Collective Unconscious

What is the collective unconscious?

According to Jung, the collective unconscious is a part of the psyche.  The psyche consists of the conscious and the unconscious; the unconscious being divided into two parts: the personal and the collective.  Jung is adamant about the fact that the personal unconscious consists of that which is derived from personal experience; however, the collective unconscious is not.  The personal unconscious is such that it was once within consciousness but has since become unconscious; however, collective unconscious has never been in consciousness.  The collective unconscious is attributed to entirely by hereditary means.  Jung posits that the personal unconscious consists of complexes; while, the collective unconscious consists of archetypes.

What is the archetype?

Jung explains that the archetype is essential to understanding the collective unconscious.  He describes archetypes as “patterns of instinctual behavior”.  Additionally, Jung points out that archetypes are not a new ideal; in fact the concept has existed for many years but has been referred to by many various titles such as: motifs, representations collectives, categories of the imagination, elementary, or primordial thoughts.  He states that the archetype “indicates the existence of definite forms in the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere”.  The archetype is present in every culture regardless of race and nationality; therefore, “identical in all individuals”.  Archetypes are only inherited and are not influenced by personal experience.  Jung explains that they only become conscious through awareness.  Furthermore, through the acquired consciousness of the archetypes, the psychic contents are given a more definite form.

According to Adamski (2011), archetypes act like a bridge which connects us to the world of spirit; whereas, instinct connects us with the reality of matter.  The ability to smile, cry, and the infant’s ability to suck as well as other repetitive human behaviors are all archetypal .  Each child has the archetypal genetic potential which is required for the further development of more complex repetitive human behaviors such as choice of partner, ways of perceiving, attitudes, ideas, and cultural norms .  In effect, archetypes are a “reflection of instinctive reaction to certain situations” (Adamski, 2011).

Adamski (2011) describes that archetypes both determine human behavior and are also capable of transforming human personality such that an archetype is able to dominate, control, and destroy it.  As the means of any human action, archetypes can take the form of images, dreams, or other stimulus which precedes action.  According to Adamski (2011), Jung believed “dreams are archetypal guidance and are the wisdom of past generations”.  The psyche can become associated with certain repetitive historical events and “relationships with people are the result of differences in the dominant sphere of archetypal feelings” (Adamski, 2011).  Mythical imagination is penetrated by archetypes, which create depth in our “ever-changing mental mosaic” (Adamski, 2011).  According to Jung, the persona is the most important of archetypes and is that which we direct our entire lives towards.  Although we are never able to reach this ideal, we slowly fuse together aspects of our personality resulting in an increased awareness.  As Adamski (2011) states, “The archetype of the persona drives an individual to self-knowledge, to the development of the psyche, to integration of the personality, and to overcome selfishness, arrogance, careerism, and fear”.

What are the archetypes?

It has been said that the archetypes cannot be listed in their entirety; however, Jung did define three archetypes which have the strongest impact on the human being:

  • The Persona
  • The Shadow
  • The Anima and the Animus

What is the Persona?

The persona is the archetype which faces outward, which allows us to make contact with the outside world.  By adapting the persona to external conditions, we also promote our mental health; however, this cannot take place without having the awareness of it.  The persona serves to regulate between inner and outer realities and serves as a mask of which hides inner insecurities; however, developing a rigid outer mask creates problems in that it then cannot manifest inner realities.  The persona is an aspect of ego and acts as a mask which serves as an attempt to adjust the inner reality in regards to social standards, social values, and behavioral patterns.  According to Adamski (2011), “it is the part of the ego which is situated between three factors: the ideal, I, and the social model of human mental and physical conditions limiting these ideals”.  The individual becomes a puppet if there is no balance between these three factors of the persona; however, a properly balanced persona, “is a flexible structure that mediates between human individuality and social conditions, allowing the contact with society, while protecting human individuality” (Prokopniuk, 1998; Adamski, 2011).

What is the shadow?

The shadow is made up of the negative aspects of personality, is based in the collective unconscious and is instinctive.  Although the shadow passes into unconsciousness and focuses on satisfying the needs of all unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and actions; it is also possible to be aware of the shadow.  The shadow is the moral dilemma which we all face and which challenges the personality.

What is the anima/animus?

The archetype residing in a man which forms his collective notion of femininity as well as his own feminine characteristics is the anima; wheres, the archetype residing in a woman which forms her collective notion of masculinity as well as her own masculine characteristics is the animus.  Interestingly, it is Jung’s belief that all individuals are inherently bisexual.  Both the anima and animus exist in both sexes in which the anima in a female remains at the conscious level; whereas, her animus remains at an unconscious level.  Similarly the animus in a man remains at the conscious level; whereas, his anima remains at an unconscious level.  Both the anima and animus are associated with the shadow due to the aspects of which are not accepted by the ego and that which the conscious does not want to acknowledge.  By recognizing one’s anima or animus, one is able to know the aspects of oneself associated with the opposite sex as well as the shadow or the dark side of our psyche.

How do archetypes achieve consciousness? 

According to Jung, the primary way in which the psychic contents are defined is through dreams.  Jung defines dreams as having  “the advantage of being involuntary, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche“.  Therefore, dreams are pure manifestations of the unconscious.  By discerning that which is known by the individual from his dreams, one can also discern that which is unknown and; therefore, a product of the collective unconscious.  Jung posits that active imagination (sequence of fantasies produced by deliberate concentration) is yet another avenue in which to reach the unconscious mind.  Interestingly, Jung states: “I have found that the existence of unrealized, unconscious fantasies increases the frequency and intensity of dreams, and that when these fantasies are made conscious the dreams change their character and become weaker and less frequent”.  It is Jung’s belief that dreams “contain fantasies which want to become conscious“.


Adamski, A. (2011, September). Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious of Carl G. Jung in the Light of Quantum Psychology. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from

Boeree, G. (2006). Personality Theories. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from (2017). Archetype. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from

Jung, C. (1936). The Concept of the Collective Unconscious. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from

Wikipedia. (2017). Carl Jung. Retrieved February 09, 2017, from

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