most frequent manifestation of the anima takes the form of erotic fantasy. Men may be driven to nurse their fantasies by looking at films and strip-tease shows, or by day-dreaming over pornographic material. This is a crude, primitive aspect of the anima, which becomes compulsive only when a man does not sufficiently cultivate his feeling relationships — when his feeling attitude toward life has remained infantile.

-All these aspects of the anima have the same tendency that we have observed on the shadow: that is, they can be projected so that they appear to the man to be the qualities of some particular woman.

-Women who are of “fairy-like” character especially attract such anima projections, because men can attribute almost anything to a creature who is so fascinatingly vague, and can thus proceed to weave fantasies around her.

-The anima is responsible for helping a man find the right marriage partner

-The positive functions of the anima occur when a man takes seriously the feelings, moods, expectations, and fantasies sent by his anima and when he fixes them in some form – for example, in writing, painting, sculpture, musical composition, or dancing.

-When he works at this patiently and slowly, other more deeply unconscious material wells up from the depths and connects with the earlier material.

The animus: the man within 

-The male personification of the unconscious in woman — the animus — exhibits both goods and bad aspects, as does the anima in man.

-The animus is influenced by a woman’s father

-By nursing secret destructive attitudes, a wife can drive her husband, and a mother her children, into illness, accident, or even death.

-In the depths of the woman’s being the animus whispers: “You are hopeless. What’s the use of trying? There is no point in doing anything. Life will never change for the better.”

The Self: Symbols of Totality 

-If an individual has wrestled seriously enough and long enough with the anima (or animus) problem so that he, or she, is no longer partially identified with it, the unconscious again changes its dominant character and appears in a new symbolic form, representing the Self, the inner-most nucleus of the psyche.

-The Self is often symbolized as an animal, representing our instinctive nature and its connectedness with one’s surroundings.

-In ways that are still completely beyond our comprehension, our unconscious is similarly attuned to our surroundings — to our group, to society in general, and, beyond these, to the space-time continuum and the whole of nature.

-Stones are frequent images of the self because they are complete, unchanging and lasting.

-Synchronicity is a “meaningful coincidence” of outer and inner events that are not themselves casually connected.

The relation to the self 

The social aspect of the self 

-Images of others In dreams can be projections of ourselves

-But it also happens at times that dreams genuinely tell us something about other people.

-Ritual or religious custom can spring directly from an unconscious revelation experienced by a single individual. Out of such beginnings, people living in cultural groups develop their various religious activities with their enormous influence on the entire life of society.

 Part 4 – Symbolism in the Visual Arts 

Part 5 – Symbols in an Individual Analysis 

Conclusion: Science and the Unconscious

-Modern microphysics has discovered that one can only describe light by means of two logically opposed but complementary concepts: The ideas of particle and wave. In grossly simplified terms, it might be said that under certain experimental conditions light manifest itself as if it were composed of particle; under others, as if it were a wave. Also, it was discovered that we can accurately observe either the position or the velocity of the subatomic particle — but not both at once.

-“The science of microphysics, on account of the basic ‘complementary’ situation, is faced with the impossibility of eliminating the effects of the observer by determinable correctives and has therefore to abandon in principle any objective understanding of physical phenomena.

-No natural laws can be formulated, saying “such-and-such will happen in ever case.” All the micro-physicist can say is  “such and such is, according to statistical probability, likely to happen.”

-If we call something “rational” or “meaningful” in our conscious mind, and accept it as a satisfactory “explanation” of things, it is probably due to the fact that our conscious explanation is in harmony with some preconscious constellation of contents in our unconscious.