Personal and Collective Unconscious

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The Personal and Collective Unconscious

To many, the unconscious is a section of our minds that is inconceivable and almost nonexistent. Like many things in life, what we cannot explain, we cannot accept. Sigmund Freud, mastermind of the field of psychology, began to theorize and explain the concept of the unconscious and its effects on our personal lives. Carl Gustav Jung was a young colleague of Sigmund Freud who made the “exploration of this “inner space” [the unconscious] his life’s work (Boeree 1). Jung was not only knowledgeable on the Freudian theory he was also knowledgeable in mythology, religion, philosophy and “traditions such as Gnosticism, Alchemy, Kabala, and similar traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism” (Boeree 1). Jung began to stray away from the Freudian theory and develop his own theory on the unconscious. The personal unconscious could be seen as the set of repressed feelings and thoughts experienced and developed during an individual person’s lifetime (Hayes 2) Freud put a lot of emphasis on the personal unconscious; Jung, however, believed there was more to our unconscious minds than just our own personal experience. He believed all humanity had a general unconscious that was the same. He named this the “collective unconscious”. The collective unconscious could be seen as the set of inherited and typical modes of expression, feeling, thought and memory that were seemingly innate to all human beings (Hayes 2). The unconscious contributes to the ways in which we function throughout our lives, and is made up of two components: the personal and collective unconscious. To better understand the unconscious, both personal and collective, the conscious needs to be explained and understood. One would say that the conscious is simply everything we as an individual are aware of. The conscious can be defined by four sections. The first is thinking, which is thought, cognition, and logic. The second is feeling, and this type is what allows us to make value judgments; this can be good/bad, pleasant/unpleasant, etc. The third is sensation, which is what allows us to experience and perceive the world through our senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, sound). The last section is intuition, which is what we use to perceive things through our unconscious. (Snider 2) These four points are what shape our ability to perceive things in our world, and eventually will be what makes up our unconscious. Now that the conscious is explained it can be easier to understand the personal unconscious. The personal unconscious is “made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed. (C.G Jung 1) What this means is that what we perceive, either through our senses, emotional feelings or thinking, is sooner or later either going to be stored or repressed in our personal unconscious. The term repression is defined as meaning the unconscious exclusion of painful impulses, desires, or fears from the conscious mind (Repression 1). Not all memories, ideas or experiences are painful or repressed, so those that aren’t repressed are stored in our personal unconscious and are made readily available for retrieval. It is important to know that anything stored in the personal unconscious includes anything that is not at the moment conscious to the person, but if need to be can be retrieved and brought to consciousness again. (Boeree 3) As Carl Jung States in his book, “The Undiscovered Self, with symbols and the interpretations of dreams”, what was once conscious is not lost, only stored away, and is in fact what dictates our consciousness: “When something vanishes from consciousness it does not dissolve into thin air or cease to exist, any more than a car disappearing round a corner becomes non-existent. It is simply out of sight, and, we may meet the car again, so we may come across a thought again which was previously lost…The...
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