Jung finds evolutionary allies

November 29, 1996

IN HIS ATTACK on the integrity of Jungian analysts, (THES, November 22) Richard Noll makes an unflattering comparison between the attitude we Jungians adopt to our patients and that of Ben Johnson's Alchemist, who "deceives one customer after another I stringing each dupe along with scientific sounding jargon". If patients only knew how baseless Jungian theories were, maintains Noll, they would quite rightly stop knocking at our door.

Noll's main target, which he keeps pounding like some academic Bomber Harris, is Jung's theory of "archetypes" operating through the "collective unconscious". Early this century Jung proposed that the human psyche is as much a product of selection pressures as the body and that we are endowed with innate psychological propensities ("archetypes") which influence our cognitive, affective and behavioural development. The sum total of these archetypes makes up the "collective unconscious".

Noll castigates Anthony Storr, among others, for accepting this as a "perfectly sensible idea". Far from it, argues Noll, who seems to think that Jung's theory was based on one case - the "Solar Phallus Man" - which Noll believes he has exploded. The theory is therefore worthless; and no one who has received a medical, psychological, or scientific training, suggests Noll, could possibly accept it. As one who has received all three, I must assure him that I can and I do, and for good scientific reasons.

As John Price and I have shown in our book, Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning, Jung's archetypal theory has been developed, in their own terminologies, by the new breed of behavioural scientists who adopt an evolutionary approach to human phenomena. These include Noam Chomsky ("deep structures"), John Bowlby ("behavioural systems"), Konrad Lorenz ("innate releasing mechanisms"), David Buss ("evolved psychological mechanisms"), Paul Gilbert ("psychological response patterns").

These evolutionary applications of archetypal theory have advanced understanding of such psychiatric conditions as anxiety, depression, hypomania, personality and eating disorders, as well as schizophrenia, the symptoms of which may now be conceived as exaggerations or distortions of adaptive "archetypally determined" patterns of response.

As a result, a paradigm shift is under way which is carrying psychiatry and psychotherapy into possibly the most exciting phase in their history. Yet Noll seems ignorant of these developments and goes on belabouring Jungians as if none of them had occurred.

Anthony Stevens

Member of the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists, Ivybridge, Devon

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