Carl Gustav Jung (26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who founded Analytical Psychology.
He was one of the creators of modern depth psychology, which seeks to facilitate a conversation with the unconscious energies which move through each of us. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of the extraverted and the introverted personality, archetypes, and the collective unconscious, the complex and synchronicity. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, literature, and related fields.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a popular psychometric instrument has been developed from Jung’s theories on Typology. Jung’s correspondence and work with a patient led to the creation of the Alcoholics Anonymous Program.
Jung has had an enduring influence both in psychology and beyond. Many writers, artists, musicians, film makers, theologians, and mythologists have found inspiration in Jung’s work. Jung proposed that Art can be used to alleviate or contain feelings of trauma, fear, or anxiety and also to repair, restore and heal. In his work with patients and in his own personal explorations, Jung wrote that art expression and images found in dreams could be helpful in recovering from trauma and emotional distress. Jung often drew, painted, or made objects and constructions at times of emotional distress, which he recognized as more than recreational.
He had a deep appreciation of our creative life and considered spirituality a central part of the human journey. His method of interpretation of symbolic expression not only deepens our understanding of personal material, opening the psychodynamics of our personal biographies and dreams, but the deeper, collective patterns which develop within culture as well.
In his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote:
“when people feel they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama. That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing of children, are all maya (illusion) compared to that one thing, that your life is meaningful.”
Individuation is the central concept of analytical psychology. Jung considered individuation, the psychological process of integrating the opposites, including the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining their relative autonomy, to be the central process of human development.
Jung’s life and times
Born in the small village of Kesswil, Switzerland, on the 26th July, 1875, Jung was a solitary and introverted child, spending many hours alone, developing a rich inner life:
Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away – an ephemeral apparition….In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world erupted into this transitory one. That is why I speak chiefly of inner experiences, amongst which I include my dreams and visions. These form the prima material of my scientific work. They were the fiery magma out of which the stone that had to be worked was crystallized. All other memories of travels, people and my surroundings have paled beside these interior happenings.(Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C.G. Jung p.18)
The prima materia of dreams, visions and fantasies guided, connected and informed Jung’s own personal journey and formed the basis of his life work. From an early age Jung remembered significant dreams, recalling at the age of three or four, a numinous dream, situated in a meadow not far from his home:
In the dream I was in this meadow. Suddenly I discovered a dark, rectangular, stone-line hole in the ground. I had never seen it before. I ran forward curiously and peered down into it. Then I saw a stone stairway leading down. Hesitantly and fearfully, I descended. At the bottom was a doorway with a round arch, closed off by a green curtain. It was a big, heavy curtain of worked stuff like brocade, and it looked very sumptuous. Curious to see what might be hidden behind, I pushed it aside. I saw before me in the dim light a rectangular chamber about thirty feet long. The ceiling was arched and of hewn stone. The floor was laid with flagstones, and in the centre a red carpet ran from the entrance to a low platform. On this platform stood a wonderfully rich golden throne. I am not certain, but perhaps a red cushion lay on the seat. It was a magnificent throne, a real king’s throne in a fairy tale. Something was standing on it which I thought at first was a tree trunk twelve to fifteen feet high and about one and a half to two feet thick. It was a huge thing, reaching almost to the ceiling. But it was of a curious composition: it was made of skin and naked flesh, and on top was something like a rounded head with no face and no hair. On the very top of the head was a single eye, gazing motionlessly upward.
It was fairly light in the room, although there were no windows and no apparent source of light. Above the head, however, was an aura of brightness. The thing did not move, yet I had the feeling that it might at any moment crawl off the throne like a worm and creep toward me. I was paralyzed with terror. At that moment I hear from outside and above me my mother’s voice. She called out, “Yes, just look at him. That is the man-eater!” That intensified my terror still more, and I awoke sweating and scared to death. (C.G. Jung pp. 26 & 27)
This dream was to haunt Jung for years, its meaning discovered bit by bit – “it was in line with the powerful phallic deities of the Celtic, German, Greek, Egyptian and Middle and Far Eastern peoples, gods that are the embodiment of creative life-bestowing power. Much of Jung’s life work was to spring from these primitive and chthonic depths, emphasizing the maternal rather than the paternal principle.” (Carl Jung Wounded Healer of the Soul, Claire Dunn pg.30)
Around this time Jung became aware of two distinct personalities within himself, which he later labeled his number one and number two personalities. Personality number one was the mask or false self that he projected to the world, personality number two was a secret self, wise beyond its years which he regarded as cosmic, timeless and impersonal. Jung also noticed two personalities within his mother, her number one personality being warm, caring and pleasant, whilst her number two personality was nocturnal, ruthless and packed with primitive spirituality. Throughout his life, Jung sought to reconcile the split he experienced in himself.
In the spring of 1886, at the age of eleven, Jung began secondary school at the Gymnasium in Basel. According to his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, it was the beginning of a difficult period for him in which he experienced himself as an outsider. During this time a school friend threw Jung to the ground causing Jung to faint for a short while, Jung feigned a longer period of unconsciousness to frighten the young boy. From then on he lapsed into unconsciousness whenever he wanted to escape going to school or doing his homework. This lasted about half a year, then overhearing his father’s worries that the he might be epileptic and unable to support himself, Jung realized that life was a serious matter and that he would have to prepare himself to earn a living. From that day onward Jung strove to repress his fainting spells and resumed his schoolwork. Out of this experience Jung first discovered how a childhood neurosis can start and how it can be spontaneously cured, foreshadowing one of the main principles of Jungian psychotherapy, namely, bring the patient back to reality.
Returning to school, Jung immersed himself in philosophy, religion, biology, zoology, medicine and paleontology. When he entered the University of Basel, in 1895, his intended field of focus was medicine, but along the way he became captivated with the fledgling science of psychiatry.
After graduating from Basel, Jung became an assistant physician at Burholzli clinic under Eugen Bleuler.
From the outset the twenty-five year old assistant at Burgholzli Hospital related to patients and their psychic disorders in his own way. Unlike most practitioners of his day, he actually listened to their personal stories, paid attention to the context of their fantasies, discussed their dreams… (Dunn, p.43)
In 1902 the degree of doctor of medicine was conferred upon him for his dissertation On the Psychology and Pathology of So Called Occult Phenomena. In his doctoral dissertation Jung sought to understand psychologically the behavior of a fifteen year old female medium (his cousin Helene Preiswerk) whom he carefully observed during the years 1899 and 1900 performing séances. Jung speculated that in some cases of somnambulistic heightened unconscious performance “postulate a highly developed intellectual activity of the unconscious.” This study led Jung to his fundamental notion that there is in every individual a natural predisposition towards a totality of the psyche – that is an inner process, orientated towards the future that drives us towards integrating conscious and unconscious aspects of the personality.
Bleuler, who had just introduced the use of psychological tests, at Burholzli, asked Jung to experiment with Galton’s word association test, in which subjects were given stimulus words and asked to respond with the first word or idea that come to mind, difference in response time revealed repressed psychic content which Jung termed “complexes”, a term which has since become part of our everyday language.
a complex with its given tension or energy has the tendency to form a little personality of itself. It has a sort of body, a certain amount of its own physiology. It can upset the stomach. It upsets the breathing, it disturbs the heart – in short, it behaves like a partial personality. For instance, when you want to say or do something and unfortunately a complex interferes with this intention, then you say or do something different from what you intended. (The Symbolic Life, C.G. Jung p. 72)
Publishing the results of his studies in The Psychology of Dementia Praexoc (1906) Jung sent a copy of his book to Freud.
In February 1907 Jung went to meet Freud in Vienna, in their initial meeting they spoke for thirteen straight hours. In the beginning, their relationship was facilitated by mutual good will with Jung being passionately interested and enthusiastic about Freud’s ideas. Freud considered Jung, who was 19 years, his junior, the son who would succeed him as leader of the psychoanalytical movement. As time passed Jung became increasingly critical about Freud’s ideas being unable to accept Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex and the libido. This fundamental difference in thinking, lead to a break between the two men.
Whilst working at Burgholzli with severely psychotic patients, Jung noticed the occurrence of universal symbols, in their delusions and hallucinations. This brought him to the realization that there existed within the unconscious, a realm of archetypes and not just repressed material, as thought by Freud.
Jung’s experience with psychotic patient’s greatly influenced his later work. The patients who primarily interest him in his later years were those who, having achieved success in the external world, found life meaningless and empty. In Jung’s view, these patients had become cut off from the myth-making level of mind, and needed to regain contact with it by exploring their dreams and phantasies. The normal person, as well as the schizophrenic, needed a personal myth which would make sense out of experiences, and restore a sense of meaning to life. (Jung in Contexts, Foreword by Anthony Storr, p.xiii)
Although Jung had a lot to lose professionally by withdrawing from Freud, he saw no other choice, a parting that brought inner uncertainty and a period of disorientation for Jung.
Jung published Psychology and the Unconscious which argued against some of Freud’s ideas. “Jung’s concept of the unconscious differs from that of Freud on three main points: (1) It has an autonomous course of development. (2) It is complementary to consciousness. (3) It is the seat of universal primordial images, the archetypes.” (The Discovery of the Unconscious, Henri F. Ellenberger p.705)
Following his split with Freud, Jung experienced a confrontation with the unconscious and became worried that he was experiencing a psychosis and entered a period of intense soul searching. In the six year period that followed, Jung devoted himself to exploring his own unconscious.
This new experiment was analogous to Freud’s ‘self-analysis’, which was most likely unknown to Jung, although the method was quite different. Whereas Freud had used free association, Jung resorted to the technique of provoking the upsurge of unconscious imager and its overflowing into consciousness by two means: first by writing down and drawing his dreams every morning, and second by telling himself stories and forcing himself to prolong them by writing down everything that his unfettered imagination could dictate. It was, according to Jung, on December 12, 1913, that he started these exercises. At first he directed his daydreams by fancying that he was digging into the earth and into underground galleries and caves, where he encountered all kinds of weird figures. On December 18, the archetypes began to manifest themselves more directly. Jung dreamed that he was a young savage on a desert mountain where they killed the old Germanic hero, Siegfried. Jung interpreted this dream as meaning that he had to kill a secret identification in himself with a heroic figure that had to be overcome. In the subterranean world where his fantasies now led him he met the figure of an old man, Elias with a young blind woman, Salome, and later a wise and learned man, Philemon. By conversing with Philemon, Jung learned that man can teach himself things of which he is not aware. (Ellenberger p.670)
He recorded his experiences in a book known as the Red Book, a book which he continued to write and illustrate over the next 15 years.
After publishing numerous studies on psychiatric problems, among which his paper the Psychology of Dementia Praecox, in 1907 Jung resigned from Burgholzli in 1909 and in 1913 resigned his lectureship at the University of Zurich, to devote himself entirely to his private medical and psychotherapeutic practice.
Jung’s period of creative illness or self-analysis was followed by the unveiling of his theory on the collective unconscious and many more important works which followed in rapid succession, including his major writings of Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), Symbols and Transformation of the Libido (1912), The Psychology of the Unconscious (1917), Psychological Types (1921), Modern Man in Search of A Soul (1933), Psychology and Alchemy (1944), Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (1951), Answer to Job (1952), Synchronicity : An Acausal Connecting Principle (1952), Mysterium Coniunctionis (1956), Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth (1958), Memories, Dreams and Reflections (1961), Man and his Symbols (1964).
Jung’s work aroused much interest, in the psychoanalytic world, bringing the revised idea of libido being linked to psychic energy and appearing in the form of universal symbols and archetypes, a new concept of the unconscious including the collective unconscious, the structure of the human psyche including the persona, shadow, anima/animus, the self and the process of individuation.
Some of Jung’s major contributions to psychology include:
The word association experiment, which today it is still part of the diagnostic equipment of metal hospitals and courts and is used for training in personality diagnosis and for vocational guidance of all kinds. This work fueled the development of the modern day lie-detector test.
The discovery of complexes, groups or ideas of affective, repressed psychic contents.
Our understanding of the human psyche consisting of the three layers – the ego, the conscious thinking self; the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious, the deeper layer of the psyche that contains the archetypes.
The archetypes, primordial images that reflect basic patterns or universal themes common to us all and include the persona, the shadow, the anima/animus and the Self.
The concept of Libido, referring not only to sexuality but to the vital energy that flows through the psyche.
The dynamics of the psyche including the principle of oppositions, the principle of equivalence and the principle of entropy
Dream interpretation, using the elements of a person’s dreams as representation of their intraspychic data to gain insight into their projections.
The method of active imagination, to stimulate the symbol making ability of the psyche to create spontaneous products in which the unconscious contents are concretized and are able to resolve psychic disturbances.
Jung’s method of active imagination inspired Desoille’s daydream therapy.
Child analysts adopted Jung’s techniques of therapy through drawing and painting.
The proposal model of psychological attitudes and functions highlighting the introverted and extraverted personality types and the four psychological functions of thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. This model led to the development of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which is used in:
business to evaluate leadership styles and judge teamwork skills
high schools and universities for career counseling and academic advising
Mental health centers for personality assessment.
Synchronicity, the concept of meaningful coincidences between inner and outer events.
A process of personal growth called individuation. The aim of Jungian psychology is to help the individual move towards greater self-realization through the integration of oppositional forces within the conscious and unconscious component of their personality.
Jung believed that the religious drive within man is as powerful as the instinct of sex or aggression. This is why certain individual are freed of their neurosis simply by a return to the practice of the religion in which they believe. Jung contented that “among all my patients who are in the second half of life there is not one whose principal problem is not a religious one.” Through this principle, Alcoholics Anonymous indirectly owes its origin to Jung.
That a little-known story has been clarified by the recent publication of an exchange of letters between one of the cofounders of AA and Jung. Around 1931 an American alcoholic patient, Roland H., came to C.G. Jung who gave him psychotherapy for perhaps one year, but he relapsed shortly afterward. He returned to Jung who frankly told him there was no more hope for him in any further medical or psychiatric treatment. Roland H. asked whether there was any other hope and Jung replied that there might be provided he could became the subject of a spiritual or religious experience, which might remotivate him entirely. Roland H. joined the Oxford Group where he found a conversion experience, was delivered from his compulsion to drink, and devoted himself to helping other alcoholics. One of them, Eddy, followed his example, joined the Oxford Group, and was freed from his drinking compulsion. In November 1934 Eddy visited his friend Bill, whose case was considered hopeless, and told him of his experience. Bill subsequently had a religious experience and a vision of a society of alcoholics transmitting their experience from one to the other. Eddy and Bill then founded the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous whose subsequent development is known. (Bill’s Story, Alcoholics Anonymous)
Those who visited Jung during the latter part of his life remember his conversations as a unique mixture of lofty psychological concepts and practical wisdom. He emphasized the meaning of awareness, not only as a therapeutic device but as an ethic principle. “Unawareness is the greatest sin” was one of his maxims. Many neuroses, Jung said, originate in unawareness, any others in flight from one’s life tasks. Such is the case of the young child who shrinks going to school, of the delayed adolescent, the perennial student, the man who does not fulfill his duties as citizen, the older person who want to live as a youth….A further function of emotional stability is the individual’s social integration: everyone should possess his own house and garden, be an active member of his community, live in the continuity of his family tradition and his culture, obey the commands of his religion if he believes in one. Though the path of individuation may differ from East to West, it tends towards the same goal: the more an individual has “become what he is,” the more he is a truly social man. (Ellenberger, p.723)
Viewing people in a positive sense and believing that we are inherently predisposed to making our individual mark in the world, Jung left us with a road map to living consciously, towards self-realization and individuation.
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C.G. Jung, Fontana Press 1995
Carl Jung, Wounded Healer of the Soul, Claire Dunne, Watkins Publishing 2012
The Discovery of the Unconscious, Henri F. Ellenberger, 1970
Jung in Contexts A reader, Paul Bishop, Routledge 199