Symbolism allows for an expression that at times may be taken for granted, especially since we encounter and engage with symbolism on a frequent basis. As I find myself spending time with the concept of symbolism, I am focused on how the addict can experience symbols, as well as how an individual within the throws of addiction can perceive the affect-based element of a symbol. What I am referring to is the significance of the language we use, and the deeper meanings that are evoked based on our chose of words and personal associations to them. It is the significance of what a symbol pulls from our unconscious and seemingly estranged depths that I find so intriguing. Just as our words can evoke emotional responses, a similar experience occurs through the symbolic expression of art.
From the reading I encountered and dusted from the shelves when writing The Images of Emotion and Symbolic Representations, Projections, Addiction, and Other I had found myself lead to a statement presented by Jung (1966/1978):
a “creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the finished work by giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life. Therein lies the social significance of art: it is constantly at work educating the spirit of age, conjuring up the forms in which the age is most lacking” (p. 82).
What had lured me towards the thoughts of art was the idea of sensation and that of feeling. “Sensation is the psychological function that mediates the perception of a physical stimulus. It is therefore identical with perception” (Jung, 1921/1990, p. 461). And the perceptions that one may have towards what has evoked feeling may provide an attitude towards the felt sensations. Yet what attitude might we extract from the projective qualities of our experience of art? We might say that to witness art, the individual’s lens of interpretation captures an experience of projection that are thrown upon it. Here the art can lead one to “follow his[her] own yearning far from the beaten path, and to discover what it is that would meet the unconscious needs of his [her] age” (Jung, 1966/1978, p. 83). The artistic expression or metaphor or symbolism may allow for an engagement and understanding, to encourage the individual “to see the world in a new way: two unrelated objects are directly compared, giving birth to a new idea” (Lehrer, 2009, p. 77).
Jung (1921/1990) informed that sensation is “on the one hand, an element of ideation, since it conveys to the mind the perceptual image of the external object; and on the other hand, it is an element of feeling since through the perception of bodily changes it gives feeling the character of an affect…because sensation conveys bodily changes to consciousness, it is also a representative of psychological impulses. It is not identical with them, being merely a perceptive function” (p. 463).
Jung, C. (1971). The spirit in man, art, & literature. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 15). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1966)
Jung, C. (1990). Psychological types. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 6). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921)
Lehrer, J. (2009). Unlocking the Mysteries of The Artistic Mind. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200907/unlocking-the-mysteries-the-artistic-mind
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Erik J. Welsh, PhD
Author of The Addiction Complex