Many of the contributors to this Memorial Volume will have known Jung personally; my tribute cannot recall any direct experiences, but I am very greatly indebted to him on two scores.
First, through analysis based on his principles my personal life has been immeasurably enriched and I have been enabled to work as a psychotherapist.
Second, my work owes its chief inspiration to his writings; when I am faced with a very complicated problem, they never fail to stimulate my imagination and help towards a resolution of the difficulty.
I find that I use Jung’s ideas in ways that he may not have foreseen, but the stimulus comes directly from the principles which he enunciated.
For me, one area of special importance lies in Jung’s conception that the psyche as a whole is a self-regulating system wherein the conscious and unconscious have a compensatory and balancing relationship to each other, and that ‘the unconscious processes that compensate the conscious ego contain all those elements that are necessary for the self-regulation of the psyche as a whole’.
In clinical work this means that, however distressing to the patient the neurosis, or symptom, or perversion may be, one tries to find what its compensating purpose is and to understand the symbolism as pointing the way to a solution.
The patient can then begin to orientate to his symptom, not as something bad to be ‘got rid of’, but rather as something having a positive value in drawing his attention to his one-sided adjustment to life and giving him clues towards reaching a more balanced state.
This helps, in some degree, to replace feelings of inferiority and failure with a sense of being in a position to do something about it and thence, gradually, with self-respect and purpose.
From a combination of this self-regulating notion and Jung’s vision of the deep unconscious relationship between parents and children, I find myself thinking of the whole family as a self-regulating psychic mechanism.
In this case there is a very complicated dynamic balance.
The parents have a relatively stable adjustment between the conscious and unconscious sides of themselves and to each other; into this comes a new, rapidly changing and developing force, the baby with his intense instinctual and emotional needs.
Greatly simplifying the resulting situation, one can say that there are two opposing tendencies in operation: one is that the child is drawn into the parents’ psychic constellation and finds his place there, at best, if the parents are normal, in a fairly healthy adjustment, and, at worst, being used to compensate or reinforce the parents’ neurotic or psychotic pattern of functioning.
The other tendency is that what Jung calls ‘the urge to self-realization’ in the child demands adjustment from the parents; the more disturbed their adaptation is, the greater the threat to it caused by the child’s needs.
With these opposing tendencies operating in the family, it is the children, therefore, who produce the strongest drive towards change, not only through their own individual development, but also through the challenge they present by reawakening childhood conflicts in their parents.
In work with children I find this conception of family dynamics very useful, and it gives one courage to attempt treatment with a responsive child when the parents refuse co-operation beyond the bare minimum of letting the child be treated; one has the conviction that, when changes towards a healthier adjustment occur in the child, there will have to be balancing ones in the family as a whole and in the parents.
Another very important area for me is concerned with instinct spirit polarity.
Jung’s statements that no form of existence is mediated to us except psychically, and that psychic processes behave like a scale along which consciousness slides, making contact at one end with the purely instinctual-physiological and at the other with the spiritual-archetypal processes of man’s nature, are of great value; and especially so is his emphasis that this situation is part of our human inheritance and present from the beginning of life.
One must therefore envisage a young baby as having, it is true, very little psychological consciousness, but as being acutely aware, in an undifferentiated way, of both the instinctual and the archetypal processes going on in him and in his human environment.
As his consciousness and his ego grow, these aspects separate, and he becomes aware of them in turn, experiencing their different qualities and the resulting tensions, physical and mental.
Through his mother he first relates to both.
She is the object of his bodily needs and appetites; when he searches her face and exchanges smiles, he is sharing with her an experience which is essentially spiritual.
As I see it, at each end of the scale, relatively fixed patterns of behaviour are released by appropriate stimuli-these are well documented in the biological sphere and are expressed in body actions-but archetypal behaviour patterns, too, seem to be released, inevitably, in certain situations, especially between parents and children; they find expression in patterns of relationship and also in fantasies, which often employ body symbolism.
In treatment, I feel it is important to keep a conscious balance between these two poles, and to beware of the pitfall of concentrating attention one-sidedly on either bodily-instinctual or spiritual-archetypal processes.
For, as Jung said, it is only psychological consciousness, with its energy derived from the tension between these poles and effective in the form of will, that can extricate a person from the helpless position of being caught up in either purely instinctual or purely archetypal behaviour or of being swung violently from one extreme to the other.
It is in working with the chaotic, psychopathic type of patient that I have found this way of seeing the dynamic situation particularly useful, and also in working with very young, disturbed children.
I realize that this paper is a description of how Jung has inspired and stimulated my work; I hope that it is the sort of effect he would like to have produced, and that he would have accepted this sincere acknowledgement of my debt to him. ~Margaret Collins, Contact with Jung, Pages 79-81