Transcendent Function

“Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage

(Jung, C., G., CW 6, par. 824)

“Dreaming is a form of communicating or communing with oneself (…) Dreaming is a special case of reflexive mental activity, in which the self becomes twofold, one part observing, arguing with, reflecting upon, resisting the implications of, assenting to, ideas, thoughts, situations imaginatively presented to it by the other (Rycroft, C., The Innocence of Dreams, 1979, p. 45, shortened, emphasis mine)


In this paper I’d like to show two dreams of my client where – I believe - a transcendent function emerged. Symbols brought by dreams opened door to forgotten emotions and helped him realize quality of attitude which was shown beneficial when dealing with current difficulties. First, briefly, Jung’s take on the transcendent function.

Jung had realized sometimes in 1916, that transformation of human psyche can take place only through the mediator.[1] By the help of the function, which he called transcendent. This function can be also called synthesizing, bridging, reconciling, and uniting; it is essentially a symbol, first emerging in dreams. (Jung, CW 18, par. 1554) Transcendent function unites the pairs of opposites. (Jung, CW 14, par. 261) He believed that progress in therapy relies on whether the function is produced by the client. It is “a “living, third thing”, a “symbol” transcending previous level of consciousness. (Jung, CW 11, par. 784) Transcendent function, put simplistically, is the psychic function by means of which consciousness can accept and acquire unconscious contents. Jung says: “The tendencies of the conscious and the unconscious are the two factors that together make up the transcendent function. It is called transcendent because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible, without loss of the unconsciousness”.[2] (CW 8, par. 145, emphasis mine, in Chodorow, J.) It is nuevo, a symbol, a tertium, “third thing”, says Jung elsewhere: “From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. (…) The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals. I have called this process in its totality the transcendent function, “function” being here understood not as a basic function but as a complex function made up of other functions, and “transcendent” not as denoting a metaphysical quality but merely the fact that this function facilitates a transition from one attitude to another”.[3] (Jung, CW 6, pars. 823f; italics mine) In analysis, the client is “required to produce” transcendent function if the change of attitude is to take place. (CW 8, pars 151f) Creating of the function is of course not a matter of will.

Hereby I’d like to offer an example with intention to demonstrate possible creation of transcendent function by unconscious of my client. Client, treated for depression, low self-esteem and loss of vis vitalis and life’s meaning, brought following dream (I am offering it only in condensed form): “I am visiting my friend who is selling a beautiful Volkswagen. It is green and shiny. It is old model, but it is refurbished and looks like new. I am thinking that my father would love to have this car. I am negotiating the prize. I want to buy it”. His friend, as he associates, “is a good, man, religious and conscientious”. “If I brought this car to my father, he would be very happy, he has passion for cars”, says my client. Then we speak about his childhood, when he had passion for life too, about times when he was with his father in Germany and how he misses him and those times. Client fells nostalgia and has teary eyes when talking about past. His father died 6 years ago in Germany. Next dream, about a month later: “I am refurbishing wooden hobby horse. It is now like new, I am happy and proud of myself how good job I have done”. “I used to have such a horse” says my client. “A Grandfather made it for my father and I used to play with it too”. This dream brought nostalgia again and opened whole new discussion about the “old good times”, “lost paradise” and how to access this energy now.


  1. Jung, C. G., Psychological Types, Princeton University Press, 1971. CW 6.
  2. Jung, C., G., , Mysterium Coniunctionis, Princeton University Press, 1963, CW 14.
  3. Miller, Jeffrey C., Chodorow, Joan, The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth Through Dialogue With the Unconscious, State University of New York Press, 2004.
  4. Jung, C. G., “On the Nature of the Psyche”, 1947, Pantheon Books, New York, in CW 8
  5. Jung, C.G. (1989), “Mysterium Coniunctionis: An inquiry into the separation and synthesis of psychic opposites in alchemy”, CW 14. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. First published in 1963.

[1] Jung, C. G. (1969). “The Structure and Dynamic of the Psyche”. Hull, R. F. C. (Trans). Bollingen Series XX. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 8. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. First published in 1960.

[2] Jeffrey C. Miller, Joan Chodorow, The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth Through Dialogue With the Unconscious, State University of New York Press, 2004

[3] Jung, C. G., Psychological Types, Princeton University Press, 1971. (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol.6).


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