I have dusted off the books. On my desk there is a stack of C.G. Jung books that I have not delved in for at least a year. They are well-worn from my days in grad school, combined with the years of thumbing through to read passages here and there.
I have forgotten how brilliantly well done are his ideas.
I have vast array of different Jung material, but by far my favorite and most insightful take away from Jung is the idea of archetype. It is a fairly common word now, with a lot of people understanding what an archetype is and is not, but just in case, here is a brief overview of the original definition.
Archetype is an idea or theme that is primordial, meaning it is something that exists before we assigned meaning to it. It does not ave inherent meaning, more it is an empty vessel, something that we dump meaning into thereby creating individualistic meaning, unique for us as the interactor.
Archetypes include God and Goddess, Mother, Father, Hero, Trickster, Shadow, Persona and of course the Anima/Animus (Jung terms for our opposite gender side). There are others, but those are some of the most familiar.
The beauty of archetypes is that they, by their very nature, malleable. They are reflections of us and our society.
Superheroes are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Read a 1940s superhero comic (Superman) and you are going to get a much different picture than a 1980s superhero (The Watchmen) and the 2015 superhero (Thor, Ironman, Hawkeye, etc. etc.). These heroes are reflections of the social construct that created them. The creators and the audience mold the hero to be relevant to current issues, thought, and culture.
How cool is that, seriously.
And it isn’t just comic books. No. It is art: literature, music, art. All the creative endeavors that surround us are made up of archetypal thought patterns, reflecting and broadcasting the way society sees and hears and knows the world. It is why art (in all its forms) is so incredibly important.
It shows us reality no matter how much time has passed, or how our own thoughts influence the current outcome… art is like a time machine.
But I got off track.
Archetypes is the bones of it all.
Jung identified them and believed that in understanding our relationship to archetypes, we are able to know more about ourselves. It is self study, a way of finding and understanding our own myth:
“I was driven to ask myself in all seriousness: ‘what is the myth you are living.’ I found no answer to this question, and had to admit that I was not living with a myth, or even in a myth, but rather in an uncertain cloud of theoretical possibilities which I was beginning to regard with increasing distrust… So in the most natural way, I took it upon myself to get to know “my” myth, and regarded this as the task of tasks—for—so I told myself—how could I, when treating my patients, make due allowance for the personal factor, for my personal equation, which is yet so necessary for a knowledge of the other person, if I was unconscious of it?” (Jung, Red Book, 15)
What is our myth? How do we view the archetypes I listed above? If they are but empty vessels, everything that we think about those identities, those ideas, are significant in understanding ourselves.
It is a road map to the psyche.
How brilliant is that?