Daily Archives: January 17, 2009

Podcast Review: John Betts on Jung – Episode #3

The featured Podcast is the third in the series on Jungian Psychology by John Betts, a Jungian analyst who trained in Switzerland and practices in Canada. Betts is clearly spoken, speaks slowly and explains the concepts in a simple, easy-to-understand manner. Betts begins by reiterating the Jungian model of structures in the Psyche – Consciousness-Ego, Personal Unconsciousness – Complexes, Collective Unconsciousness – Archetypes. The theme for this episode is balance and compensation within the psyche. Betts tells us about how the psyche acts as a self-regulating system and distinguishes this ‘teleological system’ from that of homeostasis by its purposefulness. Betts also uses the ‘midlife crisis’ to illustrate what happens when one aspect of the psyche is neglected. Thus he tells us how some people may reach mid-life having focused on simple goals to satisfy the ego – such as material wealth – to the exclusion of activities for the unconsciousness such as play, symbolic activities such as literature and art as well as relationships. The psyche may manifest this imbalance through symptoms such as hopelessness, burnout, relationship difficulties and lowered mood. The lowered mood is described as a means of communicating the needs of the psyche and in this regards offers a different perspective from some medical models which look at neurotransmitters such as the monoamines. Such explanations (regarding the psyche) are able to integrate the personal narrative into the discussion. Betts goes onto talk about the properties of psychic energy which Jung equated with libidinal energy. I found these properties to be disappointing as an analogy was drawn with the laws of thermodynamics. These are laws governing the physical universe which show a fundamental truth about the way things work. What is important about these laws are that they have been repeatedly tested and found to hold much to the chagrin of inventors of perpetual motion or energy devices. What is disappointing is that there is no reason that these laws should hold for psychic energy. Even if we were to take it literally (which it is not meant to be), the energy contained within the central nervous system is not a closed system but instead equilibriates with the surrounding tissues of the body and ultimately the environment. However a more subtle point is that the psyche and the laws of thermodynamics apply to two separate domains – on the one hand there is the internal world, explored through introspection and characterised in Jung’s case by inductive reasoning and on the other hand the external world characterised in the case of the laws of thermodynamics by deductive reasoning. Energy in the thermodynamics sense and psychic energy share only a word in common and that is semantics. Therefore Jung has surely erred in ‘borrowing’ this idea from physics and expressing it in the domain of the ‘psyche’ and this whole area must be examined carefully so as to understand any underlying and erroneous assumptions. This further suggests that inductive reasoning in this domain is in need of its own laws and systems so as to maximise the effectiveness of the process. That does not however detract from the valuable work of introspection that has taken place and which has resulted in sound principles which are readily identifiable. The mid-life crisis is one such case, having permeated popular culture. Betts as in previous podcasts gives us a clear exposition of principles central to Jungian psychology.


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