Understanding the Collective Unconscious

The Collective Unconscious is the Objective Psyche

A little girl holding a snake
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The collective unconscious was originally defined by Carl Jung and is sometimes called the objective psyche. It refers to the idea that a segment of the deepest unconscious mind is genetically inherited, and is not shaped by personal experience.

According to Jung's teachings, the collective unconscious is common to all human beings and is responsible for a number of deep-seated instincts, such as sexual behavior and life and death instincts.

Personal Unconsciousness

It may be easier to understand collective unconsciousness if you first understand some basics of personal unconsciousness. This was considered by Sigmund Freud as the product of repressed or forgotten personal experiences that were at one time in your conscious mind.

In a therapeutic setting, a clinician might use psychoanalysis as part of a treatment plan to deal with a repressed memory of a past traumatic event that currently affects your life. This is one of the approaches for the treatment of some behavioral and psychological disorders, such as specific phobias, that may stem from a past memory.

Instincts and the Unconscious Drives

Instincts highly influence human behavior and are separate from the conscious mind's rational motivations. The field of analytical psychology views behaviors as stemming from unconscious beliefs. Emotions and behaviors are often explained as rooted in the collective unconscious. A core tenant of evolutionary psychology is that hereditary factors contribute to complex neural networks that control emotions and behavioral responses.

Collective Unconscious and Archetypes

Archetypes are indispensable in explaining this concept. The content of your collective unconsciousness includes archetypes, which are basic and fundamental pre-existing images, or forms that you have feelings about as a result of your collective unconscious.

Archetypes include an innocent child, an old wise person, femininity, and masculinity. A good example of a nature archetype is fire. According to Jung's theories, you are aware of the implications of these archetypes because of your collective unconscious.

Complex Beliefs

According to the theory of the collective unconscious, deep-seated beliefs regarding spirituality and religion are explained as partially due to the collective unconscious. Evolutionary natural selection is postulated as the genetic basis for religious beliefs.

Similarly, morals, ethics, and concepts of fairness or right and wrong could be explained in the same way, with the collective unconscious as partially responsible.

Collective Unconscious and Phobias

Genetic memory may explain specific phobias, a fear of a specific object, or of certain situations. A phobia of snakes (ophidiophobia) manifests in children even when there is no apparent traumatic origin for their fear.

For example, a study found that one-third of British children at age six is afraid of snakes even though it's rare to encounter a snake in the British Isles. The children had never come in contact with a snake in a traumatic situation, but snakes still generated an anxious response.

Fear of the dark, loud sounds, bridges, or blood may all be rooted in this collective unconscious, which is proposed as an inherited genetic trait.

Collective Unconscious and Gut Bacteria

Collective unconscious is being examined in a different light in recent years. Psychiatric research is now looking at the role of bacteria in collective unconscious. Genes in gut bacteria outnumber the genes in the human body, and these bacteria may produce neuroactive compounds. It's thought by some researchers that these neuroactive compounds may be part of the collective unconscious which regulates human behavior. If so, studies of gut microbes may be a very important part of the psychiatric research of the future,

Carl Jung's Background

Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875 and founded the school of analytical psychology. He is responsible for proposing and developing the psychological concepts of collective unconscious and archetypes, along with introverted and extroverted personality.

His family expected him to follow in the footsteps of many family members and join the clergy, but instead, he pursued medicine and studied biology, zoology, and archaeology, as well as philosophy, early Christian literature, and mythology.

Jung worked with Sigmund Freud, another prominent early psychologist. In his early studies, Jung's work affirmed many of Freud's ideas. As time went on, the two split in their principles of psychology. Jung contested Freud's principles of psychoanalysis. A big difference between their explanations of the unconscious is that Freud believed that the unconscious was the product of personal experiences, while Jung believed that the unconscious was the product of collective experiences inherited in the genes.

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