The collective unconscious

01 октября 2022 г., 21:23

Article editor: N. I. Kozlov

The collective unconscious is a concept of Jungian psychoanalysis. Carl Jung proposed it to designate a special class of mental phenomena, which, in contrast to the individual (personal) unconscious, are carriers of the experience of phylogenetic development of humanity, inherited through brain structures. The content of the collective unconscious, according to Jung, is archetypes - universal a priori patterns of behavior that are filled with concrete content in real life.

According to Jung, there is not only the subject's unconscious, but also the family, ancestral, national, racial, and collective unconscious. The collective unconscious carries information from the mental world of the whole society, while the individual carries information from the mental world of a particular person. Unlike psychoanalysis, jungianism considers the unconscious as a set of static patterns, patterns of behavior that are innate and only need to be updated. In the same way, the unconscious is divided into latent, temporarily unconscious and suppressed processes and States of the psyche that are pushed out of the boundaries of consciousness.

Psychologists of scientific orientation do not use this idea of C. Jung, because it is not verifiable: it is impossible to prove or disprove it experimentally. You can either believe in it or not - as in God or Santa Claus, and therefore this concept does not apply to the field of scientific psychology. According to psychologists of scientific orientation, the collective unconscious is rather a beautiful myth, an invention. And there is a concern that the idea is more harmful than useful, since the practice of using it suggests that it usually removes responsibility from people for their anti-social behavior. Serious researchers, instead of the collective unconscious, talk about the influence of the culture in which we are born and imbued with it every day.

History of the term

The term "collective unconscious" was introduced into the psychoanalytic literature by The Swiss psychotherapist C. G. Jung, who in his work "psychology of the unconscious process" paid attention to the consideration of not only personal and human characteristics, but also mythological figures that Express the feelings of patients. In the section he called "Archetypes of the collective unconscious", he emphasized that some attributes cannot be attributed entirely to the human personality, but should be considered as contents of the "superpersonal or collective unconscious". Explaining his point of view, Jung noted that "the collective unconscious is a kind of sediment of experience and at the same time - the image of the world as a kind of its a priori". This image contains certain features, so-called dominants, or archetypes. In another section of this work, entitled "Personal, superpersonal, or collective unconscious", he wrote that in the deep layer of the collective unconscious, the original universal images are dormant, and in itself it represents the objective-psychic, in contrast to the subjective-psychic individual unconscious.

In Jung's understanding, the content of the collective unconscious is not only the precipitation of archaic ways of functioning of people, but also the precipitation of the functioning of the animal series of ancestors. In contrast to the individual, personal unconscious, which consists of contents that were once conscious but have disappeared from consciousness due to repression, the collective unconscious is characterized by the fact that its contents have never been in consciousness, have never been acquired individually, but owe their existence to universal inheritance.

Jung's report on the concept of the collective unconscious, which he read at the Abernethy society in England in 1936, and a number of subsequent publications, set out ideas about the collective unconscious to varying degrees. According to these concepts, the collective unconscious can be characterized as follows:

  • it does not develop individually, but is inherited;
  • it consists of archetypes as some pre-existing forms that are a model and model of instinctive behavior;
  • it includes products of an archaic nature, i.e. contents and behaviors that are the same for all individuals;
  • it is identical in all people and thus forms the universal basis of everyone's spiritual life;
  • it has mythological content in its nature;
  • it consists of images that do not have blood or racial inheritance, but belong to humanity as a whole;
  • it is a repository of relic remains and memories of the past;
  • it is a single sub-basis for all, on which an indissoluble integrity and fundamental identity are preserved;
  • it includes such contents that cannot be the object of an arbitrary intention and are not subject to control by the will;
  • it can become active in a large social group, resulting in collective insanity - a spiritual epidemic that can lead to revolution, war, or disaster.

Introducing the concept of the "collective unconscious" into the conceptual framework, Jung recognized that based on the analysis of dreams, Freud was the first to draw attention to the fact that there are elements in dreams that are not individual and are not derived from the personal experience of dreamers. The founder of psychoanalysis called them "pre-fantasies", "archaic remnants", thus emphasizing their collective, rather than individual nature. More broadly, beyond dreams, in totem and taboo, Freud spoke of the "inheritance of psychic predispositions" and later of the "archaic legacy of the past" and "inherited schemas". In particular, in the Work "the man Moses and monotheistic religion", he drew attention to the fact that "in the spiritual life of an individual, not only personally experienced, but also assimilated at birth contents, elements of phylogenetic origin, archaic heritage can be effective". In his opinion, the archaic heritage of a person covers both predispositions and "traces of memory about the experiences of previous generations".

However, unlike Jung, Freud did not use the concept of "collective unconscious" in his works, considering that such an expression is nothing more than a tautology. In this regard, he emphasized that "the content of the unconscious is generally collective, it is the common property of people." Therefore, without resorting to the concept of the "collective unconscious", Freud preferred to talk about the phylogenetic origin of the unconscious, about the inherited, abbreviated repetition of the development that all mankind has passed through over a long time, starting from primitive times, about the "psychic condensate" that has become an integral legacy, which with each generation needs only to be awakened, not acquired. A typical example of such a legacy is, in his opinion, the "innate" symbolism that people inherited from the era of language development and is the same in meaning for all peoples, despite the difference in languages.

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