Normality in Analytical Psychology

This video is an academic, masters-level presentation that I was invited to make at a university conference.  The full paper has been published in the Journal for Behavioural Sciences.   On the page below, I provide a non-academic overview and discuss one of its practical implications.

Jung’s theories are sometimes criticised for being based on his experiences with mentally ill people.  Whilst that is true to some extent, only 1/3rd of his Collected Works are concerned with mental illness.  He was able to spend much of his life studying ‘normal’ applications of psychology, which interested him, because he was financially independent (having married a very rich woman).  And one of the books that Jung published, Psychological Types, became the basis for the most popular personality questionnaire in use today – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

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The Hero Myth in International Conflicts

Luke Skywalker, by Jonathan ReyThe resolution of interpersonal and international conflict is often hindered by the hero myth.

A traditional hero in myth is a powerful person who “vanquishes evil… and who liberates his people from destruction and death”1. The psychological power of the hero is illustrated by its frequent use in fiction to achieve commercial success. For example, George Lucas used a hero myth to craft the characters in the film Star Wars. This was so successful that the hero myth became an integral part of Hollywood screenwriting and computer game design.

However, less attention is paid to the significant role that the hero myth can play in interpersonal and international relations. It can shape those relationships, exacerbate conflict, and create new problems of its own.

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Does God exist or is God imaginary?

Does God Exist illustration using an optical illusionIn The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins argues that God (probably) does not exist, and he associates belief in God with the childhood practice of having an “imaginary friend” (Dawkins 2006, p. 88). He advocates, as an alternative to belief in God, using science and evidence to develop useful models that replicate how the world works.

Although his argument has some validity, it is underpinned by a Western cultural premise that something is either real/exists or imaginary/unreal.  This is a false dichotomy, created by the tendency in the modern Western mind to think in terms of simple opposites (Corbin 1972, p. 1).  Imagination and reality are not alternatives, but imagination helps to create reality.  This can be illustrated with three practical examples.

Illustration 1: Optical Illusion

In the picture above/right (published by Edward Adelson on a Wikipedia page), squares A and B are opposite colours – one is black the other is white.  Can you see how this reality is created by your imagination?

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Is the Swastika a symbol of evil or of good?

Hindu Swastika

A Jew and a Hindu had very different views when debating the meaning of the Swastika on BBC’s Sunday Morning Live (3rd Nov 2013).  As part of Diwali week (a Hindu festival) the BBC asked David Schneider and Kiran Bali to debate the question: “Can the Swastika be reclaimed as a symbol of peace?”

The BBC followed this up with a half-hour programme: The Story of the Swastika.  The two programmes illustrate some of the fundamental differences between how people think differently in the West and East, and how problems of conflict can be overcome from the perspective of analytical psychology.

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Plebgate – a Clash of Mythologies

Plebgate Home Affairs Select Committee

Plebgate is a scandal that began with a politician (Andrew Mitchell) swearing at a police officer and having to resign.  It then turned into the police investigating the honesty and integrity of its own officers (“plodgate”).  On Wednesday (23/10/13), the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) showed that there is more confusion between fact and fiction in this story than in a good Dan Brown novel.  For example:

  • Three Chief Constables apologised for their officers’ actions – but the officers refused to do so.
  • The officers claimed they had been accurate, but most others agreed they had misled.
  • The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), and Chief Constables differed as to the charges that should be laid against the officers.
  • The SIO disagreed with his own report, which he had signed as author.
  • The way the SIO finalised the report’s conclusions was probably illegal.
  • The Chief Constables disagree as to whether the report’s conclusions need to be reviewed.

How does mythology help explain this fog of confusion?

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