Thursday, May 25, 2017

Analytical Psychology and Science: Adversaries or Allies? by Mark Winborn, PhD, NCPsyA

In Psychological Perspectives, 2016, Vol. 59, #4, pp. 490-508


Jung (like Freud) saw himself as a scientist and was constantly incorporating new ideas from other fields such as linguistics, anthropology, physics, Gnosticism, and alchemy.  In fact, Jung has been referred to as a bricoler - a French word that refers to someone who pieces things together from a variety of sources.  I believe Jung, if he were alive today, would have embraced the recent findings from infant observation, neurosciences, attachment research, and trauma research just as he did with Fordham’s early forays into child analysis.  I would challenge us to consider whether we want to suspend progress in Analytical Psychology, preserving it in the “just so” state we’ve become comfortable with.

I believe our task as Jungians is to re-evaluate, re-cast, re-interpret Jung’s ideas in light of knowledge from other fields – just as Jung did in developing his conceptual framework originally. But we have to be in dialogue with other fields and have an understanding of their findings in order for this to occur. I believe we have a responsibility to the scientific method which shaped and informed Jung’s inquiries; a responsibility to peer more deeply into the relationship between brain and mind and between soma and psyche; into the psychological and neurological underpinnings of conscious and unconscious processes; to seriously evaluate Jung's typological model in light of current neurological and cognitive sciences; and inform our candidates about the current theoretical debate occurring between those holding apriori positions on the nature of archetypal experience and those who now postulate archetypal experience as  emergent phenomena.  

Ultimately, scientific empiricism can’t study or evaluate all of the elements of Analytical Psychology. Many elements of our field can’t be sufficiently operationally defined in a manner that would allow study through the scientific vertex. But there are many elements of Analytical Psychology which can be examined through a scientific lens - a process by which we can deepen our confidence in our methods and theories, gain a deeper understanding of why certain methods work, and occasionally a casting off or remaking of certain theories or practices which can’t be supported from a scientific perspective. We can’t afford to cast off empiricism out of a preference for subjectivism if Analytical Psychology is to survive another 100 years as something other than a well preserved museum piece.
Many fields of scientific inquiry have moved towards the positions advocated by Jung while at the same time adding many new insights it wasn’t possible for Jung to imagine despite his incredible breadth of vision. We do have Jungians among us who are engaged with the scientific community. There are a small cadre of others trying to bring Analytical Psychology into dialogue with contemporary science, including Mario Jacoby, George Hogenson, Joseph Cambray, Jean Knox, Margaret Wilkinson, John Merchant, Robert Romanyshyn, David Rosen, Christian Roesler, and John Haule.

In order for this shift to happen, some who come from backgrounds in the arts and humanities may need to learn something about the scientific method including research design, sample size, types of validity and reliability, as well as some familiarity with statistical inference. But this is not unlike my own journey - coming from a scientist-practitioner model of clinical psychology training and needing to become more intimately familiar with the metaphoric world of myths, fairytales, art, poetry, literature, and religion.

I hope this paper leaves you with the impression that Analytical Psychology and science can be and need to be allies rather than adversaries. We need the findings from contemporary science to help us reflect on what we experience as analytic practitioners. Science needs us to advocate for the subjective element in the laboratory. Be we cannot fulfill Jung’s dream of a Analytical Psychology as a mediatory science unless we are in an ongoing dialogue with the scientific community. In closing, I leave the reader with this thought from Carl Jung (1976, para. 1236)Ultimate truth, if there be such a thing, demands the concert of many voices. 

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