Jung was deeply moved by his ability to help patients, and he took the process of analysis very seriously. This is not to say, however, that he considered a specific process to be necessary. He was suspicious of theoretical assumptions, he focused on each individual in therapy, and was just as likely to adapt Adlerian techniques as he was to adapt Freudian techniques. In fact, he considered general professional experience to be an important aspect of one’s ability to be a good analyst. He did consider training to be very important, and that it should include medical training. He was not opposed to lay analysts (those with a Ph.D., rather than an M.D.), but felt that they should be supervised by a psychiatrist (Jung, 1961).
He built his general system of psychotherapy on four tenets: the psyche is a self-regulating system, the unconscious has creative and compensatory components, the doctor-patient relationship is crucial, and personality growth takes place throughout the lifespan. In addition, the process of psychotherapy involves four stages: confession, elucidation, education, and transformation (see Douglas, 1995). The confession and elucidation stages involve the patient recounting elements of their personal history, dreams, and fantasies, followed by the analyst bringing attention to symptoms, transferences, and attempting to help the patient gain insight on both intellectual and emotional levels. The education stage then involves moving the patient into the realm of an individual, hopefully as an adapted social being. Education focuses mostly on the persona and the ego, whereas confession and elucidation serve the role of exploring the personal unconscious. The education stage also involves trying to provide the patient with realistic options for changing their behavior. The final stage, transformation, was described by Jung as being similar to self-actualization. Also like self-actualization, not every patient (or person) makes it to this stage. Addressing the archetypal image of the self, the image of wholeness, requires working with the whole range of the conscious, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious psyches. The final goal is to inspire the patient to become a uniquely individual self without losing a sense of responsible integrity (the collectiveness inherent in the collective unconscious; see Douglas, 1995).
Since Jung did not want to be tied to any specific technique(s), he incorporated a variety of techniques as appropriate for each patient. Like Freud, Jung experimented with hypnosis early in his career, but discarded the technique as ineffective. He used dream analysis regularly, but did not consider each dream to be necessarily important. Instead, he looked for patterns in dreams over time, particularly recurring dreams. Jung taught his patients to get in touch with their own unconscious psyche through an active imagination technique. This meditative imagery procedure is somewhat similar to that of the Buddhist mindfulness techniques taught by Gotama Buddha some 2,600 years ago, but involves much more active cognition. Jung’s active imagery technique was also extended into actual physical activity. Jung found it helpful, especially with particularly withdrawn patients, to have them act out their thoughts and feeling. Jung would even mimic their movements to help himself better understand what his patients were trying to communicate (Douglas, 1995). The importance of physical states, as reflective of psychological states, was developed in more detail in the somatic psychology theories of Wilhelm Reich. In addition, Jung extended his therapeutic approach to group therapy, family and marital therapy, art therapy, child therapy, and the recurrent nightmares of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress. Through it all, Jung paid special attention to complexes, as representative of the psychic processes of the patient. Once an analyst understands both the symptoms and the complexes of the patient, Jung believed, the analyst has found the key to treatment (Douglas, 1995).
Like Freud, Jung felt that analytical psychology could serve a greater purpose beyond just helping individuals, so he turned his attention to society in several of his books. In Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Jung, 1933), Jung addressed the spiritual problems of our times. A modern person, according to Jung, is one who is whole, aware of their conscious psyche and their unconscious psyche (both personal and collective). Though such people are few and far between, Jung believed he saw evidence of a need for understanding the unconscious psyche. One obvious piece of evidence was the rise of psychology as a discipline at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in contrast to Jung’s personal preference, psychology has largely moved away spiritual pursuits, with its preference for a scientific evaluation of the human mind. Religion, in Jung’s opinion, has also moved away from spirituality, in favor of the dogma of human rules and regulations. Jung believed that we can learn a great deal from Yoga and Buddhism in terms of blending psychology and spirituality in order to understand the whole nature of human beings. In The Undiscovered Self (Jung, 1957), Jung continues this argument in a more personal way. He suggests that modern psychological approaches to “self-knowledge” are at best superficial, and don’t address the real psychic processes that lead to individuality. As a general condemnation of our obsession with science, he questions any theory based on statistical averages, since those averages say very little at all about the unique units being studied, whether they are people or some other object. In Civilization in Transition (Jung, 1964), the tenth volume of Jung’s collected works, he addresses the problems of American psychology, and what all Westerners can learn from the ancient wisdom of India about studying our own unconscious psyche. The importance of understanding the true and complete nature of our psyche is that until we do we cannot live our lives to the fullest:
Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components…Once the past has been breached, it is usually annihilated, and there is no stopping the forward motion. But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. (pp. 235-236; Jung, 1961)