Jung’s Theories and Tibetan Singing Bowls
Eastern and Western medicine have been trying to achieve wholistic health through different means for over a hundred years. As time moves forward, the West is accepting Eastern practice more and more but is still hesitant to trust its validity without hard proof. Jung’s theories contrasted with Tibetan singing bowls and how each function, searches out healing on the patient’s behalf, and how valid Jungian theory is in the 21st century will be explored.
Carl Jung and His Theories
Carl Gustav Jung is one of the fathers of modern psychology and was a direct colleague of Sigmund Freud. Jung’s greatest contribution to the psychological field was the Collective Unconscious.
To first understand the purpose of Jungian theory, one must understand the psyche. It is the entire personality of a human being. It encompasses all feelings and behavior as well as the conscious and unconscious mind. It’s a guide that leads one through their social and physical environment. (Hall & Nordby, 1973). Jung broke the consciousness down into four mental functions called thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. Two attitudes orient a person’s conscious mind, extroversion (orienting towards the external objective world,) and introversion (orienting to the inner subjective world (1973). But the ego mirrors the psyche to promote awareness. (Stein, 2010, p. 15). Jung views the ego as the gatekeeper to consciousness (Hall & Nordby, 1973). It’s as Jung would say, the ego is “the subject of all personal acts of consciousness.”
Complexes were Jung’s most important early contributions to understanding the unconscious (Stein, 2010). Jung uses the term constellation referring to the culmination of a psychically charged moment regarding complexes. A complex is a triggering of our psychological history. A strong ego may be able to control the energy within the complex well causing less of an emotional outburst due to the complex (2010).
But how are complexes formed? Typically, they are formed through trauma, but complexes are like a script that pops up in that a person may or may not be aware of. When a complex arises, the individual is playing to the complex like an actor in a play. Building awareness around these complexes is a step in moving towards making the unconscious mind a conscious one.
Building on the idea of the conscious and unconscious mind, Jung’s main original idea was the Collective Unconscious. The collective unconscious is the idea that there is a storage of images, almost like a historical imprint of archetypal nature. Jung is not saying that an individual will inherit the same images that their ancestors possessed, but that they are predisposed or will potentially experience/respond in the same way that their ancestors did. (2010) It’s a way of saying, “history repeats itself.” It repeats itself in the way of archetypes.
Archetypes are pieces of the collective unconscious. They are universal images that everyone inherits and their combinations form a certain type of person. Jung’s main four archetypes are the shadow, the persona, the self, and the anima/animus. The shadow is part of the ego that is not integrated but is suppressed because of cognitive or emotional dissonance. (2010) According to Stein, the ego isn’t even aware that it has a shadow; it operates in the unconscious. (2010) The persona is which mask a person chooses to show to the outside world while the self is a union of the conscious and unconscious realms. It is the central archetype of the psyche. The anima is the feminine aspect of a male and the animus is the masculine side of a female.
But how did Jung’s theory work? Jung’s clinical work takes place in four stages, confession, elucidation, education, and transformation (Corsini & Wedding 2010). Confession allows the clients to recount their history, revealing both conscious and unconscious secretive information. Emotions can be released during this process while the client can experience being received with acceptance by the therapist. (2010) In this period, the therapist makes the client aware of transference in addition to dreams and fantasies and how they tie to childhood origins. Michael St. Clair defines transference as “assigning feelings from a past relationship to a present relationship to a therapist,” (2004). Education deals with the ego and persona. The client’s insight is turned into action (Corsini & Wedding 2010). Transformation is the final phase that Jung also called self-actualization. The Self archetype shows up during this phase. The client becomes a unique individual while still maintaining a mentality of responsible integrity (2010). Jung says that each stage could be an end in and of itself, but completion of all four stages are required in total analysis. But it is also important to note that none of these stages’ order or timeframe is set in stone.
What types of therapy did he use? Being a psychoanalytical therapist, Jung used many classical methods such as word association, dream analysis, active imagination, and analysis of transference. Word association tests in Jungian theory are used to identify complexes by “investigation of associations of chance psychological linkages.” (Samuels, Shorter, and Plaut, 1986). The experimenter reads aloud a word from a prepared list and records the amount of time that it takes for the subject to respond with the first word that comes to mind (Stevens, 1994). Dream Analysis requires the dreamer to remember and recount to their therapist who can then analyze and seek out the relationship of the dream to the patient’s conscious mind. (Corsini & Wedding, 2010) As Jung says, “Since, according to our hypothesis, the unconscious plays a causal part in the neurosis, and since dreams are the direct expression of unconscious psychic activity, the attempt to analyze and interpret dreams is entirely justified from a scientific standpoint,” (Jung, 1933, p. 2). Active imagination helps clients to uncover some of their unconscious material. The client clears their mind so that inner images may emerge and once they do the client is asked to write, draw, paint, or sometimes dance the story they just observed in their imagination (Chodorow, 2006; Douglas, 2008; Salman, 2009). Lastly, Jung would study transference, which takes place in four stages. In the first stage, the patient is completely unaware that they are projection their historical relationships and experiences onto their therapist. During the second stage, the client learns what projections are their own and which belongs to the areas of culture and archetype. The client can differentiate between the therapist’s image that the client gave to them and reality in phase three. In stage four, transference is resolved and greater self-knowledge and understanding takes root, a better connection between client and therapist is garnered, and more true evaluations occur (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).
But to what end is Jungian theory used? When is it complete? The answer is both enlightening and albeit frustrating at times since there is no quantifiable answer. The goal is called individuation. Individuation is a person becoming their whole selves. They are unique individuals distinct from others or collective psychology but are also in direct, healthy relationships with others and their society as well (Samuels, et al. 1986). As Stein says, “in its simplest formula, individuation is the capacity for wholeness and evolved consciousness,” (Hall & Nordby, 1973, p.197). Individuation happens throughout three stages that encompass all of an individual’s lifespan, childhood, adolescence, middle age, and old age. Individuation is the process of every element of one’s personality becoming integrated. It is the formation of the fully-realized self.
Eastern Practices of Tibetan Singing Bowls
According to Sudeep Lamsal, an Indian singing bowl expert and shopkeeper, the creation and use of singing bowls can be traced back to as far as 11th century B.C., but that doesn’t explain how they made their way into the west (Il-Vjaġġ it-Tajjeb!, 2015). According to Janson and de Ruiter, that a Tibetan themself sold a singing bowl to a Westerner could be mere chance. They also say that Tibetan singing bowls made their way to the West when the “hippie movement” sought out Eastern teachings (1992). It’s a possibility that Tibetan monks were forced to sell some of their most valuable property after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1951. More than ninety percent of Tibetan monasteries and temples were destroyed during this invasion (Jansen & de Ruiter 1992). But singing bowls come from many different countries, mostly Nepal and India, but also Japan and China as well (1992, p. 36).
Traditionally, bowls were crafted from seven different metals, one metal for each planet. Each of these metals alone would produce a certain sound and harmonics but together they would create a complex singing bowl tone. Proportions of metals vary in each bowl and many modern-day singing bowls are not made with each of the seven metals, but still, function. For example, Tibetan bowls tend to have more silver than tin. (1992) But what does a singing bowl do to the mind and body? How does it work?
Sudeep Lamsal says that singing bowls help with migraines and depression. The bowls’ different pitches aid in opening different blocked chakras (Il-Vjaġġ it-Tajjeb!, 2015). The two most common ways to activate a singing bowl is to strike it with a mallet or rub the bowl around the rim with a cloth-covered mallet. This is how the term “singing bowl” came about (Jansen & de Ruiter, 1992, p. 90).
Singing bowls are used as a type of harmonic frequency calibration system. The bowls recreate an original harmonic frequency that stimulates and allows the body to attune this frequency. When the body is vibrating to the frequency of the bowl, it is synchronized and then the body can then vibrate independently and can tune to its own undisturbed frequency (1992, p. 68). Each bowl emits a large variety of frequencies (even some that are not pleasing to the Western ear). When multiple bowls are resonating together, phantom tunes can be created between two or more bowls – this is almost like hearing a third sound that was created by the two bowls in combination. This sensation can also be created by singing across the bowl. This is a process known as “toning”. One holds the bowl parallel to their mouth and sings across the bowl. The overtones that one is feeling in the body resonates with the overtones that occur in the bowl and creates a bodily sensation of the overtones within the body.
Sound massage, or sound bath, is a more physical practice in the realm of sound therapy practitioners. It is truly immersive since multiple singing bowls are involved. In a sound massage, the person receiving the message is lying down on a mat and surrounded by many singing bowls of varies sizes. Sometimes bowls will be placed on the body as well. The practitioner then plays their bowls in practiced and understood combinations. The practitioner may strike a bowl and then move the vibrating bowl around the client’s body. Messages can last anywhere from five to forty minutes but the stress of the client tends to be reduced in about 20 min. In sound massages or sound baths, it is recommended that the client breath deeply and consistently just as in meditation, a practice in which singing bowls are also used.
Singing bowls are a great jumping-off point for meditations. The sound and its overtones become the focus of one’s mind allowing for greater centering of the mind. (1992, p. 111) The vibrations of a singing bowl externally mimic what the “Om” mantra accomplishes internally in transcendental meditation(16. Anderson JW, Liu C, Kryscio RJ. Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: a meta-analysis. Am J Hypertens. 2008;21:310–316).
It can be made from crystal as well – p. 105 Handbook. Is more etherial and deals with energies, where metals are more of a physical effect.
Compare and Contrast/Strengths and Weaknesses
These two medicines are vastly different but do share some similarities. In as much, Jungian theory needs practitioner, while Tibetan Singing bowls can use a practitioner for something like a sound bath, but can also be played by a layperson with no training for similar effects. Jung deals with the mind, the psyche, and integrating one’s entire personality towards individuation. While singing bowls deal within the spiritual realm of chakras, singing bowls are grounded in a more physical and tangible application. An example of this is direct relaxing effects that vibrations and tones of a singing bowl have on the body.
Jungian theory in the 21st Century
Ann Shearer (2018) argues that Jungian theory is valid today because it fosters the process over the results and the process is where psychological growth occurs. I believe Jungian theory to be helpful in more spiritual arenas or used in tandem with other psychological theories. But in modern Western culture where we prize productivity and quick results, I think Jungian theory is at a disadvantage. One does not “know” when they have reached individuation. This process occurs over one’s entire life. I do think that more collective societies are better at individuation than the West. We prize individualization.
But the idea of the collective unconscious rings true with me and the idea that generations of people are dealing with different but somehow the same issues since the beginning of time seems to be plausible. As Toshio Kawai points outs (2017), Jungian theory is helpful in the wake of extreme conditions, such as a natural disaster. The idea of individuation fits each person differently since it cannot be measured and so that is custom-tailored to every persons’ trauma. He also states that working with images is very effective when an individual does not have words to communicate their trauma.
Jung’s therapy and sound therapy have some similarities and some vast differences. But each is trying to attain healing on behalf of the mentally or spiritually wounded. I believe it only a matter of time until Western society finally accepts the validity of Eastern practices that have been working well for human beings for thousands of years.
- Corsini, R.J., Wedding, D. (2010) Analytical Psychotherapy. In Corsini, R.J., Wedding, D. (Ed. 9), Current Psychotherapies (pp. 113-147). Belmont, CA; Brooks/Cole, Cenegage Learning
- Hall, C.S. & Nordby, V.J. (1973). A Primer of Jungian Psychology. New York, NY; Penguin Group
- Il-Vjaġġ it-Tajjeb!, (2015). Singing Bowl Interview and Demonstration with Sudeep Lamsal [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=B4lGhVjoMTk.
- Jansen, E.R. & de Ruiter, D. (2010). Singing Bowl Handbook.Haarlem, The Netherlands; Gottmer Publishing Group BV
- Kawai, T. (2017). The Historicity and Potential of Jungain Analysis: Another View of ‘SWOT’. Journal of Analytical Psychology 62, 5, 650–657
- Samuels, A., Shorter, B., Plaut, F. (1986). A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis. Great Britain. Butler & Tanner Ltd.
- Sedgwick, D. (2015). On Integrating Jungian and Other Theories. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 60, 4, 540-558
- Shearer, A. (2018). ‘Thank God I’m Not A Jungian’. Journal of Analytical Psychology 63, 3, 356–367
- St. Clair, M. (2004). Object Relations and Self Psychology. Belmont, CA; Brooks/Cole, Cenegage Learning
- Stein, M. (2010). Jung’s Map of the Soul. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/ Jungs-Map-Soul-Murray-Stein/dp/0812693760 (Original work published 1998)
- Stevens, A. (1994). Jung, a Very Short Introduction. New York, NY; Oxford University Press Inc.
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