Carl Jung

Freud was such a dominating figure in the early 1900s that several personality theories were set up in direct opposition to Freud. These are called "neoFreudian" theories but they might more accurately be called "counter-Freudian" theories.

What was the Vienna Circle, and what happened in 1911?

In the early years of the 20th Century a group of Freud's friends and associates met regularly to discuss his ideas. This group was called the Vienna Circle. Some members of the Vienna Circle were true believers who accepted virtually all of Freud's theory. Others were highly skeptical. The disagreements came to a head in 1911 when Freud insisted that all members of the Vienna Circle accept the sexual theory or leave the group. Carl Jung and seven others left in 1911.

Carl Jung (pronounced Yoong) founded a distinctive personality theory of his own, which he called analytic psychology. Sex was hardly mentioned in it. Freud became quite bitter about Jung's defection from the Vienna Circle. The two were enemies during the later parts of their careers.

Jung: the disloyal "crown prince"

In the beginning, Carl Jung admired Freud from a distance. Jung was already practicing as a psychiatrist in 1900 when he encountered Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams. At first Jung "laid the book aside" because, he said later, "I lacked the experience to appreciate Freud's theories." Three years later Jung read the book and was fascinated by it. Jung published a paper on Freud's theory of neuroses, and in 1906 the two men began corresponding. Their first meeting took place in 1907.

Jung wrote:

What did Jung think of Freud when they met?

We met at one o'clock in the afternoon and talked virtually without pause for thirteen hours. Freud was the first man of real importance I had encountered... There was nothing the least trivial in his attitude. I found him extremely intelligent, shrewd, and altogether remarkable. And yet my first impressions of him remained tangled; I could not make him out (1965, p.149)

Why was Jung uncomfortable in the role of "Crown Prince"?

Freud, in turn, recognized Jung's talents and singled him out as heir-apparent to the Freudian throne, like a Crown Prince who is prepared to take control of the kingdom when the king dies. Jung was uncomfortable in this role. Freud assumed that Jung, by publicly defending the Freudian concept of repression, was indicating a belief in all of Freud's theory. However, Jung had grave reservations about the sexual theory. This was more than a petty disagreement. In Freud's eyes the sexual theory was crucially important.

It seemed to Jung that Freud was a bit irrational in defending the sexual theory. Freud raised it to the status of a new religious dogma that had to be defended at all costs.

What was odd about Freud's attitude toward the sexual theory, in Jung's view?

There was no mistaking the fact that Freud was emotionally involved in his sexual theory to an extraordinary degree. When he spoke of it, his tone became urgent, almost anxious, and all signs of his normally critical and skeptical manner vanished. A strange, deeply moved expression came over his face, the cause of which I was at a loss to understand.

...I still recall vividly how Freud said to me, "My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark." He said that to me with great emotion, in the tone of a father saying, "And promise me this one thing, my dear son: that you will go to church every Sunday." (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.150)

What happened to Jung after he split with Freud?

After Jung and several other members of the Vienna Circle split with Freud over the sexual theory in 1911, Jung went through a period of profound disorientation. He explored the depths of his own mind, re-enacting childhood fantasies, studying his memories and dreams, trying to figure out who he really was.


Carl Jung

Jung's story makes bizarre and fascinating reading. His autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections wasdictated to his personal private secretary Anelia Jaffe shortly before Jung's death in 1961. Much of the book reports on Jung's dreams and fantasies. To Jung, these were educational experiences. His own dreams and fantasies taught him about the unconscious mind. Sometimes Jung would even interact with human-like figures in his imagination, treating them as if they had an independent existence. In fact, one of his fantasy figures, a winged human named Philemon, told him that his thoughts had an independent existence.

Who was Philemon, and what did he teach Jung?

Philemon and the other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I had conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, "If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them." It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, or the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be used against me. (Jung, 1965, p.183)

How did Jung explore his fantasies?

Students sometimes conclude "Jung was crazy." But Jung knew he was having dreams and fantasies. His decision to explore them was a "scientific experiment." As he wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (p.178), "I was sitting at my desk, and I just let myself drop." He would fall into something like a light REM sleep or self-induced trance. In this state he could interact with his fantasy figures. Then he would awaken and write out the experiences, which he referred to at various times as fantasies, visions, or dreams.

What was the advantage of treating products of your imagination as people, according to Jung?

Jung said that personifying aspects of the unconscious (treating parts of your own mind as if they are people) is a way of finding out about things in the psyche that might otherwise remain unconscious. Jungian therapists often encourage their patients to do something similar, inventing and conversing with fantasy figures as a way of exploring their own minds.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.

Custom Search

Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey