“Excerpts from Jung´s Work Related to Body and Psyche” – compiled by Rosa Farah & Anita J. Ribeiro

Thoughts on the Relationship Body – Psyche

“From what has been said, it should be clear that the psyche consists essentially of images. It is a series of images in the truest sense, not an accidental juxtaposition or sequence, but a structure that is throughout full of meaning and purpose; it is a ‘picturing’ of vital activities. And just as the material of the body that is ready for life has need of the psyche in order to be capable of life, so the psyche presupposes the living body in order that its images may live.” (Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works,” vol. 8, pg. 325)

“…Mind and body are presumably a pair of opposites and, as such the expression of a single entity whose essential nature is not knowable either from its outward, material manifestation or from inner, direct perception. According to an ancient belief, man arose from the coming together of a soul and a body. It would probably be more correct to speak of an unknowable living being, concerning the ultimate nature of which nothing can be said except that it vaguely expresses the quintessence of “life.” This living being appears outwardly as the material body, but inwardly as a series of images of the vital activities taking place within it. They are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot rid ourselves of the doubt that perhaps this whole separation of mind and body may finally prove to be merely a device of reason for the purpose of conscious discrimination – an intellectually necessary separation of one and the same fact into two aspects, to which we then illegitimately attribute an independent existence.” (Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works,” vol. 8, pg. 326)

“The relation between body and mind is a very difficult question. You know that the James-Lange theory says that affect is the result of physiological alteration. The question whether the body or the mind is the predominating factor will always be answered according to the temperamental differences. These who by temperament prefer the theory of the supremacy of the body will say that mental processes are epiphenomenona of physiological chemistry. Those who believe more in the spirit will say the contrary; to them the body is just the appendix of the mind and causation lies with the spirit. It is really a philosophical question, and since I am not a philosopher I cannot claim to make a decision. All we can know empirically is that processes of the body and processes of the mind happen together in some way, which is mysterious to us. It is due to our most lamentable mind that we cannot think of body and mind as one and the same thing; probably they are one thing, but we are unable to think it.” (Jung, C. G., “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice,” pg. 35)

“…In the same way (Jung was comparing physics and its postulate on the wave character of electrons versus particles), the so-called psychophysical parallelism is an insoluble problem. …Body and a mind are the two aspects of the living being, and that is all we know. Therefore I prefer to say that the two things happen together in a miraculous way, and we had better leave it at that, because we cannot think of them together. For my own use I have coined a term to illustrate this being together; I say there is a peculiar principle of synchronicity2 active in the world so that things happen together somehow and behave as if they were the same, and yet for us they are not. Perhaps we shall some day discover a new kind of mathematical method by which we can prove that it must b like that. But for the time being I am absolutely unable to tell you whether it is the body or the mind that prevails, or whether they just coexist.” 2 (Cf. ” Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle” (C.W. vol. 8)” (Jung, C. G., “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice” pg. 36)

Speaking of the physical illnesses as a symbol for psychic processes; different from illness as “caused” by psychic problems:

“He (the case of an American business man) had differentiated one side of his being; the other side remained in an inert physical state. He would have needed this other side in order to “live.” The hypochondriacal “depression” pushed him down into the body he had always overlooked. Had he been able to follow the direction indicated by his depression and hypochondriacal illusion, and make himself conscious of the fantasies, which proceed from such a condition, that would have been the road to salvation. My arguments naturally met with no response, as was to be expected. A case so far advanced can only be cared for until death; it can hardly be cured.” (Jung, C. G., “Collected Works”, Vol. 7, pg. 52)

“Not infrequently the dreams show that there is a remarkable inner symbolical connection between an undoubted physical illness and a definite psychic problem, so that the physical disorder appears as a direct mimetic expression of the psychic situation. I mention this curious fact more for the sake of completeness than to lay any particular stress on this problematic phenomenon. It seems to me, however, that a definite connection does exist between physical and psychic disturbances and that its significance is generally underrated, though on the other hand it is boundlessly exaggerated owing to certain tendencies to regard physical disturbances merely as an expression of psychic disturbances, as is particularly the case with Christian Science. Dreams throw very interesting sidelights on the inter-functioning of body and psyche, which is why I raise this question here.” (Jung, C. G., “General Aspects of Dream Psychology,” pg. 47)

“A wrong functioning of the psyche can do much to injure the body, just as conversely a bodily illness can affect the psyche; for psyche and body are not separate entities but one and the same life. Thus there is seldom a bodily ailment that does not show psychic complications, even if it is not psychically caused.” (Jung, C. G, “The Collected Works,” vol. 7, pg. 115)

“…Whatever has an intense feeling-tone (Jung is referring to the emotional component) is difficult to handle because such contents are somehow associated with physiological reactions, with the processes of the heart, the tonus of the blood vessels, the condition of the intestines, the breathing, and the innervation of the skin. Whenever there is a high tonus it is just as if that particular complex had a body of its own, as if it were localized in my body to a certain extent, and that makes unwieldy, because something that irritates my body cannot be easily pushed away because it has its roots in my body and begins to pull at my nerves. Something that has little tonus and little emotional value can be easily brushed aside because it has no roots.” (Jung, C. G., “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice,” pg. 79)


Relationship Ego-Body:

Speaking about body and its dynamic relationship to the ego and consciousness:

“The body also forms the basis of what we might call the mental individuality, which is, as it were, an expression of corporeal individuality and can never come into being unless the rights of the body are acknowledged. Conversely, the body cannot thrive unless the mental individuality is accepted. ” (Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works“, vol. 7, pg 296)

“Consciousness is very much the product of perception and orientation in the external world. It is probably localized in the cerebrum, which is of ectodermic origin and was probably a sense organ of the skin at the time of our remote ancestors. The consciousness derived from that localization in the brain therefore probably retains these qualities of sensation and orientation.” (Jung, C. G. “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice.” New York: Pantheon Books; pg. 8)

“The important fact about consciousness is that nothing can be conscious without an ego to which it refers. If something is not related to the ego then it is not conscious. Therefore you can define consciousness as a relation of psychic facts to the ego. What is that ego? The ego is a complex datum, which is constituted first of all by a general awareness of your body, of your existence, and secondly by your memory data; you have a certain idea of having been, a long series of memories. Those two are main constituents of what we call the ego. ” (Jung, C. G. “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice“. Pantheon Books, New York; pg. 10)

Speaking about the development of the ego in terms of its roots in the body:

“The ego-complex in a normal person is the highest psychic authority. By this we mean the whole mass of ideas pertaining to the ego, which we think of as being accompanied by the powerful and ever-present feeling-tone of our own body. …The feeling-tone is an affective state accompanied by somatic innervations. The ego is the psychological expression of the firmly associated combination of all body sensations. One’s own personality is therefore the firmest and strongest complex, and (good health permitting) it weathers all psychological storms. It is for this reason that the ideas, which directly concern our own persons, are always the most stable, and to us the most interesting; we could also express this by saying that they possess the strongest attention-tone. (“Attention” in the sense used by Bleuler is an affective state7). 7Bleuler (affektivitat), p. 30: Attention like all our action is always directed by an affect”; or more accurately: Attention is an aspect of affectivity, and does nothing more than what we know affectivity does, i.e., it facilitates certain associations and inhibits others.” (Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works,” vol. 3, pg. 40)

“We have seen that the ego-complex, by reason of its direct connection with bodily sensations, is the most stable and the richest in associations. Awareness of a threatening situation arouses fright. Fright is an affect; hence it is followed by bodily changes, by a complicated harmony of muscular tensions and excitations of the sympathetic nervous system. The perception has thus found the way to somatic innervation and thereby helped the complex associated with it to gain the upper hand. Through the fright, countless body sensations become altered, and in turn alter most of the sensation on which the normal ego is based. … This is due simply to the fact that on the one hand large complexes include numerous somatic innervations, while on the other hand strong affects constellate a great many associations because of their powerful and persistent stimulation of the body. Normally, affects can go on working indefinitely (in the form of stomach and heart troubles, insomnia, tremors, etc.).”(Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works,” vol. 3, pg. 41/42)

Talking about development of ego – consciousness in children, emphasizing the body as the point of “birth of consciousness”:

“Children live in this form (unconscious condition) before they can say “I.” This world of the collective unconscious is so wonderful that children are continually being drawn back into it and can separate themselves from it only with difficulty.” … ” With a sudden shock the child passes from this marvelous world of the collective unconscious into the sthula aspect of life or, expressed in another way, a child goes into svadhisthana (second chackra) as soon as it notices its body, feels uncomfortable, and cries. It becomes conscious of its own life, of its own ego… its own life begins: its consciousness begins to separate itself from the totality of the psyche, and the world of the primordial images, the miraculous world of splendor, lies behind it forever.” (Jung, C. G. “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga – Notes of The Seminar Given in 1932” pg. 69/70)

*Interesting Reading: In Psychogenesis of Mental Disease, Jung gives an interesting explanation of PTSD mechanisms, which he termed “Chronic Effects of the Complex”, pg. 43.


On Body and Psyche as Pair of Opposites – The Body as Shadow:

Speaking of body as shadow of the ego, shadow as the “rejected” (by the ego-consciousness) aspect of the psyche:

“We do not like to look at the shadow side of ourselves; therefore there are many people in our civilized society who have lost their shadow altogether, they have got rid of it. They are only two-dimensional; they have lost the third dimension, and with it they have usually lost the body. …The body is a most doubtful friend because it produces things we do not like; there are too many things about the body, which cannot be mentioned. The body is very often the personification of this shadow of the ego.” (Jung, C. G., “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice,” pg 23)

“…Man stands forth as he really is and shows what was hidden under the mask of conventional adaptation: the shadow. This is now raised to consciousness and integrated with the ego, which means a move in the direction of wholeness. Wholeness is not so much perfection as completeness. Assimilation of the shadow gives a man body, so to speak: the animal sphere of instinct, as well as the primitive or archaic psyche, emerge into the zone of consciousness and can no longer be repressed by fictions and illusions. In this way man becomes for himself the difficult problem he really is. He must always remain conscious of the fact that he is such a problem if he wants to develop at all. Repression leads to a one-sided development if not to stagnation, and eventually to neurotic dissociation. Today it is no longer a question of: “How can I get rid of my shadow?” – for we have seen enough of the curse of one-sidedness. Rather we must ask ourselves: “How can man live with his shadow without its precipitating a succession of disasters?” (Jung, C. G., “Collected Works,” vol. 16, pg. 239)

“And indeed it is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow-side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism… A dim premonition tells us that we cannot be whole without this negative side, that we have a body which, like all bodies, casts a shadow, and that if we deny this body we cease to be three -dimensional and become flat and without substance. Yet this body is a beast with a beast’s soul, an organism that gives unquestioning obedience to instinct. To unite oneself with this shadow is to say yes to instinct, to that formidable dynamism lurking in the background. From this the ascetic morality of Christianity whishes to free us, but at the risk of disorganizing man’s animal nature at the deepest level.” (Jung, C. G, “The Collected Works,” vol. 7, pg. 30)

Speaking of the pair of opposites:

“The cross, or whatever other heavy burden the hero carries, is himself, or rather the self, his wholeness, which is both God and animal – not merely the empirical man, but the totality of his being, which is rooted in his animal nature and reaches out beyond the merely human towards the divine. His wholeness implies a tremendous tension of opposites paradoxically at one with themselves, as in the cross, their most perfect symbol.” (Jung, C. G., “The Collected Works,” vol. 5., pg. 303)

“After violent oscillations at the beginning the opposites equalize one another, and gradually a new attitude develops, the final stability of which is the greater in proportion to the magnitude of the initial differences. …. The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm which is not easily disturbed, or else a brokenness that can hardly be healed.” (Jung, C. G, “The Collected Works,” vol. 8, pg. 32)


About Self-Regulating System:

Self-regulating System

“I am not altogether pessimistic about neurosis. In many cases we have to say: ‘Thank heaven he could make up his mind to be neurotic’. Neurosis is really an attempt at self-cure, just as any physical disease is partly an attempt at self-cure. We cannot understand a disease as an ens per se any more, as something detached which not so long ago it was believed to be. Modern medicine – internal medicine, for instance – conceives of disease as a system composed of a harmful factor and a healing factor. It is exactly the same with neurosis. It is an attempt of the self-regulating psychic system to restore the balance in no way different from the function of dreams – only rather more forceful and drastic.” (Jung, C. G., “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice,” pg. 190)

“The dreams are the reaction to our conscious attitude in the same way that the body reacts when we overeat or do not eat enough or when we ill-treat it in some other way. Dreams are the natural reaction of the self-regulating psychic system.” (Jung, C. G., “Analytical Psychology – Its Theory and Practice,” pg. 123)

“The body, its faculties, and its needs furnish of their own nature the rules and limitations that prevent any excess or disproportion. But because of its one-sidedness, which is fostered by conscious and rational intention, a differentiated psychological function always tends to disproportion.”(Jung, C. G., “Collected Works“, Vol. 7, pg. 296)

“Since the psyche is a self-regulating system, just as the body is, the regulating counteraction will always develop in the unconscious. …Its regulating influence, however, is eliminated by critical attention and the directed will, because the counteraction as such seems incompatible with the conscious direction. To this extent the psyche of civilized man is no longer a self-regulating system but could rather be compared to a machine whose speed-regulation is so insensitive that it can continue to function to the point of self-injury, while on the other hand it is subject to the arbitrary manipulations of a one-sided will.” (Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works,” vol. 8, pg. 344)


On Body and Consciousness:

“Now, this third center, the center of emotions, is localized in the plexus solaris, or the center of the abdomen. I have told you that my first discovery about the Kundalini yoga was that these chackras really are concerned with what are called psychical localizations. This center then would be the first psychical localization that is within our conscious psychical experience. I must refer again to the story of my friend, the Pueblo chief, who thought that all Americans were crazy because they were convinced that they thought in the head. He said: “But we think in the heart.” That is anahata (heart center or chackra).

Then there are primitive tribes who have their psychical localization in the abdomen. And that is true of us as well; there is a certain category of psychical events that take place in the stomach.” And if one is very angry one says, “Something weighs on my stomach.” And if one is very angry, one gets jaundice; if one is afraid, one has diarrhea; or if in a particularly obstinate mood, one is constipated. You see, that shows what psychical localization means… Thinking in the abdomen means that there was once a time when consciousness was so dim that people noticed only the things that disturbed their intestinal functions, and everything else simply passed by the board; it did not exist because it had no effect upon them.” (Jung, C. G. “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga – Notes of The Seminar Given in 1932” pg 43)

“When we have disagreeable thoughts or feelings, our stomachs get upset. We still get jaundice (related to liver) when we repress a violent anger, and every case of hysteria has trouble in the digestive organs, because originally the most profound and important thoughts were down there. So those are three localizations of consciousness that are still to be traced historically, as it were.” (Jung, C. G. “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga – Notes of The Seminar Given in 1932” pg 107)

“…For instance we say, “You know in the head, but you don’t know it in the heart.” There is an extraordinary distance from the head to the heart, a distance of ten, twenty, thirty years, or a whole lifetime. For you can know something in the head for forty years and it may never have touched the heart. But only when you have realized it in the heart you begin to take notice of it. (Jung, C. G. “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga – Notes of The Seminar Given in 1932” pg 35)

“The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room.”(Jung, C. G. “The Collected Works,” vol. 13, # 54)

“The divine thing in us functions as neuroses of the stomach, or of the colon, or bladder – simply disturbances of the underworld. Our gods have gone to sleep, and they stir only in the bowels of the earth. For our idea of God is abstract and remote. One hardly dares to speak of it. It has become taboo, or it is such a worn-out coin that one can hardly exchange it.” (Jung, C. G. “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga – Notes of The Seminar Given in 1932” pg 30)

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