Craig Stephenson will be joining us via Zoom on October 30th and 31st to talk about anxiety. In anticipation of his lecture and workshop, he has kindly answered a few questions to help prepare us for the subject matter: W. H. Auden’s Uses of Jung’s Typology to Understand Anxiety.
Thank you, Craig!
You have a tremendously accomplished academic background having studied and practiced in many sought after locations. What was/is the draw to New York?
I arrived to New York with no plan and was asked to direct the training program of the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association (JPA). It was a tremendous experience, and I learned so much more than I could ever give back.
Could you provide a brief description of Jung’s psychological typology?
Jung defined “introversion” and “extraversion” as psychological attitudes, the first oriented inwardly, the second outwardly. Jung differentiated four psychological functions – thinking, feeling or valuing, sensation and intuition. Each of these four can function inwardly or outwardly. So his taxonomy consists of eight functions in total.
Jung acknowledged the limitations of his typology (compared to more differentiated personality inventories), but he preferred the archetypal sense of wholeness evoked by a fourfold system. And he used his typology as a four-pointed compass to orient himself psychologically when he needed to position himself consciously in relation to a patient or a group or an argument.
Most North Americans are familiar with Jung’s psychological types through the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, in which a test score provides you with a profile of your type by identifying your superior function and auxiliary function. Implied in that test score is Jung’s theory of types as one way in which he could describe the individuation process as a movement towards wholeness, not as a completed state of oneness but as experiences of held complexity. Later, he would employ metaphors from alchemy to chart these processes.
Daryl Sharp wrote a very useful Personality Types: Jung’s Model of Typology: https://www.innercitybooks.net/pdf/books/personalitytypes.pdf
The Jungian analyst who best clarifies and extends Jung’s system is John Beebe (in his book, Energies and Patterns in Psychological Type).
Can you give an example of the use of this typology to help us understand the effects of trauma/war on individual and collective psyches?
I will be speaking on Friday evening about how the poet W. H. Auden used Jung’s typology to understand the effect of the Second World War on individual and collective psyches. In his last book-length poem, The Age of Anxiety, Auden dramatically portrays four characters representing Jung’s four functions who meet in a New York City bar during the war. What comes of Auden’s experiment in active imagination to hold together thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition, in the midst of a worldwide crisis? What is the effect of inviting each of the four functions to speak in response to the spirit of the times? We will see.
Trauma provokes dissociation as a stress-induced defense to protect the psyche from unbearable suffering. Dissociative splitting is a defensive strategy, but it requires an incredible amount of psychological energy to maintain. Jung warned that asking shell-shocked World War I veterans to recount their traumatic experiences could rewound them, that the purging of difficult emotions would not suffice therapeutically. It is often, while contained in a psychotherapeutic frame, the sufferer of trauma witnesses an image or symbol generated tentatively on the horizon between consciousness and the unconscious by the inferior function, that presages the possibility of a movement towards reconnecting.
How are the noxious effects of fascism related to this typology?
Working with typology requires an ego strong enough to endure tension, tolerate difference and process complexity. Fascism promises relief from anxiety by sidestepping individuation, by replacing conscious complexity with unconscious singular devotion to a charismatic hero-leader/autocrat who promises a return to an old order, a simple, idealized often nationalistic past (that in fact was neither orderly nor simple).
Using the “modern day” or DSMV definition of anxiety, how do you feel COVID is affecting us as individuals as well as the collective?
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased exponentially our anxiety, The individual and collective suffering is horrific. We can look to philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, cognitive psychology, and analytical psychology to help us understand our anxious responses. Reading Camus’s The Plague gives us images that resonate with our experience, as if to say, this is how humans have responded individually and collectively to such dilemmas in the past. Reading the DSM-V gives us diagnostic criteria with which to understand when anxiety so disorders our lives that it needs treatment.
With regard to COVID-19, we still do not understand how the virus spreads, its short-term and long-term effects, what a test result signifies, to what extent vaccines will work and when will they be available in 2021. As someone who lived in the epicenter of New York during a lockdown, for the moment I continue to respond with concrete sensate imperatives: in order to protect oneself and to protect others, wear a mask inside and outside, wash hands often, and practise social distancing.
To learn more or to register for Craig’s lecture Friday, October 30th and workshop Saturday, October 31st, please visit our website: