What is Jungian Psychoanalysis

Time in general, and the present in particular, are slippery notions. My sense of myself in the present is based on my narrative of my past, and my expectations for the future are dependent on my sense of myself in the present. The narrative of my personal life history weaves between all three states: past, present, and future. This is our psychic reality and the only truth we hold to in psychoanalysis.

Jungian analysis, which takes place in a dialectical relationship between analyst and analysand, has for its goal the analysand’s movement toward psychological wholeness. This transformation of the personality requires coming to terms with the unconscious, its specific structures and their dynamic relations to consciousness as these become available during the course of analysis. Transformation also depends upon the significant modification of the unconscious structures that shape and control ego-consciousness at the beginning of analysis, a change that takes place through the constellation of archetypal structures and dynamics in the interactive field between analyst and analysand.

Murray Stein (1995, p. 33)

Who would consider Jungian Analysis?

  • Are you feeling sad, anxious or depressed?
  • Do you have relationship difficulties?
  • Are you entering a new phase of life and are worried you’ll make the same mistakes/mis-steps of the past?
  • Do you feel you life has little meaning?
  • Are you stuck in the same of ways of behaving?
  • Are you an artist or writer who is feeling blocked?
  • Have you had a dream that you want to understand?

What is Jungian Analysis?

This is a complex question, that we can address on a number of levels.

Jungian Analysis is a form of psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is an interpersonal process in which a person works through problematic issues resulting in a different way of believing about oneself and behaving differently.

The problematic issues might relate to mental health, communication, or most commonly to interpersonal relationships.

Jungian Analysis focuses on coming to terms with the unconscious

Jungian Analysis is a specialized form of psychotherapy that aims to move an individual to a greater sense of wholeness through ‘coming to terms with the unconscious.’

This means that we become aware of what unconscious issues influence our behaviour. With greater awareness of these issues comes a greater sense of well-being and personal control of our lives.

How do we encounter the unconscious?

Primarily through working through interpreting our dreams, our complexes, and our physical symptoms as well as making sense of the symbols we create in art and movement.

The impact of the unconscious pervades our interpersonal relationships

By making sense of the unconscious influences on our lives, and what we believe about ourselves, we change our interpersonal interactions.

This change reduces the difficulties we have in our daily life (e.g. anxiety or depression) and, enriches our experience of ourselves and others.

Analysis is a continued series of conversations, between two people but more crucially, between the psyche’s of two people.

These conversations illuminate the challenge one faces in interpersonal relationships.

This means that through the Jungian Analysis we can work out why our interpersonal interactions might be going wrong.

We can analyse what happens in our day to day life and then change the parts that aren’t working.

We all have within us the power and wisdom for change, and it is through analysis that we encounter this strength and wisdom to make the change.

It is from Jung that we have important concepts that we encounter in our everyday culture (in literature, in art and film) such as:

  • individuation
  • collective unconscious
  • archetype
  • introvert and extravert
  • shadow
  • anima and animus

Why is it so difficult to find a Jungian Analyst?

There aren’t many Jungian Analysts worldwide.

The low numbers of analysts reflects the rigorous entrance requirement of most programs that train individuals to become a Jungian Analysis.

The 4-5 years of training is comprehensive, involving extensive academic work as well as individual analysis.

You can find comfort in knowing that each analyst, as a required part of his or her training, must undergo hundreds of hours of individual Jungian Analysis as well as Training Analysis.

As of March, 2010 there are fewer than 3000 registered Jungian analysts worldwide.

But why does the analyst have to be analysed?

This brings us to a central idea in Jungian Analysis.

Unlike any other form of psychotherapy, the role of the Jungian Analyst is central to the Jungian Analytic process.

Only when the Jungian analyst has come to terms with his/her own unconscious material, hence is aware of their complexes, and the influence of their own unconscious, can he/she work with the unconscious of another person.

This is because Jungian Analysis is an interaction between the psyche’s of two people – the analyst and the client.

Interpretation of Dreams

Central to a Jungian analysis is the interpretation of dreams. Freud felt that dreams were the “royal road to the unconscious”. Jungians hold to the same idea yet add the notion of the complex as having the same value. Why analyse dreams? In terms of the structure of the psyche, Jung argued that the unconscious has a dialectical relationship with consciousness, in particular, the ego. This means that the products of the unconscious (dreams, symbols, imagery, phantasy etc) are responses to the ego’s attitude. It is as if the ego’s attitude towards the individual and culture create a one-sided pole, the opposite end of which is the unconscious. A dream then is not simply a “protector of sleep” as Freud argued, but a layer of experiential material that can be drawn upon to balance the one-sidedness of the ego. In analyzing dreams, we bring this unconscious material to the awareness of the ego and in so doing, gradually alter the ego’s stance. Unlike Freud who saw dreams as wish-fulfillments, Jungians feel that dreams compensate for the ego’s stance and offer a different point of view for the psyche as a whole. Dreams then act as critiques, as alternative positions, as guides or roadmaps to a richer conscious life.

My experience in my own analysis is that the dream presents me with a play, often in many acts and with a myriad of scenes. The dream tells me how things are, have been or could become. The idea that dreams can tell me how things may become is a crucial idea in analysis – this is the roadmap that I can choose to listen to to lead me to a more balanced life. Jung called this the prospective function of the dream.

Unconscious Material

Unconscious material is dealt with in three ways in analysis: these are explication, amplification and active imagination.

Briefly, explication involves interpreting unconscious material, making it clear and naming it. A common challenge we all face is that we may often take a dream symbol and interpret it is a sign i.e. a stick means this, or an apple means that. Jung felt that this thrashes the meaning out of the symbol and reduces it to a dictionary entry. Crucial here is to understand what the symbol implies for the dreamer – how does it fit into their experience, the life, their understanding of themselves. A symbol may be a concrete example of something that has to be deal with or it may be a “disguised” representation of an issue.

In amplification we expand on these images or symbols, finding ways to make sense of how this symbol we have just dreamt has meaning for us. Amplification draws on how the symbol is used in culture i.e. how does this symbol appear in myth, in fairy tales, in religious worship. It is here that we draw on our knowledge of the archetypes, because the symbol is an archetypal representation.

There is no one definition of a symbol, rather we have to pay attention to how we relate to the symbol. After this, we can turn to a symbol dictionary for additional help. As an example, try to develop your own ideas about the following symbols, and then see what a symbol dictionary has to say – you are often far more accurate than you imagine:

  • water symbol
  • fire symbol
  • animal symbol
  • wave symbol
  • earth symbol
  • tree symbol
  • garden symbol
  • alchemical symbols
  • symbols of the zodiac

Lastly, we can engage in active imagination with dream material in which I allow myself to slip into a meditative state, gently have the ego stay present but not directing the process and re-enter the unconscious pole of the material of the dream. I converse with the unconscious material of the dream and see where it leads me.


In addition, we often deal with our complexes in dream interpretation – mother complex, father complex, money complex, power complex, education complex, performance complex are but to name a few.

But, what exactly is a complex and do we all have them?

Everyone has complexes. These are essential building blocks of our experience. But, complexes can have us. This means, we can be in the grip of a complex and act, feel, think and behave quite differently from our normal self.

A complex is a cluster of images and ideas about a central motif that have a common affect surrounding them.

Let’s take an example : some may have a money complex. This means that all the ideas and memories the person has around money, with a common feeling attached to these ideas.

Think of the first time you held money – often in the form of a few coins. You knew from the way that adults referred to these coins that they were special.

Then recall when you earned some money doing a chore. Or hearing family fight about money and the cost of things. Then remember earning your first paycheque and what you did with the money. Remember losing money, winning money, being late for a bill payment, having to pay taxes, running out of money……..

All these experiences help form your money complex.

If that complex is negative for you, you will act and feel differently whenever money issues are raised. So, if you get a call from a collection agency or from a company that you were late in paying your bill to, you may feel angry, aggrieved, ashamed…and when that happens those around you will notice you are different – you seem angry, you are pacing around, your voice sounds loud, you snap at people – all this because of a complex.

After some time the complex abates and you are back to your normal self. You may feel a little embarrassed though.

That’s a complex.

Now, imagine dealing with all your complexes in such a way that they don’t switch on and make you feel so upset….that’s an issue that Jungian Analysis deals with.