Carl Jung > Archetypes

The Self

The Self is the archetype of the psychical totality. It is not identical with the ego but situates itself somehow above or in other words in the midst between ego and unconscious.

The realization of the Self is the ultimate goal of the individuation process. Jung has noticed that in some cases the course of his patients´ psychotherapy does not interrupt with a better adaptation to reality, but continues from itself, aiming at a target that is not present in the ego. This target is the realization of the Self.

The Self is actually a conjunction (union) of the consciousness and unconscious. This conjunction is gradually accomplished by assimilating the contents of the unconscious with the help of dreams interpreted in Jungian manner.

Yin_yang diagram picture
The yin-yang chart is the perfect representation of the idea of uniting opposites. In each of the two surfaces - white and black - the other is present as a point
The Self appears in dreams, myths and fairy tales as a "superior personality", such as for example a king, a hero, a prophet, a savior. As symbol of the totality he appears as a circle, a square, a cross, a quadrangle of the circle or mandala. When it represents the unity of the opposites, it is a unified duality such as Tao - which contains the opposites yin-yang, the hero and his opponent (demon, dragon), Faust and Mephistopheles etc. In this case the opposites are united and represented as such through a sufficient totality, impossible to accomplish consciously.

A figure often encountered in the dreams of the modern man, the Self is the half man - half animal character or, ethically, a monk and a profligate at the same time. The realization of this unity between the opposites on the personal plan is precisely the purpose of the individuation process.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the Self is the numinous character of its experience. According to Jung, the experienced of the Self on the empiric plan is similar to a religious revelation. The Self being, psychologically speaking, the equivalent of the concept of supreme deity.

The identifying of the ego with the Self can lead to inflation or, in Jung´s words: „a sort of nebulous superman with a puffed-up ego". ( On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 430.)


Jung about the Self and the individuation process:

The symbols of the process of individuation that appear in dreams are images of an archetypal nature which depict the centralizing process or the production of a new centre of personality. A general idea of this process may be got from my essay, "The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious." For certain reasons mentioned there I call this centre the "self," which should be understood as the totality of the psyche. The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness. (Psychology and Alchemy, Princeton University Press, 1993, par. 4.)


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