Abstraction. A form of mental activity by which a conscious content is freed from its association with irrelevant elements, similar to the process of differentiation. (Compare empathy.)
Abstraction is an activity pertaining to the psychological functions in general. There is an abstract thinking, just as there is abstract feeling, sensation, and intuition. Abstract thinking singles out the rational, logical qualities of a given content from its intellectually irrelevant components. Abstract feeling does the same with a content characterized by its feeling-values . … Abstract sensation would be aesthetic as opposed to sensuous sensation, and abstract intuition would be symbolic as opposed to fantastic intuition. [“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 678.]
I visualize the process of abstraction as a withdrawal of libido from the object, as a backflow of value from the object into a subjective, abstract content. For me, therefore, abstraction amounts to an energic devaluation of the object. In other words, abstraction is an introverting movement of libido. [Ibid., par. 679.]
To the extent that its purpose is to break the object’s hold on the subject, abstraction is an attempt to rise above the primitive state of participation mystique.
© from Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon, reproduced with kind permission of the author.