Jung’s Theory of the Plurality of the Psyche

Kel McNamara

Students will write an essay employing archetypal theory as a framework for a critical discussion of the student’s capacities and performance as a counsellor.

This essay will include:

Analysis of the notion of archetype as it is understood in the Jungian and post-Jungian literature. This analysis will place Jung and his thought in historical and/or cultural context, as well as indicating ways in which it remains relevant in the 21stcentury; and
Reflection on the particular archetypal patterns that shape the student’s perspective and practice as a counsellor, and comment on how these can be worked with effectively.

Will the Real Collective Unconscious Please Stand Up?

It has been said that Jung’s psychology is an investigation into ‘the meaning of being plural’. Explore Jung’s ideas about the plurality of the psyche, indicating why he regarded the person as a site for multiple selves, complexes, and parts. Further, explore the relationship between unity and diversity, the One and the Many, in Jung’s psychology.

We are unconscious of the fact that we are a collective. The self is extended in space and time and the mind embodies society. This is an investigation into multi-voicedness or self-plurality by any other name. I’ll explore and elucidate Jung’s many ideas of what constitutes a psyche including the Self, second self, complexes and archetypes. What will help is the pioneering development in depth and social psychology called the Dialogical Self Theory. In this exploration I will use the versatile nomenclature of DST’s I-positions to replace Jung’s reified entities. DST as many post-Jungians have illuminated, is the progression needed in the continuing dynamic conversation Jung so creatively promoted. I explain how through understanding our-Selves as I-positions we will no longer be in the shadows of how interconnected we really are. Everything reality beholds is just waiting to be personified and felt as I, and I insist that personification is at the heart and soul of Jung’s psychology.

Is there actually any neuroscientific evidence that supports Jung’s neurological claim, that “The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual” (Jung, 1931, par. 342)? This is quite dubious as many have pointed out, so instead of throwing it away, it can be translated to mean simply: our unconscious has an embedded cultural influence where,

“Cultures can be seen as collective voices that function as social positions in the self. Such voices are expressions of embodied and historically situated selves that are constantly involved in dialogical relationships with other voices” (Hermans, 2001, p. 272). The collective unconscious is then the expression of our cultural process continuing to play out in our internal politics. So now in this essay the collective unconscious will be synonymous with the ‘multiplicity of mind’ and instead ‘contain the whole spiritual heritage of humankind’s evolution’ as possible imagined I-positions.

Henri Ellenberger (1970) importantly placed Jung in historical context where he had always belonged more to the French-English-Swiss-American tradition in psychology. According to John Ryan Haule in his significant work ‘Jung in the 21st Century’ which navigates his pieces of true insight, he says that Jung like the Euro-American Psychologies “paid attention to natural and “artificial” (i.e., hypnotic) dissociations in the human psyche. They were the so-called “French School” of psychology that Jung claimed to belong to, investigators who were fascinated by the discovery (a) that all of us have simultaneous conflicting sub-personalities; (b) that each sub-personality lives in a different world, remembers a different past and strives for a different future.” (Haule, 2011)

Perfect, just replace sub-personality with I-position and we’ve got ourselves a 21st Century Jung. To include a particularly relevant post-Jungian interpretation of an archetype John Halstead says that they “are form without content, potentialities rather than actualities. Their existence can only be inferred from our experience of archetypal images” (Halstead, 2012). So they are potential-forms only existing in the experiential context of ‘archetypal images’ or the personification of patterns that our meaning-making mind constructs. It sounds exactly like Halstead must be familiar with dialogicality because he just described an I-position! Such translations of Jung’s plurality like Haules are so needed to keep his ideas influencing tomorrow’s psychotherapists to take on a wider and deeper view of the psyche[1].

DST creates an understanding of fixed entities as either positively or negatively disowned I-positions. How do you know a person is real? They’d be capable of re-positioning. So if you see an all loving Buddha on the road; don’t kill him, talk to him and finally become him. He may be the I-position you’ve been wanting to experience, to realise, to identify as and without the understanding of the dialogical self he remains an un-owned projected I-position that you may never see that way again. It is much more suitable to enrich reality as being in Heraclitean flux or Whiteheadian Process and appreciating that everything is in a state of transitioning; nothing is permanent[2].

The question of whether we are One or Many or both or neither is conceptualised by the founder of DST, Psychologist and Polymath, Hubert Hermans through four concepts central to DST: “(1) The concept of ‘I- position’ links the process of positioning and repositioning to the continuity of the I; (2) the possibility of taking a ‘meta- position’ permits an overview of a diversity of other positions; (3) the possibility of engaging in a ‘coalition’ of positions; and (4) the construction of a ‘third position’, in which two different positions merge or fuse” (Hermans, 2010, p. 138). So to conceive unity and continuity in commensurable ways with the idea of diversity and multiplicity the ‘I’ can be seen as continuous, while it’s positioning is in flux. Each I-position is linked to its own transitioning elements of identity and mnemonic chains, dependent on the always new contexts of the space-times they arrive in. I am never exactly the same I, I was a moment ago. I am always already absolutely here as the witnessing I and I am always already relatively unique as the body-minds positioning unfolds, manifests, transforms and discovers. (Patten, 2008)

If a client were to say, “I am a God”, how is one to take this? They could be referring to a complex, an archetype, Self or a second self in Jungian terms. Their answer could be any of them and thus calls for the therapist’s spontaneity to relate to this God-like I-position. A special kind of therapist is needed for applying DST and since they can occupy more meta-positions such as openness, acceptance, presence and adaption I am inclined to call them a ‘Dialogical Guide’. So when a newly discovered I-position unfolds the dialogical guide is always all ready. Our identity is not centralised or fixed and indeed having an understanding that our self-positioning can change and grow is helpful for the psychotherapist in their empathic endeavours. This is much like character development in narrative therapy and any story. If a new character emerges we can get to know them, as they get to know themselves (Combs & Freedman, 1996). They can become more evil or better just like in stories and that is to say the position can become healthier or unhealthier depending on its relationship with the rest of the society of mind. Will the witch continue to use her magic for manipulating people or will she turn into a white witch capable of healing others and herself?

The Psychologist John Rowan has written about a technique he calls Personification, the absolutely inclusive therapeutic application of I-positions. He says it is “effectively turning the entity, whatever it may be, into a person for the purposes of dialogue” (Rowan, Dialogical self and the soul, 2011). Here attunement into the present I-positions of the client and therapist is so important that the dynamics of transference and counter-transference will run wry if not reflected upon. In ‘The Therapist’s Use of Self’ by John Rowan (2003) he explains in formal terms that the dynamics can be utilised by the therapist or Dialogical Guide; to speed up the therapeutic process drastically and dramatically. He calls this ability ‘the embodiment of transference’; the realization that the I-position the therapist is feeling drawn to play out is the I-position of conflict or contrast that the client has in their society of mind and of course in their external societal relationships as well.

The Dialogical guide is akin to what I am inclined to call a universal shaman because:

“There is no agreed cross-cultural definition of “shamanism.” Indeed it is characterized by a chameleon-like elusiveness…There is, nevertheless, a certain combination of key characteristics: a layered cosmology, with the flight of the shamans soul to other levels of this cosmos, and the power to use this journey to fight, command and control spirits which inhabit these realms and affect human destinies” (Narby & Huxley, 2001, p. 263).

This view encourages the ‘guide of therapeutic rituals’ to embody a meta-position of chameleon-like elusiveness. It is similar to a favourite professional archetype-inspired I-position’ of mine called the authentic trickster – Hermes in the 21st century. The dialogical guide also involves to an extent Roger’s notion of ‘full functionality’ which Ellingham so pertinently describes as, “an ability to deeply and empathically immerse oneself in a multiplicity of worlds even as one retains a sense of one’s own unique identity—a sense of oneness in diversity that religious psychologies associate with mystical experience” (Ellingham, 2000). Indeed the Dialogical guide calls for a mystic and then is thus the most reliable approach to deepen the client’s mystical and fantastical I-positions[3].

David Tacey in his book ‘How to Read Jung’ (Tacey, 2006), which I am suggesting is through the lens of DST, talks about Jung’s notion of a second self without definitively differentiating this from the Self. In two places he labels the Self and the second-self to be identical with Atman , all the while saying they are not the same[4].This is precisely why people need a better language or foundation for navigating plurality and discovering incredible and perhaps spiritual I-positions. Jung himself describes a ‘second personality’ which pervaded him throughout his life,

“At such times I knew I was worthy of myself, my true self… I sought the peace and solitude of this ‘Other’, personality No.2…it is played out in every individual…most peoples conscious understanding is not sufficient to realize that he is also what they are” (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1989, pp. par 61-2). To pick up on a few possible I-positions here there is; the worthy self, true self, peaceful other, the position of solitude, no.2 personality, ‘it’, ‘he’ and the ‘what-I-am-position’. So what was it? Was Jung experiencing the same unchanging entity again and again or was he in fact discovering deeper or ‘other’ I-positions that were available to him and are available and unique to everyone now?

The point I’m making is that all Jung’s parts and wholes can be conceived in a dialogical way and is in fact a much less limiting way of construing the person; because it’s as they actually are. As Beahrs notes beautifully,

“When is it useful or not useful to look upon an individual as a single unit, as a ‘Cohesive Self’? When is it useful or not useful to look upon anyone as being constituted of many parts, each with an identity of its own? When is it useful to see ourselves as part of a greater whole?

I use the term ‘useful’ rather than ‘true’ since all are true – simultaneously and at all times.” (Beahrs, 1982, pp. 4-5) This indicates Jung could have studied pragmatics a bit more. Perhaps if he prefaced all his writing as illusive illustrations rather than conclusive demonstrations he wouldn’t be in as much trouble as I seem to think he is in. Beahrs distinction is so ‘useful’ because as therapists we want to know what is more helpful. It just so happens that what is true is usually what is more useful, as James’s pragmatism entails, “True ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate, and verify. False ideas are those we cannot. That is the practical difference it makes to us to have true ideas; that therefore is the meaning of truth, for it is all that truth is known as” (James, The meaning of truth, 1909).

So when is it useful to see the self and/or client in a certain way? Well it’s useful when we appear that way. There’s no need to force ourselves into something else or repress them as something that is not-me. We are not crazy listening and talking to the voices that appear, in practical-reality we’re crazy when we don’t! The interconnected universe Jung saw is even more possible with the flexibility of DST[5]. Personification is so expansive and imaginative because all altered states of consciousness and any entity – ghost, soul, spirit, god, daemon, politician, vision, and object become potential I-positions to dialogue with and embody. The reason DST and personification feel so profound and familiar to me and perhaps to you is because it embodies something I feel ‘I’ have always been with; the authentic Quest(ion) of life, meaning and transformation: “What would ‘I’ be like in ‘that’ position?” With this question a whole universe of possibilities opens for the Therapist-guide and Client-journeyer and we discover our identity to be as vast, fleeting and abstract as any moment in our wildest of dreamscapes.

Works Cited

Beahrs, J. O. (1982). Unity and Multiplicity. New York: Bruner/Mazel.

Combs, G., & Freedman, J. (1996). Narrative Therapy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Ellingham, I. (2000). ‘Counselling as a Social Process’: A Person-Centred Perspective on. The Person-Centered Journal,, 114-124.

Halstead, J. (2012, 12 30). humanistic paganism interviews. Retrieved from humanistic paganism: http://humanisticpaganism.com/2012/12/30/jung-today-an-interview-with-dr-john-ryan-haule/

Haule, J. R. (2011). Jung in the 21st Century (Volume one). New York: Routledge.

Hermans, H. (2010). Dialogical self theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Holt.

James, W. (1909). The meaning of truth. Cambridge: Cambridge press.

Jones, R. A., & Morioka, M. (2011). Jungian and Dialogical Self Perspectives. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jung, C. (1933). Modern Man in Search of a Soul. London and New York: Routledge .

Jung, C. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Random House.

Mearns, D. &. (2000). Person Centred Therapy Today. London: Sage.

Narby, J., & Huxley, F. (2001). Shamans Through Time. Los Angeles: Tarcher.

Patten, T. (2008). Intergal Life Practice. Boston: Integral Books.

Rowan, J. (2010). Personification. East Sussex: Routledge.

Tacey, D. (2006). How to read Jung. London: Granta publications.

Bibliography

Beahrs, J. O. (1982). Unity and Multiplicity. New York: Bruner/Mazel.

Combs, G., & Freedman, J. (1996). Narrative Therapy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Ellingham, I. (2000). ‘Counselling as a Social Process’: A Person-Centred Perspective on. The Person-Centered Journal,, 114-124.

Halstead, J. (2012, 12 30). humanistic paganism interviews. Retrieved from humanistic paganism: http://humanisticpaganism.com/2012/12/30/jung-today-an-interview-with-dr-john-ryan-haule/

Haule, J. R. (2011). Jung in the 21st Century (Volume one). New York: Routledge.

Hermans, H. (2010). Dialogical self theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Holt.

James, W. (1909). The meaning of truth. Cambridge: Cambridge press.

Jones, R. A., & Morioka, M. (2011). Jungian and Dialogical Self Perspectives. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jung, C. (1933). Modern Man in Search of a Soul. London and New York: Routledge .

Jung, C. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Random House.

Mearns, D. &. (2000). Person Centred Therapy Today. London: Sage.

Narby, J., & Huxley, F. (2001). Shamans Through Time. Los Angeles: Tarcher.

Patten, T. (2008). Intergal Life Practice. Boston: Integral Books.

Rowan, J. (2010). Personification. East Sussex: Routledge.

Tacey, D. (2006). How to read Jung. London: Granta publications.

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