Understanding the Jungian Woman
by Sreepriya Menon
Right as one is somewhat comfortable and acquainted with a particular strategy of thinking required in studying psychology, comes an initiation into the Jungian approach. A semester full of gender related projects, whether it be research or English literature has given me if nothing else, a need to understand the significance of looking at every subject matter with feminist eyes, which is, every student inside the walls of LSR is given the opportunity to evolve as a representative of the women outside. The rigor involved equips us to handle the very same issues practically every day whether it be understanding the psyche of a woman, differentiating it from other genders, stand against exploitation, and understand the resources available for us to empower ourselves.
I approached Jung’s analytical psychology as a prospective broadening of my identity with a goal of “transcending” labels, and fixed boundaries and found enough substance in agreement with the process of individuation but found enough questions obstructing my acceptance.
Jung differentiated two layers of the unconscious. The first, the personal unconscious, consisted in elements acquired during one’s lifetime, together with conscious elements. The second was the impersonal or collective unconscious. While consciousness and the personal unconscious were developed and acquired in the course of one’s lifetime, the collective psyche was inherited.
Jung wrote that it was a difficult task to differentiate the personal and collective psyche. One of the factors one came up against was the persona- one’s “mask” or “role.” This represented the segment of the collective psyche that one mistakenly regarded as individual. When one analyzed this, the personality dissolved into the collective psyche, which resulted in the release of a stream of fantasies. The difference between this state and insanity lay in the fact that it was intentional.
The task of individuation lay in establishing a dialogue with the fantasy figures-or contents of the collective unconscious and integrating them into consciousness.
Jung introduced the notion of the anima, as a counterpart to that of the persona. He regarded both of these as “subject-images.” Here, he defined the anima as “how the subject is seen by the collective unconscious.” This complementary character of the soul also affected its sexual character, so that a man had a feminine soul, or anima, and a woman had a masculine soul, or animus. This corresponded to the fact that men and women had both masculine and feminine traits.
For Jung, the integration of the anima for the man and of the animus for the woman was necessary for the development of the personality. In 1928, he described this process, which required withdrawing the projections from members of the opposite sex, differentiating from them, and becoming conscious of them in The Relations between the I and the Unconscious. This ideology leads one to believe that essentially human soul is the same regardless of gender but for the intriguing paradox in some of jung’s comments about feminine “nature” elsewhere.
“No one can evade the fact, that in taking up a masculine calling, studying and working in a man’s way, woman is doing something not wholly in agreement with, if not directly injurious to, her feminine nature. … Female psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and deliverer; while age-old wisdom has ascribed Logos to man as his ruling principle.”
The collective unconscious consists of elements inherited from the entire human species since primeval times while its existence is passed on through heredity. Here, the question that arises is whether such images and symbols are a creation of human emotion or which is more basic and universal, that taught us reasoning and guides our cognition. It may also be an interactive product of genes that affect social behavior and the environment of human beings. These questions remain to be answered.