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Archetypes as action patterns 1

  • C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago


The discovery of mirror neurons by researchers at the University of Parma promises to radically alter our understanding of fundamental cognitive and affective states. This paper explores the relationship of mirror neurons to Jung's theory of archetypes and proposes that archetypes may be viewed as elementary action patterns. The paper begins with a review of a proposed interpretation of the fainting spells of S. Freud in his relationship with Jung as an example of an action pattern that also defines an archetypal image. The challenge that mirror neurons present to traditional views in analytical psychology and psychoanalysis, however, is that they operate without recourse to a cognitive processing element. This is a position that is gaining increasing acceptance in other fields as well. The paper therefore reviews the most recent claims made by the Boston Process of Change Study Group as well as conclusions drawn from dynamic systems views of development and theoretical robotics to underline the conclusion that unconscious agency is not a requirement for coherent action. It concludes with the suggestion that this entire body of research may lead to the conclusion that the dynamic unconscious is an unnecessary hypothesis in psychoanalysis and analytical psychology. Image, action, and affect 2009 marks the 30 th anniversary of the completion of my first work on Jung in the Department of Philosophy at Yale University. I then worked under the direction of Professor Rulon Wells, a great teacher of philosophy, linguistics and semiotics, whose recent death at the age of 90 was a singular loss for scholarship, and a deep personal loss for me. I therefore dedicate this paper to his memory. In that early work I built an argument around what I called the existential enactment of the relationship between Jung and Freud. I will not review the entire argument, but an essential aspect of the argument was that Jung and Freud did not merely engage in a conceptual debate, but rather actually enacted critical elements of the debate. One particular element of this process of enactment was Freud's propensity to faint at critical moments in his relations
Journal of Analytical Psychology,2009,54,325337
Archetypes as action patterns1
George B. Hogenson, Chicago, USA
Abstract: The discovery of mirror neurons by researchers at the University of Parma
promises to radically alter our understanding of fundamental cognitive and affective
states. This paper explores the relationship of mirror neurons to Jung’s theory of
archetypes and proposes that archetypes may be viewed as elementary action patterns.
The paper begins with a review of a proposed interpretation of the fainting spells of S.
Freud in his relationship with Jung as an example of an action pattern that also defines
an archetypal image. The challenge that mirror neurons present to traditional views in
analytical psychology and psychoanalysis, however, is that they operate without recourse
to a cognitive processing element. This is a position that is gaining increasing acceptance
in other fields as well. The paper therefore reviews the most recent claims made by the
Boston Process of Change Study Group as well as conclusions drawn from dynamic
systems views of development and theoretical robotics to underline the conclusion that
unconscious agency is not a requirement for coherent action. It concludes with the
suggestion that this entire body of research may lead to the conclusion that the dynamic
unconscious is an unnecessary hypothesis in psychoanalysis and analytical psychology.
Key words: archetype, dynamic systems, dynamic unconscious, Freud, image, Jung,
mirror neurons
Image, action, and affect
2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the completion of my first work on Jung
in the Department of Philosophy at Yale University. I then worked under the
direction of Professor Rulon Wells, a great teacher of philosophy, linguistics
and semiotics, whose recent death at the age of 90 was a singular loss for
scholarship, and a deep personal loss for me. I therefore dedicate this paper to
his memory.
In that early work I built an argument around what I called the existential
enactment of the relationship between Jung and Freud. I will not review
the entire argument, but an essential aspect of the argument was that Jung
and Freud did not merely engage in a conceptual debate, but rather actually
enacted critical elements of the debate. One particular element of this process
of enactment was Freud’s propensity to faint at critical moments in his relations
1An earlier version of this paper was presented at meetings of the Centro Italiano di Psicologia
Analitica in Milan and Rome, in January 2009.
0021-8774/2009/5403/325 C
2009, The Society of Analytical Psychology
Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX42DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148,USA.
326 George B. Hogenson
with dissident followers—Jung was not the only one. In discussing this aspect
of the relationship, I made the following summary comment:
The element of action in this argument Freud’s acting out of a primal confronta-
tion and killing at strategic moments in his relations with close followers. ...[I]n the
fainting spells we have what is termed the presentation of an image for the psyche—in
this case an image of the killing of the father—which seeks to organize the psychic
activity of the observer.
(Hogenson 1983,p.161)
The point of my argument in this instance was that the enactment of the killing
of the father, a fundamental element in Freud’s interpretation of the Oedipus
myth, was intended—unconsciously—to enlist the spectator in the Oedipus
drama. Freud repeatedly claimed that Jung had a death wish against him, which,
were it true, would in a sense validate Freud’s system. The fainting spells were
Freud’s enactment of his theory. Jung, I argued, was almost captured by the
power of these enactments, and his so-called ‘encounter with the unconscious’
after the break with Freud was his own way of experiencing an alternative
interpretation of psychic phenomena. It is important, in considering the history
of the relationship between Jung and Freud, to keep in mind that Jung did not
reject the importance of the Oedipal theory. While he disagreed with Freud
on the specifics of interpretation regarding Oedipus, he in fact considered the
myth to be archetypal. Indeed, he characterized Freud, in his remembrance of
the master (Jung 1966), as having been in the grip of a daemon, the Oedipus
archetype. I will have more to say about this situation later in this paper,
but it is worth noting at the outset that it was the archetypal qualities of the
fainting spells that posed the particular danger of psychic entanglement with
the archetype, and finally destroyed the relationship between the two.
Even before the end of the relationship, however, Jung had come to the
conclusion that the psyche was first of all and most of the time a place of
images, and that vision (Jung 1967) was the most critical of the senses such
that ‘seeing’ the Oedipal drama enacted would have a particularly powerful
impact. Contrary to the traditional Freudian argument, the project of analysis
in Jung is not to bring the image back to the original desire and then express
the desire in language, but rather to valorize the image as the foundation of
psychic experience. Although the history of Jung’s development of the theory of
archetypes is complex and, as Jean Knox has carefully outlined, his formulations
of the theory often take very different forms (Knox 2003), I believe the role of
the image in Jung’s thinking generally cannot be overemphasized. It is therefore
worth our while to gain an overview of his thinking on the nature of the
archetype as image and action pattern.
In 1919 Jung attended a conference sponsored by the Aristotelian Society, the
Mind Association, and the British Psychological Society on the theme of ‘Instinct
and the Unconscious’. The conference is best known for marking the first public
use of the term archetype as a fundamental element in Jung’s system. The
Archetypes as action patterns 327
conference title, however, carries an additional message; the unconscious, for
all of the presenters, is taken to have at least some relationship to the biological,
or instinctual, level of human behaviour. Needless to say, the term instinct is
no longer in vogue, but Jung’s paper, along with the others presented, clearly
makes a relationship between mind or psyche, in the form of the archetype,
and the body, in the form of the instinctual. Together, Jung argues, the instincts
and the archetypes form the collective unconscious as distinct from the personal
unconscious. He writes:
But, over and above that, we also find in the unconscious qualities that are not
individually acquired but are inherited, e.g., instincts as impulses to carry out actions
from necessity, without conscious motivation. In this ‘deeper’ stratum we also find
the a priori, inborn forms of ‘intuition’, namely the archetypes of perception and
apprehension, which are the necessary a priori determinants of all psychic processes.
Just as his instincts compel man to a specifically human mode of existence, so the
archetypes force his ways of perception and apprehension into specifically human
(Jung 1919, para. 270)
Here we immediately see the importance Jung attached to the ‘ways of percep-
tion’. The archetype is directly implicated in seeing the human environment.
That which is seen in the archetypal sense is the archetypal image. While it
was evident from Jung’s early work that the status of the image was critical for
his theories, it is in his mature work that a number of important elaborations
and clarifications of his thought occurred. Critical among them is a curious
discussion of the nature of the image found in his paper, ‘On the nature of
the psyche’, which I consider to be the most carefully argued paper of Jung’s
Collected Works. Jung writes, with implicit reference to the ethological studies
of Konrad Lorenz and his colleagues:
Instinct and the archaic mode meet in the biological conception of the ‘pattern of
behaviour’. There are, in fact, no amorphous instincts, as every instinct bears in itself
the pattern of its situation. Always it fulfils an image, and the image has fixed qualities.
The instinct of the leaf-cutting ant fulfils the image of ant, leaf, cutting, transport, and
the little garden of fungi. If any one of these conditions is lacking the instinct does
not function, because it cannot exist without its total pattern, without its image. Such
an image is an a priori type. It is inborn in the ant prior to any activity, for there can
be no activity at all unless an instinct of corresponding pattern initiates and makes it
(Jung 1919, para. 398)
Jung was fond of analogies to animal behaviour, clearly holding out for a
more biological and evolutionary continuum in behaviour, but what is most
instructive about his example is the complexity of the description, the situated
nature of the behaviour—the central role of what would now be called the
species-typical environment, and the implication of universality. The notion
that an a priori pattern must exist will, however, concern us in a moment. One
could say that in the absence of all the features of the ‘image of the leaf-cutting
328 George B. Hogenson
ant’ the ant would, in some ontological sense, cease to exist. These qualities of
the image are what qualify it as an analogy to an archetypal image. As Jung
remarks elsewhere, ‘An image can be considered archetypal when it can be
shown to exist in the records of human history, in identical form and with the
same meaning’ (Jung, 1967, para. 352).
One further feature of Jung’s thinking about archetypes is important for our
purposes. In his famous paper ‘Synchronicity: an acausal connecting principle’,
Jung writes:
The archetypes are formal factors responsible for the organization of unconscious
psychic processes: they are ‘patterns of behaviour’. At the same time they have a
‘specific charge’ and develop numinous effects that express themselves as affects.
(Jung 1952)
What we have in the theory of archetypes, therefore, is a combination of
features that include ways of knowing the world (patterns of apprehension and
intuition—a specific subset, it seems, of ways of acting in the world), patterns
of behaviour, affective states that accompany these intuitions and patterns of
behaviour, and finally, a notion of the image that appears to go beyond our
common sense notion of the image as simply a picture or representation of some
other state of affairs. The question that arises in the context of this meeting is
what relationship these aspects of Jung’s theory have to the discovery of mirror
Mirror neurons and psychoanalysis
Our topic is the relationship between the discovery of mirror neurons by
Gallese and Rizzolati and Jungian psychoanalysis. At the outset it is safe
to say that the discovery of mirror neurons has generated considerable
excitement throughout the psychoanalytic world due to the prospect they
offer of a neurological explanation for critical features of clinical practice
such as empathy. The distinguished Harvard psychiatrist and psychoanalyst,
Arnold Modell, speculates that mirror neurons may provide an explanation
for the clinical phenomenon of projective identification, the experience on
the part of the clinician of deep emotional pain in the patient, often with
no noticeable emotional disturbance in the patient. Projective identification
is often described by the clinician as an experience of having a feeling ‘put
into’ oneself (Modell 2003). Citing the work of Gallese (Gallese 2001), Modell
concludes that ‘our brains resonate to the other’s feelings in a manner similar to
how we resonate with the other’s intentional actions’ (p. 187). ‘This supports
the contention’, he continues, ‘that the roots of empathy are in the body, and
as with projective identification, this process occurs unconsciously’ (p. 187).
Indeed, a review of the literature leads to the conclusion that in addition
to empathy and projective identification a substantial portion of the more
classically psychoanalytic categories of clinical understanding, such as the
Archetypes as action patterns 329
transference and countertransference, may find an explanatory mechanism in
the realm of mirror neurons. The work of Iacoboni is particularly germane to
this research (Iacoboni 2005,2008).
The findings of Gallese, Rizzolati and their colleagues, as well as the
theoretical and clinical hypotheses about the application of mirror neurons
to psychoanalysis mark a fundamental inflection point in our understanding of
the brain/mind/body. In developing his ‘shared manifold’ model of empathy,
Gallese highlights the role of intersubjective action patterns in our ability to
understand one another, and establish an empathic relationship. Similarly,
Modell highlights the importance of ‘goal-directed, relational actions’ in
establishing empathic relationships (p. 182). A similar sentiment can be found
in the work of the Boston Process of Change Study Group, a loose affiliation
of distinguished developmental psychologists and psychoanalysts, including
Daniel Stern and Ed Tronik. But this group has gone further in their attention
to action patterns and points us in an important direction for thinking
about the foundational implications of mirror neurons in psychoanalysis. The
foundational role they assign to interaction, both in developmental settings and
in clinical treatment, turns the traditional order of psychological functioning on
its head. The group captures this outcome in a summary statement:
The major point of this paper has been to delineate the upside-down relationship
between the supposedly ‘superficial’ layer of immediate interaction and the supposedly
‘profound’ layer of intrapsychic entities, such as conflict and defense. Traditionally, the
intrapsychic entities were assumed to determine what happened at the interactive level.
The interactive level was seen merely as the instantiation of deeper forces. We suggest
instead that the interactive process itself is primary and generates the raw material
from which we draw the generalized abstractions that we term conflicts, defenses
and phantasy. From these moves as experienced in the interaction, psychoanalytic
interpretations are drawn. It follows that conflicts and defenses are born and reside
in the domain of interaction, and that this relational living out is the deep layer
of experience, while the abstractions that we use to describe the repetitive aspects of
these relational strategies, such as conflict and defense, are secondary descriptors of the
deep level, but not the level itself, and exist further from the lived experience.
(Stern et al. 2007,p.14)
The interactive implications of mirror neurons—including those more attuned
to affective states, appear, therefore, to be largely compatible with recent
developments in psychoanalytic theory and practice. Indeed, it is likely that
the majority of classical characteristics of the psychoanalytic interchange,
ranging from the transference to the defining mechanisms of the dynamic
unconscious, as noted by the Boston Study Group, can be subordinated
to the interactive experience instantiated in the mirror neuron system. As
an aside, and in anticipation of some of what will follow, I think it is
worth noting the ironic turn that enthusiasm in psychoanalytic circles for
recent neurological discoveries carries with it, as fundamental presuppositions
regarding the dynamic unconscious are turned on their head. It should therefore
be evident that the discovery of mirror neurons may hold equally consequential
330 George B. Hogenson
implications for Jungian theory. To further the discussion of these implications,
however, I want to outline some considerations from other disciplines, the
dynamic systems approach to development, artificial life, and most specifically
theoretical robotics, that provide a deeper and more philosophically compelling
description of the problems in hand.
Action patterns and cognitive processes
The members of the Boston Study Group touch on a central issue facing
psychoanalysis in all its forms; can we attribute the elemental forms of behaviour
that concern analysts to some form of agency, usually referred to as the dynamic
unconscious? I want to suggest that mirror neurons do play a part in our
consideration of this problem, but the role played by their discovery is very
much in the form of providing a neurologically based instantiation of a point
of view developed in other fields. Taken as a whole, however, the addition
of mirror neurons to the other fields concerned with this question may prove
to be the decisive move in answering this question. Let me outline the issue
by recourse to several sources, which I will review very briefly in something
resembling chronological order.
In 1985, psychologist and theoretical biologist, Susan Oyama, published
her influential book, The Ontogeny of Information. She begins the book
with the following overview of Western assumptions about the order of
In the Western religious tradition, God created the world by bringing order to chaos.
By imposing form on inchoate matter, he acted according to a convention that was very
old indeed, one that separated form from matter and considered true essence to reside
in the former ...Those who have argued over the origin of ideas and of biological
beings have usually agreed that form in some sense preexists its appearance in minds
and bodies. They have only disputed the method and time of its imposition ....
Whether it is God, a vitalistic force, or the gene as Nature’s agent that is the source
of the design of living things and that initiates and directs the unfolding of the design
thus matters little to the structure of the argument. Nor are the problems inherent in
such a notion lessened by the use of a succession of metaphors, such as genetic plans,
knowledge, and programs, to serve these cognitive and intentional functions.
(Oyama 1985,p.1)
Oyama goes on to argue, as Horst Hendricks-Jansen summarizes, that:
[T]here is no reason that the structure of a dynamical system needs to be prespecified in
any form or shape. It simply emerges in the form that it does because of the coincidence
of certain parameters and components, which in the past have tended to result in a
viable system within a particular environment, and the possibility of whose emergence
has thus been preserved by natural selection.
(Hendricks-Jansen, 1996,p.261)
In a similar vein, the developmental psychologists, Ester Thelen and Linda
Smith, of the University of Indiana, writing of their experimental work with
Archetypes as action patterns 331
infant development, A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of
Cognition and Action, and having cited the work of Oyama, lay out the
foundations of their approach:
We propose here a radical departure from current cognitive theory. Although behavior
and development appear structured, there are no structures. Although behavior and
development appear rule-driven, there are no rules. There is complexity. There is
a multiple, parallel, and continuously dynamic interplay of perception and action,
and a system that, by its thermodynamic nature, seeks certain stable solutions. These
solutions emerge from relations, not from design. When the elements of such complex
systems cooperate, they give rise to behavior with a unitary character, and thus to
the illusion of structure. But the order is always executory, rather that rule-driven,
allowing for the enormous sensitivity and flexibility of behavior to organize and
regroup around task and context.
(Thelen & Smith 1998,p.xix)
My final example of the turn away from plans, rule-driven behaviour, or central
cognitive systems comes from the roboticist, Rodney Brooks, Director of the
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Beginning in the late 1960s artificial intelligence research became increasingly
concerned with how to model behaviour in complex environments. Until the
mid 1980s this research programme focused on building ever more intricate
command programmes for recognizing objects and navigating a robot through
spaces occupied by a small number of geometrically simple shapes. The
computational power required to carry out these simple action patterns was
enormous, and successes were few and far between. Brooks, at the time a
young AI researcher at Stanford University, proposed a radical departure from
the received AI orthodoxy. He summarizes his insight, writing:
The realization was that the so-called central systems of intelligence—or core AI as it
has been referred to more recently—was perhaps an unnecessary illusion, and that all
the power of intelligence arose from the coupling of perception and actuation systems.
This is the cornerstone of behavior-based robotics, both mobile robots as they have
developed over the last twelve years and humanoid robots that have been developed
more recently.
(Brooks 1999, p. viii)
The new model, proposed by Brooks, and since used in the development of
the most successful robotic systems removed the cognitive element from inside
the system, and relocated it to the environment, in the form of attributions of
meaningfulness on the part of an observer. This formulation is almost identical
to the view of Thelen and Smith, among others (Kaye 1982; Kaye & Wells
1980) insofar as early infant development is largely dependent on the meaning
attributions made by the caregiver to the objectively meaningless action patterns
of the infant. We can compare this formulation of the perception/action system
in robotics, which has allowed for the development of mobile robots that
can successfully navigate the chaotic office space of the MIT robotics lab—
desks, chairs, soft-drink cans, etc.—to this summary passage in Rizzolatti and
332 George B. Hogenson
The mirror neuron system and the selectivity of the responses of the neurons that
compose it, produce a shared space of action, within which each act and chain of acts,
whether ours or ‘theirs’, are immediately registered and understood without the need
of any explicit or deliberate ‘cognitive operation’.
(Rizzolatti 2008,p.131)
My purpose in this section of the paper has been to bring together a group
of research programmes which, largely independent of one another in their
formative stages, have all come to the conclusion that a complex cognitive
processor, possessed of some set of rules or algorithms is unnecessary for an
account of behaviour, in simple organisms, robots, developing children, or
in the behaviour of adults. I would suggest, in fact, that taken together, and
particularly with the addition of the mirror neuron system, that we have come
to the end of the so-called cognitive revolution in psychology and philosophy.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the discovery of mirror neurons provides
the final link in this process, allowing us to ground the counter-cognitive
revolution in a neurological substrate.
Archetypes as (non-cognitive) action patterns
If, then, action patterns, such of those of a leaf-cutting ant take place in a
species typical environment, and if Jung is willing to go so far as to argue that
the pattern of action combined with that environment constitutes the image of
the ant, it would appear that a consideration of the relationship between Jung’s
theory of archetypes and mirror neurons requires some consideration of what
precisely constitutes the species typical environment that gives rise to distinctly
Jungian, archetypal action patterns. I have suggested that Freud’s fainting spells
were an enactment of a crucial moment in his interpretation of the Oedipus
archetype. What I now want to add to that story is that the circumstances of
the fainting spells—two in the case of Jung—actually did involve a discussion
of something approaching a father-killing story. The most important of these
was a discussion that Jung had with Freud and Karl Abraham regarding the
destruction of the cartouches of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III by his son and
successor Akhenaten when he began his religious revolution. Jung and Abraham
offered conflicting interpretations of the event, Abraham insisting that this was
an Oedipal moment, Jung arguing that it was a normal act of succession.
Whereupon Freud fainted, later claiming that Jung was masking a death wish
against him (Jung 1963).
If we followed the Boston Study Group in seeking to understand this event
we would first of all have to examine the interactive pattern that was in process,
rather than follow Freud and attribute to Jung a repressed desire to kill Freud
the father. This would also be the consequence of following the investigators
I have cited in the last section. Thus, to follow Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia we
should try to understand this event as a shared action space. But what kind of
action is involved in an argument about Egyptian cartouches?
Archetypes as action patterns 333
I want to begin to answer this question by taking a somewhat speculative
step into a larger field of considerations than I have touched on thus far. Even
a casual reader of Jung’s works will be struck by his fascination with figural
representations, the work of art, the pictorial—I want to use this word to
distinguish between specific visual objects and the more complex definition
of an image that I have proposed. Entire volumes in his collected works and
seminars are devoted to the examination of such representations, and many
Jungian analysts, certainly those in the United States, devote a great deal of
clinical time to visual representational processes. I believe it is safe to say that for
Jung a significant part of the species typical environment of human experience
is the world of made objects that fall into this world of representations.
For Jung the visual object is as important as language is to Freud. The
relationship of language to the mirror neuron system has, as I understand
the field at this time, come under considerable scrutiny with the discovery of
echo-neurons and the proposal that an important element in the acquisition
and subsequent understanding of language is following the micro-activities of
the process of verbal articulation. Indeed, some research now indicates that the
uniquely human behaviour of infant babbling links to the echo-neuron system
and facilitates the development of syntactical patterns (Pulvermuller 2003,
forthcoming). The implication here is that a direct linkage exists between a
high level human behaviour, syntax or language more generally, and elementary
neuronal structures, and that link has both developmental and adult operational
Can the same be said for the visual object? The art historian, Barbara Stafford,
of the University of Chicago believes that the visual object may enjoy a similar
relationship to the mirror neuron system as language and patterns of action in
general. With specific reference to the work of Rizzolatti, Stafford asks a critical
How do we make sense of the fact that subjectivity emerges when the brain-mind
simultaneously produces not just self-images and the organism’s responses to its
surroundings but something else as well: an organism in the act of perceiving and
responding to some external object?
(Stafford 2007,p.77)
Stafford is a leading authority on Renaissance and Baroque emblems, the exotic
representations that populated esoteric texts. She writes, regarding these works:
Certain dense and interstructural kinds of artwork, I argue, permit us to see the
synchronizing cerebral processes involved in vision, that is, the process of an image of
the visual world actively constructed by the cerebral cortex after having discarded
extraneous information. Such composites render visible neural cooperation and
normally invisible operative forces of the central nervous system.
(p. 45)
The tradition of emblem construction was particularly prominent in Renais-
sance and Baroque alchemy, a tradition that Jung argued constituted a form
334 George B. Hogenson
of proto-psychoanalysis, reflecting in its representations, including narrative,
procedural and iconographic, patterns that corresponded to his own experience
of the analytic process. Jung, of course, was still an heir to the western
intellectual tradition wedded to the notion that some pre-existing plan had
to underlie the emergence of phenomenal experience, the proximate form
of this tradition—at least for the early psychoanalysts—being the dynamic
unconscious. And so we have the Jungian theory of the collective unconscious. I
now want to suggest that just as theoretical robotics, complex dynamic systems
theories of development, and the discovery of mirror neurons have concluded
that it is possible to develop complex behavioural patterns without the cognitive
processor embedded somewhere in the brain/mind, that we may be in a position
to do without the dynamic unconscious as an explanatory hypothesis. Rather,
we may be looking at the historical emergence of human behaviour from the
interactive engagement with the developing artefactual and linguistic species
typical environment. The unconscious, then, would be more a matter of what
we have yet to encounter, rather than that which lies below, either in the form
of repressions or collective forms.
As with the growing evidence that echo-neurons play a role in the emergence
and development of language, it is likely, as Stafford suggests, that some form
of echo relationship exists in the development of the artefactual world, and
that some subset of that world is particularly relevant to our understanding of
the workings of the mind. This proposition sets a research challenge, I believe,
to the psychoanalytic community generally, and to the Jungian community in
particular. A writer for whom I have great admiration, Horst Hendriks-Jansen,
provides the clearest statement of this challenge. Shortly before the discover
of mirror neurons Hendriks-Jansen wrote, commenting on Daniel Dennett’s
argument for a ‘narrative selfhood’:
If consciousness is the outcome of narratives that are not deliberately planned but
that resemble the species-typical behavior of web-spinning spiders and dam-building
beavers, shouldn’t a study of consciousness begin by investigating these typically
human activity patterns in their natural surroundings .... Instead of trying to justify
functional components and internal representations of a fully fledged conscious mind
by appeals to natural selection, wouldn’t it be more logical to try to discover the
underlying activity patterns that make it possible for a human infant to acquire this
unique, unconscious ability to spin narratives about himself and the world? How
exactly do narratives ‘spin us’? Or, to put it differently, how do our conscious selves
become established as the result of participating in public dialogue that consists of
coherent, intentional stories.
(Hendricks-Jansen 1996,p.335)
I believe that a careful reconstruction of Jung’s theory of archetypes, informed
by the developments in neuroscience encompassed by the discovery of mirror
neurons, and coupled with developments in related fields, particularly dynamic
systems models of development and the analytic insights of researchers such
as the Boston Study Group, will allow us to find the path to answering this
question. But the key will lie in the recognition of the primacy of species typical
Archetypes as action patterns 335
action patterns, and the species typical environment within which those action
patterns are elaborated. The image, as an action pattern embedded in the species
typical world of human meaning creation, particularly including the artefactual
world of human creativity will then be a guiding principle, as intended by
La d´
ecouverte de neurones miroirs par des chercheurs de l’universit´
promet une alt´
eration radicale de notre compr´
ehension des ´
etats cognitifs et affectifs
fondamentaux. Cet article analyse le rapport entre les neurones miroirs et la th´
eorie des
etypes de Jung. Il pose l’´
e que les arch´
etypes puissent ˆ
etre envisag´
es comme
des «patterns»´
ementaires d’action. Il part d’une interpr´
etation des ´
de Freud aux temps de sa relation avec Jung, comme exemple de «pattern»d’action
efinissant ´
egalement une image arch´
etypique. Le d´
efi pos´
e par les neurones miroirs aux
conceptions traditionnelles de la psychologie analytique et de la psychanalyse, r´
dans une modalit´
e de fonctionnement qui exclut le recours aux processus cognitifs. Une
telle conception est de plus en plus r´
epandue et ce, dans des champs divers. L’article passe
en revue les derni`
eres avanc´
ees du Boston Process of Change Study Group, de mˆ
eme que
les conclusions des th´
eories dynamiques du d´
eveloppement et de la robotique th´
pour appuyer l’id´
ee que les agents inconscients ne sont pas la condition absolue d’une
action coh´
erente. L’article s’ach`
eve en ´
evoquant la probabilit´
e que l’ensemble de ces
recherches ne parviennent `
a la conclusion que l’inconscient dynamique constitue une
ese superflue en psychanalyse et en psychologie analytique.
Die Entdeckung der Spiegelneuronen durch Forscher an der Universit¨
at von Parma
verspricht eine radikale ¨
Anderung unseres Verst¨
andnisses von Kognitiven und affektiven
anden. Dieser Aufsatz untersucht die Beziehung zwischen Spiegelneuronen und
Jungs Theorie der Archetypen und kommt zu dem Vorschlag, daß Archetypen als
elementare Verhaltensmuster zu betrachten seien. Begonnen wird mit einer R ¨
auf eine angenommene Interpretation der Ohnmachtsanf¨
alle S. Freuds im Kontakt mit
Jung als eines Beispiels f ¨
ur ein Verhaltensmuster, das gleichzeitig ein archetypisches
Bild definiert. Die Herausforderung aber, die Entdeckung der Spiegelneuronen f ¨
ur die
traditionellen Sichtweisen der Analytischen Psychologie und Psychoanalyse darstellt
besteht darin, daß sie ohne R ¨
uckgriff auf kognitive Prozeßelemente funktionieren. Dies
ist eine Position, die auch auf anderen Gebieten zunehmend an Akzeptanz gewinnt.
Der Aufsatz res ¨
umiert deswegen die neuesten diesbez ¨
uglichen Theorien, die von der
Bostoner Forschungsgruppe ‘Prozeß des Wandels’ aufgestellt wurden sowie die Schl ¨
die aus der Untersuchung von dynamischen Systemen, aus Erkenntnissen der praktischen
und theoretischen Roboterentwicklung gewonnen wurden um die Folgerung zu st ¨
daß die Existenz einer Ebene des Unbewußten zur Ausf ¨
uhrung koh¨
arenter Aktionen
nicht erforderlich ist. Der Text schließt mit der Annahme, daß der gesamte Fundus
dieser Forschung zu der Folgerung f ¨
uhren k ¨
onnte, daß das dynamische Unbewußte eine
unn ¨
otige Hypothese der Psychoanalyse und der Analytischen Psychologie sei.
336 George B. Hogenson
La scoperta dei neuroni specchio fatta dai ricercatori dell’Universit`
a di Parma ci permette
di cambiare radicalmente il nostro modo di intendere gli stati fondamentali cognitivi e
affettivi. In questo lavoro viene presa in esame la relazione tra i neuroni specchio e la
teoria degli archetipi e si propone di considerare gli archetipi come schemi di azione
elementari. Si inizia riesaminando una interpretazione degli svenimenti di Freud nella
sua relazione con Jung considerandola come un esempio di uno schema di azione che
definisce anche un’immagine archetipica. La sfida che i neuroni specchio presentano al
punto di vista tradizionale della psicologia analitica e della psicoanalisi `
e che essi operano
senza ricorrere a un elemento procedurale cognitivo. Tale posizione viene sempre pi `
accettata anche in altri campi. In questo scritto si analizzano poi sia le pi `
u recenti
affermazioni fatte dal Boston Process of Change Study Group sia le conclusioni raggiunte
dal punto di vista dei sistemi dinamici di sviluppo e dalla teoria robotica per giungere alla
conclusione che l’agentivit`
a dell’inconscio non `
e un requisito necessario per un’azione
coerente. Il lavoro si conclude con la considerazione che questo intero corpo di ricerca
pu `
o condurre alla conclusione che un inconscio dinamico non rappresenta un’ipotesi
necessaria n´
e nella psicoanalisi n´
e nella psicologia analitica.
El descubrimiento de las neuronas de espejo por las investigadores en la Universidad de
Parma prometen alterar radicalmente nuestra comprensi ´
on de estados cognoscitivos y
afectivos fundamentales. Este trabajo explora la relaci ´
on de las neuronas de espejo con
la teor´
ıa del Jung de los arquetipos y propone que los arquetipos puedan ser vistos como
pautas elementales de acci ´
on. Se inicia con una revisi ´
on de la interpretaci ´
on propuesta a
los desvanecimientos de S. Freud en su relaci ´
on con Jung como ejemplo de una pauta de
acci ´
on que define una imagen arquet´
ıpica. El desaf´
ıo que las neuronas espejo presenta
a los conceptos tradicionales en la psicolog´
ıa anal´
ıtica y el psicoan´
alisis, sin embargo,
es que ellos operan sin el recurso de un elemento de procesamiento cognoscitivo. Es
esta una posici ´
on que ha ganado aceptaci ´
on tambi´
en en otros campos. El trabajo por lo
tanto revisa las reflexiones m´
as recientes del Grupo de Estudio del Proceso de Cambio de
Boston as´
ı como las conclusiones descritas por las din ´
amicas de los sistemas del desarrollo
otica te ´
orica para subrayar la conclusi ´
on de que el control inconsciente no es
un requisito para la acci ´
on coherente. El papel concluye con la sugerencia seg ´
un la cual
estas investigaciones pueden llevar a la conclusi ´
on de que el inconsciente din´
amico es
una hip ´
otesis innecesaria en el psicoan´
alisis y la psicolog´
ıa anal´
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... Ever since Jung formulated his notion of a psychic structure common to all of mankind, it has been met with trenchant attacks from many quarters, and the more he tried to describe what he had in mind, the more such frankly frenzied criticism intensifi ed and persists to this day (e.g., Le Quellec [2013]). 2 Some of our contemporary colleagues have returned to this basic aspect of Analytical Psychology, especially Jean Knox (2003 ) in the United Kingdom and George Hogenson (2004Hogenson ( , 2009 in the United States, followed more recently by Christian Roesler (2012 ) in Germany and my own contributions ( Martin-Vallas, 2005a, 2005b, 2009a, 2015 in France. ...
... 123). 11 George Hogenson (2004Hogenson ( , 2009) and Joe Cambray (2004Cambray ( , 2006Cambray ( , 2010 have specifi cally focused on the phenomenon of emergence. 12 The interested reader can consult the very accessible book by James Gleick (1988). ...
... Rather, he emphasized the natural, non-culture-specific human action in the environment. He used the far simpler analogy of the behavior of the leafcutter ant (Hogenson, 2009) to illustrate what he was getting at: that humans interact with their environment in a characteristically human way, and that way involves thinking a certain way and imagining in a certain way, much of which is self-initiated, self-organized and self-taught. By using this analogy and others like it, it seems Jung would have accepted universally self-taught contents under the archetypal umbrella. ...
Full-text available
The question of whether or not archetypes are transmitted biologically or culturally is wrongly posed.
... In a series of papers I have suggested that Zipf's law sheds light on elements of Jung's understanding of symbols and the nature of archetypal phenomena (Hogenson 2004(Hogenson , 2005(Hogenson , 2009(Hogenson , 2014(Hogenson , 2018. The argument in these papers has focused on what I have called symbolic density in which some symbolic structures manifest a deep hermeneutical structure or potential for interpretation. ...
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... But the model of Saunders and Skar shows how ubiquitous complexes emerge, such as the Shadow or Anima, but they do not address CCS directly, so without clarification this theory is not analyzable in the present classification scheme. Hogenson (2009) argues for a role of self-organization in more general terms, but again, does not address CCS directly, instead staying more abstract in his discussion. I feel both of these models could address CCS more directly, but leave it to those authors to do so. ...
Full-text available
When a patient reports a dream or undirected fantasy in psychotherapy, classical Jungian technique includes, among other things, comparing this material to that of cross-cultural symbolism (CCS). The validity of this aspect of the method hinges on what we think the origin of CCS is. If we believe that the lion’s share of such content comes from specific universal tendencies of the individual psyche, then it is reasonable to look to CCS as a source of clinical interpretive information. If not, however, the method loses credibility. An examination of this comparison reveals that some discussions about archetypes have been plagued by a false dichotomy of biology vs. emergence. Addressing this problem helps to organize various theories about archetypes that compare CCS into a more productive dialogue.
... Rather, he emphasized the natural, non-culture-specific human action in the environment. He used the far simpler analogy of the behavior of the leafcutter ant (Hogenson, 2009) to illustrate what he was getting at: that humans interact with their environment in a characteristically human way, and that way involves thinking a certain way and imagining in a certain way, much of which is self-initiated, self-organized and self-taught. By using this analogy and others like it, it seems Jung would have accepted universally self-taught contents under the archetypal umbrella. ...
The question of whether or not archetypes are transmitted biologically or culturally is wrongly posed and has hampered progress in Jungian thought regarding archetype theory. Considerations regarding psychological development show that some contents of the human psyche are, strictly speaking, neither biologically nor culturally derived. Examples are given, and the question becomes, How does this fact affect archetype theory? The present essay examines this question in depth.
... The notion of archetypes has been the subject of much debate in analytical psychology. (See, for instance, Colman, 2018;Gee, 2018;Goodwyn, 2010;Hogenson, 2009;Knox, 2004Knox, , 2009 Questions have been raised as to whether these so-called archetypes are universal imprints we all share that are pre-given, and therefore, unavoidable manifestations or patterns that become emergent within a relational or contextual matrix (see, e.g., Buffardi, 2019). Certainly, pre-allocated essentialist ideas of the Self seem inconsistent with existential theory and therapy, which prefers to do away with such preconceptions in favor of an uninterpreted and unpresupposing phenomenological engagement with the immediacy of experience. ...
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C. G. Jung’s openness to the transcendent nature of the psyche has appealed to those seeking an alternative to the more ego-centered approach promoted by traditional Freudian psychoanalysis. Yet despite the significant philosophical implications of Jung’s ideas, he always emphasized their pragmatic and clinical nature: helping grapple with neuroses/psychoses and sundry symptoms borne of mental conflict. While abstract concepts from analytical psychology provide a useful schema to make sense of suffering, such theoretical conceptualizations can, when dogmatically misapplied in the consulting room, permit both analyst and patient to by-pass the concrete existential reality of the analytic relationship. The ability and willingness to be fully present to the angst of both patient and “self-as-therapist” is perhaps the most essential aspect of existential psychotherapy. In this article, the authors propose a concordance between existentialist and Jungian approaches that positions the work of analysis as a creative engagement with patients’ subjective experiences without avoiding or diminishing the here-and-now experience of the therapeutic encounter, arguing that such cross-fertilization could offer an integrative form of treatment more faithful to the unique existence of each individual and analytic pair than either approach on its own.
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During the course of the 2018 IAAP conference, a criticism of Jung's idea of the archetype as inherited predisposition was raised that involved examining a number of dreams and visions and assessing them through developments in genetics and neuroscience. From this comparison it was argued that archetypes cannot be inherited and could more reasonably be argued to derive from early experiences. In this essay, the author responds by showing how this conclusion is flawed due to being based on reductive errors. An alternative, non-reductive but inherited and biological position on the archetype is defended. © 2019, The Society of Analytical Psychology.
Emotions and actions are powerfully contagious; when we see someone laugh, cry, show disgust, or experience pain, in some sense, we share that emotion. When we see someone in distress, we share that distress. When we see a great actor, musician or sportsperson perform at the peak of their abilities, it can feel like we are experiencing just something of what they are experiencing. Yet only recently, with the discover of mirror neurons, has it become clear just how this powerful sharing of experience is realised within the human brain. This book provides, for the first time, a systematic overview of mirror neurons, written by the man who first discovered them. In the early 1990's Giacomo Rizzolatti and his co-workers at the University of Parma discovered that some neurons had a surprising property. They responded not only when a subject performed a given action, but also when the subject observed someone else performing that same action. These results had a deep impact on cognitive neuroscience, leading the neuroscientist vs Ramachandran to predict that 'mirror neurons would do for psychology what DNA did for biology'. The unexpected properties of these neurons have not only attracted the attention of neuroscientists. Many sociologists, anthropologists, and even artists have been fascinated by mirror neurons. The director and playwright Peter Brook stated that mirror neurons throw new light on the mysterious link that is created each time actors take the stage and face their audience - the sight of a great actor performing activates in the brain of the observer the very same areas that are active in the performer - including both their actions and their emotions.
Abstract Brain imaging techniques allow the mapping of cognitive functions onto neural systems, but also the understanding of mechanisms of human behavior. In a series of imaging studies we have described a minimal neural architecture for imitation. This architecture comprises a brain region that codes an early visual description of the action to be imitated, a second region that codes the detailed motor specification of the action to be copied, and a third region that codes the goal of the imitated action. Neural signals predicting the sensory consequences,of the planned imitative action are sent back to the brain region coding the early visual description of the imitated action, for monitoring purposes ("my planned action is like the one I have just seen"). The three brain regions forming this minimal neural architecture belong to a part of the cerebral cortex called perisylvian, a critical cortical region for language. This suggests that the neural mechanisms,implementing,imitation are also used for other forms of human communication, such as language. Indeed, imaging data on warping of chimpanzee brains onto human,brains indicate that the largest expansion between the two species is perisylvian. Functional similarities between the structure of actions and the structure of language as it unfolds during conversation reinforce this notion. Additional data suggest also that empathy,occurs via the minimal neural architecture for imitation interacting with regions of the brain relevant to emotion. All in all, we come to understand others via imitation, and imitation shares functional mechanisms,with language and empathy. 10/2/02. 3
Jung was intrigued from early in his career with coincidences, especially those surprising juxtapositions that scientific rationality could not adequately explain. He discussed these ideas with Albert Einstein before World War I, but first used the term "synchronicity" in a 1930 lecture, in reference to the unusual psychological insights generated from consulting theI Ching. A long correspondence and friendship with the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli stimulated a final, mature statement of Jung's thinking on synchronicity, originally published in 1952 and reproduced here. Together with a wealth of historical and contemporary material, this essay describes an astrological experiment Jung conducted to test his theory.Synchronicityreveals the full extent of Jung's research into a wide range of psychic phenomena.This paperback edition of Jung's classic work includes a new foreword by Sonu Shamdasani, Philemon Professor of Jung History at University College London.
My initial scope will be limited: starting from a neurobiological standpoint, I will analyse how actions are possibly represented and understood. The main aim of my arguments will be to show that, far from being exclusively dependent upon mentalistic/linguistic abilities, the capacity for understanding others as intentional agents is deeply grounded in the relational nature of action. Action is relational, and the relation holds both between the agent and the object target of the action (see Gallese, 2000b), as between the agent of the action and his/her observer (see below). Agency constitutes a key issue for the understanding of intersubjectivity and for explaining how individuals can interpret their social world. This account of intersubjectivity, founded on the empirical findings of neuroscientific investigation, will be discussed and put in relation with a classical tenet of phenomenology: empathy. I will provide an 'enlarged' account of empathy that will be defined by means of a new conceptual tool: the shared manifold of intersubjectivity.