Glossary of Terms

The following definitions pay less attention to the surface of the personality than to the more complex “layers” or “regions” of the psyche which condition and represent the personality in the individuation process. This heuristic glossary suggests a widening and deepening of consciousness that ideally would characterize the developing personality. Therefore, alphabetizing and defining terms has given way to a shape that loosely parallels the individuation process.

Terms that have archetypal significance are italicized.

persona—The actor’s “mask” serves to mediate between an individual’s ego and the external reality that delimits an individual’s everyday life. Essentially, the persona is a functional complex that is represented by the external concession(s) or adaptation(s) that society requires from an individual to make life hospitable or bearable for all concerned. As such, the persona may benefit both society and the individual, provided that the individual’s life is not reduced (or elevated) to what the persona itself comes to represent.

ego (ego complex)—The center, central complex, or carrier of consciousness. The apparent source of will and memory. The “battleground” between a person’s conscious and unconscious life. The ego is especially concerned with problems of personal identity, reality testing, control, and maintaining continuity over time. As such, it simultaneously faces outward toward external reality and inward toward internal reality.

consciousnessThe realm of psychic experience for which the ego generally claims a certain degree of relation and level of awareness. As such, consciousness is always “consciousness of,” as the phenomenologist, Edmund Husserl might have said. In effect, this means largely that the chief characteristic of consciousness is discrimination and differentiation of “this from that.”

differentiation—Differentiation “is the essence, the sine qua non of consciousness” (CW 7, par. 339). It is a psychological activity that separates, untangles, and distinguishes one thing from another.

attitude—Typologically speaking, a fundamental or an a priori orientation of the personality in which libido either moves toward the object and away from the subject (extraversion) or is withdrawn from the object and put back into the interests of the subject (introversion).

libidoPsychic energy which directs and motivates the personality. The source of libido is the polar nature of the psyche itself, most completely expressed through the myriad interactions and oppositions that exist between an individual’s conscious and unconscious life. When an excess of libido is habitually taken up by consciousness in a certain direction or for a certain purpose, the ideal psychic balance or flow between conscious and unconscious life is disturbed.

A countermovement or buildup of energy then takes place in the unconscious, which seeks to create a new balance for the individual. However, the results of this new movement of the psyche to regulate itself often involve primitive or archaic layers of the unconscious for which consciousness is ill-prepared to confront. Insofar as that occurs, the route to reorganization and reintegration of one’s personality may and often does become problematic.

function(s)A particular form of psychological activity that is recognizable in principle while operating under varying conditions. Typologically speaking, Jung specifies four basic functions: sensation and intuition, which are irrational or perceiving functions, and thinking and feeling, which are referred to as rational or judging functions. Any function may be either introverted or extraverted, which makes for eight psychological types, the foundation of Jung’s typological theory.

psychological typeA specific combination of habitually conscious activity that may be identified according to Jung’s typological principles and concepts. Each individual potentially constellates a particular typological configuration at the conscious level that in turn is compensated at the unconscious level.

unconsciousA psychological concept which represents all psychic contents that are not related to the ego or consciousness in any immediately perceptible way. The personal unconscious concerns contents that are biographical in nature that have been suppressed or repressed. The collective unconscious is one’s ancestral/archetypal psychology.

complex—An emotionally charged unconscious psychic entity that is signaled by its apparent autonomy and by the intense effect associated with it in everyday life. Complexes are said to have archetypal images and patterning at their core.

archetype—The central core of a complex, transpersonal, transcultural, transhistorical, or universal pattern of experience represented by certain primordial, mythological, or numinous images and often expressed through certain patterns of emotions and behavior.

shadow—The archetypal image coined by Jung to represent everything which the ego has no wish or desire to be. Most commonly, the shadow is taken to be the “dark” side of the personality and so hidden or excluded from the “light” of consciousness.

transcendent function—The spontaneous and mediating function that links consciousness and the unconscious through the generation and creation of symbols. As such, the transcendent function goes beyond the point of view expressed by any two opposites that may be at the source of psychological conflicts.

dreams—The unconscious is highly creative and loves to tell stories. Using material from one’s personal life as well as one’s ancestral psychology, dreams communicate in story form what often is beyond the ego’s ability to see or understand. The Jungian analyst John Sanford calls dreams, “God’s Forgotten Language.”

symbol—An image, metaphor, or pattern which provides a living perspective from which a synthesis between opposing or conflicting psychological factors may be considered, reflected, or acted upon. As such, symbols provide meaning and order to our individual and collective lives.

psycheThe whole of one’s personality comprising the various contents and relationships that exist between conscious and unconscious life.

Self—The center of the psyche as a whole, as the ego is the center of consciousness. Insofar as it is made conscious by the ego, the Self may be viewed (paradoxically) as both the center and circumference of the whole of one’s personality. Ego-Self relations are therefore always thought of as ongoing and never complete. The Self as an archetype is most commonly represented through unifying images that convey the awe and wonder of the “wholly other,” or in more personal terms, “the God within.” As such, the Self also acts meaningfully in directing an individual’s life or shaping a person’s individual destiny.

numinous—Borrowed from Rudolph Otto’s work The Idea of the Holy, Jung uses this term throughout the Collected Works to suggest an encounter with the archetypal world as a “mysterium tremendom et fascinans.” The numinosum speaks of the greater mystery that shakes one to the core while fascinating and drawing one into its power.

imaginal realm—To be distinguished from the imaginary. The imaginal realm is where matter takes on spirit and spirit takes on matter, hence it is a place of radical aliveness.  Originally, a term coined by the Sufi scholar Henri Corbin, many Jungians use it to refer to “the reality of the psyche.” The imaginal is considered neither pure spirit nor simple matter. It is quintessentially “of the psyche.”

synchronicityThe word Jung used to designate an acausal connection between inner and outer worlds experienced by the individual as a “meaningful coincidence” that is beyond the capacity of the ego to arrange or bring about. Synchronicities often elicit an emotional reaction of wonder and awe.

anima mundi—Jung incorporates this ancient idea in his model to suggest that the world, the Earth as we know it, has a soul. In other words, what seems like dead matter is in fact alive, animated by a cosmic spirit, mythologically associated with the spirit Mercurius and embodied by Sophia. It could also be thought of as the feminine principle writ large. Human beings as a species in some concrete sense “belong” to Her.

individuation—The central and centering concept in Jung’s psychology, to be distinguished from individualism, which emphasizes ego-identity over ego-Self relations.  The individuation process is what brings an individual into contact with a deeper Truth.  These encounters with the Self are often experienced as numinous, making clear to the ego that there is something greater or that greater forces are at play wanting something of the ego. This can at times feel disturbing, shocking, or even dangerous. When the ego opens up to the individuation process (the result of shadow-work), the Self seems otherwise to guide the ego in the direction of that greater Truth. Often that guidance takes the form of dreamsactive imaginationsymbols, and synchronicities.