April 23, 2008


Reynard the Fox, a trickster figure, courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabrero is musing this week about the ideas of Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

As I mentioned before, when I first ran across Jung in my youth, I was very impressed, although that wore off pretty quickly. Still, I find myself thinking about his ideas every so often. Here are a few of his main ones:

GOING DEEP. Jung believed that the unconscious included not just repressed memories and sexual desires a la Freud but also a deeper layer shared by all people. He called this the collective unconscious.

ARCHETYPES. The collective unconsciousness, according to Jung, manifested itself in the form of primordial images or archetypes that showed up in dreams, art, religion, legends, fairy tales, mythology, etc. He wrote that the idea of archetypes were

derived from the repeated observation that, for instance, the myths and fairy-tales of world literature contain definite motifs which crop up everywhere. We meet these same motifs in the fantasies, dreams, deliria, and delusions of individuals living today.

Examples might include the trickster, the wise old man or woman, the child, the mother or father, death and rebirth, etc.

(There is no doubt that such recurring motifs exist, but there are probably other and better ways of accounting for them and they don't always mean the same things.)

PERSONALITY. Jung had a complicated theory of personality, which included conscious and unconscious aspects. When I first read about his ideas, it almost seemed like lots of other folks are living inside us. He called the part of ourselves that we present to the world the persona, which is derived from the Latin word for mask. The darker side of ourselves which we tend to deny and repress he called the shadow. He believed that men had a mostly unconscious female aspect to the personality which he called the anima. Likewise, women were believed to have a male aspect, which he called the animus. The deepest layer of the personality was the Self,

which is not only the centre but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.

TYPES. Jung developed an elaborate system of classifying psychological types. Two of his terms that have entered into wide usage are extroversion and introversion, in which individuals orient themselves primarily to external people and objects or internal ones.

INDIVIDUATION. The goal of Jungian psychology is individuation or self-realization, which involves the integration and balancing of various aspects of the personality so that a person becomes "a separate, indivisible unity or 'whole.'"

There's a whole lot more, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime but that'll have to do for now.

THE SURGING LONG TERM COST OF THE SURGE is the subject of this article from Foreign Affairs.

PRISON NATION. According to the NY Times,

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

SOUNDING LIKE A NEANDERTHAL. An anthropologist studying the vocal tracts of Neanderthal remains has simulated what they may have sounded like. It looks like they didn't hear or speak the same way we do.

SPEAKING OF LANGUAGE, there's a longstanding debate about the extent to which it shapes perception. It ain't quite resolved yet.

FOR MY FELLOW CLASSICS DORKS, here's an article from the New Yorker about Herodotus, the Greek "father of history." He's showed up here at Goat Rope a time or two if you feel like dumpster diving.


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