Collective Unconscious

In contrast to the personal unconscious, which results from individual experiences, the collective unconscious has roots hi the ancestral past of the entire species. It represents Jung's most controversial, and perhaps his most disthictive, concept. The physical contents of the collective unconscious are inherited and pass from one generation to the next as psychic potential. Distant ancestors' experiences with universal concepts such as God mother, water, earth, and so forth have been transmitted through the generations so that people hi every clime and time have been influenced by then primitive ancestors' primordial experiences (Jung, 1937/1959). Therefore, the contents of the collective unconscious are more or less the same for people in all cultures (Jung, 1934/1959).

The contents of the collective unconscious do not he dormant but are active and influence a person's thoughts, emotions, and actions. The collective unconscious is responsible for people's many myths, legends, and religious beliefs. It also produces "big dreams," that is, dreams with meaning beyond the individual dreamer and that are filled with significance for people of every thne and place (Jung, 1948/1960b).

The collective unconscious does not refer to inherited ideas but rather to humans' innate tendency to react in a particular way whenever their experiences sthn-

Chapter 4 Jung: Analytical Psychology 105

ulate a biologically inherited response tendency. For example, a young mother may unexpectedly react with love and tenderness to her newborn infant, even though she previously had negative or neutral feelings toward the fetus. The tendency to respond was part of the woman's innate potential or inherited blueprint, but such innate potential requires an mdividual experience before it will become activated. Humans, like other animals, come into the world with inherited predispositions to act or react in certam ways if then present experiences touch on these biologically based predispositions. For example, a man who falls hi love at first sight may be greatly surprised and perplexed by his own reactions. His beloved may not resemble his conscious ideal of a woman, yet something within him moves him to be attracted to her. Jung would suggest that the man's collective unconscious contained biologically based impressions of woman and that these impressions were activated when the man first saw his beloved.

How many biologically based predispositions do humans have? Jung said that people have as many of these inherited tendencies as they have typical situations hi life. Countless repetitions of these typical situations have made them part of the human biological constitution. At first, they are "forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action" (Jung, 1937/1959, p. 48). With more repetition these forms begin to develop some content and to emerge as relatively autonomous archetypes.

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