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Kaplinsky, C. (2008). Shifting Shadows: Shaping Dynamics in the Cultural Unconscious. J. Anal. Psychol., 53(2):189-207.

(2008). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 53(2):189-207

Shifting Shadows: Shaping Dynamics in the Cultural Unconscious

Catherine Kaplinsky

Jung has suggested that wars, social upheavals and religions are ‘but the superficial symptoms of a secret psychic attitude unknown even to the individual himself, and transmitted by no historian …’ (Jung 1964, para. 315; emphasis author's). With a focus on South Africa and some dream material, I explore this idea with particular emphasis on the cultural unconscious and the emerging theory of cultural complexes. Different cultures demand the repression of different aspects of the self and have different ways of actualizing a moral code. These repressions are part of what make upadynamic and shifting cultural complex which inevitably plays a part in historical change. In turn, historical change plays its part in shifting these dynamics.

In the analytic setting via the transference and countertransference, we are familiar with what is being repressed in relation to shadow dynamics, complexes and obsolete defences. Such dynamics relate to themes of boundary, identity and otherness which, in turn, reach back to early infantile strivings as well as forward in the service of unfolding. Central to this dynamic is the absorption of cultural attitudes—including that which must be repressed, allowed in or defended against. Major political shifts—historical change—inevitably affect cultural dynamics, ‘secret psychic attitude(s)’ and shifting shadows.

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