Week 4: Exploring the Creative Psyche

Team Freud or Team Jung? For buddies Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, the psyche was a many-splendored thing: fluid, multi-dimensional, alive, and capable of creative development (Salman, 2008). However their relationship and collaboration began to deteriorate as the years went on. While Freud had viewed Jung as the most innovative and original of his followers, he was unhappy with Jung’s disagreement with some of the basic tenets of Freudian theory. From Jung’s point of view, the major problems were “Freud’s emphasis on sexuality and his inordinate need for personal authority in intellectual matters pertaining to psychoanalysis” (Cherry, 2012). In turn, the Freud-Jung relationship ended in 1913 amid personal and theoretical conflicts.

Following this break, Jung later founded his own school of analytical psychology. In the six-year period that followed 1914, he advanced such concepts as the collective unconscious, individuation, archetypes, the shadow, and projection. These key contributions established a series of theories such as the gradual discovery of our ‘real inner self’, genetic blueprints for ideal behaviour, and a repressed dark side that exists in our unconscious (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002). To expand our understanding of these terms, we can analyse narrative growth as an individuation process, as well examine archetypal figures and behaviours inscribed in fictional characters. In addition, Jung’s concept of the shadow can be best understood in conjunction with historical examples of projection. In turn, perhaps these analyses can provide insight into our own psyches as well as teach us how to reach our creative potential?

From a personal perspective, Jung’s definition of archetypes was a key term that particularly stood out. Described as a “genetic blueprint for ideal types of behaviour” (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002), Jung argued that archetypal figures are inscribed in mythological characters, devised as guides to teach us to act in certain ways. In turn, psychologist Robert Moore later used this theory to create a framework that explained the four major archetypes of masculine psychology: King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover (The Art of Manliness, 2014). From a creative standpoint, representations of different qualities in a particular psyche can provide an ideal basis for narratives that wish to explore an archetype as well as it’s positive and shadow aspects. For example, Moore’s archetypes of masculinity are illustrated in many fictional characters belonging to popular culture (see Fig. 3.2). By applying Moore’s archetypes of masculinity, creative practitioners can design a character that possesses too much or too little of a particular aspect, leading to the shadow sides of the archetype. Like the mythological figures of our ancestors, perhaps the archetypes of our beloved fictional characters are a modern means to convey ideal types of behaviour?

Fig 3.2: From TV’s Breaking Bad to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Moore’s archetypes of masculinity are illustrated in many fictional characters belonging to popular culture

In relation to creativity, we can perhaps examine our own unconscious behaviour and it’s role in the work we create. Through exploring Jung’s concept of the shadow in conjunction with the idea of projection, it seems we’re forced to ask the question: to what extent are we aware of our own unconscious motivations and personality? More importantly, in Jung’s terms, have we achieved individuation by embracing our shadow self rather than projecting it on to others? (Mason, 2014) From a social perspective, it’s possible to argue that many individuals continue to repress their shadow side within the subconscious. This is repeatedly reflected through the projection of a society that labels minority groups as the cause of many social problems (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002). For example, the ‘bad’ tendencies that the gay community is often accused of – unnatural, diseased, socially unconscious and so on – are usually the repressed and denied aspects of homophobic people accusing them of such sins. In turn, it seems understanding our unconscious motivations can be enhanced by confronting our shadow side, a difficult and testing process for some more than others. From a personal perspective, perhaps accessing my shadow side is particularly difficult due to an open and unprejudiced upbringing? To expand, we could question whether the individuation of our own parents, imposed upon ourselves in childhood, has any link to the magnitude of our future shadow side?

Like his B.F.F Freud, Carl Jung has made a lasting mark in enhancing our understanding in the field of creativity. From archetypes to shadow sides, his work has illuminated patterns of behaviour and thought that can be found in all characters and narratives throughout the creative industries. From a personal perspective, we can even apply these concepts to ourselves, assisting our long-term quest to find our ‘real inner self’ and fulfilment in life. More importantly we can use Jung’s theories to identify the dark, negative side that ‘prevents’ us from reaching our full creative potential. Or perhaps, ‘enable’? After all, Darth Vader did build the Death Star.

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References

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