Become an Idea Therapist: Supporting the Growth and Well-Being of Ideas
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Before diving into the novel aspects of providing therapy for ideas, we need to introduce the process of individuation itself, and then we can make sense of how this way of thinking can be applied to diagnose, improve and support non - human intelligences, i.e. ecological or political systems, the spirit of a technology, or even the gods we worship/ worshipped.
Providing therapy to ideas, just like how therapy works for us, can give us a better understanding of the non-human “patient”, to better enable us to work with the patient to support it’s flourishment.
Jungian Individuation Process
C.G Jung, father of analytic psychology, psychoanalysis, archetypes, personality metrics, synchronicity.... the list is endless, coined the term individuation as one of the founding blocks of his clinical psychology practices. It's a process of self-realization; the experience of a (typically human) individual distinguishing themselves from the homogenous soup of archetypes and meaning of the collective unconscious.
On the topic of collective unconscious, Jung also managed to introduce this impressive concept as the theory for where the structure of meaning itself comes from.
"The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind's evolution born anew in the brain structure of every individual." - Jung.
The very quick TLDR course on the collective unconscious is that this is the DNA of meaning itself, the imaginal "dimension" that houses archetypes, which the spirit of the time or zeitgeist (thankyou Hegel) “uses” as a reference point for contextualizing meaning itself. It is the depths of the iceberg, and conscious reality is the tip.
There are a hypothetical infinite amount of archetypes, mostly unknown, but the most obvious and recurring ones that Jung often referred to in reference to humanity include ideas like the trickster or the divine feminine spirit. In different times and cultures, both the trickster and divine feminine spirit have been embodied with different representations, aligned with their spirit of the time.
For instance, the trickster, who was once thought of as a cheeky god Loki in Norse mythology, was more of a devil figure in Christian mythology. The divine feminine spirit is associated with snakes and a weather omen in Cuban mythology, and in Hindu mythology it is also associated with a snake but less to do with weather and more to do with spiritual harmony. Same root archetype in the collective unconscious - different interpretations and forms in time and culture.
Human nature can also be considered an archetype of the collective unconscious, and the individuation process of a human is to become self aware of one’s place relative to the collective human archetype. In Plato terms, this human nature would be referred to as the human spirit; and every individual is one aspect or embodiment of the human spirit.
The process of individuation is in realizing the distinction of oneself from the human spirit, and becoming cognizant of the archetypes that are dominant in one’s own personality; monitoring the balances, or lack thereof, of the active archetypes in one’s sense of self.
The benefits of this process is to increase the individual's consciousness, via assimilating the individual's collective unconscious, conscious mind and sense of identity. With greater consciousness, individuals have a holistic well-being effect, and greater agency in the world to express their will and navigate the world in a constructive manner, bringing them wholeness in their psyche.
An individual who has a sense of wholeness, and is in touch with their collective unconscious is a more powerful agent than if they were in conflict with themselves. Their energy can be focused on a pro-active constructive vision, rather than in a flux of repairing imbalances and wrestling with the self.
The clinical setting between a patient or client and their therapist, creates a dynamic where both the patient and therapist come closer to an understanding of the patients individuation process. By going through this process together, the therapist is capable of evaluating, analyzing, and predicting the behavior of the patient or client, and guide them on a path that matches their authentic self and help them realize their true potential.
How can we apply this individuation therapy, the foundation of psychoanalysis, to non-human intelligence, like technologies, political systems, or ecologies?
The first step, as with most breakthroughs in Jungian philosophy, is in the imagination. Treating non-human intelligence forms as having a life of their own, albeit distinct from our own, is the entry point to understanding the nature of non-human collective unconscious states or spirits.
We don’t have to go that far down the animist rabbit hole (believing that all things are alive) to better comprehend the nature of the ideas around us. We can also apply the archetypes in our lives to the non-human entities that we interact with.
For instance, we can think of how the divine feminine spirit, or trickster archetypes would be embodied by a technology like artificial intelligence. The divine feminine spirit for an artificial intelligence may be it’s power source, the power plants that we created to sustain them. The trickster could be embodied by a virus, or an adversarial neural network (yes that’s a thing) used for artificial intelligence software to compete against itself to make it sharper and more accurate.
Just as how we can predict that an encounter with the trickster archetype will cause some upheaval in the individual (perhaps necessary upheaval), we can also understand how the trickster spirit will interact with a non-human entity. In this case imagine artificial intelligence engaged with a virus. We can have an easier time diagnosing the causes of a virus, if we apply the same metaphor of how a trickster influence is invited into a person’s life - i.e. because they needed some chaos to improve some aspects of their existence, or they were negligent and allowed some trickster influences into its immediate network.
Maybe the AI is doing something similar in a metaphorical sense.
The divine feminine spirit may be embodied by the people who founded a political system and nurtured the system in its infancy, while the trickster could be a political system’s protesters. Treating the protesters of a political system as a trickster archetype, rather than an adversary, can even turn the creative processes into a constructive one; i.e. determining how to ally the protesters or leverage their criticism for the strengthening of the political system, rather than how to repress them.
The cornerstone of Jungian Individuation is in being able to acknowledge that all archetypes will exist in some form, and repression of emerging themes will inevitably lead to more violent resistance from those emerging themes. Every archetype wants attention - the optimal strategy is managing how to give it that attention while being constructive.
For every concept, there is an equivalent system of archetypes with their own dimensions of collective unconscious from which the concept arises. When we encounter an idea or concept in a way of trying to understand it’s individuation process and how the specific concept represents it’s relative “collective essence”, we activate the depths of our own collective unconscious and engage with a creative force within ourselves that is much greater than any reductionist approach could have.
Encountering the “spirit” of another idea, integrates that idea’s essence into your own, allowing you to even dream about the nature of the idea while processing your own unconscious thoughts.
You don’t need to believe that ideas are sentient to see the benefits of evaluating an idea as if it were a sentient patient in an individuation process. Understanding an idea at it's individuated best, will help you grasp the essence of the idea, it’s trajectory, desires, intentions, strengths and weaknesses. It will also help the idea reach its peak and increase it’s agency.
At Sentient Idea we’ve developed a framework for understanding the individuation process of ideas, which incorporates Jungian Philosophy, Animism, Mysticism and Platonic Philosophy so that you can also start engaging with ideas in the depths of your own unconscious mind. You can navigate the framework here, or read more about how to navigate the framework and how it works with the philosophy here.
If we go far enough, we may even find archetypes that only exist in the intelligences of other forms…. Like an archetype that only exists in artificial intelligence, or only emerges from a combination of political thoughts or supernatural events. These things probably happen very often, but due to our limited human perceptions, we are only able to really understand the archetypes that are prevalent in our own lives. Some have claimed to have encountered non-human archetypes, maybe under the influence of an entheogen, or during near death experiences. But that’s the topic for another article!