Jung: Man and his Symbols

April 15, 2020

51APmw-dAwL._AC_UY218_ML3_     I came back to this, one of the oldest books in my library, which I bought and read as a student. At various points I’ve read some psychology texts, done a very useful and interesting training course in counselling, and read quite a bit about astrology, too – I think the overlap between some ideas between astrology and Jungian psychoanalysis was probably where this book came into my life originally.

At the very end of his life Jung, aided by a few followers, attempted to convey the outlines of his ideas to the intelligent lay reader, hence this book. Jung’s particular focus is on the unconscious, and particularly the way it intrudes into our lives and reminds us of its existence though dreams, which may often be messages about our life which it behoves us to ponder and perhaps act upon. For Jung, civilisation has separated us from a very important part of ourselves, and the unconscious is an integral part of our being, not just a ragbag of assorted leftovers from some primordial past.

Jung intended to lead people to understand and explore for themselves (rather than have an analyst do this for them and tell them everything). He puts together a very powerful case for what we have lost through our overly scientific and rational approach; we haven’t eradicated the unconscious part of ourselves but pushed it away, hidden it or ignored it, and so it affects us in different and initially less comprehensible ways.

Subsequent chapters deepen and broaden Jung’s ideas and flesh them out with examples and more detail. The section on symbolism in the visual arts was the most interesting one for me, and I must admit that overall I found the emphasis on dreams and their (over-)interpretation rather too mechanistic in the end. I ended up thinking that psychoanalysis and psychotherapy has moved on enormously since Jung’s time, not in the sense that it invalidates or negates his discoveries, but in that it has changed how it works with people and the issues they have. There’s an imbalance in too much focus on the dreamworld, and too much room for ‘expert’ input and leading interpretation, rather than allowing a person to discover for themselves. It was interesting to come back to the book, but if you want to explore your own inner life, there are others which will serve you a lot better.

2 Responses to “Jung: Man and his Symbols”

  1. Rachel Hill Says:

    Hi, do you have recommendations for DIY dream/unconscious work? I struggle with prescriptive dream dictionaries but yet also tend to interpret my dreams in an overly literal way… Anyway, I haven’t yet worked out how to ‘use’ my dreams, or even worked out an approach to analysing them for myself… Have you read The Field by Lynn McTaggart, I got really into the idea of plugging into The Field/collective unconscious in meditation for a while.


    • litgaz Says:

      I’m sorry, but I don’t have any books to recommend. Most of my understanding about working on my dreams – and it’s been hit and miss in practical terms – comes from transpersonal psychology and gestalt psychology workshops I did in London more than 30 years ago. Lockdown had me re-reading all my notebooks from then, which was one of the things that sent me back to the Jung book. I’ve since looked briefly at the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology website and it looks very interesting, but stuck up in the north I don’t foresee any workshops likely in the near future. Trying to engage in a dialogue with the people and objects that populate my dreams has been helpful, though. I shall look up The Field.

      Liked by 1 person

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