Carl Jung, A Brief Biography

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was born in Kesswil, Switzerland as the fourth and only surviving child of his parents. He was the son of a country parson and a mother with an interest in the supernatural. He was an unusual child absorbed in fantasies and dreams, an outsider to his peers, and interested in mythic images and motifs. He did well in school and university graduating from medical school in 1900 and taking up the specialty of psychiatry. He spent about ten years at the Burgholzli Hospital working with Eugen Bleuler on understanding schizophrenia. His work on schizophrenia, his theory of complexes and his word association studies drew the attention of Sigmund Freud. Jung, in turn, supported Freud’s work on psychoanalysis. After their first contact in 1906, their friendship developed to the point where Freud saw Jung as his heir apparent. In 1913 the relationship came to an end. Jung resigned as president of the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1914. A major reason for the split was their disagreement over the extent of infantile sexuality.Jung also introduced the collective unconscious and archetypes as parts of his analytical psychology. The collective unconscious is a type of universal unconscious that transcends any individual but contains the primordial images and ideas that have been common to all members of the race from the beginning of life.
Archetypes are the cumulative effect of perpetually repeated experiences on the development of the human nervous system. The repetitive subjective emotional reaction to the event is impressed on human unconscious mental processes, and it is this internal state, this pre-disposition to react in a similar way to repetitions of the physical event, that is transmitted to future generations. Thus the collective unconscious archetypes are a residue of ancestral emotional life.

The shadow is an archetype that involves the repression of aspects of ourselves that we would rather not know. Animus and anima are archetypes that reflect the masculine side of woman and the feminine side of man respectively. The persona is the archetype of the social mask that we wear in public. These concepts reflected the movement of Jung away from hard core rationalism and natural science to a more interpretive approach to understanding the human psyche in symbolic and mythical terms.Jung’s focus is on the individuation of a person. The process might be described as being all that we can be by uncovering the hidden parts of our personality through dreams, active imagination and self-observation. The aim is to balance conscious and unconscious forces at work within the psyche. The tendency of human beings to balance these forces with their psyche is what Jung calls the transcendent function.Jung saw himself as an outsider struggling against opposition. However, he was successful in gaining the support of both Bleuler and Freud. Initially his relationship with Freud was that of student to professor. He skillfully aligned himself with Freud. As their friendship developed Jung became increasingly worried about losing his independence by becoming Joshua to Freud’s Moses. His disappointing relationship with his father made him vulnerable to attaching himself to a new father (Freud ).
Jung noticed that the dreams of the schizophrenics paralleled the themes of certain myths. This led him to believe that myths were the repositories of archetypal themes that spanned historical time. His exploration of myth, symbol and religion caused a drift away from materialism to maintaining that the psyche is more than just brain.
Jung also introduced the categories of extrovert ( one who is outwardly focused ) and introvert (one who is inwardly focused). He also introduced functions of personality such as sensation, feeling, thinking and intuition. He described personality with combinations of these functions.
The notion of synchronicity was introduced to explain the occurrence of events that occur in different places, that seem to have connection in terms of meaning but are not explainable in terms of cause and effect. Jung’s psychology was called analytical psychology in order to distinguish it from psychoanalysis. Jung’s psychology emphasizes myth and spirituality. Although its ambiguity was frowned upon by hard nosed empirical psychologists it has continued to prosper and grow.
In 1903 Jung married Emma Rauschenbach (1882 – 1955). They had five children. Jung died on June 6, 1961 in Zurich, Switzerland. He was 86 years old.

(Courtesy C.G. Jung Society of Victoria)