In Jung’s last work on the theory of psychological types, published posthumously, he introduced the topic by writing:
“A sane and normal society is one in which people habitually disagree” (Jung 1964, p. 46).
Jung didn’t say (here) why individual disagreements are important to society, but the reasons are evident from many of his writings from 1914 onwards, when he started formulating his theories about “the process of becoming” (Jung 1914, p. 183).
Constructive disagreement is a vital part of Jung’s process of individual and cultural development and it reduces conflict in societal or international relations. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is a natural corollary of Jung’s theories of individuation and collective compensation. I’ll start by explaining these aspects of Jung’s theories, and then conclude with some practical guidelines on what it means to disagree constructively.
My jaw dropped when I started reading The Independent’s review of the Mansion House speech yesterday morning. On the front page of their website they showed a picture of George Osborne, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, in full flow delivering his speech. Alongside was a headline that said “£1,400 a year from UK’s 3.7m poorest families: Osborne reveals who cuts will hit”.
Wow, I thought. How could Osborne follow up Cameron’s “one nation” speech by telling a group of highly-paid financiers that he was going to cut benefits for the poor?
Then something strange happened. When I returned to the home page some time later, the headline had changed. It now read: “£1,400 a year from UK’s 3.7m poorest families: Is this where Osborne’s cuts will hit?” In the early afternoon, I returned to The Independent home page a third time. This time the headline had been removed altogether, but older stories were still there.
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®.
The 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.