Carl Jung’s Background
Carl Gustav Jung, a notable Swiss Psychiatrist, was born on the 26th day of July, in the year 1875 in Switzerland near Lake Constance in Kesswill. His father, Paul A. Jung was a protestant church pastor. When he was four years old, the Jung family relocated to Basel (Jung, 1964). Of all the Jung family children, Carl was the only surviving child.
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This was perhaps the reason why his parents were very protective of him. His mother frequently suffered depression and was absent from the family on many occasions. One such occasion, his mother was hospitalized for several months due to depression. This incident left Carl with a fear of being abandoned.
He viewed his mother as an unreliable parent and since she was quite bossy, to Carl, she held all the power leaving his father powerless. Carl started to school when he was six at a village school. All through his school life, Carl is reported to have enjoyed his own company rather than the company of his peers. He would often be found alone in deep thought (Jung, 1964).
There was one notable incident in Carl’s life; one of the students in his class pushed him to the ground. It was a great fall to an extent that Carl lost consciousness. Ever since that incident, Carl would faint whenever he was required to go to school or do any school related activities.
This situation was very serious that his parents and doctors believed that he would never lead a normal life again. However, this situation changed one day when he overheard his father voicing his concerns over his condition. Carl made it his goal to recover in his studies and to everyone’s surprise, he recovered and resumed his studies at his school.
He later went to study medicine at the Basel University and Psychology in Paris (Jung, 1964). A year after his medicine degree in 1902, he married Emma Rauschenbach in 1903; they had five children (Jung, 1964).
Beginning of his Career
The first ever professional post that Carl Jung held was that of an assistant in a Psychiatric Clinic that was situated in Zurich University. He was an assistant to Eugen Bleuler. His post served as an internship for him. It was during these internship years that Jung and other colleagues carried out the ‘Associated Experiment’. This was a technique developed to “investigate significant groups of ideas in the unconscious area of the mind” (Jung, 1964).
These groups would have power over the person and would result in anxieties and inappropriate emotions. It is during internship period that Carl happened to read Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ which was in agreement with what he already believed. He was very impressed and sent Freud a copy of a study he had written. This led to a friendship that lasted for some years. They worked together and Freud had a great impact on some of Jung’s theories. Through Freud, Jung developed interest in the unconscious mind (Jung, 1964).
After working with Freud for years, their ideas started to differ and this was the beginning of their rift and eventual break up. Freud was not impressed with Jung’s way of thinking. He disregarded Freud’s fundamental psychoanalytic doctrines. On the other hand, Jung felt that Freud’s theories were narrow. “Freud believed that the unconscious was the store room for motivations and reserved thoughts and feelings while Jung believed that the unconscious was the source of creativity” (Jung, 1964).
Another contentious issue was the fact that Freud viewed sex as the exclusive motivator of behavior; Jung did not agree. These theoretical differences saw the two separate and “Jung formed his own theory called the Analytical Psychology” (Jung, 1964). The period after their separation saw Jung concentrate on exploration of the subconscious and this was the start of his book which was published fifteen years later.
Carl Jung’s Theories
Carl Jung’s theory classifies the mind into three parts; the ego, the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious (Ellenberger, 1970). The ego is associated with the conscious part of the mind. The personal unconscious represents all the things that can be conscious but are not conscious at the moment.
This is the part reserved for memories that frequently remembered as well as the suppressed issues. Freud would have included instincts in the personal conscious. The collective unconscious represents the awareness that a human being is born with. Since it occurs naturally, we, humans, are not conscious about it.
The collective unconscious directs how each person behaves; for example, it is responsible for the display of emotions. When one is emotional about something, they are not aware that they are getting emotional, they only realize this when they react is an emotional manner like crying (Ellenberger, 1970).
According to Carl Jung, some incidences display the existence of the collective unconscious better than others. Some people claim to experience love at first sight; there was some familiarity about the person and it felt like they already loved them. Even more common is the occurrence of déjà vu; the feeling that you’ve gone through this experience before though you cannot recall when that was. Carl Jung interpreted this as the combination of both the outer and inner realities that are part of the collective unconscious (Ellenberger, 1970).
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Similarly, everyone who has had a near death experience tends to give a similar story where they felt like they disconnected from their physical bodies and were moving towards what looked like a bright light through a dark stretch, like a tunnel. This scene is pleasant and they are saddened by their return to earth through their bodies.
This occurrence repeats itself regardless of the experience that each person goes through. Carl Jung’s argument is that the collective unconscious of all human beings is the same and this near death experience is part of it. Everybody will probably experience death in this same manner (Ellenberger, 1970).
The collective unconscious of every human being is made up of Archetypes. An archetype is the inclination of one to experience, feel and react to certain situations in a certain way. This inclination is not pre-meditated or learned but comes naturally. Archetypes are what determine the behavior of every person, how every person does things is different from the other people.
When an infant gets hungry, they do not know what they want but their craving is satisfied by food, as they grow up, they start craving for specific foods. The mother instincts come naturally, a woman cannot help but care for her child. This describes the mother archetype. Women are generally inbuilt to react the same way to a child. Jung classified the collective unconscious into four major forms: the shadow, the anima, the animus and the self.
The shadow form of the collective subconscious is a representation of deep, intense elements of our mind that may be depicted in dreams and hallucinations. The anima and animus represent both the male and the female aspects of a human being. According to Carl Jung, a person is born without any inclination to a particular sex.
A fetus forms either male or female body parts under the influence of hormones. When a baby is born, the society puts pressure on the new born to act in a certain way depending on the sex of the baby prompting the baby to grow in a certain way. The self is the part of the collective unconscious that is spiritual. It acts as a connector of the conscious and unconscious. Other than these four major archetypes, there are other archetypes that may occur in a person simultaneously. They define the person even further.
Carl Jung also observed that there were two major types of people, the first group was inclined to the external world while the other to the internal world. The people influenced by the external world are referred to as extroverted people while the other group of people is introverted. This classification set the basis for Carl to outline the various personalities of people and explaining their expected behavior (Kolb, Rubin & McIntyre, 1971).
The Impact of Carl Jung’s Theories on Psychology
Despite the fact that Carl Jung’s work had many critics, his theory greatly impacted psychology and psychological analysis. The subject of personality psychology is dependent on Carl’s theory of a person being either introverted or extroverted. It is speculated that the origin of therapy for alcoholics (alcoholics anonymous) was from a session that Carl had with an alcoholic patient (Kolb, Rubin & McIntyre, 1971). Carl’s also brought about the field of analytical psychology.
This field is today widely used in psychology. He outlined steps of therapy that aid the therapist to obtain a full view of what the patient is going through. The preliminary stage of the Carl Jung therapy session is the confession stage. This stage is coined to allow the patient to reach into his inner psyche and share what he has reserved. Elucidation is the second phase where the therapist guides the patient to self-examine himself and come up with possible solutions to the problem (Kolb, Rubin & McIntyre, 1971).
The education stage aims at getting the patient to look at his situation from an external point of view. The very last stage, transformation, aims at understanding the aspects of the conscious mind that are in conflict with the unconscious as this could be the core of the problem (Ellenberger, 1970).
His theory on psychological types was the basis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This is a method formulated to determine the psychological type of a person. This technique is used even in business to ascertain the best candidate for leadership posts depending on their psychological types. Students facing trouble with career choice are guided using this technique as it determines the most suitable career depending on their personality types (Myers-Briggs, 1962).
Similarity of Carl Jung’s Theory of Archetype and Plato’s “Perfect Form”
“Both Plato’s and Jung’s theories revolve around the inquiry into the nature of life” (Singer, 1972). The presence of a greater power that controls the order of things is necessary for the achievement of order for man himself. Everything from plants, mountains and even the universe at large needs to be organized.
Plato’s perfect form declared the existence of a perfect figure of every scheme or plan and generally everything in the world. This notion by Plato was in dispute with the theories of philosophers like Heraclitus which stated that the world was constantly changing. According to Plato, the presence of this higher power organizing the universe is the only way that man and everything else stays in harmony. Man is not at a position to understand this higher power but is completely dependent on it (Singer, 1972).
Jung’s theory did not include a perfect form but is seen to have been influenced greatly by Plato’s perfect form theory. Jung’s notion on the collective unconscious and the archetypes is very similar and seems to originate from the same school of thought. According to Carl Jung, an archetype is a part of a person, the person is unaware of it but it shapes the behavior of that person. The self archetype acts as the connector between the conscious and the unconscious thus keeps a balance between the two.
This can be compared to Plato’s perfect form. According to Plato, there is a perfect form of everything on this natural earth. The self archetype can be considered to represent the perfect form in that; it is a balance between the conscious and the unconscious. The self archetype or any other archetype only manifests itself in certain situations without the knowledge of the person; for example, an emotional person only discovers that they are emotional when an event that triggers their emotions occurs and they begin to cry.
The different archetypes make people behave in certain different ways. This can be seen as an avenue of keeping the balance in the universe. During a crisis, the person with the hero archetype will take control of the situation and rescue the person without the hero archetype. The person with the ‘wise old man’ archetype will take up the responsibility to pass on important information to others. The presence of the father and the mother archetypes gives the family the foundation it requires.
The mother naturally nurtures and cares for the children and the other family members while the father naturally takes control of the household, keeping the peace since he is stern and powerful. Without these archetypes, the family as a unit would not survive; children would not be take care of, teenagers would rebel against their parents; it would be total chaos.
According to Plato, there is a higher power, that humans cannot comprehend, that keeps the balance in the universe and controls everything. According to Jung, every human being has a collective unconscious that they are unaware of that controls their behavior. The different archetypes are present in different people thus everyone has a role, a purpose in life and if everyone fulfils their role, the universe is balanced and at peace.
Ellenberger, H.F. (1970), The Discovery of the Unconscious. The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. 2 (7). 23-84.
Jung, C.G. (1964). Man and His Symbols. New York, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc.
Kolb, D.A., Rubin, I.M., & McIntyre, J. (1971). Organizational Psychology: An experiential approach. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.
Myers-Briggs, I. (1962). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator manual. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Singer, J. (1972). Boundaries of the soul: The practice of Jung’s psychology. Garden City, New York, NY: Anchor Press.