Carl Gustaf Jung Essay

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 One of Sigmund Freud’s early disciples, Carl Jung, accompanied him on his historic first visit to the United States in 1908 and was the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Society. Like many of Freud’s followers, however, Jung eventually came to disagree with and criticize certain portions of psychoanalytic theory, in response to which Freud cut off all communication with him. Following his break with psychoanalysis, Jung developed his own theoretical and therapeutic approach, which he called analytic psychology.

A central disagreement between Freud and Jung involved Freud’s emphasis on the role of early childhood trauma on the development of later neuroses, which Jung instead saw as manifestations of was strongly critical of Freud’s emphasis on sexuality both as a source of neuroses and as the primary source of unconscious drives and instinctive behavior. Like such other psychoanalysts as Karen Horney and Alfred Adler (see NeoFreudians), Jung believed nonsexual problems played a far greater role in maladjustment.

Jung also broke with Freud on the nature of the unconscious mind. Jung felt that, in addition to the individual unconscious, all humans possess a collective unconscious, containing symbols and images shared by all. These symbols and images, known as archetypes, emerge as common elements in dreams and myths, such as mother as a symbol of nurturance, or creation stories that include a great flood; and their presence in the collective unconscious explains why so many myths and stories appear repeatedly, with minor variations, in widely separated areas of the world.

Like Freud, Jung believed that conflict between the unconscious and conscious minds was the source of adult personality and neurosis, but he focused on a different sort of conflict, one between complementary opposite tendencies in personality such as introversion and extraversion. He also saw tension arising between sensing and intuiting, as well as between feeling and thinking. Jung believed that exaggeration of any of these tendencies in the conscious mind would be met by an increase in its opposite in the unconscious mind. Achieving psychological health requires their creative synthesis and reconciliation; therefore, Jungian analytic therapy focuses on exploration and discovery of the unconscious, as psychoanalysis also does.

Also like Freud, Jung has had a large impact on literary criticism and popular culture, but has experienced a steadily diminishing reputation within the field of psychology, for very similar reasons: his ideas, while interesting, are not especially scientific, because they are largely untestable. His impact on the study of world mythologies has been large, especially via the work of Joseph Campbell, author of many books on the cultural and psychological significance of mythology and folktales, but psychologists tend to be wary of some of his more outlandish notions, such as the concept of synchronicity, a vaguely defined “connecting principle” through which coincidences are meaningful and all events are ultimately related in more than a casual way. Most psychologists will respond to that last sentence in the same way as most readers: they will be unsure they’ve understood it, and they’ll see no way to prove it wrong, and therefore no way to prove it right either.



  1. Campbell, J., ed. The Portable Jung. New York: Viking, 1981.

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