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Symptom and Symbol

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The symptom, or the psychosomatic reactions were always important tools for diagnoses and 

evaluation of the treatment, since the studies about hysteria today. Freud described that the symptoms are developed as a sign of the unconscious antagonism between the affect-laden forces, trauma and defense, this is, the symptom was a mnemonic symbol related to traumatic events, caused by external factors, as a result of defense mechanisms. Trauma is a failed attempt of adjustment to the environment by the ego, creating a conflict that leads to a neurosis, dissociation between affect and idea, and the symptom or psychosomatic diseases.   


Jung considered that the constitutional disposition of the individual and the structure of the psyche has an important role for the symptom apparition, and its connections with the autonomous complexes and its autonomy. For Jung, the symptom is a symbolic manifestation of the unconscious complexes and can have a positive aspect to bring to consciousness the symbol to be elaborate. 


Symptom and psychosomatic diseases were symbols of the unconscious complexes and bridges 

between conscious and unconscious. Jung criticizes Freud's theory of repression observing that the 

complexes have not only repressed contents, which previously had been conscious, but, in many 

cases, it is an autonomous activity, a spontaneous effect of the background of the psyche.


For Jung, the archetypes are expressed by the symbol image and by their polarities. When a symbol is being elaborated with a tendency to only one of its aspects, the psyche has a natural tendency of self-regulation, so the unconscious constellates the opposite aspect of the symbol, trying to lead the psyche energy to an equilibrium. When it is not succeeded, a neurotic symptom can be formed. The most important is, the neurotic symptom or psychosomatic disease should be a stimulator towards the individuation process, not necessarily something to avoid, but something to be elaborated and integrated to the personality.



ELLENBERGER, Henry F. (1970): “The Discovery of the Unconscious” - Basic, New York


FREY-ROHN, Liliane (1990): “From Freud to Jung. A Comparative Study of the Psychology of the Unconscious. Shambala, Boston


JUNG, C. G.(1960): CW 8 - “The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche” - Princeton University Press – Princeton


JUNG, C. G. (1974): CW 6 - “Psychological Types” - Princeton University Press – Princeton


JUNG, C. G. (1959): CW 9/1 - “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” - Princeton University Press – Princeton


JUNG, C. G. (1954): CW 16 - “The Practice of Psychotherapy” - Princeton University Press – Princeton


OPD Task Force (2007): Operationalized Psychodynamic Diagnosis OPD-2. Manual of Diagnosis and Treatment Planning. Hogrefe & Huber, Toronto


SHAMDASANI, Sonu (2003) - “Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology. The Dream of a Science” - Cambridge University Press, New York


Solange Bertolotto Schneider


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