The Significance of Constitution and Heredity in Psychology

In the opinion of scientists today, there is no doubt that the individual psyche is in large measure dependent on the physiological constitution; indeed, there are not a few who consider this dependence absolute.

I would not like to go as far as that myself, but would regard it as more appropriate in the circumstances to grant the psyche a relative independence of the physiological constitution.

It is true that there are no rigorous proofs of this, but then there is no proof of the psyche’s total dependence on the constitution either.

We should never forget that if the psyche is the X, constitution is its complementary Y. Both, at bottom, are unknown factors, which have only recently begun to take on clearer form. But we are still far from having anything approaching a real understanding of their nature.

Although it is impossible to determine, in individual cases, the relations between constitution and psyche, such attempts have frequently been made, but the results are nothing more than unproven opinions.

The only method that could lead to fairly reliable results at present is the typological method, applied by Kretschmer to the constitution and by me to the psychological attitude.

In both cases the method is based on a large amount of empirical material, and though the individual variations cancel one another out to a large extent, certain typical basic features emerge all the more clearly and enable us to construct a number of ideal types.

These ideal types, of course, never occur in reality in their pure form, but only as individual variations of the principle underlying them, just as crystals are usually individual variations of the same isometric system.

Physiological typology endeavors first and foremost to ascertain the outward physical features by means of which individuals can be classified and their residual qualities examined. Kretschmer’s researches have shown that the physiological peculiarities may determine the psychic conditions.

:m Psychological typology proceeds in exactly the same way in principle, but its starting point is not, so to speak, outside, but inside.

It does not try to enumerate the outward characteristics; it seeks, rather, to discover the inner principles governing typical psychological attitudes.

While physiological typology is bound to employ essentially scientific methods in order to obtain results, the invisible and non-measurable nature of psychic processes compels us to employ methods derived from the humane sciences, above all an analytical critique.

There is, as I have said, no difference of principle but only of the nuance given by the different point of departure.

The present state of research justifies us in hoping that the results obtained on both sides will show a substantial measure of agreement with regard to certain basic facts.

I personally have the impression that some of Kretschmer’s main types are not so far removed from certain of the basic psychological types I have enumerated.

It is conceivable that at these points a bridge might be established between the physiological constitution and the psychological attitude.

That this has not been done already may well be due to the fact that the physiological findings are still very recent” while on the other hand investigation from the psychological side is very much more difficult and therefore less easy to understand.

We can readily agree that physiological characteristics are something that can be seen, touched, measured. But in psychology not even the meanings of words are fixed.

There are hardly two psychologies that could agree, for instance, about the concept of “feeling.” Yet the verb “to feel” and the noun “feeling” refer to psychic facts, otherwise a word for them would never have been invented.

In psychology we have to do with facts which are definite enough in themselves but have not been defined scientifically.

The state of our knowledge might be compared with natural philosophy in the Middle Ages-that is to say, everybody in psychology knows better than everybody else.

There are only opinions about unknown facts. Hence the psychologist has an almost invincible tendency to cling to the physiological facts, because there he feels safe, in the security of things that appear to be known and defined.

As science is dependent on the definiteness of verbal concepts, it is incumbent upon the psychologist to make conceptual distinctions and to attach definite names to certain groups of psychic facts, regardless of whether somebody else has a different conception of the meaning of this term or not.

The only thing he has to consider is whether the name he uses agrees, in its ordinary usage, with the psychic facts designated by it.

At the same time he must rid himself of the common notion that the name explains the psychic fact it denotes.

The name should mean to him no more than a mere cipher, and his whole conceptual system should be to him no more than a trigonometrical survey of a certain geographical area, in which the fixed points of reference are indispensable in practice but irrelevant in theory.

Psychology has still to invent its own specific language.

When I first started giving names to the attitude-types I had discovered empirically, I found this question of language the greatest obstacle.

I was driven, whether I would or no, to fix definite boundaries to my concepts and give these areas names which were taken, as far as possible, from common usage.

In so doing, I inevitably exposed myself to the danger I have already mentioned-the common prejudice that the name explains the thing.

Although this is an undoubted survival left over from the old belief in the magic of words, it does not prevent misunderstandings, and I have repeatedly heard the objection, “But feeling is something quite different.”

I mention this apparently trivial fact only because its very triviality is one of the greatest obstacles to psychological research.

Psychology, being the youngest of all the sciences, is still afflicted with a medieval mentality in which no distinction is made between words and things.

I must lay stress on these difficulties in order to explain to a wider scientific public unacquainted with it the apparent inadequacies as well as the peculiar nature of psychological research.

The typological method sets up what it is pleased to call “natural” classifications-no classification is natura1!-which are of the greatest heuristic value because they bring together individuals who have outward features in common, or common psychic attitudes, and enable us to submit them to a closer and more accurate scrutiny.

Research into constitution gives the psychologist an extremely valuable criterion with which he can either eliminate the organic factor when investigating the psychic context, or take it into his calculations.

This is one of the most important points at which pure psychology comes into collision with the X represented by the organic disposition. But it is not the only point where this happens.

There is still another factor, of which those who are engaged in investigating the constitution take no account at present.

This is the fact that the psychic process does not start from scratch with the individual consciousness, but is rather a repetition of functions which have been ages in the making and which are inherited with the brain structure.

Psychic processes antedate, accompany, and outlive consciousness.

Consciousness is an interval in a continuous psychic process; it is probably a climax requiring a special physiological effort, therefore it disappears again for a period each day.

The psychic process underlying consciousness is, so far as we are concerned, automatic and its coming and going are unknown to us.

We only know that the nervous system, and particularly its centers, condition and express the psychic function, and that these inherited structures start functioning in every new individual exactly as they have always done.

Only the climaxes of this activity appear in our consciousness, which is periodically extinguished.

However infinitely varied individual consciousnesses may be, the basic substrate of the unconscious psyche remains uniform.

So far as it is possible to understand the nature of unconscious processes, they manifest themselves everywhere in astonishingly identical forms, although their expressions, filtered through the individual consciousness, may assume a diversity that is just as great.

It is only because of this fundamental uniformity of the unconscious psyche that human beings are able to communicate with one another and to transcend the differences of individual consciousness.

There is nothing strange about these observations, at least to begin with; they become perplexing only when we discover how far even the individual consciousness is infected by this uniformity.

Astounding cases of mental similarity can be found in families. Fiirst published a case of a mother and daughter with a concordance of associations amounting to thirty per cent.

A large measure of psychic concordance between peoples and races separated from one another in space and time is generally regarded as flatly impossible.

In actual fact, however, the most astonishing concordances can be found in the realm of so-called fantastic ideas.

Every endeavor has been made to explain the concordance of myth-motifs and -symbols as due to migration and tradition; Goblet d’Almellas’ Migration of Symbols is an excellent example of this.

But this explanation, which naturally has some value, is contradicted by the fact that a mythologem can arise anywhere, at any time, without there being the slightest possibility of any such transmission.

For instance, I once had under my observation an insane patient who produced, almost word for word, a long symbolic passage which can be read in a papyrus published by Dieterich a few years later.

I have frequently been accused of a superstitious belief in After I had seen a sufficient number of such cases my original idea that such things could only happen to people belonging to the same race was shattered, and I accordingly investigated the dreams of purebred Negroes living in the southern United States.

I found in these dreams, among other things, motifs from Greek mythology, and this dispelled any doubt I had that it might be a question of racial inheritance.

“inherited ideas”-quite unjustly, because I have expressly emphasized that these concordances are not produced by “ideas” but rather by the inherited disposition to react in the same way as people have always reacted.

Again, the concordance has been denied on the ground that the redeemer-figure is in one case a hare, in another a bird, and in another a human being.

But this is to forget something which so much impressed a pious Hindu visiting an English church that, when he got home, he told the story that the Christians worshipped animals, because he had seen so many lambs about.

The names matter little; everything depends on the connection between them.

Thus it does not matter if the “treasure” is in one case a golden ring, in another a crown, in a third a pearl, and in a fourth a hidden hoard.

The essential thing is the idea of an exceedingly precious treasure hard to attain, no matter what it is called locally. And the essential thing, psychologically, is that in dreams, fantasies, and other exceptional states of mind the most far-fetched mythological motifs and symbols can appear autochthonously at any time, often, apparently, as the result of particular influences, traditions, and excitations working on the individual, but more often without any sign of them.

These “primordial images,” or “archetypes,” as I have called them, belong to the basic stock of the unconscious psyche and cannot be explained as personal acquisitions.

Together they make up that psychic stratum which I have called the collective unconscious.

23° The existence of the collective unconscious means that individual consciousness is anything but a tabula rasa and is not immune to predetermining influences.

On the contrary, it is in the highest degree influenced by inherited presuppositions, quite apart from the unavoidable influences exerted upon it by the environment.

The collective unconscious comprises in itself the psychic life of our ancestors right back to the earliest beginnings.

It is the matrix of all conscious psychic occurrences, and hence it exerts an influence that compromises the freedom of consciousness in the highest degree, since it is continually striving to lead all conscious processes back into the old paths.

This positive danger explains the extraordinary resistance which the conscious puts up against the unconscious.

It is not a question here of resistance to sexuality, but of something far more general-the instinctive fear of losing one’s freedom of consciousness and of succumbing to the automatism of the unconscious psyche.

For certain types of people the danger seems to lie in sex, because it is there that they are afraid of losing their freedom.

For others it lies in very different regions, but it is always where a certain weakness is felt, and where, therefore, a high threshold cannot be opposed to the unconscious.

The collective unconscious is another of those points at which pure psychology comes up against organic factors, where it has, in all probability, to recognize a non-psychological fact resting on a physiological foundation.

Just as the most inveterate psychologist will never succeed in reducing the physiological constitution to the common denominator of individual psychic causation, so it will not be possible to dismiss the physiologically necessary postulate of the collective unconscious as an individual acquisition.

The constitutional type and the collective unconscious are both factors which are outside the control of the conscious mind.

The constitutional conditions and the immaterial forms in the collective unconscious are thus realities, and this, in the case of the unconscious, means nothing less than that
its symbols and motifs are factors quite as real as the constitution, which can be neither dismissed nor denied.

Neglect of the constitution leads to pathological disturbances, and disregard of the collective unconscious does the same. In my therapeutic work I therefore direct my attention chiefly to the patient’s relation to occurrences in the collective unconscious, for ample experience has taught me that it is just as important for him to live in harmony with the unconscious as with his individual disposition. ~Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche.