Jungian psychotherapy, as it is currently practiced, covers a wide range of perspectives, ranging from a primary stress on the analysis of the archetypal material of dreams and fantasies to a major focus on the unravelling of early developmental issues. Although there are differing emphases and styles in Jungian psychotherapy, there are fundamental principles which almost all Jungians hold in common, summarised as follows:

Analysis takes place in a dialectical relationship between analyst and analysand and has for its goal the analysand's movement toward psychological wholeness. The transformation of personality requires coming to terms with the unconscious, its specific structures and their dynamic relations to consciousness as these become available during the course of analysis.

Transformation also depends upon the significant modification of the unconscious structures that shape and control ego-consciousness.

Transformation takes place through the constellation of archetypal structures and dynamics in the interactive field between analyst and analysand.

A primary aim of Jungian psychotherapy/analysis, then, is to establish an ongoing relationship between consciousness (ego) and the unconscious; between what is happening in the unconscious and what is taking place in day-to-day life. Jungian theory understands the psyche as containing a drive toward balance and wholeness, differentiating and incorporating the various elements of the personal unconscious and establishing access to the collective unconscious. Jung called this the process of individuation. In psychotherapy, this unconscious material gradually manifests itself symbolically in dreams, in products of active imagination, and in the transference/countertransference relationship between therapist and client.

Given an adequate relationship, setting, and time, the client's psyche will tend toward healing itself. Eventually the unconscious begins to provide descriptions of the existing concerns but suggestions for possibilities of development which could reconcile the opposing positions. This defines the development/growth available from the situation and what paths are required of us or closed to us, according to the inherent (some would say transcendent) plan of the Self.

Jungians are usually reluctant to 'over direct' the therapeutic process, believing that the client's psyche rather than the therapist's is the true guide. The therapeutic process, from a Jungian perspective respects the guidance of one's centre -the source of one's deepest intuitions, feelings, and values.

Jung's theory divides the psyche into three parts. The first is the ego, which Jung identifies with the conscious mind. Closely related is the personal unconscious, which includes anything that is not presently conscious, but can be. The personal unconscious is like most people's understanding of the unconscious in that it includes both memories that are easily brought to mind and those that have been suppressed for some reason. But it does not include the instincts that Freud included. Jung describes a part of the psyche that differentiated his theory: the collective unconscious which can be thought of as a "psychic inheritance." It is the reservoir of humanity's experiences as a species, the innate knowledge we are all born with, yet can never be directly conscious of. It influences all of our experiences and behaviours, most significantly the emotions.

Some experiences reflect the activation of the collective unconscious more clearly than others: Love at first sight, of deja vu (the feeling that you've been here before), and the immediate recognition of certain symbols and the meanings of certain myths, can be understood as the sudden conjunction of our outer reality and the inner reality of the collective unconscious. Grander examples are the creative experiences shared by artists and musicians all over the world and in all times, or the spiritual experiences of mystics of all religions, or the parallels in dreams, fantasies, mythologies, fairy tales, and literature.


The contents of the collective unconscious are orders by constellations of meaning called archetypes. Jung also called them dominants, imagos, mythological or primordial images, and a few other names, but 'archetypes' seems to have won out over these. An archetype is an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way. The mother archetype is a particularly good example. All of our ancestors had mothers. We have evolved in an environment that included a mother or mother-substitute. As helpless infants, we would never have survived without our connection with a nurturing-one. It stands to reason that we are "built" in a way that reflects that evolutionary environment: We come into this world ready to want mother, to seek her, to recognise her, to deal with her.

The shadow

Sex and the life instincts in general are, of course, represented somewhere in Jung's system. They are a part of the shadow archetype. It derives from our prehuman, animal past, when our concerns were limited to survival and reproduction, and when humans weren't self-conscious. It is the "dark side" of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of. More accurately the shadow is amoral -- neither good nor bad, sort of like animals. An animal is capable of tender care for its young and vicious killing for food, but it doesn't choose to do either. It just does what it does. It is "innocent." From our human perspective, the animal world may look rather brutal, so the shadow becomes a container for the parts of our human nature we can't admit to or accept.

The most important archetype of all is the self. The self is the ultimate unity of the personality and is symbolised by the circle, the cross, and the mandala figures that Jung was fond of painting. A mandala is a drawing that is used in meditation because it tends to draw your focus back to the centre, and it can be as simple as a geometric figure or as complicated as a stained glass window. The goal of life is to realise the self. The self is an archetype that represents the transcendence of all opposites, so that every aspect of your personality is expressed equally. You are then neither and both male and female, neither and both ego and shadow, neither and both good and bad, neither and both conscious and unconscious, neither and both an individual and the whole of creation. And yet, with no oppositions, there is no energy, and you cease to act. Of course, you no longer need to act. Jung felt that perfection of the personality is only truly achieved in death.

Jung described three principles, beginning with the principle of opposites. Every wish immediately suggests its opposite. According to Jung, it is the opposition that creates the power (or libido) of the psyche. It is like the two poles of a battery, or the splitting of an atom. It is the contrast that gives energy, hence a strong contrast gives strong energy, and a weak contrast gives weak energy.

The second principle is the principle of equivalence. The energy created from the opposition is "given" to both sides equally eg. When I hold a baby bird in my hand, there is energy to help it --but there is an equal amount of energy to crush it. If I choose to help the bird, energy goes into the various behaviours involved in helping it. What happens to the other energy?

If I pretend that I never had the urge to destroy the bird, if I deny or suppress it, the energy will go towards the development of a complex. A complex is a pattern of suppressed thoughts and feelings that cluster -- constellate -- around a theme provided by some archetype.

Here's where the problem arises: If you pretend all your life that you are only good, that you don't even have the capacity to lie and cheat and steal and kill, then all the times when you do good, that other side of you goes into a complex around the shadow. That complex will begin to develop a life of its own, and it will haunt you. You might find yourself having nightmares in which you go around stomping on little baby birds!

The final principle is the principle of entropy. This is the tendency for oppositions to come together, and so for energy to decrease, over a person's lifetime. Jung borrowed the idea from physics, where entropy refers to the tendency of all physical systems to "run down," that is, for all energy to become evenly distributed. If you have, for example, a heat source in one corner of the room, the whole room will eventually be heated.

When we are young, the opposites will tend to be extreme, and so we tend to have lots of energy. For example, adolescents tend to exaggerate male-female differences, with boys trying hard to be macho and girls trying equally hard to be feminine. And so their sexual activity is invested with great amounts of energy! Plus, adolescents often swing from one extreme to another, being wild and crazy one minute and finding religion the next. As we get older, most of us come to be more comfortable with our different facets. We are less naive or idealistic and recognise that we are all mixtures of good and bad. We are less threatened by the opposite sex within us and become more androgynous. Even physically, in old age, men and women become more alike. This process of rising above our opposites, of seeing both sides of who we are, is called transcendence.

Jung also developed a personality typology that has become very popular. It begins with the distinction between introversion and extroversion. Introverts are people who prefer their internal world of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, dreams, and so on, while extroverts prefer the external world of things and people and activities.

The words have become confused with ideas like shyness and sociability, partially because introverts tend to be shy and extroverts tend to be sociable. But Jung intended for them to refer to whether the ego more often faced toward the persona and outer reality, or toward the collective unconscious and its archetypes. In this sense, the introvert is somewhat more mature than the extrovert. Western culture tends to value extroversion.

The functions

Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we need to deal with the world, inner and outer. And each of us has habitual ways of dealing with it. Jung suggests there are four basic ways, or functions: The first is sensing. Sensing is the apprehension of information via the senses. A sensing person is good at looking and listening and generally getting to know the world; perceiving rather than judging information. The second is thinking. Thinking means evaluating information or ideas rationally, logically involving decision making or judging, rather than the simple intake of information. The third is intuiting. Intuiting is a kind of perception that works outside of the usual conscious processes. It is irrational or perceptual, like sensing, but comes from the complex integration of large amounts of information, rather than simple seeing or hearing. Jung said it was like seeing around corners. The fourth is feeling. Feeling, like thinking, is a matter of evaluating information, this time by weighing one's overall, emotional response. People have all these functions in different proportions. Each of us has a superior function, which we prefer and which is well developed in us, a secondary function, which we are aware of and use in support of our superior function, a tertiary function, which is slightly less developed but not terribly conscious, and an inferior function, which is poorly developed and so unconscious that we might deny its existence.

Most of us develop only one or two of the functions, but our goal should be to develop all four. Once again, Jung sees the transcendence of opposites as the ideal. The most common expression of Jung's personality model is in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.