Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jeffrey Santinover - Jungian View of Masculine Psychology


"The Jungian view of masculine psychology reflects several fundamental divergences from the conceptions of classical psychoanalysis. Roughly, Jung's theories promise fulfillment, in psychological terms but in a religious spirit, of wishes that psychoanalysis deliberately refrains from attempting to fulfill. A follower of psychoanalytic method is offered and hopes for understanding; a follower of Jung's "analytic psychology" is offered and seeks salvation. Traditionally, the area of greatest interest for psychoanalysis has been the neuroses, characterized by repression and defense within an already essentially unified self. Of greatest interest to Jungian psychology has been the more severe psychotic, borderline, and narcissistic pathologies—as well as issues of religious experience—where the central problem concerns the achievement of a stable, unified self (Satinover, 1980, 1984, 1985a, 1985b).

Although most Freudians, and many Jungians as well, consider these differences so fundamental as to preclude any attempt at cross-fertilization, there has been some convergence recently in areas of interest and in approach. As psychoanalysis has expanded into those areas of interest to Jung—into earlier, more primitive, and more severely disturbed states of the psyche, as well as into religion and creative processes—its conceptions have begun to resemble those of analytic psychology. Indeed, where they are familiar with his work, psychoanalytic writers on narcissism and psychosis are often sympathetic to Jung. And, Jung's salvational tone is echoed in, for example, the late works of Kohut (1977, 1984). In Britain, Jung was well regarded by the object relations theorists (Fordham, 1984), and currently the Kleinians and Jungians in London are quite congenial. As I have argued elsewhere (Satinover, 1985), when Jung's ideas are rephrased in less mystical terms, and their homiletic intent set aside, what emerges is a striking anticipation of many current psychoanalytic ideas concerning narcissism, psychic splitting, and fragmentation of the self. Although he presented it as a general psychology, Jung's theory is in fact a highly intuitive description of the primitive ego coupled with a mode of cure in a religious spirit.

The Transformation of the Masculine

Like Freud before him, Jung presumed innate masculine and feminine components to exist in the personality. He saw masculine development as needing to progress from an exclusive identification with these masculine elements toward an integration of the feminine. In his view, the achievement of this wholeness would also consist symbolically in a death of the "hero," the archetype upon which he considered conventional masculine identity to rest.

Jung believed that ancient mystery cults into which a man might once have been initiated, as for example the ancient Egyptian mysteries of Isis and Osiris, furthered development of the personality in a way analogous to modern psychotherapy. Thus, in a culture such as ours where, he believed, masculinity characterizes the "ego" or "consciousness" (in the sense of a dominant set of attitudes, values, goals, and presuppositions), the unconscious is feminine. This ego, or ego state, can be dissolved by controlled immersion in the unconscious. The ego is subsequently transformed through the integration of previously unconscious, and to a large extent "feminine," impulses. In earlier ages, this process was an essential component of the esoteric aspect of religion, especially in the mid-life initiation rituals. It was symbolized in myth by the death of a hero-god within or at the hands of the mother goddess, commonly involving his dismemberment and/or castration, and his subsequent resurrection, glorification, and immortalization.

Jung thus presents his ideas about masculine development as pertinent to adult maturation during normal development, an instance of the "psychology of the second half of life." But from the psychoanalytic point of view the great myths of the phallic, castrating mother-goddess and her dying and reborn son bear a striking resemblance to issues of preoedipal development and psychopathology. Although Jung came to present his ideas as an adult-developmental psychology, they also reflect preoedipal psychology in regression—especially regression in the service of the ego. As psychotherapy has widened its scope, it increasingly has had to recognize the ubiquity of these preoedipal problems which are, indeed, widespread enough to be considered the norm.1

There is good reason why the problems of selfhood first constellated in early childhood should reappear at a mid-life transition. Individuation, as Mahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975) describe it, is the process by which the individual, "unit" self is established. Individuation as Jung means it is the process by which, under the aegis of a growing sense of its mortality, the self is relinquished. A powerfully defended phallic sense of omnipotence, reinforced by a reaction formation against castration anxiety, is perhaps particularly characteristic of the "normally" heroic male identity (more so than is a true "shattering" of the Oedipus complex). Coming to terms with a mortality to which he must passively accede, and the consequent regressive reemergence of both his preoedipal struggles with omnipotence and his oedipal fears of castration, can be, for a man, a poignant impetus toward a deeper acceptance of his femininity." (pp. 149-150)


Jeffrey Satinover (1986). The Myth of the Death of the Hero: A Jungian View of Masculine Psychology. Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 73D, pp. 149-161

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