Fostering Psychological Coherence: With ICTs

Fostering Psychological Coherence: With ICTs

Stephen Brock Schafer (Digipen Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3986-7.ch002


As we experience a paradigm shift into a media age, ICTs are altering the psychological parameters of human reality. The premise of this chapter is that the psychological dynamics of interactive images projected as Media Dreams correspond with the psychological dynamics of dream images as defined by Carl G. Jung. (Jacobi, 1973). If this is true, images in media dreams mirror patterns of energy and information in what Jung called the collective unconscious. Jung calls images archetypal representations or projections of archetypal energy patterns that are structured as metaphorical narrative. The most recent cognitive research (Lakoff, 2008) verifies that—indeed—the cognitive unconscious has the framework of metaphorical narrative and that these story patterns correlate with energy patterns in the nervous system. Jung also knew that dreams “have a purpose,” and that the purpose is “compensation” or harmonization of conscious and unconscious psyche. Jungian compensation is essentially the same thing as coherence, and recent research on coherence confirms that coherent states can be evoked with specific feedback technologies. Moreover, coherent psychological states increase emotional and perceptual stability as well as alignment among the physical, cognitive, and emotional systems. The authors’ hypothesis is that the images projected by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)—the media dreams of a population—are subject to psychological analysis in order to disclose unconscious sources of psychological stress in contextual collectives.
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Carl Jung discovered that assisting patients to understand the symbols in their dream images led to insight as to the causes of subconscious problems. Because images are projections of subconscious energy and information patterns, such insight has the capacity to harmonized cognitive energy patterns, to compensate for dissonance, and to heal patients by helping them achieve a degree of psychic coherence. More recently, cognitive research has verified Jung’ theories and empirical observations from the perspective of neurobiological patterns and cognitive framing. Jung based his method of dream analysis on his observation that dreams have dramatic structure and—like drama—have a purpose or exposition. George Lakoff, researching cognitive frames, has demonstrated that the narrative-metaphorical architecture of the cognitive unconscious frames human values. Lakoff defines the two fundamental family metaphors that determine conservative values (The Strict Father Metaphor) and progressive values (The Nurturant Parent Metaphor). Such narratives and metaphors with which we identify at subconscious levels determine our value systems, our worldview, and our actions. Lakoff observes that without reference to cognitive narratives, humans cannot know others. Without these unconscious narrative-metaphorical reference points, people cannot even know themselves. Essentially, we refer our identity and our very existence to our dreamlike cognitive narratives.

Most interesting is that cognitive dream dynamics of the microcosm correspond to the dynamics of the macrocosm. Jung said that, “Disruption in the spiritual life of an age shows the same pattern as radical change in an individual.” (Jung, 1933, p. 202) Also, “A people presents only a somewhat more complex picture of psychic life than the individual.” (Jung, 1933, p. 210) That is to say, the patterns are shared by individuals and collectives, and they are mediated with images in which the potentials for meaningful insight based on symbolic content spans the “gap” between recursive energy patterns of the personal and collective psyche. This suggests that, in order to achieve curative insight, the key to navigation of the unconscious psyche resides in the correspondences (based on algorithmic recursions of isometric form) that may be mediated between digital software and the archetypal images that the software projects. Jung also observed that because the psychic process has a quantitative aspect, the conservation of energy in the physical world is analogous to “compensation” by the psyche. Accordingly, “No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity.” (Jung, 1933, p. 209)

These ideas raise questions as to the existence of structural parallels between Jungian psyche and the emergent media sphere. The media sphere has been defined as the collective ecology of the world's media including newspapers, journals, television, radio, books, novels, advertising, press releases, publicity and the blogosphere; any and all media both broadcast and published. If such parallels exist, it may be possible to analyze the images of the media sphere according to Jungian methods in order to diagnose and heal “contextual” collectives. (Schafer & Yu, 2011) This chapter addresses this possibility and argues that the possibility of fostering coherent psychological states with ICTs should provide the foundation upon which all serious research on information and communication technologies is based.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dream Image (Archetypal Representation): “The dream speaks in images, and gives expression to instincts, that are derived from the most primitive levels of nature. Consciousness all too easily departs from the law of nature; but it can be brought again into harmony with the latter by the assimilation of unconscious contents. By fostering this process we lead the patient to the rediscovery of the law of his own being. …The way of successive assimilations reaches far beyond the curative results that specifically concern the doctor. It leads in the end to that distant goal (which may perhaps have been the first urge to life), the bringing into reality of the whole human being—that is, individuation” (Jung, 1933, p 26).

Cognitive Framing: In the language of the brain, words and thoughts are defined relative to narrative frames and conceptual metaphors. “The very fact that we recognize these cultural narratives and frames means that they are instantiated physically in our brains. We are not born with them, but we start growing them soon, and as we acquire the deep narratives, our synapses change and become fixed” (Lakoff, 2002, pp. 33-34).

Media Dream: The symbolic, semiotic, metaphorical map projected by a culture’s visual media—particularly film, television, the Internet, and video games—that afford insight as to psychic harmony or imbalance of a culture.

Amplification Method of Analytical Psychology: “The subjective, individual meaning of the dream is supplied by subjective amplification; i.e., the analyst asks the dreamer what each dream element means to him personally. Then…the dream elements are enriched with the universal, symbolic material of fairy tales, myths, etc., which illuminate the universal aspect of the problem that concerns every human being” (Jacobi, 1973, p. 89).

Coherence: “The various concepts and measurements embraced under the term coherence have become central to fields as diverse as quantum physics, cosmology, physiology, and brain and consciousness research. Coherence has several related definitions, all of which are applicable to the study of human psychology, social interactions, and global affairs. The most common dictionary definition is ‘the quality of being logically integrated, consistent, and intelligible,’ as in a coherent statement.”

Psychological Immersion: As applied in the dramatic arts, psychological immersion is known as suspension of disbelief. In current cognitive research, it applies mostly to the psychic function called emotion and is defined mostly in terms of feeling associations. I use the term relative to the infinite field of the unconscious—including elements of all the Jungian functions—not just the emotions. Immersion is a process of temporarily expanding consciousness into areas of the unconscious—something like hypnosis, but retaining consciousness as one does in lucid dreaming states.

The Media Sphere: Has been defined as the collective ecology of the world’s media including newspapers, journals, television, radio, books, novels, advertising, press releases, publicity and the blogosphere; any and all media both broadcast and published.

Compensation in Analytical Psychology: “As a rule the orientation of the unconscious is complementary or compensatory to the conscious attitude. ‘The more one-sided [the] conscious attitude is, and the further it deviates from the optimum, the greater becomes the possibility that vivid dreams with a strongly contrasting but purposive content will appear as an expression of the self-regulation of the psyche” (Jacobi, 1973, p 78, quoting from Jung, General aspects of dream psychology, p 253).

Archetype: Archetypes should be regarded first and foremost as the magnetic field and energy center underlying the transformation of the psychic processes into images. We must always distinguish sharply between the archetype and the archetypal representation or “archetypal image. The archetype as such is a psychoid factor that belongs, as it were, to the invisible, ultraviolet end of the psychic spectrum. “The unconscious, as the totality of all archetypes, is the deposit of all human experience right back to its remotest beginnings. Not, indeed, a dead deposit, a sort of abandoned rubbish heap, but a living system of reactions and aptitudes that determine the individual’s life in invisible ways” (Jacobi, 1973, p. 36).

Contextuality: Jung’s principle of compensation demands that dream interpretation must incorporate significant familiarity and understanding of the individual or patient who is doing the dreaming. In order for DBG software to provide authentic compensation, the game must be specifically programmed to the psychological profile or “context” of the player.

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