Jungian psychology contains a great many unique aspects that can help to explain the human condition, as well as the various aspects of the human psyche. Practical application of this class of psychology can help to bring about greater understanding of people, and a more effective communication level with other people. The field of human relations includes a great variety of contexts in which people interact with each other, from counseling to therapy to human resources departments for corporations and organizations. From a human relations standpoint, Jungian psychology and its many components helps a professional in this field understand the people they interact with and work for, equipping them with a knowledge of social skills and human behavior that can inform intelligent decisions about their occupation. In this essay, the Jungian concepts of the collective unconscious, archetypes, the shadow self, and psychological types will be examined as pertains to their usefulness and practicality in a human relations context.
According to Jung, there are many layers to the mind, the conscious mind only being the topmost, most visible one - “My thesis then, is as follows: in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals” (Jung 1996, p. 43). The collective unconscious is the segment of the unconscious mind that is thought to be shared amongst all different people and experiences. The ego does not recognize them, as they merely inform from the sidelines the basic behavior patterns of an individual. There is a shared, universal set of experiences that is found in many, if not all, individuals, which is inherited from person to person, and through societal norms. In essence, there are quite a few things about the unconscious mind that are universal to everyone existing; effectively, all human beings can and will experience the collective unconscious (Jung, 1996).
In a collective unconscious, all of the experiences and symbols that are found and created in human life are stored and ordered. Instead of that being entirely spiritual or supernatural (having a real, single consciousness from which people metaphysically derive their thought processes), there is a component of biological predisposition as well. People just naturally gravitate toward the basic form of having two arms, two legs, a heart and brain and so forth, and so it follows that they would have similar psychological leanings as well (Jung, 1996).
The idea of the collective unconscious, and embracing it as a workable theory, has many unique applications in the field of human relations. For one thing, it provides the ability to recognize essential commonalities between all human beings. There is no need to start from scratch getting to know every single person you counsel, recruit, or employ - right from the beginning, you can know that you and everyone else you know have, at the very least, a similar background and experience on a fundamental human level. No matter who you are or where you come from, you were born, you live, you die, and everything in between. These indisputable facts about the human experience can be used to find common ground quickly in a person.
The practicality of the collective unconscious in the human relations field is clear; remembering the way in which human life is organized allows for at least a small measure of relation with the other person or people you are engaging. For example, if someone you are counseling (who is a minority) begins to discuss their own encounters with discrimination and prejudice, it is possible for you to relate to what they are talking about and feel their pain. On the same not, it is possible for them to be feeling not only their direct pain at the hands of whomever hurt them through racist behavior, but the residual, cultural pain that is felt over generations of oppression. Those feelings are universal and cross-generational, and part of the collective unconscious.
Within the collective unconscious, archetypes exist - these are the patterns that help to organize and structure the way in which we think and perceive reality. Each unique concept of religion, mythology or symbolism is an archetype, and part of the collective consciousness dictates that we have the same archetypes that are recognized universally. Archetypes form the basis for unconscious experience, as they provide the memes that everyone is aware of. While the collective unconscious is the blanket term for the experiences that are shared between everyone, each individual experience is an archetype (Jung, 1996).
Archetypes themselves are one of the most important facets of Jungian analytical psychology. The five primary archetypes described in Jungian psychology include the self, the shadow, the anima and animus, and the persona. In the case of the Self, this is what holds the various aspects of the psyche together and allows it to form a personality that is conscious and aware. The anima and animus are the feminine and masculine parts of women and men, respectively - those basic traits that help to define the essential behaviors of either gender. There is also the persona, which is more or less the idealized version of the self; the positive version of a person that they choose to define for themselves. It guards the ego from negative self-image, and masks what is often true about the person themselves (Jung, 1996).
As with the collective unconscious, a human relations professional who understands the various archetypes can help to pin down collective experiences on a more detailed level with the patient. The anima and animus can help to explain the basic behaviors of men and women, so that a common framework can be established and compared whenever a patient is conflicted about their own behavior. According to Jung, "in psychology, where we speak of archetypes like the anima and animus, the wise man, the great mother, and so on ... if they are mere images whose numinosity you have never experienced, it will be as if you were talking in a dream, for you will not know what you are talking about ... their names mean very little, whereas the way they are related to you is all-important" (Jung 1996, p. 88). Therefore, understanding the role of archetypes is important to understanding fundamental human nature, which is integral to a human relations professional.
The final archetype is the shadow, which is one of the most important aspects of personality to consider in human relations. Everyone has their own 'shadow self,' the part of the subconscious that holds repressed instincts and weaknesses. The reason it is held in shadow is because it represents all the aspects of a person that they do not want to be seen; every weak point, every socially unacceptable desire, every source of frustration. However, the deeper these are hidden, the more explosively they are projected onto others. It is, effectively, our 'dark side,' the stuff we do not allow people to see.
According to Jung, there are some positive attributes to the shadow self; "in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity" (Kaufman, n.d.). In order to access one's deepest, most repressed desires, the shadow self can be accessed through dreams, or just rigorous self-examination. In order to encounter the shadow, individuation must take place. 'the course of individuation...exhibits a certain formal regularity. Its signposts and milestones are various archetypal symbols' marking its stages; and of these 'the first stage leads to the experience of the shadow' (Jacobi, p. 102).
Counseling or talking to someone dealing with their shadow self can be a challenge, but acknowledgement of the shadow self on its own provides the human relations professional with the tools to either help the person combat or reconcile their misplaced or hidden desires. For example, a patient you are counseling comes to you with dark thoughts of suicide, or of harming other people. These thoughts come from the person's shadow self. This can also apply if the patient denies the presence of these harmful feelings, but projects their animosity and frustration through other things, like being short-tempered or confrontational with another person. If someone is angry with themselves, or attempting to hide their perceived weakness, they may try to bring someone else down so they may feel better.
With these symptoms of the shadow self in mind, it is particularly important that the human relations professional recognize the conflicts that the individual is projecting or suppressing via that archetype. The shadow can adopt a number of roles, from an avenger to an enemy to "the shadow of society ... fed by the neglected and repressed collective values' (Fordham, p. 5). The best thing that can be done for the individual undergoing trauma as a result of their shadow self is to help them recognize and embrace their shadow selves, thus allowing them to objectively view their traumas and conflicts. This can help them achieve a measure of peace with themselves, and overcome or come to peace with perceived insecurities.
There are a wide variety of psychological types, which are based around four primary functions of consciousness. Sensation and intuition are functions by which the world is perceived, and thinking and feeling are the ways in which that information is coded and interpreted by the mind. All four of these functions are modified by the attitude types of extraversion and introversion; therefore, there is an extroverted and introverted version of each of those functions. Tensions exist between all of these complexes that are created between the dominant and submissive functions, creating types of individuals that often conflict, or who will take different paths to achieve the same goal (Jung, 1971).
All of these different psychological types help to dictate predictable moves of behavior in individuals, and can help to classify the ways in which people will react to situations. An extraverted intuition-based personality would treat a stressful situation much more smoothly than an introverted feeling psychological type, for example. If someone is more of an intuitive-perceiving figure than a sensation-perceiving one, they can have the problem of imagining problems or conflicts that do not empirically exist - something that must be clearly remedied. While these classifications do not dictate exactly how everyone will act in every instance, it can help to predict how they will react in the majority of situations (Jung, 1971).
In a human relations context, psychological types provide a specific means of communicating with a particular type of person. For extraverted feeling patients, one strategy for dealing with their problems would be to teach them how to reign in and address their emotions before they get out of control. Often, problems arising from one's personality can be understood when their psychological type is known; this way, attempting to balance out their neuroses and attitudes regarding situations that are distressing them can be accomplished.
"Since we all swerve rather more towards one side or the other, we naturally tend to understand everything in terms of our own type," says Jung of the way psychological types dictate our behavior and perspective (Jung 1971, p. 64). Given how we interact with the world, we can often be confused as to why other people do not react the same way. With the help of a human relations professional, a patient can help to put their psychological type into perspective and point out possible irrational or unintentionally unhealthy behaviors stemming from their psychological type.
In conclusion, human relations professionals can benefit greatly from a better understanding of Jungian psychology. The collective unconscious and archetypes provide the human relations professional with the basic knowledge of common human behavior to relate to them on a fundamental level. Knowledge of the 'shadow self' permits them to understand motives and potential reasons for projected behavior and malcontent. Understanding the various psychological types can allow them to predict the behavior of certain individuals, as well as how to deal with their problems and help them find solutions. With the help of these very basic, fundamental aspects of human psychology and behavior, the skill set of a human relations professional can be much better informed.
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