Now what is to be understood by attitude?

Attitude is a psychological term designating a particular arrangement of psychic contents oriented towards a goal or directed by some kind of ruling principle.

If we compare our psychic contents to an army, and the various forms of attitude to military dispositions, then attention, for example, would be represented by a concentrated force standing to arms, surrounded by reconnoitering parties.

As soon as the strength and position of the enemy are known, the disposition changes: the army begins to move in the direction of a given objective.

In precisely the same way the psychic attitude changes.

During the state of attention the dominant idea is alertness; one’s own thoughts are suppressed as much as possible, along with other subjective contents.

But in going over to an active attitude, subjective contents appear in consciousness—purposive ideas and impulses to act.

And just as an army has a commander and a general staff, so the psychic attitude has a general guiding idea which is reinforced by a wide assortment of experiences, principles, affects of all kinds, etc.

That is to say, no human action is entirely simple—an isolated reaction, as it were, to a single stimulus.

Each of our actions and reactions is influenced by complicated psychic factors.

To use the military analogy again, we might compare these processes with the situation at general headquarters.

To the man in the ranks it might seem that the army retreated simply because it was attacked, or that an attack was launched because the enemy had been located.

Our conscious mind is always disposed to play the role of the common soldier and to believe in the simplicity of its actions.

But, in reality, battle was given at this particular place and this particular moment because of a general plan of attack, which for days before had been marshalling the common soldier to this point.

Again, this general plan is not simply a reaction to reconnaissance reports, but results from the creative initiative of the commander.

Furthermore, it is conditioned by the action of the enemy, and also perhaps by wholly unmilitary, political considerations of which the common soldier is quite unaware.

These last factors are of a very complex nature and lie far outside the understanding of the common soldier, though they may be only too clear to the commander of the army.

But even to him certain factors are unknown, such as his own personal psychology and its complicated assumptions.

Thus the army stands under a simple and unified command, but this command is a result of the coordinated operation of infinitely complex factors.

Psychic action takes place on a similarly complicated basis.

However simple an impulse appears to be, every nuance of its particular character, its strength and direction, its course, its timing, its aim, all depend on special psychic conditions, in other words, on an attitude; and the attitude in turn consists of a constellation of contents so numerous that they cannot be counted.

The ego is the army commander; its reflections and decisions, its reasons and doubts, its intentions and expectations are the general staff, and its dependence on outside factors is the dependence of the commander on the well-nigh incalculable influences emanating from general headquarters and from the dark machinations of politics in the background.

I hope we shall not overload our analogy if we now include within it the relation of man to the world.

The individual ego could be conceived as the commander of a small army in the struggle with his environment—a war not infrequently on two fronts, before him the struggle for existence, in the rear the struggle against his own rebellious instinctual nature.

Even to those of us who are not pessimists our existence feels more like a struggle than anything else.

The state of peace is a desideratum, and when a man has found peace with himself and the world it is indeed a noteworthy event.

Hence, in order to meet the more or less chronic state of war, we need a carefully organized attitude; and should some superman achieve enduring mental peace his attitude would need a still higher degree of detailed preparation if his peace is to have even a modest duration.

It is much easier for the mind to live in a state of movement, in a continuous up and down of events, than in a balanced state of permanency, for in the latter state—however lofty and perfect it may be—one is threatened with suffocation and unbearable ennui.

So we are not deluding ourselves if we assume that peaceful states of mind, that is, moods without conflict, serene, deliberate, and well-balanced, so far as they are lasting, depend on specially well-developed attitudes. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Pages 358-360, Paras 690-693.