Jungian Psychology provides roadmap to understand autism
Jungian Psychology provided my roadmap to understand and overcome savant autism.
Jungian concept clarifications at Lexicon plus essential starter resources at end of article.
Carl G. Jung
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, psychotherapist and founder of the school of analytical psychology. His work has been influential not only in psychiatry but also in philosophy, anthropology, archeology, literature, and religious studies. He proposed and developed the concepts of the psychological types including the extroverted and introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious.
The issues that he dealt with arose from his personal experiences as well as those of his patients. This interplay resulted in his focus on integration, wholeness and the whole person.
Dr. Jung derived his concept of the collective unconscious as a result of analyzing dreams of schizophrenic patients over time. They revealed images and knowledge of universal human experience that could not have come from their own personal experiences. So where did they come from?
Dr. Jung believed that schizophrenia was caused by an invasion from the collective unconscious, a parallel world of myths, archetypes and eternal forms.
When I first read Jung, I was trying to find someone, anyone, who had even the vaguest understanding of my then-unnamed feelings of inner dread along with the sense that I didn’t have both feet firmly in the human plane.
Jung’s theories of Psychological Types were designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. This has become the most Americanized and popularized of his ideas adapted as the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Psychological Types claimed that people had four principal psychological functions that shaped how they experience the world:
Of these, one was usually more dominant than others. It also added the dimension of the introvert and extrovert which are now part of everyday speech.
These ideas became the first practical tool that I could use to explain myself. I first I looked at his diagrams and descriptions and then I looked at within myself.
Somehow these concepts seemed immediate and true and I could see that I was an introverted thinking / intuitive type. But the big issue was I had absolutely no sensations or feelings at all.
How could that be? I told my talk therapist at the time but he failed to grasp what to me was earth shattering for two reasons: I could analyze myself accurately and someone in the world had ideas I could use.
This concept became one key tool in acquiring feelings and sensations I never imagined existed. It was how I began to understand I had a special form of savant autism.
My savant memory was trying to do the work of absent feelings and sensations. This insight gave me a framework for what would ultimately lead to the recovery of all sensory deficits.
Archetypes / The Collective Unconscious
I recognized Jung’s descriptions of archetypes and the collective unconscious as my inner reality. He described them as cold, very cold, deeply impersonal and that they communicated through dreams. One critical but subtle point was that when they spoke they used archaic words and forms of speech.
That was how they spoke to me in my dreams: “You are betwixt and between parallel worlds”
The world of archetypes had to be my inner world. All the evidence proved it. Cold, impersonal, another dimension of experience and speaking with archaic language through dreams.
Jung’s Archetype a very elusive concept for most people, but it made perfect sense to me. He uncovered it in the dreams and fantasies of his patients revealing universal common patterns, religious and mythic symbols that appeared in all cultures.
Jung believed that archetypes are models of people, behaviors, or personalities and suggested that the psyche was composed of three components: the ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.
It is a layer of the psyche embedded below the more well-known personal unconscious. Jung believed these non-material abstract forms were the highest, most fundamental kinds of reality as opposed to the material world known through the five senses.
Archetypes communicate or reveal themselves through dreams, whispers, images, and synchronicities especially when they sense a human is committed to a path of transcendence. Jung’s main archetypes include The Great Mother; The Anima; The Wise Old Man; The Hero; The Trickster and center of all consciousness called The Self which is most often represented by a circle or mandala.
My Archetype Dreams
When I first read Jung’s ideas, I had just started actively recording my dreams. Some of his principal archetypes began appearing before I read him. The Anima archetype or the female “soul” in a man had made a few dream appearances as early as 1983 despite that I had not read Jung until the late 1980’s.
In one early dream I was running across a frozen countryside trying to save her from a burning house. In another she was seated but somewhat concealed on the second floor of a barn above a stallion chomping at the bit waiting for a rider. Elsewhere I am rolling off a machine like a manufactured object as was ready with a horse. I knew had to come to terms with my robotic autism genetics..
Jung’s Wise Old Man major archetype does not need a formal introduction. Since he is an archetype or universal form we have all seen him in many forms in literature, movies, and life. He is usually personified a a bearded wise man or spiritual guide. It you have seen Star Wars the English actor Alec Guinness played Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi or the Wise Old Man.
My own direct experience of the Wise Old Man archetype first emerged in a Shakespeare dream where I was seated all alone in the front row of a huge open air theatre and a full-dress performance of Shakespeare’s Othello playing. I watched with the respectful deference I accorded Shakespeare and all cultural classics.
I was transfixed by the splendor of the play while not really hearing or understanding the dialogue. One character was this white-bearded man who suddenly stopped playing his character, stepped out and looked toward me and he smiled. Then winked twice out of his bright ageless eyes. It was done in the same spirit as the final scene in Casablanca where Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) strolled off into the rain and Bogart says “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
These two archetypes have been very active through dreams appearing in many guises. They have guided me on my quarter century journey of recovering my sensations, my feelings, and my life. They have found many clever methods to communicate with me some of which are described in the Dreaming section
One of the principal difficulties is managing my migration from leaving more in the timeless world of archetypes is a long running confusion between inner and outer reality. This confusion explains each and every one of my autism symptoms and the process of recovering real feeling and real sensation. I believe this is a critical insight into all autism behaviors.
If you look at this image above. At the top is the “ego” and here it means the human consciousness whether normal or autistic. Below that is the Personal Unconscious, the one postulated by Freud. It is formed from personal experiences. The problem with autistic people is that the absence of normal sensation and feeling limits the ability to form a Personal Unconscious.
Below that is the Collective Unconscious and The Self which is the timeless archetypal dimension. It has been my experience that my autism derived from my direct experience of this level of the unconscious.
For Jung, the ego is the center of conscious identity, whereas the Self is the center of the total personality—including consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is both the whole and the center; the Self exists outside of time and space. For Jung, the Self is symbolized by the circle as were my personal patterns and acting out behaviors.
That explained my version of “acting out” my circles from running to driving to my career. Also the smaller circumferences of kids in tight little circles.
It has been the source of my lifelong confusion between everyday events and the way idealized or non human forces would intrude. Mine expressed themselves in variations of typical autistic syndromes like circling, staring, fixations, so-called mind blindness, etc.
Therefore, it has been my experience that the very definition of autism is the state of being “betwixt and between” Jung’s Ego and Self with no personal unconscious to mediate.
Jung’s concepts provided maps that made sense of my experience that allowed me to undo genetic autism.
Psychological Types provided a framework that allowed me to regenerate my sensation and feeling functions. How? When I differentiated my type as a thinking/intuition with no feelings and sensations, I found ways to practice selective sensory deprivation for each absent function.
“Starving” a specific sensory organ like seeing colors, hearing normal sounds without the noise of the Inner Sirens (yes they were the same ones described by Homer in the Odyssey) allowed me to uncover that actual function underneath (somehow). Mindfulness practice allowed me to witness my sense “going crazy” from not operating automatically. Over time this process created an absence that had to be filled in the end by sense recovery.
The Jung concept of the ego and Self (see diagram earlier) allowed me to see how each moment had been co-opted and taken over by the archetype preventing my sensory functions to operate in the moment business of living. This had been an ongoing program that continues today. The sheer number of ego/Self inversions has to have been many millions of moment to moment consciousness raising.
The emergence of both Anima and Wise Old Man served to substitute surrogate parents for my absent genetically parents that failed, in all aspects, to provide essential life supportive nurturing as went about their own genetic and functional constraints.
More about Carl G. Jung
One of the great gifts I happily share is the abundance of resources about Carl Gustav Jung.readily available online including Youtube videos.
The Jung Page the life and thought of Carl Jung. Visit the Resources section.
The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) great resource of pictorial and written archetype archive of mythological, ritualistic, and symbolic images from all over the world. The collection offers 17,000 images depicting the universality of archetypal themes collected over 80 years. Can be viewed online with inexpensive subscription.
Jung Lexicon – A Primer of Terms & Concepts by Daryl Sharp
The World Within – C.G. Jung in His Own Words – 1990 documentary mainly footage of Dr. Jung himself.
Carl Gustav Jung: A Matter of The Heart – Documentary featuring archival footage of Jung plus interviews with former pupils, friends and colleagues.
Carl Jung: Face to Face [Complete interview] John Freeman interviews Jung at home in Zürich. Discusses early life, friendship with Freud, and why it could not last, belief in God (Jung says he knows God exists) and forecasts for the future of mankind.
Amazon books to be added