What is Analytical Psychology?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Analyzing dreams can be part of analytical psychology.
Analyzing dreams can be part of analytical psychology.

Analytical psychology is an evolving school of analysis that began with the teachings, writing and observation of Carl Gustav Jung. There are newer methods of analytical psychology practiced today, including post-Jungian developmental and archetypal psychologies. No matter which form is practiced, some basic assumptions about the human psyche are typically shared.

Analytical psychology frequenty focuses on the shadow, which is an aspect of the unconscious mind.
Analytical psychology frequenty focuses on the shadow, which is an aspect of the unconscious mind.

Jung worked with Sigmund Freud, but began to have disagreements about how Freud viewed the individual, the unconscious, and the motivations of humans. Freud possessed a strong bias that individuals were motivated by deep-seated repression of sexual material, and Jung instead believed that humans were innately motivated to grow as people, and to reconcile neuroticisms that arose from repressed, not necessarily sexual, unconscious material. Freud also wanted to divorce people from their dependence on religion, where Jung viewed religions and mythos as a vital part of the collective unconscious: something to which all people were connected and all could relate.

The classic practice of analytical psychology involves laying on a couch and talking with a therapist.
The classic practice of analytical psychology involves laying on a couch and talking with a therapist.

In Jung’s view of the unconscious, people have both a personal unconscious and an underlying collective unconscious, which all humans share. Principally, therapy to achieve individuation is work that reconciles the personal unconscious with the self and strives toward wholeness of the self. The personal unconscious is seen as dynamic and potentially disturbing; it is constantly revealing itself through the person if he or she observes it, and what is ignored in it can lead to difficulties or neuroses.

Specifically, the personal unconscious contains several archetypes with which people in therapy (analysands) will discover and make peace with in many ways. These include the anima or animus, which are the feminine or masculine sides of the person. A man has an anima and a woman has an animus. The shadow is another important aspect of the unconscious, containing all the deeply repressed material in the psyche. When analysands haven’t made their peace with these archetypes, neuroses are common.

In the practice of classic analytical psychology, analysands might lie on a couch or sit facing a therapist, and principally talk with the therapist. Hypnosis might be used and dream analysis can play an important role. As this field has developed, other methods are used to evoke the unconscious such as sandtray work, various art treatment modalities, and creative writing. No matter what type of analytical psychology is practiced, the engagement between analyst and analysand is similar. Analysands talk, analysts listen, question, and may interpret. The relationship is characterized by the analyst’s friendly interest and desire to support the analysand.

Many people are familiar with analytical psychology because in the late 20th century, scholars like Joseph Campbell popularized it. Campbell wrote and spoke particularly about the hero’s journey and how this theme repeats in most known myths. He argued that all people are on the hero’s journey, mentally, and they will meet certain figures/archetypes within themselves repeatedly. Analytical psychology can loosely be described as a treatment that helps people recognize the journey within the self to meet and know all aspects of the self.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • Analyzing dreams can be part of analytical psychology.
      By: andreiuc88
      Analyzing dreams can be part of analytical psychology.
    • Analytical psychology frequenty focuses on the shadow, which is an aspect of the unconscious mind.
      By: Lucian Milasan
      Analytical psychology frequenty focuses on the shadow, which is an aspect of the unconscious mind.
    • The classic practice of analytical psychology involves laying on a couch and talking with a therapist.
      By: saap585
      The classic practice of analytical psychology involves laying on a couch and talking with a therapist.