Book Review: Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung

Book Review: Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung

I enjoyed writing this review of Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung by Gary Bobroff for the Jung Society of Utah blog. The book is an excellent primer on Jungian concepts. Highly recommended.

“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is” 1

– C.G. Jung

Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung provides an introduction to Jung’s in an easy-to-understand format.

“Jungian psychology is something that we do,” Gary Bobroff writes in Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung. “Its work is to come into greater relationship with ourselves, to discover and relate to parts of ourselves beyond our regular conscious awareness.”2 As a Jungian-oriented therapist, I have found this to be true, and Jung’s body of work can be a powerful guide on the difficult journey of creating this relationship with oneself. However, for those who are unfamiliar with Jung, the complexity and sheer volume of his written work may be overwhelming. This was my experience six years ago (before I began my career as a therapist) when I became interested in Jung and his work.

I first came across Jung’s ideas on introversion, which were cited in a book that had been recommended to me. I became curious about him and sought out the source material, but often struggled to understand it, despite having some background knowledge of psychology. Bobroff’s book would have been a great help to me at that time. It contains good descriptions of Jungian terms in simple language. The writing is clear and engaging, easily understandable even for those with no background in psychology. This would be an excellent book to recommend to clients or others who are interested in learning about Jung’s basic ideas.

The book is also enjoyable to read, with several charming anecdotes about Jung that I had not come across before. In my favorite one, Bobroff writes, “C.G.’s laugh was so infectious that his secretary Aniela Jaffe told the story of a hiker who, travelling the road above Eranos, a research centre in Switzerland, heard laughter from high above in the mountains and had to come and investigate who this man was.”3

Jung was reported to have an infectious laugh and believed in the value of humor.

Bobroff presents a concise yet thorough introduction to who Jung was and his ideas. Included are chapters on the shadow, inner work, the Self, personality types, archetypes, anima and animus, and synchronicity. Each chapter provides examples to help readers understand these big concepts, as well as ways to connect with them personally:

“Integrating the shadow sometimes begins when we notice ourselves doing something out of character. Perhaps with genuine embarrassment, you wonder: ‘Why did I get so angry just then?’ For a moment, you’re seeing a part of yourself with which you’re not very comfortable. Our blind spots are momentarily revealed to us in such ways.”4

Such an approach gives readers a practical way of working with material that can often seem heady and overwhelming, as well as an entry point for engaging in a grounded way with the unconscious, which “holds the blueprint of who we are… The task of unfolding that pattern requires a relationship to inner forces within us.”5 The journey to relate to these inner forces and “search for who we really are, including both our current known ego self and a future version of ourselves which includes more of our unconscious potential, is the quest of Jungian psychology.”6 This book offers a helpful ally on that quest.

An understanding of Jungian psychology can guide our journey to become more of who we really are.

For anyone who wants to find out who Jung was and/or find out more about themselves, Bobroff provides a good place to start. Those new to Jung will find a strong primer on the foundational elements of his theories, with suggestions on how to learn more. For those who have more familiarity with Jung, the book is an excellent review and a useful reference. I was personally impressed with Bobroff’s strong understanding of Jungian concepts, and his ability to elegantly distill the essence of Jung’s massive body of work into about 230 pages—clearly a heroic task.

In describing the importance of inner reflection and self-understanding, Bobroff writes, “In the face of today’s challenges, it remains within the power of every individual to be ‘the makeweight that tips the scales.’7 The ultimate reason that we’re still talking about Jung today is because of how seriously he took the inner life. May this book inspire you to realize how important yours is too.”8

Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung: The complete guide to the great psychoanalyst, including the unconscious, archetypes and the self by Gary Bobroff is published by Arcturus Publishing.

Notes

  1. Carl Jung, Collected Works, vol. 7 (Princeton University Press, 1966), par. 242
  2. Gary Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung (Arcturus Publishing, 2020), p. 72
  3. Ibid., p. 24
  4. Ibid., p. 63
  5. Ibid., p. 40
  6. Ibid., p. 75
  7. Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self (Princeton University Press, 1957) p. 78
  8. Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung, p. 16

Jung, Introversion, and Self-Acceptance

Jung, Introversion, and Self-Acceptance

I wrote the following post for the Jung Society of Utah blog.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
–  C. G. Jung

While Carl Jung was mentioned briefly in my undergraduate psychology courses, my first real contact with Jung’s theories came many years after that. In 2014, I began seeing an acupuncturist for help with fatigue, depression, and anxiety. During the course of my treatment, the acupuncturist recommended that I read The Highly Sensitive Person, by psychologist Elaine Aron. According to Aron, highly sensitive people (HSPs) are the 15-20 percent of individuals in a population who have a nervous system that is more sensitive to stimulation than average.1 I strongly related to the information in the book and finally felt like my experiences of being “easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long”1 made sense. This book cited Jung frequently, especially with regard to his ideas on introversion. Upon finding very little research related to the HSP trait, Aron “thought that the closest topic might be introversion. The psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote very wisely on the subject, calling it a tendency to turn inward. The work of Jung, himself an HSP, has been a major help to me.”1 The many mentions of Jung throughout the book intrigued me and I wondered if his work could be of help to me as well.

Carl Jung wrote wisely on the topic of introversion.

I began reading bits and pieces of Jung’s work that were available on the internet, along with commentary by depth oriented therapists and psychologists to provide clarity on aspects of it I was confused by. I also enjoyed watching videos and lectures about Jung on YouTube. I found that Jung’s work, especially his ideas on psychological types, helped me to understand and make peace with my own experiences, particularly those around being an intuitive introvert who never “fit in” with most of the people around me. It was absolutely my experience that “the introverted person must assume a good deal of chronic psychological stress”3 in order to adapt to an environment where extraversion is preferred. This further explained the fatigue, depression, and anxiety I had suffered from for so long. After reading Jung, I began to feel more at peace with my natural temperament and no longer felt the need to pretend to be otherwise. As I accepted myself, my physical and psychological symptoms gradually diminished. For me, Jung made being an introvert acceptable and even valuable; rather than a deficiency in my personality, which is how I had previously viewed this trait.

Reading Jung’s work helped me to turn within, make peace with myself, and begin learning to love myself.

I deepened my study of Jung by reading Memories, Dreams, Reflections. I often found myself laughing aloud as I related to Jung’s childhood experiences, particularly where he described his boredom with school: “It took up far too much time which I would rather have spent drawing battles and playing with fire. Divinity classes were unspeakably dull, and I felt a downright fear of the mathematics class.”2 In Jung, I felt I had found a kindred spirit after spending most of my life feeling lost in a deep, painful sense of aloneness.

I am grateful for the many ways Jung’s work has influenced my life for the better. Through his writing I became able to look within my own heart, wake up to who I truly am, and began to accept myself. As a result of this turning inward, I also found the sense of purpose that I had always lacked, and began the transition from an empty, dead-end career path to one I find fascinating and meaningful. I will continue to turn to Jung’s work as part of my studies to become a psychotherapist.

Books Cited

  1. The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you Elaine Aron.
  2. Memories, dreams, reflections Carl G. Jung.
  3. Jung’s map of the soul: An introduction Murray Stein.

Dreams, Art, and the Unconscious: A Jungian Perspective

Dreams, Art, and the Unconscious: A Jungian Perspective

I wrote the following for the Jung Society of Utah blog.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

– C.G. Jung

Carl Jung saw both dreams and art (including paintings and poetry) as expressions of the unconscious. Of dreams he wrote, “The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”

In art, as in dreaming, the unconscious is often activated. In Jung’s essay, “On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry,” he wrote of certain creative works in which “we are dealing with an event originating in the unconscious nature; with something that achieves its aim without the assistance of human consciousness, and often defies it by willfully insisting on its own form and effect.” Similar to dreams, this type of art contains “something supra-personal that transcends our understanding to the same degree that the author’s consciousness was in abeyance during the process of creation.”1

A dream or a creative work may serve as “a spontaneous self-portrayal, in symbolic form, of the actual situation in the unconscious.”2 How then can we use dreams and art to make the unconscious conscious?

Personal and collective unconscious

Jung was known for working with the dreams of his patients, but “he also encouraged his patients to paint and interpreted the paintings in certain of his articles.”2 Jung himself made a practice of drawing mandalas, believing them to be archetypal forms representing the Self. He also created the images in The Red Book.

An image from The Red Book.

Finding psychological value in creativity, Jung “placed emphasis on both process and product.”2 He believed that creating art helped mediate between the patient and their problem, allowing the person distance from their psychic condition.2 Dreams and dream work can often provide a similar perspective, serving a compensatory function that helps integrate unconscious contents.

This mediation between the conscious and unconscious often occurs at the level of the personal unconscious, where both dream work and art work can assist individuals in working through their complexes. At this subjective level, one’s interpretation of a dream or creative work is often filtered through these “core patterns of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes organized around a common theme.” Becoming aware of and addressing these patterns within the personal unconscious through interacting with a dream or creative work can lead one to greater wholeness.

“What is essential in a work of art is that it should rise far above the realm of personal life and speak to the spirit and heart of the poet as man to the spirit and heart of mankind.” – C.G. Jung

However, working with dreams and art can reach a deeper level of the psyche. Jung “saw dreams as having the structure of a story or play.” He noted “many parallels between dreams and myths, and said they sometimes used the same symbols to express their themes.” This archetypal content that Jung noticed in dreams is often expressed in creative works as well. He wrote, “The creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the finished work. By giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present, and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life.”1 In accessing this archetypal content, whether through dream work or creative work, one may be able to align with a source of transpersonal understanding that exists outside of ego-consciousness.

A vast sea of meaning

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “Poetry is like the boat and its meaning is like the sea.” What Rumi seems to allude to is the idea that a creative work is a world unto itself, and hints at the notion of multiple levels of meaning. The same could be said of dreams.

The actual narrative structure of the dream or text of the poem is the boat, afloat on a vast sea of possible meanings. Such meanings could include one’s personal interpretation of the dream or creative work, a friend’s interpretation of it, and an objective, archetypal interpretation. Each level of meaning is present, available for discovery based on how one interacts with the world of the dream or the creative work. This one reason why there is value in discussing dreams and art with other people—multiple perspectives on the same textual content can shed light on the different levels of meaning, providing a larger, more colorful view of the world that exists within the dream or creative work.

“Poetry is like the boat and its meaning is like the sea.” – Rumi

Working with one’s own personal unconscious or the collective unconscious through interacting with dreams and art provides an opportunity for growth and learning by “making the unconscious conscious.” All levels of meaning, whether personal or archetypal are valuable and have a place within that vast ocean, which is as wide and deep as one’s curiosity and imagination allows.

Works cited

  1. On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry. C.G. Jung.
  2. A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis. Andrew Samuels, Bani Shorter, Fred Plaut.

 

Jung and the Inner World

Jung and the Inner World

(The following post was originally written for the Jung Society of Utah blog. As I was struggling with how to end this article, I randomly opened Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections and came across his quote about the importance of the outer world. It was a nice synchronicity.)

“This inner world is truly infinite, in no way poorer than the outer one. Man lives in two worlds.”
– C.G. Jung

In Carl Jung’s memoir, he wrote of experiencing an “other,” inner reality, in addition to the outer world. He believed in balancing identification with the external world by having inner experiences of the psyche, writing, “I can understand myself only in the light of these inner happenings.” But what does this mean? How did Jung connect to this inner world?

Reality of PsycheThe Reality of the Psyche

Jung wrote: “What most people overlook or seem unable to understand is the fact that I regard the psyche as real.” He defined the psyche as “the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious,” and considered it a “self regulating system, just as the body is,” with a structure that is accessible through empirical methods.

Jung considered himself “first and foremost an empiricist.” He stated that, “the ‘reality of the psyche’ is my working hypothesis, and my principal activity consists in collecting factual material to describe and explain it.” In order to collect this material, Jung paid attention to things that seemed to be expressions of the psyche. This information included dreams, daydreams, fantasy, and things in the outer world that seemed to reflect internal situations. He later developed a technique called active imagination in order to further explore the inner world.

Dreams

Dream treeJung believed that dreams originate in the unconscious, and could provide information about conscious and unconscious mental processes. He said, “The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche…in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night.”

Lucid dreams may offer an even more powerful way to access the inner world. Dream expert Robert Waggoner says that lucid dreaming feels “like you have become an inner astronaut, exploring the inner space of dreaming.” He notes, “the lucid dream environment often looks, feels, and sounds just as you would expect in the waking world.” Through his years of experience with this inner realm, he has found that “the exploration of the psyche holds many of the same lessons for all lucid dreamers.”

Active Imagination

Jung shared the belief that there were lessons to be found in the inner world, and that it held information that was outside of his conscious awareness. He developed a technique he called active imagination as a way to consciously dialogue with the unconscious. Jung found that he was able to access “those contents of the unconscious which lie, as it were, immediately below the threshold of consciousness and, when intensified, are the most likely to erupt spontaneously into the conscious mind.”

Jung called active imagination “the royal road to the unconscious,” and made extensive use of it in his explorations of the inner world. As he did so, he kept a careful clinical record of his observations, compiled into what is now known as The Red Book.

Two Worlds

Two worldsWhile Jung found inspiration in the inner world, he also valued the grounding and stability offered by the outer world, appreciating the balance it brought to his life: “When I was working on the fantasies…it was most essential for me to have…a counterpoise to that strange inner world. My family and my profession remained the base to which I could always return, reassuring me that I was an actually existing, ordinary person.”

As Jung found, interacting with the inner world can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. We can do the same by paying attention to dreams and daydreams, noticing what we imagine when our mind wanders, and being aware of synchronicities. What message might the inner world have to offer you?