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In this episode we will discuss one of Jung’s biggest contributions to psychology, The Collective Unconscious. We will cover:

  •  What is the Collective Unconscious?
  •  How do the Archetypes in the Collective Unconscious live through us?
  •  How do you connect with the Collective Unconscious and your deeper self?

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What is the Collective Unconscious


INTRO  00:00

Welcome to creative mind soul sessions with Debra Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado, founders of Creative Mind, explore personal growth with us through Jungian psychology, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience in a deep, practical way. Let’s begin. 

Debra Maldonado  00:23

We’re really excited about this topic today. Because while we are excited about all our topics, but this is the collective unconscious, we’re going to go into.

Robert Maldonado  00:33

Easy for you to say.

Debra Maldonado  00:35

Very very deep. What Jung is really famous for adding to psychology is this idea of the collective unconscious. So, let’s define what is the collective unconscious. We’re going to tell you what it is, why you need it, why you need to know about it and how to get to it and how to use it. So let’s start with why.

Robert Maldonado  00:57

All in 20 minutes or less.

Debra Maldonado  01:00

Yes, in 20 minutes or less. So, what is the collective unconscious, Rob? How would you describe it?

Robert Maldonado  01:05

Well, let’s say we’re going to talk about it in the context of coaching in a practical way. Like you said, why do we need it, how do we use it, what’s it for. Because the theory is profound. It goes into comparative religion, culture, the history of humanity, all that stuff. But let’s bring it down to how can I use it today. What is the collective unconscious and how can I relate to it? So, from the perspective of coaching, from a practical perspective of being able to use it as a psychologist, very much like people use now positive psychology principles in a coaching model. Nothing wrong with that. It helps them do their coaching. Can the collective unconscious, can the concept of the collective unconscious help us in doing our coaching work? Meaning, because the coach is helping people with basic human problems – relationships, success, mind, body and spirituality. So, all those are questions we as humans have to answer for ourselves somehow. We have to come to terms with those things. So, from that perspective, the collective unconscious is really the reservoir of all our ideas, all our brilliant ideas. It appears that individuals are coming up with them. And of course, they are coming through individuals like Einstein and Steve Jobs, and all these incredibly talented people. But the ideas themselves, the source of that those ideas are In the collective unconscious.

Debra Maldonado  03:01

So, can I take it down a little bit more practical for people? There is a personal unconscious. A lot of people talk about the unconscious. They’re really talking about the personal unconscious, which is the reservoir or the patterns that we created in our personal experience in this life that are personal and unique to us. So, our personal experience. And so, a lot of people talk about changing your beliefs or working with the subconscious. That’s the personal unconscious. And it’s basically things that you’ve learned to basically cope and adapt in life. The collective is another layer underneath the personal, which is a collective experience of humanity and the spiritual wisdom that is beyond the personal. So basically, it’s a Universal Mind in a way. That’s how I would describe it.

Robert Maldonado  04:04

Yeah, it’s a good way to look at it. And going back to the personal unconscious, we can think of the personal unconscious really being a Freudian concept. And that Freudian concept, whether people like it or not, is still around today. People are essentially cleaning up after his big idea of you there’s this unconscious mind in us.

Debra Maldonado  04:32

He called it the subconscious, didn’t he?

Robert Maldonado  04:35

He used both terms. There’s different layers of it. But essentially, he discovered that we can access the personal unconscious and use it to our advantage to resolve our conflicts and those kind of things. That personal unconscious, like I said, it’s still around today. And people talk about the reprogramming the personal unconscious because we know…

Debra Maldonado  05:06

I call it rearranging the furniture. 

Robert Maldonado  05:09

Yeah, from neuroscience, we know most of the stuff our brain does, it does it automatically. We don’t have to think about it. And so, it programs itself. The brain programs itself based on your experience of your family, the world, your situations, your culture. It programs itself to operate in that environment. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that most of the decisions you’re making are coming from that automatic conditioning, which is, if you look at it that way, it’s really not freedom. You’re not really making free choices. It’s not free will because you’re compelled to make those decisions.

Debra Maldonado  05:57

So, our emotional life, what triggers us, the amount of money we make, the amount of love, kind of relationships we have, are determined by that program. And as a hypnotherapist, when I first started doing hypnotherapy before I added the Jungian element, I felt like it was that reprogramming myself. But we’re really just dealing with making a better ego. We’re making a better persona. And maybe we can have love and success and all those things. But it’s not really a spiritual experience. It’s more of a, How do I function better as an adult? And yeah, a lot of personal development is all about making the ego better. And it’s great. But really the collective unconscious, understanding it, gives us a deeper experience of being human and being a spiritual experience. And that’s really where Jung basically broke away from Freud and was really understanding that there’s something else going on. Our dreams aren’t just making our subconscious patterns from the day or repressed emotions. That’s part of it. But that other layer of the collective and the archetypes is really… So, as we have the program and the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious has a different kind of set of… a matrix of systems that are transpersonal or beyond your personal experience that we all have access to inside.

Robert Maldonado  07:29

Absolutely. So let’s break it down. It’s collective, meaning that it pertains to everyone. It’s universal. In other words, there is no human being on the planet that is not connected to the collective unconscious.

Debra Maldonado  07:48

So, I want to give a good example of this.

Robert Maldonado  07:50

One more. Because it’s unconscious, though, Jung didn’t mean that it’s like dead or asleep. He meant we are unconscious of it, that just like in our personal mind, there’s a big part of it that is operating automatically without our conscious intervention. The collective unconscious is also covered over. It appears to be inaccessible to us. Unless you know some of this, some of these techniques and knowledge, of course, that he developed in his psychology.

Debra Maldonado  08:32

So, a really simple example of the collective unconscious is the mother archetype. And basically, an archetype is a universal pattern. Think about it. We have patterns in our personal life based on our experience. And then there’s universal matrix of, like you said, common elements that every human being experiences. And everyone has a mother. Everyone has the concept of mother. And so, mother in itself isn’t Oh, I had a mother when I was five so I’m unique. You know, to me, I’m the only one who’s had a mother. Everyone’s had the concept of mother, even animals. Even a lot of nature is that there’s a mother element like the Mother Earth. And so, it’s a more universal idea that we all share. And so, that’s when we think of the collective unconscious, it’s these universal ideas that we all share unconsciously. We have this almost like an instinctual nature to have a relationship with the mother idea. Can we distinguish the collective unconscious because a lot of people confuse the collective unconscious to collective consciousness, which is our two…. They kind of overlap a little bit, but what would you say the difference is?

Robert Maldonado  09:50

Yeah, so if we think of collective consciousness, that would be the culture and society that we move in. The group thing, the agreements that we make, as far as what is proper social behavior. We were talking about this earlier. People used to go to work to in these offices and never question it because it was part of the culture that, of course, when you get a job, you have to commute and go to an office and do your work and sit there. Until this disruption came. And now people ask themselves, why were we doing that?

Debra Maldonado  10:34

Why do we have to go to an office and sit in a cubicle to sit on our computer when we could be doing this at home?

Robert Maldonado  10:37

That’s right. So, that collective consciousness, it kind of operates very much like the personality works for the individual. That gives you a set of characteristics and behaviors that you can use without really thinking about it. You don’t have to figure out, How am I going to drive to work today? How am I going to dress? It’s all implied in that collective consciousness.

Debra Maldonado  11:10

And so, the collective consciousness is something you can actually see. Like everyone’s experiencing a pandemic right now. It’s in the collective consciousness. It’s we’re all thinking and feeling and reacting to something that’s collective. But the unconscious means that we may not be conscious of the impact of our deeper universal patterns.

Robert Maldonado  11:30

That’s right. That’s why it appears that history moves along on its own accord. If you ask who’s driving, who is determining… And this is the source of a lot of conspiracy theories. People want to have some kind of idea that there must be somebody pulling the strings. There must be someone making those decisions.

Debra Maldonado  11:57

The deep state. 

Robert Maldonado  11:58

But it’s really not. If you understand the way the mind works and the collective mind, the collective unconscious, these ideas arise from the unconscious. This gets to the second point, why is it important to understand this.

Debra Maldonado  12:11

Yes. Why? 

Robert Maldonado  12:12

Because the ideas are coming spontaneously from the collective unconscious. And they arise through individuals and they appear to be like these individual ideas that people have. But they’re really collective ideas.

Debra Maldonado  12:26

So, when we think about leaders or the systems that happen and breakdowns of systems, the destruction of natural resources with climate change, and all that, those are… We think that there’s one person in charge and that our conscious mind can actually, if we do all do the right mechanical things in the world, we can change the world. But we have to know that the real change happens on the collective unconscious level. 

Robert Maldonado  12:54

That’s right.

Debra Maldonado  12:55

Why is it important? Because the real change is in each person. You ever hear that idea, you have to look at yourself and make a change. You have to go inside. And what you’re seeing out there is you’re connected to all of the things, the profane and the beautiful. And to be able to work on a deeper level with yourself can actually have more impact on the planet than you going out there and banging on doors. That’s a great thing to do. And we want to move society and we want to contribute. But we need the mind, the shift of the mind on a collective level, unconsciously, these forces that are working behind the scenes. And the forces aren’t a person or a group of people having meetings and saying, We’re going to sabotage everything. It’s really the psyche has a natural creation and destruction element to it. And these archetypes in the unconscious collectively are playing out over and over. If you look at history, it repeats itself. So, is that really why there’s this collective unconscious? It’s this kind of roles that people play? They act, they take the archetype of patterns and create different…?

Robert Maldonado  14:09

Yeah, just like in the individual. If you’re not conscious of your own Unconscious Mind, you play out these patterns automatically. Without really thinking it through, you appear or you feel that it’s just fate. That you’re fated to live this way, to make this money, this amount of money, to have these kind of relationships that you have. Whereas, as you become conscious, as you make the unconscious conscious, as Jung says, you then you have more of a real choice. So collectively, it’s the same process. The more humanity denies the collective unconscious and just focuses on, Well, let’s find the fault, let’s solve the problem externally, it won’t change the patterns. We as a species have to become conscious of this collective unconscious, the real source of the ideas and work with it in harmony.


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Debra Maldonado  15:48

Well, it’s almost like… If you think about every great invention that ever happened, it didn’t come from a personal experience or the personal unconscious. Where did that idea come from? Where did Einstein get his ideas, like you said? Where did Tesla and… Actually, Tesla studied Eastern philosophy, didn’t he? He studied with Vivekananda, didn’t he? And so, these ideas that move humanity forward didn’t come from sharing ideas on a conscious level, but individuals being able to access the collective unconscious, and having that kind of connection to bring the humanity forward in innovative ways, versus competitive ways. And I think, especially in the Western world, there’s so much competition and everything’s about consumption. And especially right now, it’s September 11. People are thinking about a lot of things in the world. It’s just, I think, a perfect day for us to have this conversation. It’s like how do we all want to change the world? We all want to change the world but I think many of us, especially the do-gooders that are out there, we wonder how is it going to… how can we make a difference. How can one person… How can me, this little person in this little town in this little house, make an impact on the world, shift the world in a powerful way? And this is what you’re saying is that that’s what why we need to go inward. It’s really the inner shift that’s going to… If everyone worked within, we can change it. But if we’re all ignoring the collective unconscious, is it that almost like it becomes destructive, and it forces us to wake up?

Robert Maldonado  17:27

Well, it’s really neutral. It’s just nature moving along and doing things.

Debra Maldonado  17:35

Like we’re riding the wave, basically?

Robert Maldonado  17:38

Yeah, because if you think of a lot of biological organisms, if there’s opportunity to grow, will simply grow and multiply as much as they can until it reaches a point where they can’t sustain themselves anymore, and it goes back to a small little group. So, humanity will play out those patterns that’s just biologically programmed in us until we’re able to access the collective unconscious and really understand it, and consciously go into the collective unconscious and ask the right questions.

Debra Maldonado  18:14

So that gets to how do we do it? How do we? Tell us, doctor Rob? Well, I think one of the ways, easiest ways that anyone can access it is to start just remembering their dreams. Because there’s so many… There’s so much data. You go into that state where you’re open to the deeper realms of your psyche. That would be day one. You could just start paying attention to your dreams. What would you say would be…?

Robert Maldonado  18:42

Well, if you think of the individual again, the individual, if they want real transformation, they have to go through what Jung call the individuation process, which is, in a nutshell, it is connecting your conscious mind with your unconscious mind. Like forming a two-way communication where there’s a dialogue, a dynamic going on. T unconscious then is able to give you or lend you its intelligence and the external things that you’re doing.

Debra Maldonado  19:16

So, when I was a hypnotherapist, again, the programming is more like… It almost felt like the unconscious was a computer. But in Jungian… didn’t see it as like a computer to be reprogrammed. He saw it as an active alive system. So, that’s why Jungian coaching is much different than any other personal development out there. It really connects you to the wisdom of the divine intelligence and the Universal Mind, the mind of God, basically you get to access

Robert Maldonado  19:46

That’s right. Because from the scientific psychology perspective, the unconscious is seen as really, the programming like they say, the conditioning. A conditioning is not the same thing as the unconscious. Conditioning, we know every organism is subject to conditioning whatever the environment it operates in, molds its behavior, because the primary objective of the organism is to fit into its environment, and to be able to function. But the unconscious mind, the way Jung conceived it and then the way we know people from all kinds of traditions experience it, is as a living processes, as dynamic living process that has its own intelligence. It has its own language, which is the symbolic language. It speaks through dreams, through visions, through creative inspiration as well. And it brings forth these ideas that really are designed to help us become ourselves, become our true, let’s say the true essence of a human being. Without access to that unconscious mind, we’re only living half our life. We’re only living on the surface, focusing on the conscious part of life and not really connecting and living from that deeper place.

Debra Maldonado  21:24

We think that changing behavior or changing conscious thoughts actually change our life. And so, even now we think about humanity and the collective consciousness of right now everyone’s kind of isolated and we’re kind of conditioning or reconditioning ourselves to be afraid to be close to each other. And so, I wonder like a year from now, how people are going to be when this is all over. Maybe two years when this is all over, we end up now we have to shift how do we behave. But on a collective level, we’re really dealing with this, the unconscious. How do we not get caught up in that programming or conditioning effect that’s happening collectively right now with how we talk to each other? Or even getting caught up in the political battles and everything that people are doing. It’s like we’re training ourselves. If we’re not conscious, we fall into that collective conscious, groupthink, and we end up not being free. We end up just being a subject to circumstances in the world versus directing our life.

Robert Maldonado  22:35

Yeah. The big picture is like this, just like individually, through the individuation process, you start to see that what you’re seeing in the world is a reflection of your own mind. So, you start to lose that judgmental attitude about things. Because if it’s you, if it’s part of your mind that you’re experiencing, what is there to judge? On the contrary, you don’t want to judge it and push it away. You want to integrate it as Jung says, which means you accept it as part of you. Once you accept it as part of you, then you can really work with it and change it. Because as long as you think when something foreign and it’s outside…

Debra Maldonado  23:24

Or they’re bad, and I’m good. 

Robert Maldonado  23:26

Right. That’s what we do collectively. We split the world into nature and human society, into nation and foreigners, etc.

Debra Maldonado  23:41

Races… And even political parties we project. I mean, if you look at it, we just start projecting on each other all the time, the things that annoy us about the other side, is always something that we need to come to terms with ourselves in some way.

Robert Maldonado  23:58

Very much so. 

Debra Maldonado  23:58

So we have to… If we are only working on the conscious level, we get divided. The world gets divided. That’s why we have wars. And so, that collective unconscious is going to find a way to balance what’s happening on the conscious level.

Robert Maldonado  24:15

That’s precisely what happens. It’s that in the individual getting in touch with the unconscious mind balances out the personality. Instead of believing yourself to be isolated, you start to see the reality of it, that you are part of this bigger mind that is creating the world. Collectively now, what that would mean is that a lot of people would be open to these ideas. They would be able to experience the collective unconscious as a source of creativity. Instead of asking the questions of, How do I change the external, the questions would become, How do we find the solutions to the situations that we’re in from the internal, from the creative mind.

Debra Maldonado  25:16

That idea that we’re all one, we’re all… that you’re not separate from me, you were source at the deepest level, we’re all one. I love the… In Eastern philosophy, they talk about the ocean and the wave, and that the wave is the individual. And that’s the individual unconscious, and then the ocean is the collective. And it really is, I think, the most important work we can do right now. That’s why we do our coach training because we want to train coaches in helping people go to a deeper level with themselves. And I think, I know it has changed my life in profound ways and to deal with these earthly problems. We know that we can actually be an active participant in the destiny of the world. And that’s really what we want to do, not only our personal life. But the women we work with, they’re constantly saying they want to make a difference in the world. How do I make a difference? And if you’re only making it on a conscious level, it’s like emptying the ocean with a spoon. You’re just making maybe a little impact, maybe you’re saving one person. But imagine having a bigger, profound effect on all humanity.

Robert Maldonado  26:28

That’s a good point.

Debra Maldonado  26:28

Look what Jung did. His work has influenced so many people.

Robert Maldonado  26:34

It’s almost ironical that the change in the collector, like the desire to want to change the world, it begins with your desire to improve yourself, to change yourself, to connect, to go through that individuation process, as Jung would say. So the individual work that you do is actually how we enact the big change in the world.

Debra Maldonado  27:07

So, I want to say something that’s really important that many people don’t realize. And there’s a lot of people that want to skip the hard stuff and go right to the collective and be spiritual and universal. And I want to connect to that inspiration. But we need to go through our own shadow or we need to come to terms with our own personal experience in life, get the ego’s perception, because you’re never going to get rid of your ego. It’s always going to see through that filter. And so, we have to purify that filter that we’re experiencing our individual sense reality in order to get to the collective. Otherwise, we’re just going to project our own personal experience into the collective. And it’s kind of the initiation. The Shadow Work is the initiation to the collective.

Robert Maldonado  27:55

That’s precisely it.

Debra Maldonado  27:57

A lot of people want to skip the shadow and they want to be spiritual leaders and they haven’t done the Shadow Work.

Robert Maldonado  28:04

It’s the golden ticket into… What was it, Never Neverland?

Debra Maldonado  28:09

Alice in Wonderland. Willy Wonka?

Robert Maldonado  28:12

Yeah, the Chocolate Factory.

Debra Maldonado  28:14

Yeah, it is the golden ticket. And it’s necessary because, I think, the Shadow Work, even though you’re working on the personal unconscious, it actually helps you understand who you are beyond the ego. And if you approach the collective from the ego, just thinking you\re the persona, it’s not going to have the same impact. You’re going to just be projecting your own personal experience on these big universal concepts. And it can lead to inflated ego and pushing more in the shadow. And so, we want to face our shadow first. And that’s why we always teach that first and then we go into the collective.

Robert Maldonado  28:54

Yeah, so here’s an alternative way of seeing where we are as a species today. Just like in the individual work, we have to come upon a crisis, like an impasse like Dante said, in the middle of our life. Humanity has hit that impasse now. It’s time to really consider what is the meaning of our society. Why do we want to create these things, these giant buildings and these economies and the…

Debra Maldonado  29:30

Big corporations…

Robert Maldonado  29:32

Yeah, and going to Mars and all this? Why do we want to do those things? And the why is the one that leads us inward into finding what is the meaning of all this. And it’s time to do that, because collectively, we’re seeing all the symbols. Fire symbolically represents a purification. A purification means clarifying your vision of who you are, that consciousness work.

Debra Maldonado  30:01

And so what does a pandemic symbolize?

Robert Maldonado  30:06

It’s almost the same thing. It is kind of a fire.

Debra Maldonado  30:10

Because it creates fever and…

Robert Maldonado  30:11

Yeah, that it is… Illness…

Debra Maldonado  30:16

And money is also fire, too. It’s an energy of burning up.

Robert Maldonado  30:20

That’s right. Illness was a lot of times an opportunity to look inward because it forced you to slow down.

Debra Maldonado  30:31

And find out what’s real. Anyone who’s had a serious illness or been sick, seriously ill, you question everything. Did I live my life? And at the end of your life you don’t think, Wow, I don’t have enough mansions or I didn’t make enough money. You’re thinking, Do I have meaningful relationships? Did I contribute to the world? Did I leave something behind? Did I leave a legacy behind? Where’s my soul going to go after I die? And all the regrets we have. And we want to live fully. And spiritual work… Working with the collective unconscious and going inward doesn’t negate the need to be also in the world. And I think a lot of people think it’s either or. I have to reject the material world to go inward and be spiritual. And what the collective unconscious working on that level does is actually bridge us to be the medium between matter and spirit. And that is where the magic really happens. And I think the world is… Humanity has stayed intact and hasn’t destroyed each other because there were a very small percentage of people that understood this, these monks and these spiritual gurus that are actually holding us together. But now, I think we’re at the time of a great awakening and we are awakening each other to what is… We’re sitting at home going, Do I want to go back to my job? do I? I just saw an article today that 62% of people are thinking right now of changing careers because it’s just everyone’s asking that question – Why am I doing this? And what is my purpose? And that’s really what we get through. Once we get through the shadow, we can really answer those questions in a real way. So, a lot of people before they do the shadow, they say, Well, I want to help people. I want to change the world. But then it becomes this, more ego gets caught up in it. And so, we want to make sure that we’re not attached, that we understand the higher principles that have been taught from thousands of years, but also understand the psychology that Jung brought. What are the archetypes? What is the matrix of this great universal mind? How does God think? Isn’t that… Or that’s what Einstein said. He wanted to understand. And he was a great scientist, but he also understood that there’s something more to humanity.

Robert Maldonado  32:51

Oh, absolutely. Anything you look at, and if you’re looking at it with that open mind, you have to marvel at what is this thing called life. It’s an incredible experience that we’re in.

Debra Maldonado  33:07

So, we have to think big picture. What can we do to make an impact on the world right now. And the best thing we can do is do our own shadow work. Stop projecting. Understand the things that are irritating us about others are a reflection of something in ourselves. That’s a calling to awaken us and get us out of old patterns. And then enter into the realm of intuition, imagination, innovation, where we can truly expand and have an impact in a much deeper way in the world. And do some great dream work.

Robert Maldonado  33:45

And get home before dinner.

Debra Maldonado  33:47

Yes. We leave you with that. Thank you, Rob, for your wisdom again. And we’ll see you next week on our next soul session.

Robert Maldonado  33:55

See you soon.

Debra Maldonado  33:57

Take care.

OUTRO  33:58

Thank you for joining us, and don’t forget to subscribe to Creative Mind Soul Sessions. And join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with creative mind soul session. See you next time.