Mapping The Soul with Dr. Murray Stein - full interview
Updated: Jan 24
Bagging their third Billboard 200 #1 within less than a year with their latest extended play, Map Of The Soul: Persona, BTS have paved the way and secured their positions as global popstars. While the seven-track EP continues to set records, both domestic and international, in true BTS style the album also pushes further the Bangtan Universe (BU) narrative.
The septet is often seen citing symbolism, mythology and literature amongst many in their works, as they seamlessly weave an alternative universe that is very much relatable to their ARMYs and more. Map Of The Soul: Persona is no exception to this rule, as the album is based on the psychological book,“Jung's Map of the Soul”, derived from Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s theories.
Dr. Murray Stein, a Jungian analyst and author of “Jung’s Map Of the Soul”, on learning of this amalgamation of his research and Korean music commended BTS for their conceptualization. “I must say I’m thrilled that they are taking an interest in Jung and my book,” Dr. Stein said in episode 42 of “Speaking of Jung”, a podcast that interviews Jungian analysts, hosted by Laura London who addressed the Jungian themes in BTS' comeback, “that Jung’s message and Jung’s vision is being transmitted to people who otherwise would never hear about him or pay attention to what he has to offer.”
The ARMY Magazine team had the pleasure to explore Jungian concepts, symbolism and BTS’ message with Dr. Murray Stein himself for the latest issue.
The majority of our readers are young people with no background in psychology. For those of us who are being introduced to this world for the first time, by BTS, would you briefly explain Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and his model of the psyche?
Murray Stein: "Think of your psyche as a house and imagine that it has several storeys upward and several levels of basement below. You live on the ground floor and look out the windows at the world around you. The world looks back at you sees the façade of your house. The façade is called 'persona.' On the ground floor you live with your family, and you invite friends in to visit you and have intimate conversations with them.
"You show them another part of yourself, your conscious feelings, thoughts, fantasies, and so forth. But you don’t show them everything. And there are some things about yourself that you show nobody and have put away in the basement and have forgotten about. Sometimes you remember them, and it’s not always with good feeling because some of them remind you of bad experiences.
"This basement level we call the personal unconscious and its contents are called 'complexes.' The complexes are like alive little demons and usually they can be confined to the basement but once in a while they come upstairs and cause emotional disturbances. The less appealing and hidden parts that you don’t want to show others or even look at very often yourself we call 'shadow.'
"The shadow is very different from the persona, in fact it is more or less the opposite. If the persona shows you to be open, friendly, and colourful, the shadow is selfish, envious, and dark. And so forth. If you go deeper down still into the sub basement, you will find objects that belonged to your grandparents and to their parents, back through the generations of your family history and your cultural past.
"This level we call the cultural unconscious, and like the first basement level it has some very important elements. In the first level they are called 'personal complexes,' and at this deeper level they are called 'cultural complexes.' These have a quiet, hidden and mostly unnoticed influence upon your life on the upper levels. You might not know that this history is influencing your attitudes, feelings, fantasies and thoughts, but it is.
"We speak today of transgenerational transmission of trauma (TTT). The cultural complexes are the ghosts of a nation’s or tribe’s past that continue to haunt history through the generations. Go down, and you will become aware of the hidden parts of your psyche that play a big role in your everyday behaviour and shape your patterns of thought and interaction with other people.
"Now if you go down still another level, you will come upon ancestral contents that go back in time even further. In fact, some go back so far that they are very similar to objects that people who do not live anywhere near you have in their sub-sub-basements.
"This level we call the 'collective unconscious.' At this level, human beings share a common heritage. It is the level of the old brain, the instinctual animal level that we inherit when we are born human. This is the level of the unconscious that we call 'archetypal,' which means that it is universal and shared by all human beings on the planet. At this level, we are all the same. At the upper levels, we are different because of our cultural and family histories.
"There are also upper levels in the house, upstairs floors and attics. As you go higher, you get into the spiritual aspects of the psyche, thoughts and feelings that take you toward what is called 'transcendence.' This is where the rituals and sacred objects of the world’s religions are housed. They connect your life to eternal ideas and values and lead you to experiences of what Jung called 'the numinous,' in other words to 'the holy' or 'sacred' dimensions of human existence.
"Paradoxically, these archetypal patterns are linked to the deep instinctual level and give them direction and meaning. So think of your psyche as a big house with many levels and rooms and a lot of activities going on at and among all levels."
You’ve stated previously that you were relatively young when you first began studying Carl Jung’s theories. What about his teachings pulled you in as a young person, resonating with you above other ways of thought?
MS: "What really gripped me was that he made abstract ideas that I had studied in books and school very personal and real. For instance, the idea of God.
"He showed how God could be experienced in an individual way. When I read Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I felt convinced that I had found someone who had lived an authentic life, deeply connected to all the layers and levels of his psyche, and someone who had found a way to show others how to do the same thing. He gave me a map of the soul, and this is what I have tried to communicate in my book with this title.
"Jung’s approach to life is very personal, very individual, and yet it also reaches out to the wide world of relationships, to love and friendship and to the world of power politics and economics, but in a very individual way. I found that Jung’s writings brought me back to myself in a deep and convincing way. And I think that this is also what the BTS album, “Map of the Soul: Persona,” is all about.
"I hope it helps people to find themselves and to live their uniqueness. Each person is a 'star,' as they sing in Mikrokosmos."
How has the study/field changed since you, yourself, were a young person?
MS: "For me, the study of Jung’s works has been a process of ever going deeper. I am still discovering levels of meaning and treasures in his texts after nearly fifty years of intensive study. Of course, I have also in this time absorbed a lot of other material in my academic studies and in my psychoanalytic practice, but in the end I always have come back to Jung.
"In 2009, The Red Book: Liber Novus, Jung’s account of his midlife journey into the depths of the psyche, was published, and this has brought renewed interest and excitement about Jung’s work all around the world.
"I have been in recent years busy editing a Series of books titled Jung’s Red Book for Our Time: Searching for Soul Under Post-Modern Conditions, which has caught a lot of interest among Jungian readers. The essays in this Series, written by over fifty authors from many cultures and countries, show the variety of meanings and dimensions that people can discover in this remarkable work."
What is the best way to discover and acknowledge our shadows?
MS: "It is very difficult to discover your shadows by just looking inward and introspecting. This is because they are unconscious, hidden away in the basement. But other people often can tell you about them. So one way is to ask your wife or husband, your friends and your enemies: what do you see in my attitudes and behaviours that I don't see? If they are honest, they will tell you.
"Another way is to observe your dreams. Generally, the figures in your dreams who are opponents and very different from yourself can be taken as representatives of your shadows. Shadow work, as we call it, is usually very challenging and quite unpleasant, but it is essential if you wish to grow and develop."
It is said that to integrate - to a certain degree - one's shadows brings a sense of wholeness. In the book, two methods of how to handle this process are described: through therapy, or by observing and accepting one's psyche and creating a psychological distance between ego, persona, and shadow. Do you think there's another way to achieve this result and to find the equilibrium?
MS: "As I said above, ask your spouse, your friends, your enemies, or listen to their criticisms of your behaviour. Then think about how you look from their point of view. This will tell you a lot about your shadows. What then? We speak of 'integrating the shadow,' and what this means is to bring these aspects of your personality into consciousness and to hold them there, to accept them as a part of yourself, to know that this is a part of who you are.
"Then you have a chance to counteract their more destructive effects. If you do not know your shadow, it will continue to undermine your relationships and efforts to live a creative and productive life.
"Many people get blocked in life because they refuse to recognize what their shadows are up to. The shadow will trip you up and prevent you from reaching your goal if you do not take it into account and bring it with you consciously on your life’s journey. You have to include it, not deny and repress it."
Children learn quickly that if they act in a gender-appropriate manner they're treated in a certain way; therefore, they incorporate those behaviors into their persona for self-preservation and to fit in society. Do you think breaking gender stereotypes would affect - positively or negatively - the child's mental health and balance? And, given the gender identification issues more and more people are facing in the last few generations, would breaking those stereotypes help our ego and anima/us find a better balance?
MS: "Ultimately it is important to live your truth. To not do so will make you ill and neurotic. It’s not healthy to repress important parts of yourself. But you also have to adapt to society and live within the prescriptions of your culture if you wish to do well in life. So it’s a matter of striking a balance.
"Nowadays there is much more social support, at least in some parts of the world, to express difference and uniqueness with regard to gender and gender preference from the general cultural norms, so it is easier to live the specific and nuanced qualities of gender that you discover in your personal life. This is a part of the individuation process, but I have to add that this is a lifelong journey.
"Many aspects of gender that seem clear at one stage of life undergo modifications and further differentiation and nuance in later stages of life. So it is best to stay open to new developments as they emerge in life. Getting the right balance today might be different from getting it ten or twenty years from now. We change as life unfolds its potentials."
Do you believe that BTS’ interpretation of Jung’s teachings would align with what the man himself intended?
MS: "I have the feeling that Jung would be encouraged and delighted with what BTS is doing. In this album about Persona they are introducing important psychological reflections about personal identity as opposed to collective social identity. This is the beginning of individuation.
"Jung would be totally in favour of this reflection. The album’s songs are rich in psychological meaning, and I hope the fans will think about the message as well as enjoy the marvellous music and images created by these gifted artists."
Because research from psychiatrists like Carl Jung is not often discussed in media such as music, how do you think BTS' interpretation of Jungian psychology will help young people in terms of understanding oneself? Do you believe this will begin a trend of discussing similar topics in music and other media?
MS: "I hope so. Our world’s population is growing by leaps and bounds, and psychological education is more and more critically important. Music and media reach out to the world’s people in ways that books cannot, so this extension of psychological education through media is urgently needed.
"That’s why I applaud what BTS is doing. They are serving the world."
In your experience, after having discovered yourself through Jung’s teachings, how could a greater understanding of those teachings (and in conjunction, a better understanding of ourselves) alter daily human interactions?
MS: "A psychological understanding of ourselves changes our human interactions in many ways. For instance, we learn to pause and reflect before reacting. We consider possibilities like shadow projection before we attack or hate someone. We consider differences in cognitive style (i.e., psychological type) when we listen to others or read their works. We learn to take cultural difference into account in our interactions with people from different countries. We come to relationships “with love” rather then becoming obsessed and going into them “in love.” These and a host of other ways of interacting can make a big difference in how we relate to other people."
If you would have the chance to have a cup of coffee with BTS, what would you tell them? What would you advise them?
MS: "I would treasure the opportunity to have a cup of coffee with BTS. I would advise them always to remember who they are individually and where they came from no matter how famous and successful they become.
"This is essentially RM’s message in the talk he gave at the United Nations. They are young and they have much of life ahead of them still, so they can look forward to many new developments in their personalities and relationships in the years to come. Look back and look ahead and stay in the moment, would be my advice."
Jung believed that individuation was a process best undertaken later in life; however, the world and society have changed since then. Do you believe it is possible that young people are, on average, beginning this process earlier due to the current era of information and shared culture/ideas via the internet?
MS: "There are several key stages or phases in the lifelong process of individuation. Young people as always need to find their place in the social world, to build up a sense of personal identity, and to find a satisfying way to make a living and to contribute to their families and to society. I don’t think this has changed.
"However, people develop differently. Introverts go more slowly at first but go deeper; extraverts race ahead and have to catch up with themselves later. A lot depends of what kind of personality you are endowed with."
Questions from our readers
"One can achieve all the success and happiness and whatever he/she wants if they understand and learn how their subconscious and conscious mind works." How true is this sentence? Do you believe that understanding the subconscious and conscious minds would bring greater success and happiness to people?
MS: "There no shortcut to success in the psychological sense. Some people are lucky and have a lot of success early in life, while for others it comes later. I measure success in developmental terms:
"Have you successfully separated from your early attachments and been able to make a life of your own? Have you developed the capacity to contain and use your emotions instead of letting them rule your life? Have you achieved a sense of self and uniqueness in your life? Have you freed yourself from dependence on the opinions of others? These are some of the markers I look for."
What do you think about how big of an influence you and the book have become? What is your opinion of the upcoming album’s theories being influenced by your work?
MS: "I am surprised that my book has taken hold of the imagination of BTS and their fans, and of course I am pleased with this. I do not know how this came about, but I am enjoying the interaction with the BTS fans.
"I hope BTS will make some more albums based on psychological values and insights. This is an important contribution to our world. What I’m interested in mostly is raising the level of consciousness in the world so we as humans are able to do a better job of living together and taking care of our precious earth."
BTS discusses love quite a bit in their music, whether it's the love of another or of oneself. How did Jung think love (as an all-around concept) affects the "self," i.e. your conscious and unconscious self?
MS: "Jung thought of love as a powerful force in human life. He called Eros “a mighty daimon.” This force can take people into the depths or up to the heights of human experience. Love in itself does not guarantee happiness. Sometimes it leads people to despair or even suicide. Similarly, self-love can be positive or excessive and regressive.
"It all depends on what we do with love when it takes hold of us. Can we be “with love” as an asset, or does it become a destructive force in our lives? Love is said to be the best cure for depression, but it can also cause depression if its goal is not attained. As Jungian psychoanalysts, we try to help people find love and to enjoy its blessings but not to be overcome by its demands."
What is your opinion on how “Singing in the Rain” was used as a model for the music video of their first single (“Boy With Luv”) and how well that approach worked for approaching a topic such as “persona?”
MS: "I have to confess that when I watch Boy with Luv I do not think of 'Singing in the Rain', although I can certainly see why many people make that association.
"What I see is the appearance of what we call the 'anima' in the circle of the BTS group, which is an answer to their call for 'soul.' It is so charming to see how the female singer blends into the male group and joins in the song.
"It is an image of integration of love into life. She does not take over but joins the group that is already there. Together they represent Boy with Luv."
How do you think this movement can affect the collective unconscious in this generation of young people and young adults, since, thanks to its popular music language and the charisma of artists, it attracts more people every day? Do you believe in the possibility that BTS, by intelligently choosing your letters, can contribute to the healing of a large percentage of the population?
MS: "I believe BTS can make a difference. The music reaches so many people who would never open a book, but with the inspiration from the BTS words and music they might be inspired to look deeper, into themselves and into what other great thinkers and philosophers like C.G. Jung have said.
"Music of course touches levels of the unconscious that words by themselves cannot, so it is a very powerful instrument for influencing people at an unconscious level, for better or for worse. I applaud the effort of BTS to make a positive difference in what today is a very troubled world."
In a world where people often wear a mask to hide their emotions, feelings and thoughts, BTS continuously encourage their listeners to wholly accept themselves. However, acceptance can only start with a sense of understanding, and by borrowing Jungian concepts that align with every individualistic mindset BTS provide a haven for growth and learning alongside the group itself.
ARMY Magazine would like to express their gratitude to Dr. Murray Stein and his team for their cooperation and time. We hope our joint efforts not only helps fellow ARMYs to understand the concepts within the BU but also piques their interests further for the human mind and world.
By Nasty, Aury, Euni & Mae
*Highlights of this interview have been published on ARMY Magazine ISSUE NO.6 which is focused on BTS' Wings era. Check it out and let us know what was your favourite part of this edition. You can reach out to us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) @ARMYMAGofficial.
Click here to view previous editions. All ARMY Magazine issues are available for FREE.