The contents of the collective unconscious have never been conscious to the individual. They are latent images which Jung called primordial images, meaning first or original. Humans inherit these images from their ancestral past.
The mind has inherited characteristics that determine the way a person will react to a given experience. Evolution prefigures the mind, which links the individual with history of the species and prior to the organic evolution (Hall, 1973).
The primordial images or pre- existent forms are called archetypes and they can only become conscious secondarily as they give form to psychic content. Archetypes are analogous to instincts. Along with primordial images the collective unconscious consists of mythological motifs.
Jung believed our myths, fairy tales, and legends are carriers of a projected unconscious psyche. The mythological is produced out of a participation mystique where it is not the physical phenomena of thunder or earthquakes, but the fantasies caused by the affects they arouse (Papadopoulos, 2006).
The archetype of the persona is usually involved in the presenting problem of a client. The client recognizes this by indicating that the person they show to the world differs from how they perceive their total personality.
Once the persona is worked with, and the mask is removed, the defenses that protect what are behind the mask become apparent. As the defenses are dealt with, the unconscious aspects of the personality emerge (Singer, 1972).
Recognizing the shadow usually follows the unmasking
of the persona. As this process continues deeper parts of the unconscious become attainable to the ego (Singer, 1972). Shadow elements are incompatible with the conscious personality and must be integrated to achieve wholeness (Weinrib, 2004).
The shadow consists of qualities of a person that are distasteful and unacceptable to their conscious mind, but are not always negative. There are situations where the conscious attitude is negative, while a positive shadow projection could be activated by an admired outer object (Papadopoulos, 2006).
The shadow work that must be dealt with at mid-life includes acknowledging envy, greed, laziness, aggression, and jealousy. Jung realized that what he advocated as part of analysis was a rediscovery of an ancient truth regarding the healing power of catharsis, when as a result of analytic shadow work; the client becomes aware of their darker side and confesses to it. Jung identified the confessional as the prototype for soulwork (Papadopoulos, 2006).
As the persona begins to be unmasked, the shadow is recognized; next the anima/animas will begin to appear in dreams and in projections onto other people (Singer, 1972). In the case of a woman who dreams of a sexual union with her boss, an inner psychological meaning is missed if this dream is taken literally.
“In dreams, sexual union frequently represents the tendency of some part of us to unite itself with our conscious personality” (Sanford, 1980, p.26).
When properly understood, this dream symbolizes an awakening of this woman’s creative powers. She is projecting her creative powers onto her boss, and if taken literally she could mistakenly have an affair leading to negative consequences in her life. When properly analyzed, this woman could realize the creative potential in herself that was looking to be realized.
Many women in midlife experience a certain creative energy that overflows the marriage and family life boundaries. This creative energy is many times projected onto a person of the opposite sex. This person becomes a hook onto which these women’s creative powers are projected. These women may begin to realize their potential when they withdraw the projection (Sanford, 1980). Integration happens when the withdrawal of projections of unconscious psychic content is repeatedly brought to the attention of the conscious ego and is recognized as belonging to one’s own personality (Brehony, 1996).
Brehony (1996) outlines Marie-Louise von Franz’s five stages of projection and the withdrawal of projection in Awakening at midlife. Projection begins when an individual believes that an unconscious, inner understanding is reality. In the second stage, differentiation happens when the individual realizes the discrepancy between the projection and the reality of the situation. The third stage requires that the individual bring this discrepancy to consciousness and accept the difference between the projection and the reality. In the fourth stage, the individual comes to the conclusion that what they originally believed was an illusion. In the final stage, the individual must look inwards for the origin of the projected energy.
Aziz (1990) points out that the withdrawing of projections is important for two reasons:
- Projections give a false impression of the object.
- Projections contain elements that are naturally part of the person’s
personality and need to be consciously integrated.
When the persona is unmasked, the shadow integrates, and the anima and animas projections are withdrawn, the self emerges. “The Self is the goal towards which the process of individuation strives. It represents psychic wholeness and the process by which self-division may be healed” (Papadopoulos, 2006, p.153).
The God image is what Jung regards as the symbolic representation of the Self. It is the organizing principle of the psyche and therefore organizes the personality (Papadopoulos, 2006). The Self is the totality of both conscious and unconscious components out of which the ego evolves (Weinrib, 2004).
Erich Neumann describes the ego-Self axis, as the nature and quality of the connection between the ego and the self. Since the ego emerges out of the self, that from which it emerges is the unconscious part of the self (Papadopoulos, 2006).