Processing the Archetypal


Working with individuals and their analytic processes is a tremendous privilege.  At times the archetype of process leads them through the darkest valleys.  Then, there can be stretches of staleness, discouragement and frustration.  Yet at other times things seem to fall together in a momentous fashion, with transformative repercussions effecting not only their lives but the environments through which they move.

Always amazing in the work, regardless of the phase (the phases of the archetype of process can be distilled into union – death – rebirth), is how the archetypal energies guide the process. These energies often remain just outside or in the margins of consciousness, until they become embodied.

Jung provided a significant clue on how to relate to these energies in an embodied way.  His process of active imagination which developed into his Red Book came from feeling into and allowing for his own bad moods.  In fact, the intolerable feelings much of our culture is seemingly designed to avoid are actually archetypal energies seething in the unconscious.

One topography of the archetypal affects developed by Stewart recognizes the following schema.  Fear, rage, grief, and shame are found on the intolerable (negative) side of things. Startle due to the unexpected experience is in a neutral position.  Joy and interest weigh in as the positive archetypal affects.

Now when we consider these as archetypal energies, we are talking about forces that can seize hold of consciousness and exist autonomously.  At the archetypal level these affects are not under the control of the ego, not simply feelings of anger, fear, etc..

As these powerful experiences unfold in session, the analyst and client work to link them through associations, amplification and analogy to their developing understanding of the individuals many unconscious complexes.  Building these links helps the individual understand the Otherness that is manifesting within process.  This understanding allows for the integration into consciousness of some of the archetypal energy (thereby expanding consciousness) while also recognizing the limitations.

Through these repeated encounters in the psychoanalytic process, an inner relationship begins to emerge between consciousness and the unconscious, a relationship defined in the Jungian literature as the development ego/Self axis through the transcendent function.

Author: Richard Reeve

I'm the Senior Director of Development at Panthera, a global conservation organization committed to stemming the population decline of cats in the wild. I enjoy rural living with my wife Judith and our two children in the Catskill Mountains of New York.