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Body, Mind and Healing After Jung

June 27, 2012

“… culturally the body is divorced from our spiritual salvation, divorced from our psychological and interpersonal development. The body is a cultural toy, a lure to entice a mate, an object to possess.” (Conger, John ; Conger John P. The Body in Recovery: Somatic Psychotherapy and the Self Routledge 2011 p.211)

“You see, inasmuch as the living body contains the secret of life, it is an intelligence. It is also a plurality which is gathered up in one mind, for the body is extended in space…, What you think with your head doesn’t necessarily coincide with what you feel in your heart, and what your belly thinks is not what your mind thinks. The extension in space, therefore, creates a pluralistic quality in the mind. That is probably the reason why consciousness is possible.” – Jung, Carl Nietzche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939)

Embodiment represents our capacity to bring diverse internal and external elements into an organization called the self.” (Conger, John ; Conger John P. The Body in Recovery: Somatic Psychotherapy and the Self Routledge 2011 p.)

This post is about Embodiment, it presents my notes from the book Body, Mind and Healing After Jung: A Space of Questions

“The body is, of course, also a concentration, or a function, of that unknown thing which produces the psyche as well as the body; the difference we make between the psyche as well as the body is artificial. It is done for the sake of a better understanding. In reality, there is nothing but a living body. That is the fact; and psyche is as much a living body as body is living psyche.” (Jung Carl Gustav Zarathustra Seminar, vol. 1, 1935 p. 396)

For Nietzsche the body is multidimensional: it is, in effect, the great underworld of the unconscious. His emphasis on our embodiment thus brings out his constant theme that our consciousness (or ego) is only a thin, falsely simple aspect of our existence, while the body is made up of plurality and complexity. The body is not only Nietzsche’s favourite metaphor; it is itself ‘an intermediary space between the absolute plural of the world’s chaos and the absolute simplification of the intellect (Blondel and Hand 1991:207) For Nietzsche, the body is fundamentally metaphorical: it carries meaning across from one realm to another. Body is metaphor in the sense that it ‘enacts immanent transcendence… Figuring and transforming self and world [it] points beyond this particular configuration of things and ideasbody is a metaphor that gathers and focuses the chaotic becoming of the world’ (Roberts 1998:161). In Jungian parlance, body is a living symbol of our psychological being in the world, but more than that it functions as a kind of hyper-symbol which holds in chiasm psyches and world, inner and outer, self and other, conscious and unconscious. (Jones, Raya A. Body, Mind and Healing After Jung: A Space of Questions Routledge 2011 p.102)

Friedrich Nietzsche

What would bring person and world together would be the experience of the lived body, which exists simultaneously in both realms, at once subject and object, inner and outer (see Romanyshyn 2000). By dismissing the body as a ‘biological function’, Jung objectifies it in the manner of Decartes. Had Jung been able to remain open to Nietzsche’s work on the body this radical split between psyche-world and object-world might not have occurred and he might have achieved an understanding in which the ‘subjective’ realm of psyche and the ‘objective’ realm of the body would be regarded not as discrete worlds but as ‘heterogeneous, overlapping fields of the self, which energise and shape one another’. (Roberts 1998:90). In fact, as we have seen, the spirit of Jung’s work is often suggestive of just such an understanding. Although Jung begins Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961) by emphasizing the priority of ‘inner’ experiences over ‘outer’ experiences, one of the key episodes recounted in that book crucially transcends such a dichotomy. (Jones 2011:103-4)

The sights, sounds and, we may imagine, the smells and textures of the experience are essential to it. As Brooke (1991:59) says, it tells us that ‘the world as a temple is the primordial reality, and without it there would be no reflective consciousness… The structural unity between the world and human consciousness is given as metaphorical reality.’ But:metaphors are not abstractions from reality, in which two distinct entities, world and temple, are cognitively linked together. Rather metaphors are the primordial means within which our shy and ambiguous world comes into being in the imaginative light of human consciousness.’(Brook 1991:59) This metaphorical reality is an embodied reality, as Nietzsche has suggested. Such an idea is paralleled by recent work in cognitive linguistics by George Lakoff among others. His thesis, that all metaphorical thought and language arises from, and is grounded in, embodiment, makes the body central to the development of even the most abstract thought. (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). (Jones, Raya A. Body, Mind and Healing After Jung: A Space of Questions Routledge 2011:104)

Carl Jung

In light of these developments, it is perhaps possible to imagine a Jungain psychology freed of the fetters of dualism, and the destructive overestimation of ‘inner’ over ‘outer,’ a psychology in which ‘the unconscious’ might be revisioned as profoundly embodied. It might, as David Levin says, be ‘articulated very well in terms of the body’s primordial and archaic attunement; its automatic, and always already functioning intentionalities; its generous endowment of inherent dispositions and propensities; its latent, and sometimes involuntary perceptivities; its implicit structures of pre-understanding’ (Kleinberg-Levin 1985:171). Similarly, the primordial archetypes, in the words of John Welwood (1977:14), ‘instead of being seen as inborn psychic structures or contents of the collective unconscious, may be understood as universal patterns of body-in-the-world.’ (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). (Jones, Raya A. Body, Mind and Healing After Jung: A Space of Questions Routledge 2011 p.107)

As we have seen, the metaphysical outlook, whether Platonic, Christian, Cartesian or modernist, not only excludes and depreciates any vision of self which is not unitary, but also tends to undervalue human embodiment. (Jones, Raya A. Body, Mind and Healing After Jung: A Space of Questions Routledge 2011 p.115)


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  1. Great post – thanks! Dr Adrian Harris is exploring some of these questions in his work on embodiment and ecopsychology – I think you might like his blog too which is called Bodymind Place.

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