Carl Jung, known as the founder of analytic psychology, overcame his own introversion and neurosis in order to share his theories with the world.
Sometimes, indeed, there is such a discrepancy between the genius and his human qualities that one has to ask oneself whether a little less talent might not have been better.
Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland, on July 26, 1875. He was the fourth child, but none of his siblings survived to adulthood. His father, Paul Achilles Jung, was a pastor in a poor community in the Swiss Reformed Church. His mother, Emilie Preiswerk, came from a wealthy Swiss family. While Jung was still an infant, his father was appointed to a more prosperous parish in Laufen, Switzerland.
Jung was an introspective boy, always trying to understand the thoughts and actions of others. He had a good relationship with his father, but he was unable to connect with his mother. She spent much of her time alone in her bedroom, and she claimed that spirits visited her at night. Once Jung thought he saw a luminous figure floating out of her room, with its head detached. His mother's eccentricity and depression, along with the unexplainable events surrounding her, frightened the young boy.
For a time, Jung's mother was hospitalized and Jung was sent to live with an unmarried aunt. He was brought back home, however, when his mother returned. Jung later said that his mother's behavior influenced his attitude toward women in general.
In 1879, Jung's father was transferred once again, this time to a parish in Kleinhuningen, Switzerland. This change lifted the spirits of Jung's mother.
Jung carved a tiny human figure into the end of a wooden ruler when he was a boy, then placed it in a pencil case and hid it in the attic of his house. He sometimes brought messages to the figurine, scribbled on small pieces of paper. He gained a sense of security from this ritual. In later years he learned of similar rituals, performed by indigenous people in faraway places, and came to the conclusion that humans have a collective unconscious. He later wrote, "The collective unconscious consists of the sum of the instincts and their correlates, the archetypes. Just as everybody possesses instincts, so he also possesses a stock of archetypal images."
When Jung was twelve and attending school at the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Basel, Switzerland, a boy pushed him down and he lost consciousness. Jung decided he didn't want to go to school anymore, and he developed a physical symptom - fainting - in order to avoid the unwanted situation. Soon enough, every time he attempted a task related to school, he would faint, so his parents allowed him stay at home. One day, however, Jung overheard his father expressing concern that he wouldn't be able to support himself as an adult. Jung experienced an epiphany, that his family was poor and that he should take responsibility for himself, and he forced himself - mind over matter - to overcome his tendency to faint. He later reflected that he had learned the meaning of a neurosis at that time.
Young Jung also came to the conclusion that he had two personalities, and he labeled them Number One and Number Two. Number One was the child his parents knew. Number Two was timeless, with no definable character. He later wrote, "We shall probably get nearest to the truth if we think of the conscious and personal psyche as resting upon the broad basis of an inherited and universal psychic disposition which is as such unconscious, and that our personal psyche bears the same relation to the collective psyche as the individual to society."
Jung attended the University of Zurich and spent time working at the Burgholzli Asylum which was run by the university. Working under Eugen Bleuler, author of well-respected studies about mental illness and originator of the term "schizophrenia," Jung performed word-association tests on patients. He coined the word "complex" to describe the unusual thought patterns and associations exhibited by some patients. He received his doctorate in 1902. He published his dissertation, "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena," in 1903.
Jung married Emma Rauschenbach, who was from a wealthy Swiss family, in 1903. Little is known about their relationship. They had five children - Agathe, Gret, Franz, Marianne, and Helene.
Carl Jung once said, "A particularly beautiful woman is a source of terror. As a rule, a beautiful woman is a terrible disappointment." When Jung lectured about his research, a number of women were attracted to him. He was rumored to have a number of extramarital partners, including, perhaps, some patients.
Jung's wife, Emma, died in 1955.
Jung published "Studies in Word Association" in 1906 and sent a copy of the book to Sigmund Freud. The two men developed a professional relationship by correspondence. Freud, who famously wrote of the Oedipus complex, was disturbed when Jung wrote, "Let me enjoy your friendship not as one between equals but as that of father and son." Nevertheless, in 1907 the two began to collaborate.
By 1912 they parted, largely because Jung disagreed with Freud's tendency to assume that neuroses had sexual causes, but also because Freud belittled Jung's belief in occult phenomena. Jung's book, "Psychology of the Unconscious," highlighted the differences between himself and Freud.
Influenced by the psychoanalytic work of Freud, Jung developed his theories of the extrovert and the introvert. The extrovert is outward-looking, seeking the company of others, while the introvert is inward-looking, desirous of time alone. Jung cautioned, however, that "There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum." Jung, who classified himself as an introvert, wrote, "Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."
He worked with middle-aged and elderly patients, particularly those who felt that their lives lacked meaning. Jung believed that we grow old for a purpose, and that each person must discover that purpose for himself. He wrote, "A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning." Jung helped his older patients to discover their own stories through dreams and imagination, and to understand their importance in the sequence of history. He observed, "I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life - that is to say, over 35 - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life."
Jung believed that patients should sit opposite their therapists during sessions, rather than lay on a couch.
Jung has been unfairly labeled as a Nazi sympathizer, based on an article he published in 1918. In that article he compared the Jewish and German psyches to illustrate his theories about the collective unconscious. In the 1930s, Aryans twisted Jung's words to support their cause. They ignored another passage in the same article, however, in which Jung suggested that the German psyche had barbarian tendencies.
Jung, in fact, worked as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, during World War II, contributing to the Allied cause. He was known as Agent 488.
When he was 38, in 1913, Jung had a frightening experience in which he hallucinated and heard voices. He was not sure if he was experiencing psychosis or schizophrenia. He decided to welcome - and even encourage - such experiences in private, and to record his thoughts and feelings in journals. This event may have been an after-effect of the trauma he felt, following his split with Freud the year before.
In 1915, Jung ordered a large red leather-bound book with 600 blank pages, into which he could transcribe his thoughts and visions. For example, he wrote, "Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration?" He decorated many pages with elaborate illuminations, using calligraphy pens, colored ink, and paint. He eventually filled 191 pages of the book with text and illustrations, plus he inserted a number of loose pages. He was only able to transcribe about two-thirds of his journal entries into "The Red Book." He kept this book private during his life and left no instructions to his heirs regarding its publication. It was kept in a vault for many years, then finally released for publication in 2009.
Later in life, Jung became interested in alchemy. He compared the process of turning lead into gold with the attempt to transform an imperfect soul into perfection. He wrote, "Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed a bridge, on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious."
Carl Jung died on June 6, 1961, in Kusnacht, Switzerland, following a short illness.
From childhood, Carl Jung was a thoughtful introvert, seemingly destined to explore the depths of the human psyche. He struggled with his own demons and worked to advance the world's knowledge about human personality types. As he wrote, "Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people."