16 August 2007

"The Jungian Thing"

Carl Jung developed his own distinctive approach to the study of the human mind. In his early years when working in a Swiss hospital with schizophrenic patients and working with Sigmund Freud and the then burgeoning psychoanalytic community, he took a closer look at the mysterious depths of the human unconscious.

Fascinated by what he saw - and spurred on with even more passion by the experiences and questions of his personal life - he devoted his life to the exploration of the unconscious. Unlike many before him, Jung did not feel that experimenting using natural science was the best means to understand the soul. For him, an empirical investigation of the world of dream, myth, and soul represented the most promising road to deeper understanding.

The overarching goal of Jungian psychology is the reconciliation of the life of the individual with the world of the supra-personal archetypes. Central to this process is the individual's encounter with the unconscious. The human experiences the unconscious through symbols encountered in all aspects of life: in dreams, art, religion, and the symbolic dramas we enact in our relationships and life pursuits. Essential to the encounter with the unconscious, and the reconciliation of the individual's consciousness with this broader world, is learning this symbolic language. Only through attention and openness to this world is the individual able to harmonise their life with these suprapersonal archetypal forces.

The question of opposites has been a key concern of philosophy through the ages. One of the central contributions of Carl Jung was to show how this philosophical concern was also a psychological concern.

While Jung's analytic psychology was a dynamic psychology based around dualities, the concern of opposites came to occupy much of his time toward the end of his life. It was especially important to his research into alchemy and in his last major work Mysterium Coniunctionis which was subtitled "An Inquiry Into The Separation And Synthesis Of Psychic Opposites In Alchemy."

Although duality is the origination of opposition, Jung notes that the polarity is often arranged in a system of four as a quaternio or quaternity. In this way, Jung observes that the two opposites cross one another such as in the four elements or qualities in moist, dry, cold and warm or the four directions of the four seasons. The quaternio is behind the symbolism of the cross.

The system of opposites consists of thousands of opposites but all are based around the key oppostions Jung mentions at the beginning of Mysterium Coniunctionis. These opposites are in perpetual conflict within nature, culture and the life of the individual. During the conflict one becomes dominant for a period then gives way to the dominance of the other. The movement between dominance forms the basis for the dynamics of cyclic movement, the key movement within the system of symbolism.

Each individual contains these opposites. In this sense, each harbors neurosis to a certain extent as well as an artist at a particular time. Each western psyche contains pieces of the eastern psyche. The psyche becomes a battleground of the waring forces and over dominance into consciousness by one of the opposites always means a repression into the unconsciousness of the other. Just as light is needed for darkness so to is darkness needed for light

"The Jungian Thing": Duality in Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket": A Discussion
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?

Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.

Pogue Colonel: Where'd you get it?

Private Joker: I don't remember, sir.

Pogue Colonel: What is that you've got written on your helmet?

Private Joker: "Born to Kill", sir.

Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?!

Private Joker: No, sir.

Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.

Private Joker: Yes, sir.

Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man.

Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.

Pogue Colonel: The what?

Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.

Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Ichorwhip: "The Jungian thing is the distinction between the personal unconscious and the Collective Unconscious. The personal unconscious is composed of an individual's repressed thoughts or feelings. The Collective Unconscious is composed of primordial images found in all of humanity: Jung labelled them archetypes. A cornerstone of his therapeutic approach to psychology was the recognition of the way an individual's personal unconscious integrates, or conflicts with the Collective Unconscious.

In this light, how does Joker's sick joke pan out? If he writes "Born to Kill" on his helmet , it would seem to be a manifestation of the Collective Unconscious, for as Kubrick points out again and again in his films, we have a primordial urge to kill each other. Joker's peace button on his body armor is a symbol of his personal unconscious. "Where'd you get it?" "I don't remember sir." Has Joker repressed the origin of the peace symbol? "

T.D. Juede: "I believe Private Joker was making a statement about how he acknowledges his fate... or that there is no such thing as a mistake. "

David Kirkpatrick: "Private Joker fancies himself an individual... a writer's conceit. Pun on "private joke". But as a journalist for Stars and Stripes he must recite the party line. "

Gordon Dahlquist: "To push the duality stuff a little farther, it should very much be remembered that when Joker actually speaks this little gem:

1) he's talking to a shit-for-brains pogue colonel who knows fuck-all about combat and real life in country.

2) Joker himself is a wise-ass reporter who - when we really get down to it - also knows fuck-all about combat and real life in country.

3) Joker's WHOLE EXISTENCE, from the beginning of the film to the point where he kills the sniper, is all about denying, abstracting, ironizing, distancing the duality within him. "

Mark Ervin: "I think this is a crucial point. Jungian duality is merely another phrase where Joker can demonstrate his aloof superiority: unaware of how his own personality exemplifies the concept. His beating Pyle harder with the soap than anyone else, and then holding his ears to stifle the screams, is a perfect example. "

Ichorwhip: "Joker seems to have an acute sense of the conflict within himself: "I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and kill them.... I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill." Joker reconciles conflicting components of his unconscious experience and achieves a sort of individuation and wholeness of self, albeit in a rather bizarre and ironic manner. "

Gordon Dahlquist: "when he's mouthing off about being "the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill" he's not really embracing anything other than a posture that he hopes will protect him from any deeper risk and investment. Which is to say, his strategy for saving himself is consistently to deny that he exists.

I don't think Joker is accepting of his own duality at all, until the end. It's the killing of the sniper that finally allows him to embrace it, and that embrace is certainly also a gesture of self-destruction. While the comment about the Jungian thing is certainly funny and does reference a central theme of the film, it's also very much spoken within context, and by an unreliable narrator, which are part of the film's own duality of presentation: of the supposedly objective, with the desperately performed. "

Duality in Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" ...continues here

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