Is depth psychology a new way to self-knowledge?

 

Yes, depth psychology must be termed a new way, because in all the methods practised up to now no account was taken of the existence of the unconscious.

 

Thus a new factor entered our field of vision, which has seriously complicated and fundamentally altered the situation.

 

Formerly, the fact had not been reckoned with that man is a “twofold” being—a being with a conscious side which he knows, and an unconscious side of which he knows nothing but which need be no secret to his fellows.

 

How often one makes all sorts of mistakes without being conscious of them in the least, while they are borne in upon others all the more painfully!

 

Man lives as a creature whose one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

 

The recognition that we have to allow for the existence of an unconscious is a fact of revolutionary importance.

 

Conscience as an ethical authority extends only as far as consciousness extends.

 

When a man lacks self-knowledge he can do the most astonishing or terrible things without calling himself to account and without ever suspecting what he is doing.

 

Unconscious actions are always taken for granted and are therefore not critically evaluated.

 

One is then surprised at the incomprehensible reactions of one’s neighbours, whom one holds to be responsible; that is, one fails to see what one does oneself and seeks in others the cause of all the consequences that follow from one’s own actions.

 

Marriages furnish an instructive example of how easily one sees the mote in another’s eye but not the beam in one’s own.

 

Of far greater, indeed truly monstrous, proportions are the projections of war propaganda, when the lamentably bad manners of civil life are exalted into a principle.

 

Our unwillingness to see our own faults and the projection of them on to others is the source of most quarrels, and the strongest guarantee that injustice, animosity, and persecution will not easily die out.

 

When one remains unconscious of oneself one is frequently unaware of one’s own conflicts; indeed the existence of unconscious conflicts is actually held to be impossible.

 

There are many marriages in which the partners skirt round every possible conflict with the greatest caution, the one actually imagining himself to be immune from such things, while the other is filled to the neck with laboriously repressed complexes and almost choked by them.

 

Such a situation often has injurious effects on the children too.

 

We know that children often have dreams dealing with the unconfessed problems of their parents.

 

These problems weigh upon the children because the parents, being themselves unconscious of them, have never attempted to come to grips with

their own difficulties, and this creates something like a poisoning of the atmosphere.

 

For this reason the neuroses of childhood depend to a considerable degree upon the parents’ conflicts.

 

How is depth psychology distinguished from the previous methods of psychological research? Where does it coalesce with other disciplines?

 

Psychology up till now took no account of the motivation of conscious contents due to the existence of the unconscious.

 

Once the unconscious is included in the calculation, everything suddenly gets a double bottom, as it were.

 

We have to look at everything from two sides, whereas the old psychology was satisfied with the contents of consciousness.

 

Thus the old method of explaining the appearance of psychogenic (psychologically caused) symptoms could rest content with the supposition that they were auto-suggested figments of the imagination.

 

The modern explanation, which lets the unconscious psyche of the patient have its say, investigates his dreams, fantasies, and complexes, i.e., that segment of his life history which is responsible for the formation of the symptoms.

 

No one questions today that neurotic symptoms are produced by processes in the unconscious.

 

The conscious realization of the unconscious causative factors therefore has a definite therapeutic value.

 

Psychogenic symptoms are products of the unconscious.

 

These symptom also include various opinions and convictions which, though they may be uttered consciously enough, nevertheless are determined

in reality by unconscious motives.

 

Thus a too importunate and one-sided assertion of principles can often be traced back to an unconscious failure to live up to them.

 

I knew someone, for instance, who, on every occasion, suitable or not, paraded his principie of honesty and truthfulness before the public.

 

As I soon discovered, he suffered from a rather too lively imagination, which now and then seduced him into gross lies.

 

The whole question of truth therefore occasioned in him a not undeserved “sentiment d’incompletude,” which in turn moved him to exceptionally loud ethical protestations, no small part of whose aim was to beget in himself a conviction of honesty.

 

With the recognition that every conscious process rests in part upon an unconscious one and may represent it symbolically, our previous views of psychic causality are radically called into question.

 

Direct causal sequences in consciousness appear doubtful, and every experience of psychic contents urgently requires them to be supplemented

by their unconscious aspect.

 

Although depth psychology is a discipline in itself, it lurks invisibly, thanks to the fact of the unconscious, in the background of all other disciplines.

 

Just as the discovery of radioactivity overthrew the old physics and necessitated a revision of many scientific concepts, so all disciplines that are in

any way concerned with the realm of the psychic are broadened out and at the same time remoulded by depth psychology.

 

It raises new problems for philosophy; it greatly enriches pedagogics and still more the study of human character; it also poses new problems for criminology, especially as regards criminal motives ; for medicine it opens up an unsuspected store of fresh insights and possibilities through the discovery of the interdependence of bodily and psychic processes and the inclusion of the neurotic factor; and it has richly fecundated, less closely related sciences such as mythology, ethnology, etc.

 

Are the various schools of depth psychology similar in their aims?

 

The difference between the principal schools of depth psychology up to date are based upon as many different aspects of the unconscious.

 

The unconscious possesses a biological, a physiological, a mythical, a religious aspect, and so on.

 

This means that the most varied conceptions are not only possible but even necessary.

 

Each has its own justification, though none to the exclusion of others, for the unconscious is a highly complex phenomenon to which one single concept can never do justice.

 

One cannot judge a person from a moral standpoint only, for example, but has to regard him from this standpoint too! Certain contents of the unconscious can be understood as strivings for power, others as the expression of sexual or other drives, while yet others allow no explanation in

terms of biological drives under any circumstances.

 

Has “analytical psychology,” i.e., the Jungian school of depth psychology, definite guiding principles?

 

I should prefer not to use the term “guiding principles” in this connection. Just because of the extreme variety and complexity of the aspects of the unconscious and its possible meanings, every “guiding principle” works as an arbitrary assumption, as an actual prejudice that tries to anticipate its irrational manifestations, though these cannot be determined in advance, and perhaps force them into an unsuitable mould. One must avoid all assumptions so far as possible in order to grasp the pure manifestation itself.

 

This must carry its own interpretation with it, to such an extent that its significance is immediately evident from the nature of the phenomenon

and is not forced upon it by the observer.

 

He must, in fact, accustom himself to be guided more by the material than by his own opinions, however well founded they may appear to him.

 

Every item of psychic experience presents itself in an individual form, even though its deeper content may be collective.

 

One can never determine in advance, however, which of its principal aspects lies concealed behind the individual form.

 

 “Guiding principles” are therefore admissible at most as working hypotheses, and this only in the realm of scientific research.

 

The practical material is best accepted mentevacua (without any preconceived theories).

 

What are the principal tools of analytical psychology? Does the interpretation of dreams occupy a central place?

 

The analytical situation has a fourfold aspect:

 

(a) The patient gives me in his own words a picture of the situation as he consciously sees it.

 

(b) His dreams give me a compensating picture of the unconscious aspect of it.

 

(c) The relational situation in which the patient is placed vis-a-vis the analyst adds an objective side to the two other subjective ones,

 

(d) Working through the material collected under a, b, and c fills out the total picture of the psychological situation.

 

The necessity of working through it arises from the fact that the total picture often stands in the liveliest contrast to the views of the ego-personality and therefore leads to all sorts of intellectual and emotional reactions and problems, which in their turn clamour for solution and answer.

 

Since the final goal of the undertaking can only consist in restoring the original wholeness of the personality in a viable form, one cannot dispense with a knowledge of the unconscious.

 

The purest product of the unconscious is the dream.

 

The dream points directly to the unconscious, for it “happens” and we have not invented it. It brings us unfalsified material.

 

What has passed through consciousness is already sifted and remodelled.

 

As we can deduce from the lava ejected by a volcano the constitution of the strata from which it comes, so we can draw deductions as to the unconscious situation from the contents of dreams.

 

Only dream material plus conscious material reveals the picture of the whole man. And only in this way can we find out who our antagonist is.

 

Although dreams disclose the unconscious to us with perhaps the nearest approach to faithfulness we can attain, we also come upon its traces in every form of creative activity, such as music and poetry, and in all other forms of art.

 

It appears in all manifestations of a spontaneous and creative kind, the further these are removed from everything mechanical, technical, and intellectual.

 

As well as from dreams we can therefore draw conclusions from such things as drawings in which patients are encouraged to reveal their

inner images.

 

Although obviously the personality of the patient holds the centre of our attention, and introspection is an indispensable instrument of our work in common, yet this is anything rather than brooding.

 

Brooding is a sterile activity which runs round in a circle and never reaches a reasonable goal. It is not work but a weakness, even a vice.

 

On the other hand, if you feel out of sorts, you can legitimately make yourself an object of serious investigation, just as you can earnestly search your conscience without lapsing into moral weakness.

 

Anyone who is in bad odour with himself and feels in need of improvement, anyone who in brief wishes to “grow,” must take counsel with himself.

 

Unless you change yourself inwardly too, outward changes in the situation are worthless or even harmful. It is not enough to jump up, puff yourself out, and shout

:

“I take the responsibility!”

 

Not only mankind but fate itself would like to know who promises to take this weighty step and whether it is someone who Can take the responsibility.

 

We all know that anyone can say so. It is not the position that makes the man, but the man who does his work.

 

Therefore self-searching, with the help of one or more persons, is—or rather should be—the essential condition for taking on a higher responsibility, even if it is only that of realizing the meaning of individual life in the best possible form and to the fullest possible degree.

 

Nature always does that, but without responsibility, for this is the fated and divinely allotted task of man.

 

Is not an important milestone in the development of self-knowledge, which has increased the difficulties of the “way to onself” to be found in the Reformation and in the loss of confession for Protestants, and so for millions of people?

 

Has not self-searching become keener and deeper because of the loss of the dialogue that the Catholic has with his confessor, and the loss of absolution?

 

The difficulties have indeed become enormously greater, as evidenced by the increased prevalence of complexes among Protestants, which has been statistically established.

 

But these increased difficulties constitute—if the Protestant will really face and grapple with them—an exceptionally advantageous basis for self-knowledge.

 

They can, however, just as easily lead, precisely because a confessor is lacking, either to sterile brooding or to thoughtless superficiality.

 

Most people need someone to confess to, otherwise the basis of experience is not sufficiently real.

 

They do not “hear” themselves, cannot contrast themselves with something different, and thus they have no outside “control.”

 

Everything flows inwards and is answered only by oneself, not by another, someone different.

 

It makes an enormous difference whether I confess my guilt only to myself or to another person.

 

This being thrown back upon themselves often leads Protestants to spiritual arrogance and to isolation in their own ego.

 

Although analytical psychology guards against being considered a substitute for confession, in practice it must often function willy-nilly as such.

 

There are so many Catholics who no longer go to confession, and still more Protestants who do not even know what confession is, that it is not surprising some of them yield to their need of communication and share their burdens with an analyst in a way which could almost be called confession.

 

The difference, however, is considerable, inasmuch as the doctor is no priest, no theological and moral authority, but, at best, a sympathetically

listening confidant with some experience of life and knowledge of human nature.

 

There is no admonition to repentance unless the patient does it himself, no penance unless—as is almost the rule—he has got himself in a thorough mess, and no absolution unless God has mercy on him.

 

Psychology is admittedly only a makeshift, but at the present time a necessary one.

 

Were it not a necessity it would have collapsed long ago from inner emptiness.

 

It meets a need that unquestionably exists.

 

Does a knowledge of the “other side,” that is, one’s own unconscious side, bring relief, release? Does not self-knowledge rather increase the tension between what one is and what one would like to be?

 

Being able to talk things over freely can in itself be a great relief. In general, working with the unconscious brings an increase of tension at first, because it activates the opposites in the psyche by making them conscious.

 

This entirely depends, though, on the situation from which one starts.

 

The carefree optimist falls into a depression because he has now become conscious of the situation he is in.

 

On the other hand, the pressure on the inward brooding person is released.

 

The initial situation decides whether a release or increase of pressure will result.

 

Through self-searching in analysis people suddenly become aware of their real limitations.

 

How often a woman has previously felt herself a snow-white dove and had no suspicion of the devil concealed within her!

 

Without this knowledge she can neither be healed nor attain wholeness.

 

For one person deeper knowledge of himself is a punishment, for another a blessing.

 

In general, every act of conscious realization means a tensing of opposites.

 

It is in order to avoid this tension that people repress their conflicts.

 

But if they become conscious of them, they get into a corresponding state of tension.

 

This supplies in turn the drivingpower for a solution of the problems they are faced with.

 

Doesn’t a systematic preoccupation with oneself lead to egocentricity?

 

At first glance, from an external and superficial point of view, it does make one egocentric.

 

But I consider this justifiable up a point.

 

One must occupy oneself with oneself; otherwise one does not grow, otherwise one can never develop!

 

One must plant a garden and

give it increasing attention and care if one wants vegetables; otherwise

only weeds flourish.

 

“Egocentric” has an unpleasant undertone of pathological egoism.

 

But as I have said, occupation with and meditation on one’s own being is an absolutely legitimate, even necessary activity if one strives after a real alteration and improvement of the situation.

 

Outwardly changing the situation, doing something else, forgetting what one was, alters nothing essential.

 

Indeed, even when a bad man does good, he is nevertheless not good but suffers from a good symptom without being altered in character.

 

How many drinkers, for example, have turned teetotalers without being freed from their psychic alcoholism!

 

And only too soon they succumbed again to their vice.

 

There are essentially bad natures that actually specialize in being good and, if they chance to become some kind of educator, the results are catastrophic.

 

A systematic preoccupation with oneself serves a purpose.

 

It is work and achievement.

 

Often, in fact, it is much better to educate oneself first before one educates others.

 

It is by no means certain that the man with good intentions is under all circumstances a good man.

 

If he is not, then his best intentions will lead to ruin as daily experience proves.

 

Doesn’t an exact knowledge of one’s own nature with all its contradictions and absurdities, make one unsure? Doesn’t it weaken self-confidence

and so lessen the ability to survive in the battle of life?

 

Much too often people have a pathetic cocksureness which leads them into nothing but foolishness.

 

It is better to be unsure because one then becomes more modest, more humble.

 

It is true that an inferiority complex always harbours within it the danger of outdoing itself and compensating the supposed lack by a flight into the opposite.

 

Wherever an inferiority complex exists, there is good reason for it.

 

There actually is an inferiority of some kind, though not precisely where one is persuaded it is.

 

Modesty and humility are not the signs of an inferiority complex.

 

They are highly estimable, indeed admirable, virtues and not complexes.

 

They prove that their fortunate possessor is not a presumptuous fool, but knows his own limitations, and will therefore never stumble beyond the

bounds of humanity, dazzled and intoxicated by his imagined greatness.

 

The people who fancy they are sure of themselves are the ones who are truly unsure.

 

Our life is unsure, and therefore a feeling of unsureness is much nearer to the truth than the illusion and the bluff of sureness.

 

In the long run it is the better-adapted man who triumphs, not the wrongly self-confident, who is at the mercy of dangers from without and within.

 

Measure not by money or power ! Peace of soul means more.

 

Can depth psychology assist social adaptation and increase the capacity for human contacts?

 

The increased self-knowledge which depth psychology necessitates also creates greater possibilities of communication: you can interpret yourself in the analytical dialogue and learn through self=knowledge to understand others.

 

In that way you become more just and more tolerant.

 

Above all, you can remedy your own mistakes, and this is probably the best chance of making a proper adaptation to society.

 

Naturally you can also make wrong use of self-knowledge, just as any other knowledge.

 

Has self-knowledge a healing, liberating effect?

 

Repentance, confession, and purification from sin have always been the conditions of salvation.

 

So far as analysis helps confession, it can be said to bring about a kind of renewal.

 

Again and again we find that patients dream of the analysis as of a refreshing and purifying bath, or their dreams and visions present symbols of rebirth, which show unmistakably that knowledge of their unconscious and its meaningful integration in their psychic life give them renewed vitality, and do indeed appear to them as a deliverance from otherwise unavoidable disaster or from entanglement in the skeins of fate.

 

How does the integration of the unconscious express itself in the actual psychic situation?

 

This question can be answered only in a very general sense.

 

Individuality is so varied that in each single case the integration of the unconscious takes place in a different and unforeseen way.

 

One could describe this only with the help of concrete examples.

 

The human personality is incomplete so long as we take simply the ego, the conscious, into account.

 

It becomes complete only when supplemented by the unconscious.

 

Therefore knowledge of the unconscious is indispensable for every true self-investigation.

 

Through its integration, the centre of the personality is displaced from the limited ego into the more comprehensive self, into that centre which

embraces both realms, the conscious and the unconscious, and unites them with each other.

 

This self is the mid-point about which the true personality turns.

 

It has therefore been since remotest times the goal of every method of development based upon the principle of self-knowledge, as, for example, Indian yoga proves.

 

From the Indian standpoint our psychology looks like a “dialectical” yoga.

 

I must remark, however, that the yogi has quite definite notions as to the goal to be reached and does everything to attain this postulated goal.

 

With us, intellectualism, rationalism, and voluntarism are such dangerous psychic forces that psychotherapy must whenever possible avoid setting itself any such goal.

 

If the goal of wholeness and of realizing his originally intended personality should grow naturally in the patient, we may sympathetically assist

him towards it.

 

If it does not grow of itself, it cannot be implanted without remaining a permanent foreign body.

 

Therefore we renounce such artifices when nature herself is clearly not working to this end.

 

As a medical art, equipped only with human tools, our psychotherapy does not presume to preach salvation or a way thereto, for that does not lie within its power. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 811-819

Liked it? Take a second to support lewislafontaine on Patreon!