1. Jung and Frankl on the Meaning of Life

    March 17, 2014

    Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Life

    by Karen Fernandes

    It is widely agreed among psychologists that a sense of meaning and ‘purpose’ is critical to a healthy psyche. Without a framework to give our lives purpose, we can find ourselves falling into an existential depression (often itself the catalyst for a mid-life crisis) or drifting aimlessly with no sense of direction and no interest anything life has to offer.

    Unfortunately, applying meaning to a seemingly random and chaotic universe is not easy for us, and many of the big concepts are really beyond any chance of human comprehension. We don’t know where we came from (even though we might have beliefs on the matter), we don’t know why we were put here – we don’t even know if there will be any lasting consequences of our actions on Earth. As far as we’re aware we came from nothing and will return there when it’s over.

    So where then does this crucial sense of purpose come from? How does it form in a healthy mind? How does someone decide what they believe and how they should spend their time in light of so little information and so much mystery? These are questions that many thinkers have attempted to answer with mixed results. Here we are going to examine the views of two key contributors: Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl, which demonstrate how this process of finding meaning fits into the complex puzzle of the human mind.

    Jung’s Theories of Individuation

    Individuation is a widely used term that essentially describes the psychological process of becoming ‘an individual’. Often this transformation is said to occur during the adolescent years and early-adulthood; when a young person will ‘try out’ different personalities and ways of life to see which fit them best. Most of us can remember a ‘gothic’ or ‘preppy’ phase in adolescence (probably while cringing) and will likely have moved between friendship groups and ideals as we gradually started to learn about ourselves and develop a concrete identity (parents of teenagers will likely be all-too familiar with this period of development). If all goes well though, the individual should come out of the process with a stable personality (even if their beliefs and interests change) and a sense of ‘who they are’ and what their role is in society.


  2. Persona – How We Present Our “Self” To The World

    March 15, 2014

    Persona – How We Present Our “Self” To The World

    Carl Jung, a psychologist and advocate of positive psychology, often made reference to the concept of “persona” – the social face a person presented to the outside world.  He went on to describe the persona as a type of “mask” with a dual purpose – to make a definite impression on others and to conceal the person’s true nature.  So, just how does the concept of “persona” affect the interactions with have with others?  First, let’s talk about identification.


    Identification, according to Jung, generally occurs when we align ourselves with a particular persona or role.  For example, we take on the role of mother, father, doctor, lawyer, friend, sister, etc.  There are an infinite number of roles any one person can “play”, but any one person is likely to only identify with a set number of roles.  Jung believed that adherence to a particular role could actually be psychologically limiting.  These limitations usually occur based on society’s perception of how the said role is supposed to be filled.  A doctor is supposed to fulfill a certain “role” in society; many people struggle to identify with the doctor outside of his or her healing role.  A mother is supposed to be a caretaker, a father is supposed to be a provider – when we confine ourselves to these “boxes”, so to speak, we limit ourselves in a variety of different ways.


    Let’s talk about those “boxes” for a minute.  “Boxes” are generally societal-based constructions designed to help us (and others) define the roles a person plays.  It gives meaning, direction and rules to those “personas” we adopt.  However, many times, those rules can be limiting or even in direct contrast to the life philosophy we believe it.  Here is where problems can arise – how do we adopt a certain persona and play by the rules without offending others in society?  Walking that fine line can be a complex task for many individuals.


    What should a person do if he finds his life philosophy in contrast to his “persona”?  First, examine your life persona and determine what exactly is in contrast; write it down and make a list, if necessary.  Rank those elements in order of importance and establish whether or not adjustments can be made either way.  If minor adjustments to either your life philosophy or your persona can be made and will result in higher life satisfaction, your problem is solved.  If major adjustments need to be made to either, you have a bigger dilemma on your hands.  You will need to decide if making a major adjustment to your life philosophy or persona is something you want or even can do.  For example, some “personas” have very rigid “rules” attached to them; it may be impossible to change that without adopting a completely new persona.  Only you can truly decide if a new life direction is the right choice for you.


    One thing to think about, and one important concept in Jung’s theory of the persona is balance.  In order for life to be fulfilling, there must be a balance between the inner desires of a person and his or her outer reflection.  This does not mean the inner desires should always be expressed no matter what; rather, a person needs to, at times, proceed with caution and express those desires in a socially acceptable way.  For example, many people feel anger on a daily basis – anger is a natural emotion, felt by everyone.  However, the expression of anger is not always socially acceptable – depending on the environment or the means of expression.  Finding that delicate balance between feeling and expression helps ensure an equalized lifestyle.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rufino_uribe/377643866


  3. Carl Jung’s Contributions to Psychology

    September 3, 2013

    Carl Jung, Psychologist

    by Adrienne Erin

    Carl Jung’s contributions to the field of psychology still impact how psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health workers perform their work today. Born on July 26, 1875 in Switzerland, Jung was the only son of a Protestant minister and his wife and, ultimately, the only surviving child out of four children. He described his childhood as lonely and spent most of his time observing people to try to understand their behavior. Though a number of his family were clergymen, Jung decided not to travel that path. Instead, he chased his intellectual pursuits at the University of Basel.


    Jung attended the university from 1895 and studied subjects ranging from archaeology, biology, paleontology, zoology and, of course, medicine. He became an assistant physician in 1900 and obtained his MD in 1902 from the University of Zurich. In his dissertation entitled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomenon”, he first presented his ideas on the wholeness of the psyche. Over his lifetime, he wrote approximately 200 papers and several books. He is considered one of the most prominent thinkers in the field of modern psychology.

    Word Association, Freud and Divergent Views

    Jung’s first research study was conducted in 1904 on word association. At this time, he coined the term “complex,” which refers to repressed psychic content. The term is still widely used today. As Jung continued his studies and wrote a number of papers, he confirmed many of Freud’s ideas. In 1906 at the age of thirty, Jung sent Freud a copy of his papers on word association, and this sparked a friendship and collaboration between the two.

    They met in 1907 and worked together for seven years until the relationship turned sour due to Jung’s divergent ideas on what drives a man to act. Freud felt that men (and women) are driven by sexual impulses while Jung believed libido is not an exclusive diver in formation of human personality, while not denying the role of libido, he felt that there are other factors such as the fear of death and collective unconscious. After Jung published “Psychology and the Unconscious,” which argued against some of Freud’s ideas, the two did not speak again. At this time, Jung lost a number of friends and professional acquaintances. Still, his time with Freud had a major impact on his later theories and fostered his fascination with the unconscious mind. In 1921, he published his book “Psychological Types,” which further distinguished his ideas from those of Freud.

    Psyche: The Conscious and Unconscious Mind

    One purpose of Jung’s research was to study the analogies between the contents of the conscious in Western man as compared to the cults, myths and rituals of more primitive societies. His theory of symbols was based on his idea that symbols are the key to understanding human nature. He found that humans used similar symbols across cultures and throughout time.

    Jung proposed that the psyche exists in three parts: the ego (conscious mind), personal unconscious and collective unconscious. The personal unconscious involves knowledge and concepts that we have acquired during our lifetime but have forgotten or repressed. Collective unconscious refers to the collection of “memories” that are common to all mankind. Jung coined the term individuation process to describe the full integration of the conscious and unconscious mind, which is essential to becoming a whole and fully developed person.


    These ideas concerning the psyche further formed his work on archetypes, which are the innate predispositions we have to experience and symbolize certain situations in a distinct way. (For example, finding a mate, having children and confronting death have elicited similar behaviors and symbols across cultures and over time). These archetypes are found in all mythological and religious systems. Jung also introduced an archetype of Self, which he defined as “archetype of archetypes”. In his book “The stages of life” he introduced concept of individuation as the most fundamental concept defining person’s meaning of life – through individuation, which usually takes place in the second half of life, one finds his purpose in life and realizes Self archetype. Jung also introduced core archetypal components affecting development of human personality and social life. These archetypal components are ego, persona, shadow, anima, and animus.

    Introversion and Extroversion

    The terms introvert and extrovert also made their appearance in our everyday vernacular thanks to Jung. He termed an introvert as one who is withdrawn and more interested in ideas over people. Introverts prefer quiet isolated environment and take pleasure in solitary activities. Extroverts are more socially-oriented people who are stimulated by other people and outside world. While Jung and Jungians popularized terms introvert and extrovert, the concept was originated by French psychologist Alfred Binet, who called “knowledge we have of our inner world, our thoughts, our feelings” an introspection and “orientation of our knowledge toward the exterior world as opposed to knowledge of ourselves” an externospection.

    Jung linked introversion and extraversion with four psychological functions such as thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation to create 8 categories for psychological types. He claimed that every person has one dominant psychological type (e.g. extravert thinking) that manifests in her persona and one secondary type (e.g. introvert feeling) that manifests in her shadow personality.

    The Significance of Dreams

    Jungian therapy deals with dreams and fantasies. Dreams, Jung believed, compensate for the neglected parts of personality, specifically for secondary personality type associated with shadow and hidden in the unconscious. His autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” offers deeper insight into his own dreams and the importance he feels they play in our personal development. He also believed that we could ultimately understand humanity through our dreams, art, myths and philosophy.

    Jung’s contributions can be found in many psychological disciplines today, with his influence far-reaching.