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Depth psychology explores the relationship between the conscious and the
unconscious and includes both psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology.
Depth" refers to what's below the surface of psychic manifestations like
behaviors, conflicts, relationships, family dynamics, dreams, even social and
political events.

Depth psychology recognizes myth as a repository of recurrent situations.

Broadly speaking, DP operates according to the following working


All psychological activity arises from a base of fantasy or image

(Freud's "primary process").

The mind is an arena or interplay of dynamic, passionate forces

connected to a somatic (relating to body) base.

The psyche is a process--one could say: a verb rather than a noun--

that is partly conscious and partly unconscious. The unconscious in
turn contains repressed experiences and other personal-level issues
in its upper layers and transpersonal forces in its depths.

The psyche is irreducible to either neurochemistry or some higher

spiritual reality: it is a third between matter and spirit that must
be taken on its own terms. This principle of the psyche's reality is
known as psychic objectivity (Jung).

Because the psyche constitutes its own realm of experience, it must

be studied with methods that take its autonomy into account.
Interpretation of symbols and symptoms, active imagination, dream
analysis, and depth-oriented studies of culture and myth are a few

Symptoms represent important unconscious messages to one self and

should be managedif necessary, through psychotherapy or
pharmacology or bothbut not indiscriminately silenced. (The gods
have become diseases, as Jung wrote.) Symptom is one way by which
the psyche tells us that we're not listening to its deeper voices.
There is a seat of meaningful experience (Corbett) where the
psyches personal and transpersonal poles meet; this seat is referred
to as soul. Hillman refers to it as an imaginative deepening of events
into experiences. One of depth psychologys aims is to bring
discussion of soul back into psychology.

All minds, all lives, are ultimately embedded in some sort of myth-
making. Mythology is not a series of old explanations for natural
events; it is rather the richness and wisdom of humanity played out in
a wondrous symbolical storytelling.

Personal symptoms, conflicts, and stucknesses contain a mythic or

transpersonal/archetypal core that when interpreted can reintroduce
the client to the meaning of his struggles (e.g., the pain of leaving
home can be reimagined as the ageless adventure of the wanderer
setting out into the unknown.


Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was a physiologist, medical

doctor, psychologist and influential thinker of the early twentieth century.
Working initially in close collaboration with Joseph Breuer, Freud elaborated
the theory that the mind is a complex energy-system, the structural
investigation of which is the proper province of psychology. He articulated
and refined the concepts of the unconscious, infantile sexuality and
repression, and he proposed a tripartite account of the minds structure
all as part of a radically new conceptual and therapeutic frame of reference
for the understanding of human psychological development and the
treatment of abnormal mental conditions.

Freuds innovative treatment of human actions, dreams, and indeed of

cultural artifacts as invariably possessing implicit symbolic significance has
proven to be extraordinarily fruitful, and has had massive implications for a
wide variety of fields including psychology, anthropology, semiotics, and
artistic creativity and appreciation. However, Freuds most important and
frequently re-iterated claim, that with psychoanalysis he had invented a
successful science of the mind, remains the subject of much critical debate
and controversy.

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that behavior and personality derives

from the constant and unique interaction of conflicting psychological forces
that operate at three different levels of awareness: the preconscious, the
conscious, and the unconscious.

Freud's Three Levels of Mind

According to Freud, the mind can be divided into three different levels:

1. The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of. This is the aspect of our
mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. A part of this includes
our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at
any time and brought into our awareness. Freud called this the preconscious.

2. The preconscious mind is the part of the mind that represents ordinary memory. While
we are not consciously aware of this information at any given time, we can retrieve it
and pull it into consciousness when needed.

3. The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that
outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are
unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to
Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even
though we are unaware of these underlying influences.

The Theory of the Unconscious

Freuds theory of the unconscious, then, is highly deterministic(a theory or

doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena
are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws).

Freud was arguably the first thinker to apply deterministic principles

systematically to the sphere of the mental, and to hold that the broad
spectrum of human behavior is explicable only in terms of the (usually
hidden) mental processes or states which determine it.

Thus, instead of treating the behavior of the neurotic as being causally

inexplicablewhich had been the prevailing approach for centuriesFreud
insisted, on the contrary, on treating it as behavior for which it is
meaningful to seek an explanation by searching for causes in terms of the
mental states of the individual concerned.

Hence the significance which he attributed to slips of the tongue or pen,

obsessive behavior and dreamsall these, he held, are determined by
hidden causes in the persons mind, and so they reveal in covert form what
would otherwise not be known at all.
This suggests the view that freedom of the will is, if not completely an
illusion, certainly more tightly circumscribed than is commonly believed, for
it follows from this that whenever we make a choice we are governed by
hidden mental processes of which we are unaware and over which we have
no control.

The postulate that there are such things as unconscious mental states at all
is a direct function of Freuds determinism, his reasoning here being simply
that the principle of causality requires that such mental states should exist,
for it is evident that there is frequently nothing in the conscious mind which
can be said to cause neurotic or other behavior. An unconscious mental
process or event, for Freud, is not one which merely happens to be out of
consciousness at a given time, but is rather one which cannot, except
through protracted psychoanalysis, be brought to the forefront of
consciousness. The postulation of such unconscious mental states entails,
of course, that the mind is not, and cannot be, either identified with
consciousness, or an object of consciousness.

Deeply associated with this view of the mind is Freuds account of instincts
or drives. Instincts, for Freud, are the principal motivating forces in the
mental realm, and as such they energise the mind in all of its functions.
There are, he held, an indefinitely large number of such instincts, but these
can be reduced to a small number of basic ones, which he grouped into two
broad generic categories.

Eros (the life instinct), which covers all the self-preserving and erotic

and Thanatos (the death instinct), which covers all the instincts towards
aggression, self-destruction, and cruelty.

Thus it is a mistake to interpret Freud as asserting that all human actions

spring from motivations which are sexual in their origin, since those which
derive from Thanatos are not sexually motivatedindeed, Thanatos is the
irrational urge to destroy the source of all sexual energy in the annihilation
of the self. Having said that, it is undeniably true that Freud gave sexual
drives an importance and centrality in human life, human actions, and
human behaviour.

However, a crucial qualification has to be added hereFreud effectively

redefined the term "sexuality" to make it cover any form of pleasure which
is or can be derived from the body. Thus his theory of the instincts or drives
is essentially that the human being is energized or driven from birth by the
desire to acquire and enhance bodily pleasure.

Neuroses and The Structure of the Mind

Freuds account of the unconscious, and the psychoanalytic therapy

associated with it, is best illustrated by his famous tripartite model of the
structure of the mind or personality.

Freud distinguished three structural elements within the mind, which he

called id, ego, and super-ego.

The id is that part of the mind in which are situated the instinctual sexual
drives which require satisfaction;

the super-ego is that part which contains the "conscience," namely, socially-
acquired control mechanisms which have been internalized, and which are
usually imparted in the first instance by the parents

While the ego is the conscious self that is created by the dynamic tensions
and interactions between the id and the super-ego and has the task of
reconciling their conflicting demands with the requirements of external

It is in this sense that the mind is to be understood as a dynamic energy-

system. All objects of consciousness reside in the ego; the contents of the id
belong permanently to the unconscious mind; while the super-ego is an
unconscious screening-mechanism which seeks to limit the blind
pleasure-seeking drives of the id by the imposition of restrictive rules. There
is some debate as to how literally Freud intended this model to be taken, but
it is important to note that what is being offered here is indeed a theoretical
model rather than a description of an observable object, which functions as
a frame of reference to explain the link between early childhood experience
and the mature adult (normal or dysfunctional) personality.

Freud also followed Plato in his account of the nature of mental health or
psychological well-being, which he saw as the establishment of a
harmonious relationship between the three elements which constitute the

If the external world offers no scope for the satisfaction of the ids pleasure
drives, or more commonly, if the satisfaction of some or all of these drives
would indeed transgress the moral sanctions laid down by the super-ego,
then an inner conflict occurs in the mind between its constituent parts or
elements. Failure to resolve this can lead to later neurosis.

A key concept introduced here by Freud is that the mind possesses a

number of defense mechanisms to attempt to prevent conflicts from
becoming too acute, such as repression (pushing conflicts back into the
unconscious), sublimation (channeling the sexual drives into the
achievement socially acceptable goals, in art, science, poetry, and so forth),
fixation (the failure to progress beyond one of the developmental stages),
and regression (a return to the behavior characteristic of one of the stages).

Collective unconscious


Carl Jung was born in Switzerland. Jung believed in the complex or

emotionally charged associations. He collaborated with Sigmund Freud, but
disagreed with him about the sexual basis of neuroses. He founded analytic
psychology, advancing the idea of introvert and extrovert personalities and
the power of the unconscious. He wrote several books before his death in

Collective unconscious, a term coined by Carl Jung, refers to structures of

the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species.
According to Jung, the human collective unconscious is populated by
instincts and by archetypes: universal symbols such as the Great Mother,
the Wise Old Man, the Shadow, the Tower, Water, the Tree of Life, and many

Jung considered the collective unconscious to underpin and surround the

unconscious mind, distinguishing it from the personal unconscious of
Freudian psychoanalysis. He argued that the collective unconscious had
profound influence on the lives of individuals, who lived out its symbols and
clothed them in meaning through their experiences. The psychotherapeutic
practice of analytical psychology revolves around examining the patient's
relationship to the collective unconscious.

The name "collective unconscious" first appeared in Jung's 1916 essay, "The
Structure of the Unconscious". This essay distinguishes between the
personal, Freudian unconscious, filled with sexual fantasies and repressed
images, and the collective unconscious encompassing the soul of humanity
at large.

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

While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which

have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from
consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of
the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore
have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to
heredity. Whereas the personal unconscious consists for the most part of
complexes, the content of the collective unconscious is made up essentially
of archetypes.

The contents of the collective unconscious are archetypes, primordial images

that reflect basic patterns or common to us all, and which have existed
universally since the dawn of time.
About the Collective Unconscious

It must be pointed out that just as the human body shows a common
anatomy over and above all racial differences, so, too, the psyche possesses
a common substratum transcending all differences in culture and
consciousness. This is called the collective unconscious. This unconscious
psyche, common to all mankind, does not consist merely of contents capable
of becoming conscious, but of latent dispositions towards certain identical
reactions. Thus the fact of the collective unconscious is simply the psychic
expression of the identity of brain-structure irrespective of all racial
differences. This explains the analogy, sometimes even identity, between
various myth-motifs, and symbols, and the possibility of human beings
making themselves mutually understood. The various lines of psychic
development start from one common stock whose roots reach back into all
the strata of the past.

Taken purely psychologically, it means that mankind has common instincts

imagination and of action. All conscious imagination and action have been
developed with these unconscious archetypal images as their basis, and
always remain bound up with them. This condition ensures a primitive
health of the psyche, which, however, immediately becomes lack of
adaptation as soon as circumstances arise calling for a higher moral effort.
Instincts suffice only for the individual embedded in nature, which, on the
whole, remains always the same. An individual who is more guided by
unconscious than by conscious choice tends therefore towards marked
psychic conservatism. This is the reason the primitive does not change in
the course of thousands of years, and it is also the reason why he fears
everything strange and unusual.

Personal and collective unconscious

At first the concept of the unconscious was limited to denoting the state of
repressed or forgotten contents. Even with Freud, who makes the
unconscious - at least metaphorically - take the stage as the acting subject,
it is really nothing but the gathering place of forgotten and repressed
contents, and has a functional significance thanks only to these. For Freud,
accordingly, the unconscious is of an exclusively personal nature, although
he was aware of its archaic and mythological thought-forms.

A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal.

This is called the personal unconscious. But this personal unconscious rests
upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is
not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the
collective unconscious. I have chosen the term "collective" because this part
of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the
personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behaviour that are more or
less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words,
identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a
supra personal nature which is present in every one of us.

About the term "archetype"

Archetypes (Jung, 1947) are images and thoughts which have universal
meanings across cultures which may show up in dreams, literature, art or

Jung believes symbols from different cultures are often very similar because
they have emerged from archetypes shared by the whole human race. For
Jung, our primitive past becomes the basis of the human psyche, directing
and influencing present behavior.

Important archetypes include the persona (our social mask), this is the
public face or role a person presents to others as someone different to who
we really are (like an actor).

Another archetype is the anima/animus (our male or female sides). Each

sex manifests attitudes and behavior of the other by virtue of centuries of
living together. The psyche of a woman contains masculine aspects (the
animus archetype) and the psyche of a man contains feminine aspects (the
anima archetype).

The shadow is a common archetype which is similar to Freuds id and

comprises our animal urges or survival and reproduction.
In line with evolutionary theory it may be that Jungs archetypes reflect
predispositions that once had survival value.

For our purposes this term is apposite and helpful, because it tells us that
so far as the collective unconscious contents are concerned we are dealing
with archaic or- I would say- primordial types, that is, with universal images
that have existed since the remotest times. The term "representations
collectives," used by Levy-Bruhl to denote the symbolic figures in the
primitive view of the world, could easily be applied to unconscious contents
as well, since it means practically the same thing.

Another well-known expression of the archetypes is myth and fairytale. But

here too we are dealing with forms that have received a specific stamp and
have been handed down through long periods of time. The term "archetype"
thus applies only indirectly to the "representations collectives," since it
designates only those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted to
conscious elaboration and are therefore an immediate datum of psychic