Two Kinds of Thinking

This week I have been reading Carl Jung’s essay on Two Kinds of Thinking. I was hoping to have something  to offer by now, but I found myself drawn into the depth and significance of the chapter. With a surplus of passion, I found myself writing extensively, which I have yet to proofread. I am not sure what do with these pages. It seems a little long for a post. Let me share a little of what I am thinking.

Manifestly, Jung is talking about two kinds of thinking: directed thinking and dreaming or fantasy-thinking. Here is a quote which sums up the view:

“We have, therefore, two kinds of thinking: directed thinking, and dreaming or fantasy-thinking. The former operates with speech elements for the purpose of communication, and is difficult and exhausting; the latter is effortless, working as it were spontaneously, with the contents ready to hand, and guided by unconscious motives. The one produces innovations and adaptation, copies reality, and tries to act upon it; the other turns away from reality, sets free subjective tendencies, and, as regards adaptation, is unproductive” (para. 20).

At the same time and on another level, Jung is revealing a primal split within the psyche. The integration of this split forms the heart of Jung’s later work. Such integration forms our wholeness, as the Self. Below I have provided some of my notes.

For those of you reading along with me, the paragraph references are from Carl Jung’s Symbols of Transformation unless stated otherwise.

Ego Soul
LiteralDirective ThinkingLanguage (para. 12)

Technical (para. 17, fn 3)

Intellectual comprehension (para.1)

Empiricism (para. 17)

Thinking in words (para. 13 &17)

Adapted (para. 11)

Reality-thinking (para. 1)

Already and always socialized (Jodl, para. 15)

Intellectual comprehension (para. 1)


SymbolicDream-images (para.4)Subterranean passages (para.1)

Onomatopoeic (para.12)

Inner act of will (Kueple, para.17)

Automatic play of ideas (Kueple, para.17)

Revery (fn 19, James, para. 18)

Inner sympathy (para.1)

Introversion & Inwardness

Inner life


Archetypal realms



27 thoughts on “Two Kinds of Thinking

  1. Very cool that you were able to let go of expectations and get more into the depth of the inward journey of your soul. Very interested in identifying the problem of “pathologizing the soul” so that working on the solution(s) might be realized. The essay sounds worthy of looking for a publisher or a professional journal. Synchronicity with me. Reading also Daniel Kahneman’s book: “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Directed thinking. Wondering about Dreaming – images that disturb and drag one down toward the abyss. “When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” Nietzsche The dream which is not nightmarish, but which speaks peace and kindness to the soul. Perhaps it’s that dream, the not nightmarish version, which helps bring wholeness. Sorry I’m coming across as a downer. I’ve been experiencing the worst dreams I can remember.

      1. Sometimes you just get to choose to believe that dreams transcend good and bad. Thanks for your kind words. Enjoy your break 🙂

  2. I believe as we proceed through Jung’s evolution of thinking regarding the collective unconscious and archetypes we will see him shift in his thinking regarding non-directed dream thinking being “unproductive” in regards to producing adaptations. I’m fairly certain that he hadn’t developed (to maturity at least) his thinking on archetypes in 1912 when he first published SoT as “Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido.”

    I think that by the time he published “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious” in 1934, he would not have and didn’t think of dream-thinking so much as turning away from reality and setting free [fanciful] subjective tendencies so much as he thought of dream-thinking as a stream of images generated by [archetypal] patterns in the collective unconscious that are very much adaptive–complementing and compensating the directed thinking of the conscious ego. His challenge, which remains our challenge, was and is to discover an efficient Rosetta Stone for interpreting the methods and symbols of dream-thinking so that our conscious and unconscious form a more coordinated partnership in our wholeness project.

    1. Indeed David, Jung makes a shift in his perspective. In Symbols of Transformation we see the shift toward the second half of the text. Jung is our guide to the soul even if he equivocates in the beginning of the text.

  3. very interesting to note that ‘an inner act of will’ falls under the soul category rather than the ego category. i would not have thought so and i will be giving that some thought..
    lots of ‘meat’ here to chew on!

      1. I’d really appreciate some elaboration on the point, if its not too far off the path. I do think of ‘will’ as an ego-oriented characteristic but am wondering if Jung is indicating he has experientially found it to be rooted in the soul; perhaps as a continuum from soul to ego to manifestation…

        1. 1Weaver,
          Thank you for asking for elaboration. I believe that your question will be addressed in the essay that I will post today. The soul’s will is a very interesting part of Jung’s work, and something we will be speaking of in terms of the soul’s language, as well as the soul’s aims and desires. If you would like further clarification after reading the next post please feel free to ask.

  4. Hi Jenna!
    Enjoy your time off and Thank You!
    Letting Go of the whatsoever guilt-trip & Letting God guide you onto the path of that inner act of will trip, finding and collecting the jewels along the way in order to share more of your experience with us later…
    May be the 5-page script(however you call it) can be the starting chapter of your new project, book, who knows??
    First, the sink has to be washed and cleaned before we embark on the next preparation for the nourishing meal in this festive season, filled with sparks of promise and delight for the one on the Soul Journey…

    ** Gary,
    Hang in there, this looks like food for the Soul! You are lucky versus those who do not dream at all or cannot remember their dreams…yeah, I agree that noting them down, can become a tedious job but our sanity lies sometimes in our awareness on who is really dreaming, the self or the Self?


    1. Brinda,
      Thank you for the encouragement for my soul’s journey.
      I appreciate also your comment to Gary– your emphasis on the capacity to dream. Dreams are indeed a gift.

  5. I’m currently struggling through the Red Book, which, IMO, puts some of Jungs later writings and theories into perspective. I say “struggling,” but at the moment the book sits on a stand like some sort of idol. I’m hoping this blog will spur me to continue with its study. (Thanks.)

  6. I love the “primal split”. The integration cannot be completed without the necessary work of truly knowing and accepting the split in oneself from the point of view of the soul as well as the pathology. Both must be felt. For myself, I have done a lot of work around this through Archetypal Dreamwork. There is a certain phase of psychosis that goes along with a shifting reference point which relates to this split. When the reference point shifts from the point of view of what is know (ego) to the a point of view of what is becoming (soul), this falls in the realm of alchemy. The new reference point is one that requires presence vs intellect and an ability to stay present in each unfolding moment of what is not known and feel all that is there in a dynamic way. Ascension, or the integration of the split, can only happen once we we have descended into the depths and truly felt the split in ourselves. This is very individual and specific to each of us and our own personal mythology, which is why the dreams are so important as a guide. Without the dream or a spiritual connection, we are attempting to approach the issue of the soul from the point of view of the ego which would moralize everything and continue, like a hydra, to split us. Anyway…looking forward to your update.

    1. Laura,
      Thank you for mentioning the shifting reference point, which changes as one moves from the ego’s view to that of the soul. I appreciate that you have been working with archetypal dreamwork for sometime, and look forward to hearing more of your insights.

  7. Jenna…
    Enjoy your time away.And don’t be too concerned about how or whether or not to include longer pieces.It’s already very apparent that you have dedicated followers here that won’t flinch at longer and more in-depth writing.Otherwise,they wouldn’t be so willing to trek through SoT right?
    In that light then,why not follow your own combination of both directed and dream thought as a form of soulful breadcrumbs slowly but intuitively delineating the unknown trail ahead.As David pointed out,Jung’s own deeper embrace of dream-thinking hadn’t evolved while writing SoT.Yours however,has.In shamanic practice the imaginary evolves into the imaginal soon enough via committed practice.And so it is with dedicated and long-term active imagination and dream work.Jenna,it’s also already quite apparent that you are beautifully skilled in following both dreams and employing mature imagination.Trust that and know that ”we-are-with-you” here and will appreciate whatever meanderings your symbolic heart feels called to.

    1. Two-Hawks,
      It is lovely to receive your encouragement.
      Your words express a soul who knows of both imagination and care for others.
      I am thankful to have you here.

  8. THANK YOU. I’d been puzzling over this since yesterday. I recalled reading this passage from an anthology of Jung’s works, but I suppose that I couldn;t settle for it as fact, for some reason, without having encountered it again. Thank you for the synchronicity!

    I suppose that Directed Thinking is something we have more control over, but we ought not to drive ourselves Mad trying to control the spontaneous underlying thought process, although, artfully, we can express sometimes the latter in terms of the former, though it will always have the mark of a very Aristotlean process and will never or seldom recapture the rapture of the original, subtle Platonic revelation.


    1. Dmitry,

      Thank your for reading, and for contemplating the profundity of Jung’s realization. I agree that we have little control over the underlying process of the soul, and also that we may express such process ‘artfully.’ Carl Jung expressed this sentiment in terms of the creative or religious instinct. It is instinctual in some to express these underlying dimensions of being.

      I look forward to hearing from again.

  9. Allow yourself to except the core truth for what and how it leads us.
    Sometimes we have to allow our mind to tell us what it wants us to do. I’ve never stop asking myself questions since the moment when I realized that my curiosity was almost insatiable. I never can conscientiously remember that moment. That why 9/13/1976 continues to remind me just how long ago that thinking about thinking had become the beginning and end of everyday journey.

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