Part II: Psyche as Image by Nora Swan-Foster

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Tree Mandala

C. G. Jung’s personal life, research and work as an analyst revolved around the healing power of symbols. He reminds us that symbols are “something partially unknown” and, while they can be personally deeply meaningful, they also connect us to the archetypal and the collective unconscious. As images they attract, organize, hold and carry the psychic energy, mentioned in Part I: Psychic Energy, and provide a visual portal through which the archetype can be known to us while also influencing the direction of energy in the psyche. Symbols are not created artificially but emerge out of the collective unconscious as the best description of something that is not yet understandable by the current condition of our conscious psyche. We invest our psychic energy into the symbol, through investigation and interpretation, so that we might better understand the personal meaning it holds for us, however the symbol will never fully become known to us. This purposive psychic energy of engaging with the symbol opens us to the mystery and transpersonal quality of our psyche and the world around us.

When I started the mandala above, I did not have a clear image of drawing a tree in the night. Instead, it was a process of choosing colors and engaging with the lines and shapes that eventually brought about this final image, which carries both a personal understanding as well as symbolic archetypal meaning. The magic of the image is that it continues to remain partially unknown and numinous to me with its archetypal dimensions that suggest the Norse tree “Yggdrasil” or the anima mundi (the tree of the world).

Supporting this process is the numinous but powerful presence of the Self, an ordering archetype that serves as the center of psychic awareness and transcends ego consciousness. Jung noticed that one particular image of the Self is the circle, a universal and cross-cultural symbol of wholeness. The Self supplies energy to consciousness throughout a life-time by way of such expressions as dreams, imaginations, spiritual awakenings, or synchronicities. When the Self is invested with energy it expresses a preoccupation with the inner subjective life, a relationship that, if it is well differentiated, reflects the value given towards the health of the psyche as a whole. The tension of the opposites is supported by energy from the Self and the longer this tension is held, the more likely a reconciliation can be found through the transcendent symbol that can arise from this tension. In analysis and active imagination our ego allows a more conscious relationship with the Self, expanding its tolerance to give way to the supreme role of the Self. In other words, a relationship develops between the ego and the Self, (ego/Self axis) and over time is strengthened. The energy of the Self can also be found in individuals who seek a greater purpose (illustrated in the development of culture). These individuals will say they are “supported by something larger than myself.”  The energy of the Self inspires the natural desire for transformation, which is expressed through symbol formation. In other words, psychic energy can be witnessed through the projection of the mental and spiritual interests that influence our world. In other words, images become expressions of psychic energy.

Jung called the underlying energetic driving force for consciousness the Individuation process. It is a term we use without much thought about where it came from when we are discussing adult development. Jung chose this term probably because it offers an archetypal image for wholeness. The energy for individuation could be imagined as the sea with tides that come and go, day after day, changing and adjusting our psychological landscape over years so that we are tempered and molded by life’s challenges that awaken us to our unique and imperfect humanity. Although not much was understood about neuroscience, Jung intuitively understood the power of the image on transforming the psyche and supporting the individuation process through the use of imagination.

Fueling this ongoing process of individuation is also the tension of the opposites and the continuous flow of psychic energy. In other words, individuation suggests the underlying energetic process of psychological development that comes by way of engaging with a symbolic life, which often requires stepping out of the collective stream. We can fail at this process if we relate to the collective world from a superficial level, leaving our conflicts unresolved and our symbolic nature undeveloped. Individuation suggests a progressive and purposive use of psychic energy. In the first half of life, the energy of the psyche is predominately expressed through achievements of the ego, while at mid-life the energy shifts and the ego must relinquish some of the energy so that the Self and individuation can be more consciously incorporated into the psyche. Through the use of images and symbols, the individuation process expresses and captures the ineffable nature of psychic energy that is inherently in service of a spiritual quest for wholeness throughout our life.



Psyche as Energy by Nora Swan-Foster

“The idea of energy is not that of a substance moved in space; it is a concept abstracted from relations of movement” (Jung, CW8, p. 4).

What I have always enjoyed about C.G. Jung is his creative integrative thinking. He was ahead of his time in many of his intuitive ideas, many of which continue to influence and enrich our understanding of the human psyche. We might overlook that Jung’s view on the psyche had important roots in theories of energy based in biology and physics; these concepts illuminated and supported his notions throughout his life work. He used the word “energy” not as a mechanistic idea, but as a metaphor and from these scientific principles he developed key concepts that make up analytical psychology. Differentiating himself from Freud by expanding beyond the drive theory and sexual instinct as the fundamental instinct, Jung named four other essential instinctual energies (creativity, action, hunger, and reflection), which he saw influencing the psyche. Because libidinal energy was no longer simply associated with the sexual drive theory, the term libidinal energy was initially interchangeable with psychic energy. Psychic energy is a foundational concept in analytical psychology that plays a role with understanding such things as complexes, symbols, the Self, and individuation.

Psychic energy is a dynamic force in our psyche that provides will and purpose and the potential for transformation. Because the psyche is “not quite a closed system,” the energy is able to move progressively and regressively between the unconscious and the conscious psyche. Inherent in the word energy is movement; there is an energy gradient moving from higher to lower or lower to higher while the speed and quality of this energy is also psychologically valued. The gradient, or flow, is “measured” by affect levels expressed through our body and emotions. Early on, Jung saw the evidence of psychic energy when it overwhelmed the ego with complexes during Word Association Tests. Not only do we have reactions through feelings and thoughts, but he noticed that complexes expressed themselves through somatic symptoms such has painful pauses, twitches, blushing or agitation.

When the psychic energy is progressive, there is an abundance of interest and creative zest mixed with a purposeful engagement with life; we successfully adapt our life to the world and we experience a sense of agency. An image for this is having ample money (symbolic for energy) to spend freely, allowing us to move confidently in the world. The energy regresses when we come up against something difficult to accept (a debt), which impedes the flow of energy, sending it into the unconscious. At this point a vast amount of energy may simply “disappear,” from consciousness and from the ego, resulting in lost interest in life, lethargy, doubt, ambivalence, and perhaps even depression. Although progression is more acceptable to the ego, the regression supports the development of consciousness and a renewal of energy. Jung said that regression was a “necessary stage of development” (CW8, p 37), supporting ones individuation from the collective and moving one towards wholeness. We go through many periods of regressed energy throughout our life.

When psychic energy regresses, autonomous complexes are constellated. The energy the ego used for adaptation in the world is now forming around an archetypal core, which is at the center of all complexes. When the complex in the unconscious is infused with enough energy it pierces into consciousness. The complex makes itself known through physical or emotional outbursts, somatic expressions, new creative ideas or passions. Complexes are like energy bundles; they are both inevitable and autonomous. In fact, complexes can often possess us or “have us” as Jung said, rather than us having complexes. Jung also described being “constellated” by a complex through the image of being “caught in a mousetrap.” Suddenly the complex takes over and we are literally caught in an autonomous psychobiological experience that can disorient us and leave us feeling exhausted.

So, when complexes are constellated and influence the ego a polarity of energy between the conscious and the unconscious is created. The ego consciousness attitude has one set of values and goals while the unconscious has its own agenda and energetic purpose. At this point we may feel such things as paralysis, conflict, overwhelm, disorientation or psychic pain from the tension of opposites and the rising complex; we long for the pleasurable ease we had prior to realizing that we forgot to pay our debt, for instance. While we suffer in the tension between the unconscious and conscious energies, the transcendent function may be fueled with energy, like a rocket that is fueled, to carry into consciousness some new understanding through an impactful experience. Jung conceptualized the transcendent function as a function that has a metaphorical structure that holds the psychic energy gathering in the unconscious. Now the psychic energy is switching directions and moving progressively towards consciousness once again. The transcendent function will transform the state of the psyche through the arrival of a transcendent symbol.  (Part II: Psyche as Image)

(Image of A Roman Spring in Bath, UK)


Mandalas – Ritual and Psyche by Puddi Kullberg, Diplomate Jungian Analyst

Mandalas – Ritual and Psyche

Kolams are a tradition that originated in rural, village India – a Hindu women’s ritual of painted prayers. Each morning at dawn women make freehand drawings of singular beauty and symmetry in the dirt outside their dwellings. Often they are mandala shaped. They are made of wet and dry rice flour, sometimes colored with dyes, although the very traditional are white only.

Kolams are thought of as either protective, evocative of blessings, or both. Some are dedicated to specific goddesses, often Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, luck and good fortune, or Buhdeva, goddess of soil and earth. For special occasions and feast days they may cover the whole courtyard or street.

Imagine yourself stepping outside and your sidewalk or street is adorned with ephemeral lace-like drawings. You walk on these on your way to work or to jog or to get your morning coffee. Your footfalls and those of many others will wear them away as the day passes. But they will reappear tomorrow morning.

In Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung talks about how he had painted his first mandala after writing Seven Sermons. Then he recounts how from 1918-1919 while on military duty he sketched every morning in a small notebook. He describes what he drew as “a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. …My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self – that is, my whole being – actively at work” (1961, p. 195). To Jung “my whole being” meant his consciousness plus the unconscious – “actively at work” – that is, the mandala was being produced from a source other than his conscious will or ego and yet it was showing him how his personality was coming to a new order. Jung began to understand the primacy of the unconscious and the relativity of the ego vis-à-vis the ordering principle of the Self. He said,

I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. …During those years…I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. … I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate. Perhaps someone else knows more, but not I. (MDR, p. 196) (my italics)

Then eight years later in 1927 Jung had his Liverpool dream which he says crystalized his earlier insights about mandalas. In his dream, although he was with friends, only Jung could see the illuminated, magnificent center in the midst of an otherwise dark and dank cityscape. He said this dream made him realize, “The center is the goal, and everything is directed toward that center. Through this dream I understood that the self is the principle and archetype of orientation and meaning. Therein lies its healing function (MDR, p. 197) (My italics). He went on to make a painting of this dream in abstract mandala form which he called “Window on Eternity.”

In 1930 Jung gave a seminar which included his mandalas and in 1933 he first published “A Study in the Process of Individuation.” This work followed the art work drawn spontaneously as active imagination from the unconscious of a woman patient. Twenty-three out of her twenty-four paintings are mandalas. Jung’s writing narrates how the paintings show a progression from a chaotic to an ordered psychic state, a reorganization of the woman’s psychic being. Indeed, mandalas were significant enough for Jung to take the time twenty years later in 1950 to write up and publish his 1930 seminar and edit and revise his essay of 1933.

We sometimes experience interminable times of seemingly impossible conflict. If mandalas appear then in your dreams, active imaginations, or otherwise in your “regular” life, they let you know that there is an organizing principle at work amid what feels like chaos. Psychic reorientation is at hand. Your whole attitude and outlook upon life is changing.

In his essay “Concerning Mandala Symbolism” Jung writes:

The Sanskrit word mandala means ‘circle.’ It is the Indian term for the circles drawn in religious ritual. In the great temple of Madura, in southern India, I saw how a picture of this kind was made. It was drawn by a woman on the floor of the mandapam (porch), in colored chalks, and measured about ten feet across. A pandit who accompanied me said in reply to my questions that he could give me no information about it. Only the women who drew such pictures knew what they meant. The woman herself was non-committal; she evidently did not want to be disturbed in her work.  (CW 9i, para 629, pp 355-356)


Overview of Psychoanalysis by Deborah Bryon and Mark Winborn

Psychoanalysis was conceived by the mind of one individual – Sigmund Freud.  The publication of Studies in Hysteria in 1895, in collaboration with Josef Breuer, ushered in a new perspective on the human condition, introduced a novel method of treating emotional disturbance, and added a significant element to the intellectual discourse of the world.  Freud’s seminal work initiated a new era in understanding the human psyche.  A flurry of original ideas emerged out of the ongoing theoretical discussions that were taking place among the pioneering psychoanalytic minds of the early twentieth century.  The passion for exploring unconscious material, arising out of the new field of psychoanalysis, carried over into the collective, feeding the creativity of the avant-garde and influencing prominent artists and writers of the time.

Unfortunately, the birth of this new field of inquiry was soon marked by an insistence on orthodoxy within the emerging discipline.  Loyal lieutenants were recruited, oaths of allegiance sworn, a secret committee formed, and rings of fidelity issued. Despite the efforts of Freud and his loyal supporters, the orthodoxy they so carefully protected began to fray just sixteen years after the public debut of psychoanalysis.  In 1911, Alfred Adler resigned as president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, followed shortly by Wilhelm Stekel.  Their departures were followed by Carl Jung’s resignation in 1914 and Otto Rank’s theoretical challenge to the orthodoxy in 1924.

Exile, whether forced or self-imposed, became commonplace for the individuals and ideas that ran counter to Freud’s rigorously held vision for psychoanalysis.  Even after Freud’s death in 1939, the tension between orthodoxy and innovation continued with the now famous debates, held in London from 1941 through 1945, between supporters of the orthodox Freudian position and the supporters of Melanie Klein.

Issues of orthodoxy again became central when Jacques Lacan and the Société Française de Psychanalyse were denied admission to the International Psychoanalytic Association in the 1950’s.  Similar tensions arose in the United States when Heinz Kohut began to introduce his ideas for a psychology of the self in the 1960’s.  Evolution, innovation, and differentiation have continued to this day within the field of psychoanalysis, along with the controversies and disagreements among the ever-expanding schools of thought associated with psychoanalysis.

We maintain the importance of identifying and embracing “the common ground of psychoanalysis” (Wallerstein, 1996), whereby we are reminded that all practitioners of psychoanalysis have much more in common with each other than we do differences.  After all, we are all Freud’s offspring – or at least close relations – who may have grown up in different houses but continue to share the same lineage. We largely agree on the existence and importance of unconscious experience, the need for a deep therapeutic alliance to facilitate change, and on the possibility of transformation via a combination of insight and embodied experience.  Ultimately, we come to psychoanalysis with a shared belief in “the talking cure” as a vehicle for deepening and enriching life.

As Robert Wallerstein (1996) and others have pointed out, it is most often in the discussion of clinical experience that we are likely to identify areas of common ground, where we can see and appreciate similarities with what we each do in our individual consulting rooms – even if the approach, wording, or style is somewhat different than we might choose.

Excerpts from Stephen Foster’s book “Risky Business: A Jungian view of environmental disasters and the nature archetype.” Inner City Press.

The Nature Archetype

I see the Nature archetype as ancient, vast and pervasive. Every other archetype in the human psyche comes out of it or is connected to it, including the Great Mother or feminine archetypes, and the Great Father or masculine archetypes. I believe it is a universal life force that has both physical form (earth, seas, mountains, etc.) and psychological power (it activates both instinctual and spiritual drives). The focus of this book is on the small fraction of the archetype that relates to the externalization (that is, dumping) of industrial and anthropogenic wastes onto the environment.

It is impossible to talk about the Nature archetype without discussing creation mythology because creation myths are about “the origins of man’s conscious awareness of the world” (von Franz, 1972, pg. 8). Humanity developed self-awareness of consciousness in relation to an “other.”  Early in our history the Other was nature. IT is the place where we become self-aware, for example, in the arms of the m(other). Consequently, there is a great deal of creation mythology related to nature. As Marie-Louise von Franz notes, myths indicate that humanity found a way to conceptualize a psychological beginning, where we first perceived ourselves as separate from nature. From being in participation mystique with our environment, we developed into a state of separateness, then began to realize our vulnerability to the power of nature and sought to gain dominion over it. Jung writes:

“In the course of its ontogenetic development, the individual ego consciousness has to pass through the same archetypal stages which determined the evolution of consciousness in the life of humanity.” (Jung, CW 5, par. 26).

Jung is suggesting that psychologically we repeat patterns of human cultural development in our individual biological development. Therefore, our separation from what Jung calls an Uroboric state unconsciousness in nature is equivalent to the separation from our personal mother.