I decided to give Carl Jung a try when I was exploring psychology as a way to understand consumer behavior. The popular startup books - Drive, Grit, Habit, Predictably Irrational - limited psychology to product development application. Though I slowly realized that the subject is much deeper. I wanted to try my hand at more classical psychology authors. Freud and Jung emerged as what most people talked about. I had tried reading Freud in my college days and couldn't gather much, so I thought I should give Jung a chance.

The main idea which most people associate with Jung is around the idea of Collective Unconscious and their reflection in dreams. I picked up Man and His Symbols and I am blown away by it - though I have reached only half of it till now, there are lots of new insights.

Some of my key learning:

  • The basic idea of God and Religion are embedded deep in our psychology, in the wiring of our primordial brain, and is not just a recent invention. To think that Homo Sapiens arose around 7 million yrs ago in Africa and moved to Eurasia around 100,000 yrs ago - there is a lot embedded in the neural connections of the brain which gives rise to these ideas. May be there is a need for a God for humans to remain sane and continue living in the world.

  • The idea of Hero - The idea of Hero which Joseph Campbell elucidates in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces may be is the story which gets itself repeated in every generation of humans. The struggle, the guidance by a mentor and final triumph are themes which repeat throughout the history. May be this is the reason why we tend to hero worship so easily, it has been going on since time immemorial.

  • The 'Archetype' - The idea of an archetype is a curious one. Though I am still not quite sure what Jung means by it, it seems to be patterns or themes which are present in human psyche - Angels, Demons, Anima (he feminine part of a man's personality) - these are all themes in our psyche which Jung wants to call out.

  • Dreams - Dreams are the windows by which our unconscious tries to communicate with the conscious. The conscious is a new emergent property (like traffic is emergent property from number of vehicles plying on the road. Consciousness can also be thought of in a similar way) and has now superseded the unconscious. It is the rational logical "thinking" part - while unconscious has been driving the human behavior when we were animals. Even study of neuro-biology suggests that there are large parts of the brain which makes the decision, even before the thought comes to our conscious mind. May be this is the instinct or gut which people talk about.

Not surprisingly, Jung lays a lot of emphasis on the understanding of dreams. According to him, the unconscious and the conscious must remain in harmony to maintain a stable life.