Jung on Schizophrenia: An Introductory Survey

In order to understand this "language," Jung considered it necessary to introduce a new "synthetical-constructive" approach. "What is the goal the patient tried to reach through the creation of his system?" (Jung, 1914 a, p.43. CW3. Para 408). The meaning of the delusional system is understood as a regressive movement facing a difficulty in life adaptation: "it is a necessary transition stage on the way to adapting the personality to the world in general. Only, the patient remains stuck in this stage and substitutes his subjective formulation for the real world - which is precisely why he remains ill" (Jung 1914 a, p.46. CW 3 para 416). With the synthetical method ,he began to perform a comparative, analogical analysis with the delusory system, comparing it to onirical formations, to mythological and cultural themes which will lead him to the concept of "primordial images" (1912) and subsequently to the concept of the "Archetype" in 1919. Exactly in the same year, he put forward again the posibility of psychogenesis in schizophrenia based on the changes produced in the illness after environmental modifications (the disappearance of a great number of catatonias after the reform of the asylums), the presence of psychological circumstances in the stages of onset and relapse and above all, in the existence of a great number of cases of latent schizophrenia usually hidden behind a neurotic façade and which, by chance, were a tributary of a successful psychological treatment. Nevertheless, the psychic factor was not able to explain only by itself the illness of schizophrenia and Jung speaks about "Conditionalism." The question about how a psychological cause may precipitate the illness can be only conceived as the function of a "special predisposition": " The conflicts are different... of the normal ones, only in regard to his abnormal sensibility, overwhelming the faculties of the person" (Jung 1919, p.78). Such a state entails the afective isolation of the patient, understood as "self-defence," from some domineering strong emotions (Jung 1919,p.78) but at the same time feeding more and more a regressive inner world in which the patient feels trapped . The normal energetic mechanism of regression-progression finds itself paralysed in a sort of "eternal return," cyclical, inhabited with very intense images and affects, essentially archetypical .

The concept of "Archetype," the study of which Jung devoted the major part of his late work, has been the source of countless confusions. In spite of the several readings of the term, in regard to the schizophrenia, Jung always insisted upon its biological character. From 1919 on, he insisted that archetypes are not inherited images but possibilities in regard to the formation of typical images. The archetype would be the "self - portrait of the instinct" (Jung 1919b): structures, forms of perceiving and aprehending the reality, characteristic of the human species.

"The archetype in itself is empty and purely formal, nothing but a facultas praeformandi, a possibility of representation which is given a priori. The representations themselves are not inherited, only the forms, and in that respect they correspond in every way to the instincts,which aer also determined in form only." (Jung 1939c.CW9i para 155.). In other words, they are "typical attitudes, modes of action-thought-processes and impulses which must be regarded as constituting the instinctive behaviour typical of the human species.The term I choose for this, namely "archetype," therefore coincides with the biological concept of the "pattern of behaviour." (Jung,1958, CW 3.para. 565 ) Archetypes constitute the foundations of psychic life, with an energetic (motivational) power of an enormous magnitude.

In 1947 Jung distinguished between the "archetype-as-such," an unknowable structuring factor of the psyche, and the "archetypical image," that would be formed by the interaction of the former with the environment of the person to produce personally meaningful but nonetheless "typical" images.

Furthermore, from this vantage point, the concept of archetype presupposes that the human being is, somehow, "pre-programmed" in regard to his own vital cycle. The activation of the "archetype-as-such" would be produced in common circumstances for the human species: mothering, the exploration of the milieu, the relation with the peers, fighting, maturity, marrying, etc.

Therefore, faced with the necessity of vital adaptation, we find the instinctive, universally human "instinctive" form responding to the requirements of the environment. Only with this condition could the "libido" flow freely in the service of an optimum adaptation. So long as this situation is an ideal, there always will be, so to speak, an "energetic surplus" underneath consciousness forming the "Complexes," which are understood in this way as the form in which archetypes emerge in individual life. (Jung,1928 a,p. 22; 1928 b, pp. 273, 276).

Jung always insisted upon the role played by "complexes" in schizophrenia where they would split completely from conscious control, "swallowing" completely the ego and producing the symptomatology (Jung,1939 a).

In his final works about schizophrenia, he understood this split-off quality of the complexes as "Physiological and unsystematic" (Jung, 1956; 1958). In an "interactionist" model, he considers that the illness requires an "organic"explanation, but without excluding the elucidation of "a psychic factor, of equal importance" (Jung, 1956, p. 114). The study of the contents of psychosis is a vital necessity. Although Jung since 1939 understood that the manifestations of the complexes in schizophrenia were radically different of what happened in neurosis (Jung 1939 b, p. 286; 1947, p. 131), now he makes it clear: " Now if the schizophrenic compensation, that is, the expression of affective complexes, were satsfied with a merely archaic or mythological formulation, its associative products could easily be understood as poetic circumlocutions. This is usually not the case, any more than it is in normal dreams; here as there the associations are unsystematic , abrupt, grotesque, absurd, and correspondingly difficult if not impossible to understand. Not only are the products of schizophrenic compensation archaic, they are further distorted by their chaotic randomness." (Jung 1958, CW 3 para. 568.).

The reason for this is seen in the fact that there seems to be a self - destruction of the complexes, probably by means of some unknown "toxic factor" (let us remember the psychosomatic quality of the complexes and archetypes), bearing in its turn an affective charge of such intensity, that the patient would be "overwhelmed" by the effects of such a split. In other words: by destroying the complex, the archetype becomes "de-humanized," coming into sight for the subject "in a rough state," carrying with itself fragmentary images, disproportionately mythical, archaic and extreme affects. The bridges between the consciousness and its instinctive basis are broken off, and the person become trapped in an autistic world.

In the face of the old issue about considering the destruction of the personality as primary, or alternately, the pathological activation of unconscious contents, Jung finally never dared to give an ultimate answer. He came even to postulate the existence of two types of schizophrenia: "an asthenic type [...] (motivated by a primary decrease in the hierarchical level of the personality), and a spastic type, given to active conflict." (Jung 1951, CW 16 par. 249 ;1939, p.101;1959).

Although in his late work, Jung devoted little space to the study of schizophrenia in depth, it's also true that he deepened like anybody before him in the contents of the sick mind through an hermeneutic study of huge scope. It is his merit to build from it a general theory of the psyche whose outcomes are still in blossoms.

What can be truly affirmed is the influence that his work had in some of the theorical developments about schizophrenia. He established the conceptual nexus between the first dynamic psychiatry and the "organo-dynamic" formulation of Bleuler, greatly indebted to Jung's work of 1907.

He was the first in leading psychoanalysis towards the field of psychosis and in carrying out therapeutical efforts from the analytical point of view.