Monday, May 02, 2005

How to Stay Jung

While it is true that Jung’s psychology is not popular among academics today, there is nevertheless a persistent interest and innovation in Jungian and neo-jungian analysis among more independent scholars and clinicians.* In America a leading psychologist along these lines is James Hillman, whose “archetypal psychology” draws from Jung yet emphasizes a polycentric psyche over the more traditional emphasis on a unified self.**

Another important innovation stems from Jung’s early work on personality types; while his terms such as introvert and extrovert have become part of everyday speech, Jung is seldom credited for this part of his Analytical Psychology. Few of us know that the Jungian theory of personality types led directly to the most valid of tests in the entire battery of psychological assessments today: the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which shows a very high degree of validity or reliability. This test was developed through some thirty years of modifications, but few academics recall that it is based upon a close reading of Jung’s Psychologische Typen from 1921. This personality theory puts primary emphasis on appreciating and understanding differences between individuals, and on the far-reaching consequences of one's cognitive styles in a marriage or career or so forth. You can take a quick but decent version of the MBTI personality test online here:

Beyond such neo-jungian trends, the analytical psychology of Jung contains suggestive and rich potentials for further development in concert with postmodernist emphasis on a decentered psyche, on the necessarily multiple interpretations of expressions, and on the key theme of difference. Deconstruction, for instance, seeks to show how binary oppositions are in practice hierarchical, and to resurrect the repressed underside of such oppositions by showing their mutual interactions: male/female, presence/absence, speech/writing, logical/imaginative, etc. Jung’s psychology likewise deconstructs such hierarchies in the self, not in order to set up a new oppositions but rather to promote integration and respect for both sides. The archetypes become psychologically destructive when they are unintegrated, over-identified or repressed.

*Jungian analyst, Andrew Samuels, published a very useful study of various neo-jungian schools of psychology, Jung and the Post-Jungians (New York: Routledge, 1985). He also discussed the striking parallels between Jung’s analytic psychology and other more modern trends in cognitive and structuralist psychologies, including Lacan. The upshot of Samuels’ book is that Jungian psychology remains vital, developing, and relevant to other schools of thought. Also a variety of contributors offer feminist, Lacanian, and postmodernist engagements with and through Jung’s psychology in C. G. Jung & the Humanities: Toward a Hermeneutics of Culture edited by Karin Barnaby and Pellegrino D’Acierno (London: Routledge, 1990).

** See especially The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire edited by Thomas Moore ( London: Routledge, 1989) and Inter Views (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World's Getting Worse and his major work, Re-Visioning Pyschology (New York: Harper & Row, 1975).


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