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Jungian Theory

Jung's theory of neurosis is based on the premise of a self-regulating psyche composed of tensions between opposing attitudes of the ego and the unconscious. A neurosis is a significant unresolved tension between these contending attitudes. Each neurosis is unique, and different things work in different cases, so no therapeutic method can be arbitrarily applied. Nevertheless, there is a set of cases that Jung especially addressed. Although adjusted well enough to everyday life, the individual has lost a fulfilling sense of meaning and purpose, and has no living religious belief to which to turn. There seems to be no readily apparent way to set matters right. In these cases, Jung turned to ongoing symbolic communication from the unconscious in the form of dreams and visions.

Resolution of the tension causing this type of neurosis involves a careful constructive study of the fantasies. The seriousness with which the individual (ego) must take the mythological aspects of the fantasies may compare with the regard that devoted believers have toward their religion. It is not merely an intellectual exercise, but requires the commitment of the whole person and realization that the unconscious has a connection to life-giving spiritual forces. Only a belief founded on direct experience with this process is sufficient to oppose, balance, and otherwise adjust the attitude of the ego.

When this process works, this type of neurosis may be considered a life-guiding gift from the unconscious, even though the personal journey forced upon the individual sometimes takes decades. This may seem absurd to someone looking at a neurosis from the attitude that it is always an illness that should not have to happen, expects the doctor to have a quick cure, and that fantasies are unreliable subjective experiences.

A significant aspect of Jung's theory of neurosis is how symptoms can vary by psychological type. The hierarchy of discriminating psychological functions gives each individual a dominant sensation, intuition, feeling, or thinking function preference with either an extroverted or introverted attitude. The dominant is quite under the control of the ego. But the inferior function remains a gateway for unconscious contents. This creates typical manifestations of inferior insight and behavior when extreme function one-sidedness accompanies the neurosis.