Carl Jung: Introduction to Toni Wolff’s “Studies in Jungian Psychology”

In writing this introduction I am discharging a debt of thanks: the author of the essays printed in this volume was my friend and collaborator for more than forty years, until her untimely death in 1953, at the age of sixty-five.

She took an active part in all phases of the development of analytical psychology, and to her we owe the expression “complex psychology” as a designation for this field of research.

Her collaboration was not confined to working out practical methods of analysis and to the task of theoretical formulation, both of which have found visible expression in the published material.

She also helped me to carry out, over a period of forty years, a “silent experiment” in group psychology, an experiment which constitutes the life of the Psychological Club in Zurich.

This small group of thirty to seventy members was founded in 1916, and it owes its existence to the realization that analytical treatment (including the “psychoanalytic” method) is a dialectical process between two individuals, and therefore gives results which are necessarily onesided from the collective and social point of view.

The individual personality of the analyst represents only one of the infinite possibilities of adaptation which life offers as well as demands.

This should not be taken to mean that analysis is a discussion between two individuals who are, at bottom, hopelessly incommensurable, or is nothing more than an approximation between them.

Human personality is certainly not individual only, it is also collective, and to such a degree that the individual is rather like an  underprivileged minority.

Every so-called normal person represents the species Homo sapiens and can therefore be regarded as the measure of things human, or as a general example of human behaviour.

For this reason, a large part of the analytical work takes place on levels which are common to all, or at any rate most, individuals, and which do not require the discussion of individual differences.

The longer the discussion is intentionally restricted to what is common, collective, and average—that is, to theoretical suppositions—the closer it comes to the danger point where the specifically individual features of the patient are suppressed.

Thanks to her high natural intelligence and quite exceptional psychological insight, the author was one of the first to recognize the extraordinary importance of this psychotherapeutic problem, and devoted herself to it with particular zeal.

For many years she was president of the Club and so had a unique opportunity to collect observations on group psychology.

For in a group we see operating all those psychic events which are never constellated by an individual, or may even be unintentionally suppressed.

A male analyst, for example, can never constellate the reactions which a woman would release if she were in his place.

These modes of behaviour therefore remain latent; or if they appear at all, there is no critical eye to separate the wheat from the chaff.

At best they remain hanging in mid-air as theoretical speculations; they are not experienced as realities and so cannot be recognized for what they are.

Only what the analyst has become conscious of through his own experience can become an object for psychological discussion.

Other objects, which may be put up for discussion by the patient should they reach his consciousness, come to grief on the unconsciousness of the analyst at this particular point.

If he can divest himself of his authority, he may be able to compensate for his own defective experience by the experience of another.

But there is always a danger that he will counter the psychological reality by some schematic theorem, because his fear of feeling inferior prevents him from admitting his defect.

This danger is particularly great for the analyst, who is always expected to show authority.

As a result, it happens all too easily that the balance between theoretical prejudice and uncritical acceptance can no longer be preserved, so that the analyst is unable to distinguish between justified and unjustified resistances on the part of his patient.

This problem, a very important one in practice, led the author to pay particular attention to the typical modes of behaviour, especially of women.

As every intelligent person knows, a typology of this sort does not aim in the least at a statistical classification; its purpose is to afford insight into the structure of normal modes of behaviour.

These are typical forms of reaction whose existence is quite justified, and which should not be regarded as pathological merely because the analyst belongs to a different type.

A typology is therefore designed, first and foremost, as an aid to a psychological critique of knowledge.

Empirical psychology is so rich that one can set up hundreds of typological criteria without necessarily endowing any one of them with special significance, unless it happened to be a particularly common and instructive criterion.

The valuable thing here is the critical attempt to prevent oneself from taking one’s own prejudices as the criterion of normality.

Unfortunately, this happens only too easily; for instance, extraversion is “normal,” but introversion is pathological auto-eroticism.

Her study of the difficulties that arise in a group provided the author with a mass of empirical material of which she made valuable use.

Like the individual, a group is influenced by numerous typical factors, such as the family milieu, society, politics, outlook on life, religion.

The bigger the group, the more the individuals composing it function as a collective entity, which is so powerful that it can reduce individual consciousness to the point of extinction, and it does this the more easily if the individual lacks spiritual possessions of his own with an individual stamp.

The group and what belongs to it cover up the lack of genuine individuality, just as parents act as substitutes for everything lacking in their children. In this respect the group exerts a seductive influence, for nothing is easier than a perseveration of infantile ways or a return to them.

Only the man who knows how to acquire spiritual possessions of his own is proof against this danger.

Group observations have confirmed over and over again that the group subtly entices its members into mutual imitation and dependence, thereby holding out the promise of sparing them a painful confrontation with themselves.

People still do not realize that fate will reach them all the same, if not directly then indirectly.

A State that protects us from everything also takes away from us everything that makes life worth living.

We need not stress the social advantages of living in a group, let alone the necessary and vital protection afforded by society.

They are known to everyone.

On the other hand, nobody likes or dares to mention in so many words the negative effects of group-existence, because this might bring up the frightening problem of self-knowledge and individuation.

In any analytical treatment that seeks to be a psychological process of dialectic between two individuals the odious question is bound to arise: What is mine and what is thine?

The answer to this question necessitates a thorough examination of psychic contents, of meanings and values, on a plane beyond the collective “should” and “must.”

A much needed consideration of what is essential to the individual proves to be the first task, for no one can get anywhere near independence unless he is conscious of his own singularity.

Belief in general rules and precepts will never make a man anything more than a collective being, whereas in reality he is an individual different from others and should therefore be in possession of his own individual consciousness.

Without the physical and spiritual possessions that go with this he is in danger of being submerged in the collective.

As this runs counter to the specific, biological urge of man to develop an individually differentiated consciousness, a great variety of injurious effects may be produced.

The more “scientific” our education attempts to be, the more it orients itself by general precepts and thus suppresses the individual development of the child.

One of these general precepts states: “The individuality of the child should be taken into account and protected.”

This principle, praiseworthy in itself, is reduced to absurdity in practice if the numerous peculiarities of the child are not adjusted to the values of the collectivity.

One is then protecting and developing merely the peculiarities, without considering whether they will be useful or harmful to the child later on in social life.

He is being robbed of the important experience that peculiarities are not admissible just because he has them.

Their differentiation and evaluation demand so much tact, experience, and sense of values on the part of the educator that the above precept cannot be realized without danger to the pupil.

It is very likely that too general an application of the principle will produce unadapted individualists rather than individuals consciousness.

The peculiar nature of discussions of this kind, which the layman often finds very puzzling, is due to the fact that they are not philosophical in the conventional sense, but are psychological.

That is to say, they are concerned with the affects, emotions, and values of individuals, and their subject matter is taken not from the abstract world of concepts but from everyday life, from the experiences, dreams, and fantasies of individual human beings.

The discussion tries to bring order into this chaos of disconnected and uncomprehended details by examining their unknown connections with the human mind in general in the light of consciousness, so far as this is possible with the help of understanding and of our present means of communication.

This therapeutic activity is naturallnot philosophy in the current sense of the word, even though those who are not familiar with the psychological material always make the mistake of confusing purely empirical and pragmatic terms with philosophical concepts, or of taking them as metaphysical assertions.

For anyone who knows the material these essays are uncommonly instructive and stimulating.

They will tell the educated layman many things about which the learned specialists have little to say.

They are answers to questions which affect the psyche of our contemporaries far more closely than those given by the academic specialist.

Though the latter would certainly do well, in the interests of scientific objectivity, to exclude from his work all feeling-values, and, in particular, all subjective reactions and excursions into neighbouring territories in which he himself is a layman, the psychologist is ill-advised to disregard the emotional connections and analogies which are the essence of psychic life.

In order to sketch an adequate picture of psychic events, and of the manifold connections between them, he must stress just those aspects which the specialist anxiously excludes from his field of study.

An empirical psychology of complex phenomena therefore occupies a difficult position in the world of specialism.

Whereas the specialist, guided by general principles, pushes forward to an ever more exact understanding of the smallest details, the empirical psychologist has to start from a very limited field in which he himself is the only expert—an expert, that is to say, in his personal knowledge of himself.

But even here he will find it exceedingly difficult to rid himself of the prejudice that what he is practising is some kind of “objective psychology.”

If he really has any talent in this respect, he will soon discover that he is surrounded by a number of similar experts who all have assumptions of their own and, like him, are inclined to regard their personal prejudices as generally valid psychological knowledge.

Empirical knowledge, however, is composed of numerous individual observations by numerous individual observers, who have previously assured themselves of the identity of their methods of observation as well as of the objects observed.

Because complex psychic phenomena are amenable to experimental methods only in minimal degree, we have to depend on descriptions of them, and can attempt to interpret them only by means of amplification and comparison.

This procedure is the exact opposite of what the specialist is at pains to achieve.

He wants to know the object in its truest essence and in all its peculiarity; whereas the comparative psychologist, in order to understand its irrational and apparently accidental details, must not fight shy even of the most obvious and superficial analogies, however fortuitous they may seem, because they serve as bridges for psychic associations.

Just as he horrifies the philosopher who has no interest in psychology by what must seem to him a special brand of inferior philosophy,

so he annoys the scientific specialist unacquainted with psychotherapeutic problems by the inexactitude and superficiality of his “fantastic” analogies.

What then must he expect of the theologian, whose propositions he blasphemously regards as “statements” of the psyche, i.e., as psychic products, reducing them to the same level as the statements of other religions, which are one and all erroneous?

Psychological treatment, taken in its widest sense, seeks the values that satisfy the psychic needs of contemporary man, so that he shall not fall victim to the destructive influence of mass psychology.

Words like “should” and “must” are useless remedies that have long since lost their efficacy.

In order to find a proper remedy we need a knowledge of the real and whole man, and this is not possible without taking account of all those spheres of knowledge which immediately affect him and his conduct of life.

Several of the essays in this volume bear witness to the efforts which the author has made in this regard.

They are visible examples of the endeavour of complex psychology to fill the gap which the invasion of the natural sciences has created in the higher education of man. ~Carl Jung, CW 10, Pages 469-475