Of Freud, Jung and the Law

The perspective that the law and religious precepts arise solely from and primarily serve the interests of those in power (e.g., the government or church) is very much in line with Sigmund Freud’s conception of the personality. To clarify, let’s examine his division of the personality into three structural parts: the ego, the superego, and the id.

The id is the reservoir of the primal animal instincts and urges. It is oriented towards pleasure, according to Freud, and seeks immediate satisfaction of its desires for food, sexual gratification, power etc. But, in order for humans to exist fairly cooperatively in a community, the id must be checked, regulated and restrained. Enter the superego.

The superego is our social conscience. It is the law-giver and rule-maker of the personality. It is the part of the personality that seeks acceptance and cooperation within a community since without this cooperation and acceptance the individual might be rejected, shunned, banished or killed.

The ego is our conscious mind and identity. It is also the executive branch of the personality.  Its job is to mediate between the demands of the superego and the id. It works to accommodate the demands of both as much as possible. It is the mediator, decider and enactor of the various compromises it comes up with.

Freud’s viewpoint is backwards looking. Morals are grounded in the history of evolution—what has worked or not worked for society or a species in the past.

Conceptualizing the personality in this way one easily arrives at the conclusion that human beings are primarily animals, or a collection of instinctual drives and hungers directed towards pleasure and the survival of the species. Law, religion and other social mores are essentially artificial, man-made structures built to keep individual impulses under control. Each individual stands as an ego sandwiched between their own instinctual impulses and the ever-evolving rules and morals developed and imposed by the culture or society they grew up in. It flows from this perspective that people obey laws and rein in their impulses only, or primarily, because of the threat of external punishment or social disapproval.

Carl Jung in no way turned a blind eye to the dark side of human nature—humankind’s capacity for self-destructive acts, cruelty, carnage and egocentric power drives. He recognized the need for laws and social mores, however he also recognized a deeper background force within the psyche and within nature at large which seeks wholeness and healing of the personality. Just as there is an inherent wisdom manifest in the body which guides its growth and healing, so there is a corresponding guidance system within the psyche as a whole. Jung called this psychic center and organizing principle the Self.

Dreams are one channel through which the Self guides an individual to greater psychological and spiritual wholeness, or completion. Dreams provide guidance and correction to the decisions we make or the attitudes we hold. And when we are not getting the message or making the intended changes, they repeat themselves. Alternatively, the psyche may find another way to get the message across, such as through synchronicities, physical and psychological symptoms, or other life events. Thus, it appears that there is a moral code that arises organically from within rather than imposed solely from without. In fact, your inner moral compass may direct you to an action that goes against the moral zeitgeist.

From the perspective of Jungian psychology, psychological development of the human species favors the development of just governments and laws because a certain level of structure within a society serves the creative and healing energies within each individual and the universe itself. The soul does not serve the law; rather, it is the law which is meant to serve the soul. Of course, if we follow this reasoning to its logical end, we arrive at the disconcerting conclusion that sometimes even lawyers and politicians can be instruments of God.

Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
Excerpts may be used provided full and clear credit is given author with link to original article.

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