C. Jung’s “16 associations” test as a problem solving method

Exercise-test “16 associations”

1. Author and history

Carl Jung created and began to use the word association test in 1910-1916 to unravel the subconscious. He discovered that this instrument was excellent for helping to establish the real motivation of a person. Thanks to this technique, a person can come to the realization of his inside world and begin to eliminate his psychological problems.
Over time, K. Jung’s test has transformed into a methodology for working with personality problems, as well as an effective method for solving diverse practical problems at the subconscious level.

2. Main functions

1. Exercise-test “16 associations” is primarily intended for solving intrapersonal psychological problems by building a map of associative connections and identifying destructive associations.
2. The method allows you to understand the true feelings, desires and real motivation of a person, to identify the causes and sources of intrapsychic problems, as well as to determine ways to solve them.
3. The versatility of the method allows you to identify the deep roots of any issue and creatively solve problems in any area.
4. The method helps to strengthen awareness, to reveal the essence and true reasons of any problem, as well as generate a number of new extraordinary ideas and strong creative solutions.

3. The essence of the method

The “16 associations” method helps to establish contact with the unconscious and use its creative reserves.

4. Theoretical grounds

1. Creative function of the unconscious is central to Jung’s theory of creativity. He saw the unconscious as the psychological wellspring of creativity, vitality, growth. Jung wrote, “From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; the unconscious is the very source of the creative impulse.” Wherein free creativity is the unconscious formation and manifestations of meaningful, symbolic forms, words, and actions.
Carl Jung regarded genuine creativity as a function of yearning that consciously accesses the powerful, transpersonal energies of the unconscious.

2. He proposed that the unconscious consists of two layers: personal and collective unconscious. If the personal unconscious contains all the wealth of a person’s life experience, then in the collective unconscious, there are universal symbols and inherited archetypes.
Thus, personal unconscious contains: “Everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but has now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things which are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness; all this is the content of the unconscious”.
“By far the greater part of the psychic elements in us is unconscious. We are ignorant of the hundreds of associations and combinations we create each day”.

3. The unconscious mind is often working to creatively solve problems outside our awareness, which is why we should be open and receptive to the creative gifts of the unconscious. If the unconscious is the room to the creative flow of life, we should discover how to tap into and best use it.

4. Jung argued that the mind contains both conscious and unconscious aspects that must integrate with each other. Genuine creativity requires synthesis of the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind or their “mutual penetration”.
All content of the unconscious: personal associations, emotional responses and mythical symbols can be analyzed and used as a tap into the unconscious mind.
The more new associations we apply to a keyword, the more the chain that is activated by this word will change.
This is all the work of the subconscious – when thoughts and associations are set out on paper, a person in any case begins to analyze them.

5. Similar to the distinction between sign-association and symbol – archetype, Jung distinguished between the personalistic and the archetypal modes of artistic creation.
Both processes may produce creative results, but only the archetypal mode can lead to extraordinary ideas and more effective and powerful solutions. Archetypal creativity originates in our unconscious and results in art that is symbolic and supra-personal.
According to Jung, an archetype or primordial image is a figure that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed.
Archetypes originating in nature and in our cultures: common symbols and elements like the moon, the sun, water, fire. All of these things come together to find expression in the psyche and are frequently reflected in our stories and myths.
However, “the term archetype is not meant to denote an inherited idea, but rather an inherited mode of functioning”.
As universal structures created by many generations, archetypes concentrate creative power and contain all the experiences, ideas and solutions that have been encountered in history.
Symbolic art, archetypal mode of creativity, analysis of dreams and free associations render the unconscious aspects of the mind observable, and if we discern their meaning and integrate it into our lives, this can transform our conscious understanding.
Archetypes are crystalline structures that are overgrown with the content of personal experience, manifested in the form of associations and symbols.
Therefore, the word association “water” has not only its direct connotations but carries with it such archetypal images as “primary substance”, “life”, “flow”.

5. Procedure

The test is fairly simple and takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.
Need a piece of paper and a pen to complete the exercises.
Place the sheet horizontally so the association diagram unfolds to the right.
Draw Table 1 with empty cells on a piece of paper.

6. Rules

1. For the exercise to be highly effective, it must be performed in absolute peace and solitude.
2. Let go of yourself and freely write down the association words that come to mind. Do not discard words, even if they do not seem right to you.
2. The association can be any, not necessarily logically related to the previous words.
3. Be attentive, choose those words that resonate internally. The more honest and sincere you are with yourself, the better the result will be.
4. Try to find your own, rather than generally accepted associations. Listen to yourself, to your feelings, follow the sensations in the body.
5. Try not to repeat yourself, the word association can be used only once.

7. Basic Steps

1. Formulate a problem requiring a solution or any topic that you would like to clarify. Try to concretize the question and label it with a succinct phrase or word. Write this word at the top of the sheet. Concentrate and think about the word you want to work with.
2. As soon as possible, without hesitation, enter in the left column all the associations that you have with a conceived word – any words, phrases, catchphrases.
3. Combine the obtained 16 associations into pairs: 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. Fill in the second column by entering the associations that arise with the resulting pairs. Just feel that it is this word, and no other, that pops up from the subconscious as uniting this pair of words. Therefore, in the second column, you have 8 words.
4. Combine in pairs 8 received words and write down in the next third column 4 associations that arise in connection with each of the pairs. Now there will be 4 of them!
5. Do the same with the fourth column. Moreover, again combine the words and bring out the associations that arise for each of the 2 received pairs.
6. Finally in the fifth column, by combining the last two words, we have a final association.
As a result, you get a keyword – something that allows you to clarify the problem and find solutions. The last word is the key!

Table 1. Groups of associations for an essential word or problem

        1          2          3          4           5


8. Analysis of results, search and find a solution

1. Analyse and interpret the Keyword.

1. Keyword as a source of fresh ideas and strong solutions
1. Immerse yourself in the word, feel it. What can you say about this keyword? What feelings does it evoke? What does it mean to you? Are you surprised or is this the expected result? Have you discovered something new in yourself?
2. Think over how the word can answer the question asked, clarify the topic, help solve your problem.
3. Probably there is the archetypal mode that connected with this keyword, and that the question we should ask is “What primordial image lies behind it?”
Associate your keyword with the corresponding archetypes, universal symbols, as a source of creative ideas and solutions.

2. Analyse and interpret the whole set of associations

Look at other association words: how many negative words? How many are positively coloured? What words resonate most vividly in your soul, resonate with your inner world?
Link each association from all columns to your problem and record all new and the most successful ideas and solutions.

Table 2. Analysis of all  levels of associations

                   1        2        3         4           5
The reality level The mind level The feelings level The root of the problem The key of the unconscious
What is on the surface, images, appearances, manifestations What do I really think about it? How I really feel about it. The most significant questions Solution source

1. Our “reality level”.
This is what fills our daily life, what lies on the surface.
At the level of reality, our “cliches” “live”, beliefs that do not have serious grounds, but meanwhile affect our life.
The first column of words reflects several points at once:
1. The fears, stamps and imposed beliefs induced on us.
2. The strategy of getting what we are researching is also very clearly visible.
3. The level of pessimism – optimistic about your situation. To determine it, read 16 words and try to evaluate – as they get closer to the end, the words become more optimistic or less?
2. The second column is the mental level! This is what I think about it!
Analyze the second column and find limiting beliefs, obstacles in it. If there are, consider them by asking the question: “Why do I think this is so?”
Ask yourself a clarifying question each time until you are convinced that you have come to an absurdity.
3. The third column is the level of feelings! The third column reveals the feelings that the problem is causing. The analysis of four associations helps to identify our obsessive emotional reactions, fears, the true causes of emotional conflicts and problems.
4. The root of the problem. In the fourth column, words appear that indicate the essence and root of the problem: the main obstacles, concerns and answers to the most significant questions.
5. The key of the unconscious. The fifth column contains the keyword, what your unconscious suggested as a solution to the problem.

Analyzing the fourth and fifth columns is the key to yourself What are these last three keywords for you?
What archetypal images and symbols do they evoke? Analyze the found archetypes, consider them as a concentrated source of new ideas.
You can see the obvious solution, the new path, the forgotten part of yourself.
If it’s good, save the drawing! This is your energy resource!

If the associations have led far and the final word at first glance has nothing to do with the question asked at the beginning, then it makes sense to ask yourself if this is really an essential or real problem.

9. Further work

1. If you will keep the keyword in mind, trying to apply it to various real-life problems, then many thoughts, new ideas and unexpecting solutions may appear that will help you be successful and improve your life.
2. You can perform the exercise again, after a few days, weeks, months or even years. When you take the test again, the result will be different and after 3-6 months, you can get a completely different result.
2. Save the drawing with associations to trace the dynamics of changing attitudes towards a problem situation.
3. Treat your drawing as your energy resource, matrix of new ideas, and source of strong decisions.