Persönlichkeitscharakter as structural principle

If not a subjective field, then what could be a plausible candidate for a structural principle on which the notion of a psychological individual can be based? (A principle, that is, which “expresses the whole” and “holds it together”?)

It’s in answer to this question (remember, we are still reconstructing the argument of the individuation essay, GW IX/I, §§ 489-524) that Jung now (§§ 507-509) sketches his own view: the whole of a psychological individual has personality (or, as he sometimes puts it in slight terminological variation, a “person-like character”: Persönlichkeitscharakter).

This, however, is an unusual notion of personality, to say the least. For one thing, it is explicitly distinct from the personality of the waking ego (the conscious personality):

Persönlichkeit setzt nicht mit Notwendigkeit Bewußtsein voraus. Sie kann ja auch schlafen oder träumen. […] Es scheint eine Persönlichkeit zu sein, die nie wach war und sich nie eines gelebten Lebens und einer Eigenkontinuität bewußt war.

GW IX/I, §§ 508, 509; Jung’s emphasis

There are three things we should examine with respect to this view: first, the clue which Jung uses to introduce it; secondly, the evidence he brings to support it (keeping in mind that the essay is just an overview, and there can obviously be no detailed argument, just pointers); and thirdly, whether it can play the role in psychological theory for which Jung has developed it: namely, that of a structural principle which can “express the whole” and “hold it together”.

First then, the clue that Jung uses in the individuation essay comes from dissociation cases: “Bei fast allen wichtigen Dissoziationen nehmen die Manifestationen des Unbewußten starken Persönlichkeitscharakter an.” (§ 507.) That this is to be understood as merely a clue is immediately clarified, however, as Jung notes the fragmentary character of such contents (i.e., the “second personalities” that appeared in the dissociation cases).

Compared to that, secondly, Jung sketches the autonomous complexes from his archetypal psychology (Anima and Shadow; §§ 511-514); and here he notes their personified appearance both in his own account and that of the tradition (of a contrasexual and suppressed personality, resp.), the personifications in dreams and fantasies, and the characters of fiction (such as Hoffmann’s Medardus) that portray them. He additionally points out their autonomous character (§ 516).

Although Jung doesn’t make it explicit, it seems clear that he takes these to be summaries of empirical material from the tradition of psychotherapy (and psychiatry) from within which he writes. (To repeat, we’re reconstructing these arguments in order to get clear about the status of each of the premises and claims Jung makes.)

He then also returns once more to the important distinction of this personality character (in the autonomous complexes, and in the supposed whole of a psychological individual) from the ego consciousness:

Sie bilden eine Art von merkwürdigen Wesenheiten, die man mit Ichbewußtsein ausstatten möchte; sie scheinen fast dazu fähig. Doch diese Idee findet durch die Tatsachen keine Bestätigung. (GW IX/I, § 517)

Again, it seems clear at this point that the “facts” (“die Tatsachen”) refer to case material from psychotherapeutic (and psychiatric) practice: they’re empirical statements in Jung’s view (although characteristically blended with phenomenological description).

Thus, thirdly, we should be clear that the theoretical function this personality character might play cannot be that of a subjective field (ego consciousness), but must be distinct from that. One (perhaps surprising) immediate consequence of this is that the whole cannot be recognized as such introspectively: there is no internal psychological marker to indicate that a given content “expresses the whole”. Rather, the expression of the whole (and what “holds it together”) can only be given from a third-person perspective (i.e., typically in Jung, phenomenologically). At this point, the argument of the individuation essay moves into the territory of the second of the Two Essays, and thus more into questions of the individuation process and its formations.

By Leif Frenzel

Leif Frenzel is a writer and independent researcher. He has a background in philosophy, literature, music, and information technology. His recent interest is Jungian psychology, especially synchronicities and the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

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