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collective unconscious

The Collective Unconscious: What It Is and How It Works


Navigating the intricate landscape of the human mind is not only a pursuit for psychologists but also a valuable endeavor for writers seeking to understand the depths of their characters. In this exploration, the concept of the collective unconscious, as introduced by Carl Jung, becomes a powerful tool for writers.

Understanding the collective unconscious provides authors with a unique lens through which they can tap into universal symbols and archetypes, enriching their storytelling with elements that resonate on a profound, collective level.

In this article, we explore Jung’s collective unconscious, shedding light on its relevance for writers and how it can be harnessed to create narratives that transcend individual experiences and speak to the shared aspects of the human psyche.

Who was Carl Jung?

Before we dive into the collective unconscious, it’s crucial to understand the visionary mind that conceived it.

Examining the concept of collective unconscious, often associated with Jungian psychology, one encounters the definition of collective unconscious. Jung, in his exploration of the unconscious mind, elucidated the Jung unconscious, shedding light on the shared reservoir of experiences and symbols. An example of collective unconscious can be found in the recurring motifs and archetypes across various cultures, reflecting shared human experiences deeply rooted in our psyche.
Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung, born in 1875, was a pioneer in the field of psychology. A close associate of Sigmund Freud, Jung eventually diverged from Freud’s theories to develop his own school of thought known as analytical psychology.

What is analytical psychology?

As pioneered by Jung, analytical psychology is a psychological framework that explores the connection between the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind.

Unlike traditional psychoanalysis, Jung’s framework embraces the individual’s unique experiences and cultural influences, emphasizing the importance of both personal and collective unconscious forces in shaping one’s psyche.

Defining the Collective Unconscious

Jung’s Definition

According to Jung, the collective unconscious is not formed from personal experiences but rather from the collective experiences of our ancestors.

It is a deep well of innate knowledge and wisdom that exists within each person, connecting us to the broader human experience.


What is the Collective Unconscious?

Jung defined the collective unconscious as a reservoir of shared experiences, symbols, and archetypes inherited and universally present in all individuals.

The Characteristics of the Collective Unconscious

The collective unconscious is characterized by its symbolic nature.

It communicates through archetypes, universal patterns, or symbols representing fundamental human experiences and emotions. These archetypes are deeply ingrained in our psyche and influence our thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions.

Jung believed that the collective unconscious played a significant role in both personal and cultural development.

Individually, accessing the collective unconscious can lead to self-discovery, personal growth, and the integration of various aspects of the self.

Collectively, the collective unconscious influences the development of cultural myths, symbols, and rituals. By understanding and exploring the collective unconscious, individuals and societies can gain insights into their own identities and the broader human experience.

The Archetypes

Defining archetypes

Archetypes, as proposed by Carl Jung, are universal symbols or patterns that are present in the collective unconscious.

They are recurring themes or characters in myths, dreams, and cultural narratives. Each archetype represents a fundamental aspect of the human experience and can evoke strong emotions and responses.

The different types of archetypes

Jung identified several key archetypes, each representing a different aspect of human existence.

The Hero archetype, for example, embodies the journey of self-discovery and triumph over adversity. The Sage archetype represents wisdom, guidance, and knowledge. The Caregiver archetype symbolizes nurturing, protection, and unconditional love. These archetypes, among others, provide a framework for understanding and interpreting the collective unconscious.

If you want to know more, we have individually explored the 12 archetypes that characterize Jung’s collective unconscious in this article.

How to use collective unconscious in narrative

The knowledge of Jungian collective unconscious can be a powerful tool for storytellers because it invites writers to explore characters and narratives with a profound understanding of these shared symbols of the collective psyche.

By acknowledging Jung’s concept of collective consciousness, writers gain access to a wellspring of universal archetypes and motifs, enriching their stories with a depth that extends beyond individual experiences.

This insight allows writers to tap into the timeless elements of the human condition, crafting narratives that speak not only to the idiosyncrasies of characters but also to the broader, collective tapestry of human existence.

In essence, Jung’s definition becomes a literary guide, empowering writers to infuse their work with the profound resonance of archetypal themes that echo across cultures and epochs.

Examples of collective unconscious in art and literature

Throughout history, artists and writers have drawn upon the collective unconscious to create powerful works of art and literature.

In literature, the Hero archetype can be seen in ancient epics like Homer’s “The Odyssey” and modern works like J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” The Caregiver archetype appears in countless stories, from fairy tales to contemporary novels.

Artists, too, have utilized archetypes and symbols from the collective unconscious to convey deep meaning in their work. For example, Salvador Dali’s surrealistic paintings often depict symbolic imagery that taps into the universal human experience.

Harnessing the collective unconscious with bibisco

bibisco novel writer software can help writers use Carl Jung’s unconscious collective in their storytelling.

bibisco provides a structured approach to character development and plot construction, aligning seamlessly with the principles of Jungian psychology. By employing bibisco’s features, writers can identify and develop characters that embody archetypal themes, enhancing the resonance of their stories on a collective level.

collective consciousness jung
bibisco character development tool

In essence, bibisco transforms the abstract concepts of Jungian psychology into tangible tools, enabling writers to craft narratives that resonate not only with individual experiences but also with the broader, shared aspects of the human psyche.


Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious provides a unique window into the depths of the human psyche. By exploring the shared symbols and archetypes within us all, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and our place in the world.

The collective unconscious can be a powerful tool also for storytellers. By tapping into universal symbols and archetypes, authors can create narratives that resonate deeply with readers. Using archetypes, writers can evoke emotions, convey complex themes, and explore the depths of the human psyche.

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