What is a
Jung (1978) described the human psyche as having three principle parts:
consciousness, which he calls an ego-complex,
the personal unconscious, and the collective
unconscious. Life includes both chaos and order. Our lives consist of a
continuous series of good and bad experiences as evidenced by the modern concept
of biorhythms. This is true whether we are male or female, young or old, and is
irrespective of our race, ethnic origins, or religious convictions. The two
interrelated concepts of chaos and order
describe the complex nature of our physical universe as one of
orderly disorder (Kellert, 1993). And we, too, embody chaotic order. In
other words, we seem to be ruled alternately, and indiscriminately, by chaos and
We cannot get away from this relationship, but rather must somehow learn
to deal with it. When our lives are going as planned, we can usually expect
chaos (as an unpredictable turn of events) to show up at some point, in one form
or another. Perhaps it will rain when we want to do some work outside, or
perhaps our car will have a flat tire on the way to an evening in town.
The important thing is how we meet this chaos and react to it. According
to the findings of modern chaos theory, periods of chaos (e.g., those unplanned,
unexpected, and usually unwanted events that occur to all of us) can be
creative. If we look hard, perhaps we can find the new order within the chaos
and be better for it.
Jung (1978) taught that the human mind could be considered as a psychic
organism, with evolutionary components acting together, much like the physical
body. He called this organism the psyche.
The organ responsible for consciousness within the psyche is called the ego. Everything else within the psyche is unconscious and can be
known only indirectly, mainly through inference by observations of the ego and
by the analysis of dreams. Jung was able to distinguish at least two major parts
of the unconscious psyche: (1) the personal
unconscious which contains all of our personal memories and repressed
feelings and ideas, and (2) the collective
unconscious which contains structures called archetypes, which are commonly shared by all humankind.
In the same way that our body produces energy from the food that we eat,
so the psyche produces a psychic energy.
Jung (1981) called this energy libido
and he taught that within the psyche, libido: (1) creates entropy,
(2) is generally conserved under the principle of equivalence, (3) flows through the psyche in channels that can be
redirected, (4) can be either progressive or regressive, and (5) is transformed
by symbols. In short, the psyche as,
defined by Jung, is a complex system.
Modern chaos theory addresses complex systems, which are systems with a
large number of interrelated parts, and dynamic
systems, which are systems that change over time. Every complex system, and
especially every living system (living systems are usually referred to as self-organizing systems), is also a dissipative structure. Ilya Prigogine won the Nobel Prize for
chemistry in 1977 for his work on dissipative structures. He defined these
structures as anything that takes on and dissipates energy through interactions
with the environment (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984).
A dissipative system, unlike one that conserves energy, gives rise to
irreversible processes such as the growth of organisms (Nicolis & Prigogine,
1989). Any system that exhibits disequilibrium
(those that fail to achieve equilibrium) and self-organization
(the ability of a system to organize or arrange itself) are dissipative and have
a dissipative structure (Briggs & Peat, 1989, p. 138). Dissipative systems
are those which are able to maintain identity only because they are open to
flows of energy, matter, or information from their environments (Prigogine &
Not only is our body a dissipative system, but our psyche as well. Jung
(1971) designated the ego as an ego-complex,
because of the numerous components and processes with which it is comprised, and
taught that the ego was one of many complexes that exist in the psyche. “The
psyche is a self-regulating system that maintains its equilibrium just as the
body does” (Jung, 1954/1985, p. 152).