The Stages of Life According to Carl Jung (2022)

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) did not formulate a specific stage theory of the human life cycle as did his mentor Sigmund Freud who theorized about the stages of psycho-sexual development (oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital). However, throughout his life he gave us hints and insights into the chronological features of the human life span.

In an essay he wrote in 1931 entitled ”The Stages of Life,” (from ”The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche,” Volume 8, The Collected Works of Carl Jung), Jung used the metaphor of the sun sweeping across the horizon to characterize the lifespan. He writes: “In the morning it rises from the nocturnal sea of unconsciousness and looks upon the wide, bright world which lies before it in an expanse that steadily widens the higher it climbs in the firmament” (p. 397). Beneath the horizon in this model lies the collective unconscious, that universal repository of instinctual images or archetypes that are an integral part of the human psyche, and which are discernible in certain dreams of individuals, and also in important motifs found in world mythology and religion.

Children, in Jung’s view, emerge from this collective unconscious like the rising sun, still having a connection with it during the first few years of life, a phenomenon which can be seen in certain archetypal or Big dreams of young children. Jung emphasized, however, that children need to put this archetypal experience behind them in order to develop their conscious egos so that they can adapt to the world around them.

Jung also observed that children, in their unconscious state, exist in what he called a participation mystique(a term borrowed from the French anthropologist Lévy-Bruhl) or a state of undifferentiated psychological unity with their parents’ unconscious. In fact, he often treated the neurotic complaints of his child patients by analyzing the dreams of the parents, and said that much of a child’s early difficulties in adapting to the world was due to the unlived lives of the parents.

(Video) Carl Jung: The Stages of LIFE and their PROBLEMS

Jung believed the awareness of very young children exists only as ”islands” of consciousness in an anarchic or chaotic state. It then evolves into the development of an ego-complex (which he characterized as a monarchic or monistic stage). Finally consciousness develops into a divided, or dualistic state (he wrote: ”the inner division with one self, arises when, side by side with the series of ego-contents, a second series of equal intensity comes into being . . we might call it another second ego which can on occasion even wrest the leadership from the first” (p. 391).

According to Jung, consciousness that is fully differentiated from the parents normally takes place only at puberty, with the eruption of sexuality. He suggested that this important phase of differentiation has been instinctively recognized by indigenous cultures in their development of rites of initiation for young adolescents, which serve to tear them away from their parents both physically and psychologically and introduce them to the spiritual values and adult roles of the culture.

After puberty, the next broad stage that Jung characterized was that of youth (from just after puberty to middle life at thirty-five to forty). This is a stage that pits the developed ego against the demands of life, which Jung stated can ”harshly put an end to the dream of childhood.” He notes that “if the individual is sufficiently well prepared, the transition to a profession or career can take place smoothly” (p. 392). But this can also be a difficult time of adaptation if there are ”exaggerated expectations, underestimation of difficulties, unjustified optimism, or a negative attitude” (p. 392). Similarly, disturbances of psychic equilibrium caused by the sexual instinct, or feelings of inferiority, can also make these years of early adulthood highly problematic.

What is often the key difficulty in such situations, according to Jung, is the desire to cling to the earlier stage of childhood. He writes: “Something in us wishes to remain a child, to be unconscious or, at most, conscious only of the ego, to reject everything strange, or else subject it to our will, to do nothing, or else indulge our own craving for pleasure or power” (p. 393).

(Video) The Stages of Life, by Carl Jung (audiobook)

The next important stage or phase, to use Jung’s sun metaphor, is when the sun reaches the high point of its arc across the sky; when it is at ”high noon” or ”mid-life.” Jung is probably the first thinker in the western psychological tradition to discern the existence of a ”mid-life crisis” (decades before Gail Sheehy’s book Passages, turned it into a household term). Mid-life signals the entrance into what Jung called ”the second half of life.”

Most of his work regarding human development actually focuses on the psychological work to be done during this second half of life. He made a point of emphasizing that the second half of life calls to the fore a different and often compensatory set of values, goals, needs, and priorities from the first half of life. If the first half of life, for example, involved a lot of social striving, professional goals, and focus on self-aggrandizement, then the second half of life should focus more on familial relations, spiritual aspirations, and/or other more humanistic values. Jung writes: ”Often it is something like a slow change in a person’s character; in another case, certain traits may come to light which had disappeared since childhood, or again, one’s previous inclinations and interests begin to weaken and others take their place” (p. 395). Compensatory changes also can take place with respect to gender identity, as males develop both physical and psychological traits of the female, while females assume a more masculine inclination and physiognomy.

Then there is the season of life when the sun starts to sink toward the horizon. Jung devoted a lot of attention, especially in his own later years, to an articulation of the problems and opportunities of old age. He again was one of the first psychological thinkers to see the positive dimensions of aging, while still acknowledging the presence of debilitation, loss, and discontent. He wrote: “A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning” (p. 399).

In Jung’s later work, he would place a lot of emphasis on the importance of ”individuation” during these later years, where the ego that was so earnestly constructed and held onto in the first half of life, needs to recede in importance, and come into line with one’s larger view of life, incorporating a vital connection with the personal and collective unconscious, a constellation that he termed the Self. He also recognized the importance of old age to culture, noting how in most cultures old people have always been the guardians of the mysteries and the laws.

(Video) The Stages of Life | Reading Carl Jung

Finally, comes death itself, and Jung addressed himself to the attitudes that an older person can attach to his own demise. He put a lot of emphasis on an individual cultivating an attitude where they actually look ahead to death in a sense, using their religious, spiritual, philosophical, or aesthetic sensibilities to help them cope with this major life experience. Especially for those who have not developed much of themselves (where ”too much unlived life remains”), he suggests that ”it is particularly fatal for such people to look back.” He continues: ”I am convinced that it is hygienic . . . to discover in death a goal toward which one can strive, and that shrinking away from it is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose” (p. 402).

For more information on Jung’s work on human development, and the rites of passage that cultures have fashioned for the different stages of life, see my book The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of LifeThe Stages of Life According to Carl Jung (2).

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What are the 4 stages of Jungian analysis? ›

Jung described the process of transformation as being a four step process that includes Confession, Elucidation, Education and Transformation. These four steps are described by him in his paper Problems of modern psychotherapy which is featured in Volume 16 as well as his book Modern man in search of a soul.

What are the 4 main archetypes in the theory of Carl Jung? ›

Jung claimed to identify a large number of archetypes but paid special attention to four. Jung labeled these archetypes the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus.

What is the meaning of life according to Carl Jung? ›

Carl Jung in his last days – The sole purpose of life human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. “The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”

What was Carl Jung's main theory? ›

Carl Jung's theory is the collective unconscious. He believed that human beings are connected to each other and their ancestors through a shared set of experiences. We use this collective consciousness to give meaning to the world.

What is Carl Jung's theory of personality? ›

Jung believed that the human psyche had three parts: the ego, personal unconscious and collective unconscious. Finally, his dream analysis was broader than Freud's, as Jung believed that symbols could mean different things to different people.

What are the four stages of individuation? ›

The four stages or phases chosen for the individuation process are: the persona, the shadow, the anima, and the self. and the phase and Homer's The Odyssey and the character of Odysseus.

What are the 12 archetypes according to Jung? ›

There are twelve brand archetypes: The Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.

What are the 8 types of personalities? ›

Jung's 8 Personality Types
  • Extraverted Thinking.
  • Introverted Thinking.
  • Extraverted Feeling.
  • Introverted Feeling.
  • Extraverted Sensation.
  • Introverted Sensation.
  • Extraverted Intuition.
  • Introverted Intuition.
27 Jan 2020

What is the shadow according to Jung? ›

Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality. According to Jung, the shadow, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else.

How do you realize your true potential in life Carl Jung? ›

Carl Jung - How To Realize Your True Potential In Life (Jungian Philosophy)

What is the first half of life? ›

“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” On Deck's Quote of the Week: “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”

Why is Carl Jung important? ›

Jung proposed and developed the concepts of the extraverted and the introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, literature, and related fields.

What are Jung's four functions of the mind? ›

In his book, he noted four main psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. He introduced them with having either an internally focused (introverted) or externally focused (extraverted) tendency which he called "attitudes".

What are the two major attitudes according to Jung? ›

These functions are modified by two main attitude types: extraversion and introversion. Jung proposes that the dominant function, along with the dominant attitude, characterizes consciousness, while its opposite is repressed and characterizes the unconscious.

What did Jung say about dreams? ›

Jung saw dreams as the psyche's attempt to communicate important things to the individual, and he valued them highly, perhaps above all else, as a way of knowing what was really going on. Dreams are also an important part of the development of the personality – a process that he called individuation.

What are the 3 Jung preferences? ›

Jung meant that people was defined by their characteristics within the following three groups: Extraversion – introversion. Sensing – intuition. Thinking – feeling.

What are the three structures of Jung's personality? ›

Jung believed that the human psyche was composed of three components: The ego. The personal unconscious. The collective unconscious.

Is Jungian psychology real? ›

A certified Jungian therapist is a licensed mental health professional who has completed advanced training in a program accredited by the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP).

How do you practice Jungian psychology? ›

Jungian psychology is practiced through a form of analytical talk therapy.
Some of these techniques are:
  1. Confession and catharsis.
  2. Assessing personality type.
  3. Dream interpretation.
  4. Dream journaling.
  5. Creative Experiences.
30 Aug 2022

What happens if you don't individuate? ›

A lack of individuation can also lead to co-dependence, problematic romantic, familial, and professional relationships, difficulty with independent decision-making, and a sense of aimlessness in life.

Where do the 12 archetypes come from? ›

Famous psychologist Carl Jung sought to explain the human psyche. In doing so, he realized 12 character archetypes found across different cultures and seen in different periods. He believed these 12 archetypes resided in our collective unconscious and were ultimately something we all have in common.

What did Carl Jung mean by the archetype of the hero? ›

The hero symbolizes a man's unconscious self, and this manifests itself empirically as the sum total of all archetypes and therefore includes the archetype of the father and of the wise old man. To that extent the hero is his own father and his own begetter.

What are Carl Jung 8 personality types? ›

Jung identified eight main personality types:
  • Extraverted Thinking. Principled, idealistic, objective, rational.
  • Introverted Thinking. Influenced by ideas, independent, often fearful of intimacy.
  • Extraverted Feeling. ...
  • Introverted Feeling. ...
  • Extraverted Sensation. ...
  • Introverted Sensation. ...
  • Extraverted Intuition. ...
  • Introverted Intuition.

What does Jung mean by ego? ›

The ego. Jung saw the ego as the centre of the field of consciousness which contains our conscious awareness of existing and a continuing sense of personal identity. It is the organiser of our thoughts and intuitions, feelings, and sensations, and has access to memories which are not repressed.

Why are there 16 personality types? ›

The 16 personality types were created by Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs, developers of the MBTI® assessment. Myers and Briggs created their personality typology to help people discover their own strengths and gain a better understanding of how people are different.

How do I access my shadow self? ›

How to start shadow work
  1. Decide if you'll seek therapy or do shadow work on your own. ...
  2. Practice spotting your inner shadow. ...
  3. Think back to your childhood. ...
  4. Avoid shaming (or being ashamed of) your shadow. ...
  5. Meditate to observe your triggers. ...
  6. Keep a shadow journal. ...
  7. Express your inner shadow artistically. ...
  8. Start an inner dialogue.
13 Jun 2022

What is our dark side? ›

What is it? The 'dark side' is the part of the self that lies hidden in the shadows of our personality. We are often surprised to learn that it exists and it is usually a part of ourselves that we would rather deny – a sort of motived forgetting.

How do you know your dark side? ›

One of the best ways to identify your shadow is to pay attention to your emotional reactions toward other people. Sure, your colleagues might be aggressive, arrogant, inconsiderate, or impatient, but if you don't have those same qualities within you, you won't have a strong reaction to their behavior.

What is self actualization according to Jung? ›

Most, if not all, people have several archetypes at play in their personality construct. Jung postulated that each person carries dominate archetypes within. It is through Jung's process of psychoanalysis that he encourages self-examination to identify them. This is how self-actualization occurs.

Where should I start reading Carl Jung? ›

If I were asked by a beginner what work to start with among Jung's oeuvre, I would suggest The Undiscovered Self first, followed by Jung's memoir, and C.G. Jung Speaking. These would give a basic sense of both the man and his perspective.

How do I discover my true potential? ›

Reaching Your Potential
  1. Know Yourself. Write down your 2–3 greatest strengths and weaknesses. ...
  2. Excel at Critical Activities. Identify the 3–4 activities essential for success in your desired or current role. ...
  3. Demonstrate Character and Leadership.

At what age is your life half over? ›

If you measure your life this way, in "perceived" time rather than actual time, half of your "perceived life" is over by age 7. If you factor in the fact that you don't remember much of your first three years, then half of your perceived life is over by the time you turn 18, Kiener writes.

What age is second part of life? ›

The first third of our lives (0-21) is all about learning- from our parents, grandparents, teachers, siblings, and friends. The second third of our lives (22-44) is all about career, and family.

What is Second Half life? ›

In Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, Hollis explores the ways we can grow and evolve to fully become ourselves when the traditional roles of adulthood aren't quite working for us, revealing a new way of uncovering and embracing our authentic selves.

What is Carl Jung's most important work? ›

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious is one of Jung's central works. There are many illustrations in full colour. Psychological Types is one of Jung's most important and most famous works.

Who is the father of psychology? ›

Wilhelm Wundt was a German psychologist who established the very first psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879. This event is widely recognized as the formal establishment of psychology as a science distinct from biology and philosophy.

What happens in Jungian analysis? ›

At its fundamental level, Jungian psychotherapy, also referred to as Jungian analysis, is a thorough, analytical approach to talk therapy that seeks to bring balance and union between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind.

What is the primary goal in Jungian analysis? ›

The goal of Jungian analysis is what Jung called individuation. Individuation refers to the achievement of a greater degree of consciousness regarding the totality of the person's psychological, interpersonal and cultural experiences.

What is the warrior phase? ›

The Warrior Stage is a phase of life where we feel the need to prove ourselves, and we find ourselves comparing and competing with others. We also want to acquire the things we desire — however immature or shallow those desires may be — and we want to accomplish, conquer, and attain.

What is Jungian analysis therapy? ›

Jungian therapy, or Jungian analysis,* is a type of psychodynamic psychotherapy which utilizes the instinctual motivation for psychological development in addition to those of love and power. The goal is to achieve psychological healing and wellness by aligning conscious and unconscious aspects of the personality.

Is Jungian psychology real? ›

A certified Jungian therapist is a licensed mental health professional who has completed advanced training in a program accredited by the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP).

How do you practice Jungian psychology? ›

Jungian psychology is practiced through a form of analytical talk therapy.
Some of these techniques are:
  1. Confession and catharsis.
  2. Assessing personality type.
  3. Dream interpretation.
  4. Dream journaling.
  5. Creative Experiences.
30 Aug 2022

How effective is Jungian psychology? ›

Results of several studies show that Jungian treatment moves patients from a level of severe symptoms to a level where one can speak of psychological health. These significant changes are reached by Jungian therapy with an average of 90 sessions, which makes Jungian psychotherapy an effective and cost-effective method.

What is Jungian therapy best? ›

Jungian therapy can help improve the lives of those with depression, anxiety, grief, phobias, relationship or trauma issues, low self-esteem, or other emotional problems.

What is Jungian psychology called? ›

Analytical psychology (German: Analytische Psychologie, sometimes translated as analytic psychology and referred to as Jungian analysis) is a term coined by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, to describe research into his new "empirical science" of the psyche.

What happens blue phase? ›

The final phase of BCT—the Blue, or Warrior, Phase—will build your individual tactical training, increase your leadership skills and self-discipline, and improve your understanding of teamwork. It will also include challenges and tests you'll have to pass in order to graduate from BCT.

What are the four stages of life changing events? ›

The four goals of life that are deemed worthy of pursuit are (1) Dharma, (2) artha, (3) Kama, (4) moksha. The four stages of life, mainly for the men of the household are (1) sisya, or brahmacarya, (2) Grihastha, (3) vanaprastha, and (4) samnyasa.

How did Jung interpret dreams? ›

Jung saw dreams as the psyche's attempt to communicate important things to the individual, and he valued them highly, perhaps above all else, as a way of knowing what was really going on. Dreams are also an important part of the development of the personality – a process that he called individuation.

What is the Jungian inner self? ›

The crossword clue Jungian inner self with 5 letters was last seen on the January 21, 2021. We think the likely answer to this clue is ANIMA.

What's the difference between Freud and Jung? ›

Freud and Jung initially developed their theories together. However the two had some major disagreements that separated psychoanalysis into two schools of thought. Freud paid close attention to human behavior and repressed emotions. Conversely, Jung believed that the human psyche was more multifaceted.


1. Carl Jung: The Stages of Life
(52 Living Ideas)
2. The Stages of Life, by Carl Jung
3. Carl Jung's 4 Stages of Life
(Jared Chan)
4. Carl Jung Stages of Life (1930) Full Essay Read and what it means
(Michael Kuhlman)
5. Carl Jung - How To Realize Your True Potential In Life (Jungian Philosophy)
(Philosophies for Life)
6. Carl Jung Fan Fiction: Diagramming Problems & Solution in The Stages of Life
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