The Connection Between Intuition, Instinct and Archetypes.

Associated with implicit knowing is one of the most central aspects of human behavior, instinctual action. This area of the intuitive spectrum pertains to this research by examing the role of the intuitive function has in tempering out of balance instincts characteristic in addictions.

Both implicit knowledge and instincts are unconscious automatic behaviors with biological origins. Implicit knowledge and precognitive assessment is similar to the process Jung (1954/1981) described in instinctual action, which he stated was the process of “no clear demarkations” between the conscious and unconscious (p. 200, [CW 8, para. 397]). During this process there is a surge of intuitive knowledge from the archetypal levels of the psyche which translates the chaotic state of an instinct (Jacobi, 1959; von Franz, 1999). The archetype, a medium of expression portraying the attitude of the instinct, is aided by the intuitive function (Jung, 1948/1981a). To explore Jung’s (1954/1981; 1971/1976) theory on the relationship between intuition and instinct, the concept of the archetype must be explained. The addiction section of the literature review briefly addressed archetypes. To understand this unconscious process a futher definition is required.

The archetypal level of the psyche organizes and translates affective, chaotic states to an outward expression. How archetypes originate within the psyche is not easily traced back to either a personal or collective influence (Jacobi, 1959, p. 35). They can be viewed through spirit or instinct (Odajnyk, 1993; Samuels, 1983). Jung began discussing archetypes as primordial forms in 1911 (Shamdasani, 2003, p. 302). A few years later his discussion continued through the lens of dominant expressions of the collective unconscious, and by 1917 the term archetype was applied to both primordial forms and collective dominants (Jacobi, 1959, p. 33-34; Jaffe, 1984, p. 17; Sabini, 2008, p. 50). The concept of archetypes was based on ethnological, anthropological, gnostic, and medieval influences (Shamdasani, 2003). Central to the meaning of an archetype was Plato’s Theory of Forms, which stated the essence of an object was as significant as the material object itself (Shamdasani, 2003). Jung (1948/1981a) discussed the breadth of the archetype concept:

In Plato, however, an extraordinary high value is set on the archetypes as metaphysical ideas, as “paradigms” or models while real things are held to be only the copies of the these model ideas. Medieval philosophy, from the time of St. Augustine—from whom I have borrowed the idea of the archetype–(footnote: the actual term “archetype” however, is to be found in Dionysius the Areopagite and in the Corpus Hermeticum)–down to Malebranche and Bacon, still stands on a Platonic footing in this respect. But in scholasticism we find the notion that archetypes are natural images engraved on the human mind, helping it to form its judgments. (Jung, 1948/1981a, pp.135-136 [CW 8, para. 275])


Through the review of ancient writings, Jung developed the psychological concept that the feeling imbued through a particular human action was analogous to the feeling an object portrayed. The writings of Plato and the Corpus Hermeticum describe the intangible elements of an object, the sense the form gives to the observer. Comparable to this, the archetype describes the psychic tone and energy of an action in which the effect is as impactful as the action. For example, a sense of beauty manifests itself in many different configurations. Despite the difference in shape or matter, all the various forms can be experienced as beautiful (Lacewing, 2008). The form, or action, makes an impression. What is observed is not only the act, but also how the person is acting. The attitudes accompanying action come from an unconscious imprinting that precedes thought; they are a priori and ancient, the structural dominants of the psyche (Jung, 1954/1981, p. 200, [CW 8, para. 398). Translators of patterns of a priori, primordial behavior, archetypes of this nature are inherent like instincts (Jung, 1954/1981, p. 200, [CW 8, para. 398). The human psyche does not express just one instinct throughout the entire life span, therefore archetypal expression is not bound to stages or development. The primordial level of the psyche is “a region of the psyche, an actual period of evolutionary history, and a way of life during the formative two-million-year Pleistocene era” (Sabini, 2008, p. 42). The primordial foundation of the personality presents “an evolutionary” perspective of the archetypal and instinctual expressions (Sabini, 2008, p. 36).

In the essay Instinct and The Unconscious, Jung (1948/1981a) discussed the relationship between instinct, intuition, and archetype. While this essay discusses balanced instinctual action, it is the “exaggerated” instinct, a “universal human peculiarity,” that is relevant to the discussion on addiction (Jung, 1948/1981a, p. 135, [CW 8, para. 272]). The exaggerated instinct is the psychological state of doing what is wanted rather than what is needed. The psyche rationalizes when it cannot exercise the ability to ‘take as much as needed.’ In this process balanced reason is overcome by instinctual force (p. 135, [CW 8, para. 272]). It is typically at this juncture the psychological treatment for addiction begins. The task is to shift the archetypal expression of the instinct from an amplified need to a balanced one.

Analytical psychology is daily concerned, in the normal and sick alike, with disturbances of conscious apprehension caused by the admixture of archetypal images. The exaggerated actions due to the interference of instinct are caused by intuitive modes of apprehension actuated by archetypes and all too likely to lead to over-intense and often distorted perceptions. (Jung, 1948/1981a, p. 137, [CW 8, para. 279])

To begin this exploration of the psychic components of instinctual action Jung (1948/1981a) stated there was a tendency to overuse the word instinct in common language which ignored the complexities of instinctual behavior and various unconscious influences. To clarify each unconscious function being drawn upon when an instinct is expressed, the definition of instincts was narrowed to: “Only those unconscious processes which are inherited, and occur uniformly and regularly, can be called instinctive” (p. 131, [CW 8, para. 167]). From a “psychological perspective” (p. 129, [CW 8, para. 264]), Jung defined balanced instincts as an action, “a mode of behaviour of which neither the motive nor the aim is fully conscious and which is prompted only by obscure inner necessity” (Jung, 1948/1981a, p. 130, [CW 8, para. 265]). These strict parameters allowed analysis of the other accompanying psychological functions in basic instinctual behavior. Through the example of the yucca plant and moth, Jung illustrated the three parts of a behavior: instinct, intuition, and archetype:

Let us now take as an example the incredibly refined instinct of propagation in the yucca plant open for one night only. The moth takes the pollen from one of the flowers, cuts open the pistil, lays its eggs between the ovules and then stuffs the pellet into the funnel-shaped opening of the pistil. Only once in its life does the moth carry out this complicated operation. (p. 132, [CW 8, para. 268])

This example demonstrated the sophisticated knowledge of timing and process of instinctual action. Remarkably the moth knows exactly when to conduct this solitary act of laying its eggs. The instinctual action works in tandem with an “apprehension,” a comprehension and perception of the exact time and knowledge of what to do. It is the faculty of intuition that provides the understanding of how and when to carry out the instinctual action.

That is why we speak of intuition as an “instinctive” act of comprehension. It is a process analogous to instinct, with the difference that whereas instinct is a purposive impulse to carry out some highly complicated action, intuition is the unconscious, purposive apprehension of a highly complicated situation. (p. 132, [CW 8, para. 269])

Jung discerned instinct and intuiton to be different but proprotionate, bound by an interdependent relationship. Instinct is the action and intuition is the knowledge of when and how to act.

Intuition is an unconscious process in that its result is the irruption into consciousness of an unconscious content, a sudden idea or “hunch.” It resembles a process of preception, but unlike the conscious activity of the senses and introspection the perception is unconscious. (Jung, 1948/1981a, p. 132, [CW 8, para. 269])

The process of intuition is outside of conscious awareness, unlike other perceptive functions like sensing. It erupts into consciousness in a sudden and unexpected way. The moth and the yucca plant demonstrate balanced action between the instinct to survive and the intuitive know-how.

In a sense, therefore, intuition is the reverse of instinct, neither more nor less wonderful than it. But we should never forget that what we call complicated or even wonderful is not all wonderful for nature, but quite ordinary. We always tend to project into things our own difficulties of understanding and to call them complicated, when in reality they are very simple and know nothing of our intellectual problems. (p. 132, [CW 8, para. 269])

When instincts and intuition operate in a balanced way, the action is natural, unencumbered by strong tones or expression. Jung’s claim that intuition and instinct are the “reverse” of one another may be a translation shortcoming, when in actuality Jung may have been meaning intuition and instinct oppose each other, and the unconscious tension transcends into a conscious collaboration of the two faculties. Instinctive action holds an intuitive sense of when to act and what to do. In human behavior this primordial level of the psyche is expressed through an archetype, which is the packaging of the intuitive timing of the expression of the instinct.

In this “deeper” stratum we also find the a priori, inborn forms of “intuition,” namely the archetypes of perception and apprehension, which are the necessary a priori determinants of all psychic processes. Just as his instincts compel man to a specifically human mode of existence, so the archetypes force his ways of perception and apprehension into specifcially human patterns. (pp. 133-134, [CW 8, para. 270])

Jung felt that psychologically instincts and archetypes determined one another (p. 134, para. 271). A classic example is the interaction between instinct, intuition, and archetype is the mother archetype, which expresses an innate understanding of the child. Each faculty relies upon each other to succeed.

The primordial image might suitably be described as the instinct’s perception of itself, or as the self-portrait of the instinct, in exactly the same way consciousness is an inward perception of the objective life-process. Just as conscious apprehension gives our actions form and direction, so unconscious apprehension through the archetype determines the form and direction of instinct. If we call instinct “refined,” then the “intuition” which brings the instinct into play, in other words the apprehension by means of the archetype, must be something incredibly precise. Thus the yucca moth must carry within it an image, as it were, of the situation that “triggers off” its instinct. This image enables it to “recognize” the yucca flower and its structure. (Jung, 1948/1981a, pp. 136-137, [CW 8, para. 277])

In the intersection between image and instinct, intuition steps in to transmit the information. Not all instinctive behaviors are as measured as the moth and the yucca flower, particularly in humans. Jung claimed that both the archetype and the intuitive function contributed to the instinctual action. The questions remain: Is the exaggerated instinct led by an exaggerated intuitive function? Does one unconscious force insist on the accomplice of the other forces when it is out of balance or does one force dominate? How exactly intuition and instinct collaborate or over-power one another is not clear. Jung’s (1948/1981a) essay does not discern if intuition and instinct always act as a bundled function. Questions pertinent to the findings of this research are: What happens to the intuitive function in instinctual impulsivity, and when the impulsivity subsides?

Jung (1948/1981a) wondered if the primordial image was as implicit to intuition as it was to instinct. “It may be that the concept of the primordial image will perform a similiar service with regard to acts of intuitive apprehension” (p. 137, [CW 8, para. 278]). Interpretively it seemed Jung had questions about intuition’s ability to span the ego/Self axis and “binary oppositions” in compensatory relationships within the psyche (Cambray, 2009, p. 35). Binary opposition between instinct and intuition is illustrated through an unconscious function directing conscious action (Jung, 1948/1981a). The relationship between the intuitive function and instinctual action is relevant to the process of addiction recovery because recovery is based on instinctual action shifting from exaggerated to precise. In recovery when instinctual impulsivity is contained, this research concludes the intuitive function emerges more fully.

Featured Posts
Posts Are Coming Soon
Stay tuned...
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square

Cary Dakin PhD, MFT

License No: MFT34856

© 2016 Cary Dakin