Carl Gustav Jung (July 26, 1875 June 6, 1961) was a Swiss
psychiatrist and one-time colleague of Sigmund
Freud. At university, he was a student of Krafft-Ebing.
For a time, Jung was Freud's heir-apparent in the psychoanalytic
movement. After the publication of Jung's Symbols of Transformation
(1912), Jung and Freud endured a painful parting of ways: Jung
seemed to feel confined by what he believed was Freud's narrow,
reductionistic, and rigid view of libido. Freud held that all
libido was at base sexual, while Jung's psychological work continued
to explore libido as multiple and often synthetic.
of research was geared largely toward the nature of symbolism
and the effects of attachment upon the ability of people to
live their lives in ignorance of their deeper "symbolic"
natures. His ideas center around the understanding that a symbol
loses its symbolic power when it is "attached" to
a static meaning. The attached, and therefore static meaning
renders an amorphous symbol (like the sphere or the ourobouros
) to a mere definition; no longer does it have the ability to
be active in the mind as a "transformer of consciousness,"
free to associate with new experiences and thinking. "Symbolic
power" transcends and permeates through all conscious thinking.
Jung is best known for his term "archetype" which
connotes a structural view of psychological life. The term archetype
can be understood as quite similar to and was probably
directly influenced by Kant's
term "a priori." Jung often seemed to view the
archetypes as a sort of psychological organs, directly analogous
to our physical, bodily organs: both being morphological givens
for the species; both arising at least partially through evolutionary
processes. Current Jungian-influenced thinking has explored
nearly diametrically opposing paths from Jung's structural thinking.
Some have pursued deeply structural views, along the lines of
complexity theory in mathematics, and some have tried to work
with Jung's ideas in a seeming post-structuralist way (most
obviously, James Hillman). Jung's work with mythology and archetypes
was one of the most significant influences on mythologist Joseph
the most important archetype to Jung would be what he termed
the "self." It could be described as the ultimate
pattern of psychological life; he characterized it as both the
totality of the personality, conscious and unconscious, and
the process of becoming of the whole personality. It could be
described as both the goal of one's psychological life and that
which pulls one toward it teleologically. One important point
to note here about Jung's thinking is that he did not hold to
be absolute the four-dimensional space-time continuum that we
conventionally conceptualize (see synchronicity).
We can better
understand Jung's views of the self by looking at two other
archetypal or structural views that were highly important to
him: the idea of "the opposites" and his work describing
many old, largely despised and forgotten alchemical texts. Jung
saw these texts as valuable psychological treatises rather than
dry descriptions of arcane magical practices.
Carl Jung's Clinical theories
Jung's writings have been of much interest to people of many
backgrounds and interests, including theologians, people from
the humanities, and mythologists. Jung often seemed to seek
to make contributions to various fields, but he was mostly a
practicing psychiatrist, involved during his whole career in
treating patients. A description of Jung's clinical relevance
is to address the core of his work.
his career working with hospitalized patients with major mental
illnesses, most notably schizophrenia. He was interested in
the possibilities of an unknown "brain toxin" that
could be the cause of schizophrenia. But the majority and the
heart of Jung's clinical career was taken up with what we might
call today individual psychodynamic psychotherapy, in gross
structure very much in the strain of psychoanalytic practice
first formed by Freud.
It is important
to state that Jung seemed to often see his work as not a complete
psychology in itself but as his unique contribution to the field
of psychology. Jung claimed late in his career that only for
about a third of his patients did he use "Jungian analysis."
For another third, Freudian analysis seemed to best suit the
patient's needs and for the final third Adlerian analysis was
most appropriate. In fact, it seems that most contemporary Jungian
clinicians merge a developmentally grounded theory, such as
Self psychology or Donald Winnicott's work, with the Jungian
theories in order to have a "whole" theoretical repertoire
to do actual clinical work.
Jung's career he coined the term and described the concept of
the "complex". Jung claims to have discovered the
concept during his word association and galvanic skin response
experiments. Freud obviously took up this concept in his Oedipus
complex amongst others. Jung seemed to see complexes as quite
autonomous parts of psychological life. It is almost as if Jung
were describing separate personalities within what is considered
a single individual. But to equate Jung's use of complexes with
something along the lines of "multiple personality disorder"
would be to stretch the point beyond breaking.
an archetype as always being the central organizing structure
of a complex. For instance, in a "negative mother complex,"
the archetype of the "negative mother" would be seen
to be central to the identity of that complex. Which is to say,
our psychological lives are patterned on common human experiences.
Interestingly, Jung saw the Ego (which Freud wrote about in
German literally as "the I", one's conscious experience
of oneself) as a complex. If the "I" is a complex,
what might be the archetype that structures it? Jung, and many
Jungians, might say "the hero," that who separates
from the community to some extent to ultimately carry the community
or Ego is tremendously important to Jung's clinical work. Jung's
theory of etiology of psychopathology could almost be simplified
to be stated as a too rigid conscious attitude towards the whole
of the psyche. That is, a psychotic episode can be seen from
a Jungian perspective as the "rest" of the psyche
overwhelming the conscious psyche because the conscious psyche
effectively was locking out and repressing the psyche as a whole.
John Weir Perry's book The Farside of Madness explores and fleshes
out this idea of Jung's very well.
caveats: This is a psychological description of a psychotic
episode. It is clear that Jung hypothesized a medical basis
for schizophrenia that was beyond the understanding of the medical
science of his day (and it must be said seems to still be beyond
present medical science in any satisfactory sense). Twin studies
and plenty of clinical material seem to point clearly to a medical
basis for schizophrenia. It perhaps can best be said that schizophrenia
is both medical and psychological. A medical understanding (again,
as yet still lacking) would not change the fact that schizophrenia
is lived by those who have it psychologically; that is to say,
as theorists and scientists, we may be able to say that schizophrenia
happens in genes, brains, and the electrochemical, but for one
who has schizophrenia it also happens in their mind, which is
to say psychologically. This is to say a purely medical treatment
of major mental illness is inadequate, as is a purely psychological
treatment of major mental illness.
Carl Jung's Pervasive influence
Jung has had a pervasive influence on Western society, sometimes
in ways that are not widely known. For example, Jung once treated
an American patient suffering from chronic alcoholism. After
working with the patient for some time, and achieving no significant
progress, Jung told the man that his alcoholic condition was
near to hopeless, save only the possibility of a spiritual experience.
Jung noted that occasionally such experiences had been known
to reform alcoholics where all else had failed.
took Jung's advice seriously and set about seeking a personal
spiritual experience. He returned home to the United States
and joined a Christian evangelical church. He also told other
alcoholics what Jung had told him about the importance of a
spiritual experience. One of the alcoholics he told was Ebby
Thatcher, a long-time friend and drinking buddy of Bill Wilson,
co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) Thatcher told Wilson
about Jung's ideas. Wilson, who was finding it hard to maintain
sobriety, was impressed and sought out his own spiritual experience.
The influence of Jung ultimately found its way in the 12-step
program of Alcoholics Anonymous, drafted by Wilson, and from
there into the whole 12 Step recovery movement, which has touched
the lives of millions of people.
on noted Canadian novelist Robertson Davies is apparent in many
of Davies's fictional works. In particular, The Cornish Trilogy
and his novel The Manticore each base their design on Jungian
and ideas have even had an impact on music. The Alt-rock band,
Tool have incorporated Jung's work into their album, Ænima.
C.G. Jung Quotes