Carl Jung believed that the conscious mind can contribute to our feeling fragmented because it divides itself and the world into parts. In order to identify a tree, for instance, the tree must first be divorced from its surrounding context. Such divisions and differentiations lead us to view the world in terms of dichotomous opposites (e.g., Thinking vs. Feeling). Since these opposites are held in constant tension with one another, we often feel torn between opposing goals, desires, and ideas.
In his book, Matter and Memory, French philosopher Henri Bergson saw images as central to solving philosophical problems of mind, matter, and memory. Images were granted a similar status in Jung’s theories of mind, as well as his prescriptions for psychological health. Jung felt that the key for handling the problem of opposites involved enlisting the service of unconscious. Because the unconscious mind deals in images rather than words, Jung felt it better equipped to creatively synthesize and reconcile opposites than the conscious, rational brain. I outlined the specifics of Jung’s theory in my recent post, Jung’s “transcendent function.”
Jung & the Unconscious Mind
Jung imbued the unconscious mind—which he saw as the psychological wellspring of creativity, vitality, growth, and redemption—with near divine significance. It would not be overreaching to suggest that Jung believed he had found God, access to God, or something resembling the divine in the unconscious. In light of the fact that the evolution of life, which Bergson rightly deemed “creative,” had commenced long before the emergence of human consciousness, Jung’s reverence for the unconscious workings of the mind is understandable. Clearly, the prodigious creativity of the evolutionary process does not require the aid of rational human consciousness.
Jung’s view of the unconscious as being central to individuation and psychological wholeness is also understandable. If the unconscious mind is in fact the home of or portal to the creative and vital currents of life, then discovering how to best use and tap into it seems entirely reasonable.
Jung understood that the unconscious mind is often working to creatively solve problems outside our awareness, delivering its insights through dreams or intuition. In many cases, however, we fail to harness this inner creativity because we are too busy or too caught up in our conscious thoughts, fears, and worries. We fail to be open and receptive to the creative gifts of the unconscious. Not only does this have the unfortunate consequence of restricting our creative potential, but it also limits the texture, richness, and vitality that the unconscious can bring to our conscious life.