Pictured above is a model of the psyche that I saw in Joseph Campbell’s Mythos series, a recording of his lectures about mythology and folklore. Campbell based this model on the work of pioneer psychotherapist C.G. Jung, who studied dreams and concluded that they generated symbols. These symbols could be deciphered to reveal the workings of the mind, the shape of a worldview, and the driving force behind a motivation.
Many of the concepts are illustrated above. The circle represents the mind. The ego, which carries a stigma of arrogance or unfocused narrow-mindedness, is merely (in much of philosophy) the standpoint of existence and being. That cannot be dissolved, and it would be unhealthy to even try to dissolve it. Within this model, that state of being is served by the self in the center of the circle, acting as the spoke of the wheel of all personal experience. The ego, also within this model, is the function of structure and reasoning, which isn’t a bad thing because many of us must still function well within social constructs.
Basically, if a person did not have an ego, for example if I didn’t have an ego, then I would 1.) be unable to use that pronoun, 2.) be catatonic, in a brain-dead body, deceased, or C.) turquoise bicycle shoe fins actualize radishes greenly
By that last bit, I mean that I would not make any sense. Even the nonsense to demonstrate that idea makes too much sense to truly demonstrate what making no sense would be.
On the line connecting the self to the outside world are projections. These are distortions in how we relate to the outside world. The real world is represented by the tree, the stick figures of people, and some four-legged perky-eared animal. The projection of the mind is represented by a swirly bracket.
Projections are not reality, and might even be defined by how far off from reality these projections can be. At the same time, everybody generates projections. I think of it as, when our sub-conscious has absorbed enough information to form a conviction about something, then that overflows into the real world.
This can be demonstrated through thematic apperception tests, where a single drawing of people or characters in action can be interpreted in a myriad of ways depending on the beholder’s personal biases.
This process differs from the ego which takes information and categorizes it in a reasoning process, generating opinions rather than convictions. The distinction I make is how the components of an opinion are often considered and examined whereas the sub-conscious mind does not naturally invite such examination, forming convictions that are not thought but felt—if they are even noticed at all, usually being taken for granted as true.
The concept of a psychological projection as a phenomenon carries some troubling implications. For instance, why not just re-calibrate the projection to always see the world in the way that we want most? Everything is only a perception, after all. It also becomes appallingly easy to dismiss the life experiences of those who suffer social injustices with, “You’re just projecting. It has nothing to do with me and I’m not doing anything with whatever distortion you’ve contrived.”
In the Mythos lecture, Campbell did allow for the possibility of clarifying the distortion and coming to terms with reality—This is not, then, to be taken as an impossible goal or even an inhuman one.
Within this model, too, the causes of projections can be mapped, which Campbell referred to as systems. These systems are called the shadow, anima and animus—and, emphatically, these systems were set into motion by the initial experiences of reality that conditioned us.
I plan to write a lot more about working through these systems of the sub-conscious, because there is a lot more. Basically, though, The Shadow is everything that we were taught and conditioned not to be…but we are that, anyway. The Anima and Animus are systems for how we relate to or interact with other people.
Finally, the persona is how a person represents their self to the world. This persona can be so different from the rest of the self and psyche that it’s basically living the pretentious and manipulative lie of a fake faker who fakes things. Or, this persona can be so closely-identified with that the result can be a person who is sincere, but too shallow to be authentic, or perhaps any harm to reputation or legacy would devastate them emotionally and steal their life purpose away. A persona can be disregarded entirely, and such individuals can be profoundly damaged in their attempt at raw honesty with a world that would misunderstand them anyway, and/or be unable to function in society because they’d go naked to a black-tie-ballgown party if the weather were too warm for clothing.
A healthier compromise would be the ability to change the persona when the situation calls for it. Whatever its characteristics, a persona is chosen and constructed: consciously taken on, or consciously rejected.
Campbell’s model had more symbols layering the persona, representing societal pressures and influences, but for now I think this will do.
This is how I understand the mind. Or maybe I misunderstand it.