Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Man and his Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 1964

It's about: This book is the encapsulation of the theories of famous psychologist, Carl Jung, written in a form intended for generally audiences as opposed to fellow psychologists. It is the last work Jung was working on before he died, and it addresses his key theories about the collective unconscious, archetypes, the process of individuation, and what we can learn from dream analysis.

Jung was Sigmund Freud's protege, but he broke away from many of Freud's beliefs, especially his overemphasis on the role of the sexual. Jung argues instead that we all draw from a collective unconscious, a shared collection of experiences that manifest themselves through archetypes in our daily lives. He also believes that man's number one, innate desire is to achieve wholeness (a process which he calls individuation), and the only ways to do this are to confront suppressed bits of our psyche in our unconscious.

I thought: Although that summary must sound very boring, it just goes to show that Jung and his associates who wrote this book are much better and more interesting writers than I am, because this is a very engaging read. I originally checked this book out of the library to assist in writing a rather boring research paper, intending merely to skim through it to get the "jist" of his theories, but I found myself reading the entire thing out of pure interest.

The writing style is easily understandable for those of us who are not well-versed in psychoanalytical jargon, and he peppers his theories with interesting examples of his patients' dreams and how he analyzed them. Though I do not necessarily agree with all of his theories, they are nevertheless interesting and important and influential enoguh to read.

Indeed, if you are interested in the literary world at all, it is incredibly common to come across entire books written as a "Jungian approach to..." In fact, I reviewed a book like this earlier: We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, a Jungian approach to the myth of Tristan and Isolde.

Verdict: Stick it on the (reference) shelf

Reading Recommendations: Probably don't bother if you have absolutely no interest in psychology or dream analysis. If you're even mildly interested, however, it's worth glancing through, if nothing else.

Warnings: Don't worry. Like I said, he abandoned Freud's obsession with sexuality.