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Carl Jung

(Redirected from Carl Gustav Jung)

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Carl Gustav Jung (July 26, 1875 – June 6, 1961 EV) was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of the neopsychoanalytic school of psychology. At university, he was a student of Krafft-Ebing. For a time, Jung was Freud's heir-apparent in the psychoanalytic school. After the publication of Jung's Symbols of Transformation (1912 EV), 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.

Table of contents

Jungian psychology

Jung was wary of founding a 'school' of psychology, and his co-workers recall many occasions on which he made statements along the lines of "thank God I am Jung and not a Jungian." This being the case, the term 'Jungian' is a bit of a misnomer. Jung himself preferred the term 'analytical psychology'.

Contemporary analytical psychology has diversified considerably in recent decades, establishing a range of methods and viewpoints, and exploring areas that were insufficiently studied by Jung himself (most notably child psychology).

After the break with Freud, Jung questioned how such divergent views as Freud's, Alfred Adler's and his own could develop out of Psychoanalysis. The result of his questionings was Psychological Types (volume 6 of the Collected Works), in which Jung outlines a framework within which psychological orientations can be identified. The now much misunderstood terms 'extrovert' and 'introvert' derive from this work. In Jung's original usage, the extrovert orientation finds meaning outside the self, in the surrounding world, whereas the introvert finds it within.

Jung also identified four modes of experience, four functions: thought, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Broadly speaking, we tend to work from our most developed function, and we need to widen our personality by developing the others. In addition, the unconscious often tends to manifest through the inferior function, so that encounter with the unconscious and development of the inferior function(s) can tend to progress together. The four functions may be extroverted or introverted. This model has been amended by some subsequent analytical psychologists.

Central to analytical psychology is the encounter with the unconscious. The result is greater adaptation to reality (both inner and outer), and more developed consciousness. We experience the unconscious through symbols, and an essential part of the process is to learn its language. Jung recalled how during his time with Freud he was looking one day at a notice in a foreign language, and he reflected on how the notice doesn't conceal its meaning, but simply requires us to learn how to read it. He considered that maybe Freud had attributed a concealing and distorting function to the unconscious when in fact what's required is to understand how the unconscious expresses itself.

Blocked or distorted development of the personality is characteristic of neurosis, and in psychosis consciousness is overwhelmed by the unconscious. The aim of psychotherapy in Jung's view is to develop a situation where consciousness is not swamped by the unconscious, but neither is it shut off from it. The encounter between consciousness and the symbols arising from the unconscious enriches life and promotes psychological development, individuation.

Jung's concept of the collective unconscious is often misunderstood as some kind of race memory, with the archetypal symbols being somehow transmitted, perhaps genetically. In fact, what Jung meant by the term is that we share a common psychological heritage, just as we share a common physical one. Symbols have a certain similarity and fall into similar patterns in different places and times, simply because all human minds are basically similar. Thus we can often understand the symbols arising from the unconscious by comparing them with similar processes occurring elsewhere. Jung said that it isn't a matter of inherited images, but rather of an inherited predisposition to experience certain images. Many of the commonly repeated criticisms of Jung's work seem to be based on a misunderstanding of this last point.

Jungian psychology 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 has had an enduring influence on psychology as well as wider society. Many key psychological concepts were originally proposed by Jung, including:

Jung's influence can sometimes be found in more unexpected quarters. 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.

The patient 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. 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.

Influence on culture

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