As mentioned on a previous article, I’ve decided to write about those whose work have had the most impact in my life and whom I have chosen for various reasons as role models. I have already written on Friedrich Nietzsche and my last article was on Charles Bukowski and his lesson “Don’t try”. Today I have chosen to concentrate on Carl Jung.
In order to write this article I have chosen to go beyond “The Legend” which most nowadays are acquainted with, mostly concentrating on Carl Jung as a the perfectly imperfect genius man; his history, challenges, lessons and inspirations.
Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26, 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland and lived until June 6th 1961.
He was a Swiss psychiatrist, psychologist and essayist; being also a key figure in the official stage of psychoanalysis.
Jung is often associated with Sigmund Freud, with whom he collaborated with at the beginning of his career. Jung was a pioneer of deep psychology and one of the most devoted scholars of this discipline; becoming one of the most widely read authors of the twentieth century. His theoretical and clinical approach emphasized the functional connection between the structure of psyche and that of its products, that is to say, its cultural manifestations. This led him to incorporate into his methodology notions from anthropology, alchemy, philosophy, the interpretation of dreams, art, mythology and religion. He was in every sense of the word a pioneer not only on Psycho Analysis but also on “Transcendental Therapy”. There are many different explanations on what “Transcendental Therapy” is, and much confusion on the terminology, as it is applied quite liberally by many. “Transcendental Therapy” is not the same as Transcendental mediation, which many are familiar with; instead, it is the “Fusion” of various therapies and what I practice. Transcendental Therapy isn’t new, rather it is being rediscovered; “treatment” in the last centuries became very much compartmentalized. We often forget, no one person is the same; as such, there is no such a thing as a “standard” treatment for all. “Transcendental Therapy” focuses on healing using various methods tailored to what fits each unique individual best.
Let us now learn more about Carl Jung, a man whose works have influenced my life in more ways than one…
Jung was not the first to dedicate himself to the study of dream activity, however his contributions were extensive and highly influential. He wrote prolifically on the subject, although most of his life focused on the formulation of psychological theories and clinical practice. He also ventured into other fields; from the comparative study of religions, psychology and sociology to the criticism of art and literature.
Let us a learn a little bit more about his childhood and family background…
Six months after he was born, his family moved to Lausanne, close to the city of Basel in the year 1879. Carl Jung was born to a family of German descent who was religious. His father was a Lutheran Pastor within the Swiss Reformed Church and his family belonged to two important families of 19th century Basel’s society.
His paternal grandfather; after whom he was named; lived between the years 1794 and 1864. He was an exiled doctor from Heidelberg who organized the Medical School of the University of Basel, where he taught anatomy and internal medicine. He was also in charge of the General Hospital and directed a psychological institution for children with mental deficits, all thanks to his close relationship with Alexander Von Humbolt; a German polymath, geographer, naturalist, explorer, and proponent of Romantic philosophy and science.
His maternal grandfather whom lived between 1799 and 1871 was archpriest of Basel’s Church. He was also a philologist. Although Carl Jung did not meet his grandparents, their image and legacy was very much present within the family; imagine the pressure he was under to live up to the expectations of his family’s reputation. Despite all the pressure, Carl Jung expressed how romanticism was continuously present in his home as well as the occult, with the appearance of specters and other parapsychological phenomena.
Jung’s father, who lived between 1842 and 1896, abandoned his career as a philologist in Semitic languages to serve as a clergyman; he would expand his work at the Friedman Psychiatric Clinic in Basel. He would die months after Jung began his medical career at the University of Basel.
His mother, lived between 1848 and 1923. She characterized herself for having a dissociative identity; this greatly affected and helped determined Jung’s psychological path and traits. Carl Jung often said “I was sure that she consisted of two personalities, one innocuous and human, the other uncanny. This other emerged only now and then…She would then speak as if talking to herself, but what she said was aimed at me and usually struck to the core of my being, so that I was stunned into silence...by day she was a loving mother but at night she seemed uncanny…like one of those seers…like a priestess in a bear’s cave, ancient and ruthless. Ruthless as truth and nature”.
It was his mother who inadvertently contributed to Carl Jung’s like for analyzing human nature in an effort to understand her better. His father contributed to his desire to understand the “suppression” of desires and instincts, which became part of his “Shadow Theory”; “that which you deny controls you”.
Carl Jung; like many great thinkers/philosophers; was as a very introverted child, lonely and unhappy yet he came to enjoy his solitude. Although most would have classified his relationship with his parents as “close”, Carl felt disappointed with his father for the way he addressed the subject of religion which Jung considered precarious. He was extremely observant and was concerned with his parents’ marital problems and his father’s growing lost of faith. His parents’ marital problems seemed to have stemmed from their vastly different personalities; his father an introvert who wished to be an extrovert, suffered with bouts of depression and his mother lively but cold. Carl attempted to communicate his own experiences of God to his father in an attempt to restore his father’s faith, unfortunately he was not successful as relations between father and son were poor; all of these contributed to Jung himself losing his faith in orthodox Christianity at a very early age. Nevertheless, he was to have a lifelong interest in the effect religion has on people and later on described his fall out with religion as “God’s chosen path” for him, so he may breach divinity and humanity through psychology, philosophy and others, as well as being able to develop a relationship with his own daemon. Carl Jung explained that the daemon lives in our unconscious mind; it is divinity expressing itself in all its light and its darkness. It guides our actions, it motivates us, it whispers ideas, it inspires us and gives voice to our intuition. However, modern society and our current pace of life distracts us from paying attention to our own daemon, making it common for us to distance ourselves from this inner voice.
Jung was not hostile towards religion but towards dogma; he would declare human beings are “religious” by nature. What he was trying to convey is the subject of faith. He believed it is innate in human beings to have faith, however sometimes through dogma that faith is diminished if not extinguished, leaving only a shell of a human being. Jung’s theories have penetrated more deeply inside the Catholic church and other religious circles, more than those of any other therapist. There is an apparent mystical aura which surrounds his name when compared to the overt atheism of Freud or the humanism of Carl Rogers.
During his adolescence and youth, Carl Jung was an enthusiastic reader; he was most taken by the works of Goethe but he was also interested on the works of Von Hartmann and Friedrich Nietzsche. In his autobiography, Carl Jung describes the respect and closeness he felt towards Nietzsche. Carl Jung described his experience after reading “Thus spoke Zarathustra” as a life changing experience.
During the years 1894-1900 he study medicine; he did so despite his family’s protests. It was during these years Carl started to come out of his shell, becoming more extroverted; he was finally in a world where he felt understood and challenged. Despite his love for his profession, Carl Jung had to settle for being a simple doctor in order to make ends meet; this however was to change shortly after…two things took place, which although mundane to most, would change the course of his life; the first was the breakage of a 70-year-old solid round walnut table; later on he was to interpret this as life calling him apart from the path his family had lead for so long. 14 days later a cabinet, an original piece of furniture from the 19th century broke, inside was a bread basket and a knife; the knife had somehow been divided in three. He later on was to find out 3 of his relatives who practiced the “occult” were attempting to contact him. These two events lead Car Jung to the study and development of the elaboration of his doctoral thesis on the psychology and pathology of occult phenomena.
Despite the above, Carl Jung was considering studying “Internal Medicine”, where it not that destiny or fate or God had a different path for him. He ended up with the Psychiatric manual of Richard Von Krafft; which was to mark his life decision on becoming an analyst. He became an assistant at a mental clinic for 3 years, leaving behind Basel and moving to Zurich. He locked himself up for half a year so he may read all the psychiatric manuals (over 50 of them) and get used to a life of solitude, preparing himself mentally and spiritually for life at the mental clinic “that time was my subjective experiment from which my objective life was born”.
Faced with the question “what happens in mental illness?” (beginning of the 20th century) Jung found himself with abstracts works of the diseased personality and reductionism aimed at diagnoses, description of symptoms and statistics. The psychology of the mentally ill and its corresponding implicit individuality were nonexistent. That is why his becoming acquainted with Sigmund Freud was paramount; it was Freud who helped him reverse the above trend, through the psychology of hysteria and dream analysis. Although Freud was a neurologist, he would insert in the field of Psychiatry, psychological questions; something which up to that time wasn’t the norm. His “talking therapy” became renowned when he helped Breur with “advise” on the treatment of Anna O. A patient who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and hysteria and whom some thought would be better off dead. She later on recovered and become an influential figure in social matters concerning children and women.
Jung having witness all of it, started with the method of research on “the secret personal history” each patient keeps away from everyone else. He learned personal human contact was imperative; all diagnoses should go hand in hand with the patient’s personal history before determining to simply medicate or give a diagnoses.
Carl Jung was to become the chief of staff at the Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich for 4 years, he was also a professor. He was pretty vocal about his interest on psychopathology, hypnotherapy, psychoanalysis and the psychology of primitive peoples. Although Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud became close, their relationship was not to last. Carl Jung was a defender of Sigmund Freud whom he felt was being purposely discredited in order to shut down his theories on hysteria; more specifically speaking, Freud made public the fact that abuse happens within every social status; this was to upset tremendously many of the “elite” of the time who did not want their families under “the microscope”.
Although many believe the relationship between Carl Jung and Freud disintegrated over differences of opinion and treatment, there are those who believe it was over Sabina Spielrein. Sabina was a “hysteric” patient with personality disorders, who was under the care of Carl Jung. She later on became his student and was to become a leading psychoanalyst, who contributed extensively to the field. She developed the theory Death Instincts which later on Freud would utilize to compliment his theory on Life Instincts. She was to become romantically involved with Carl Jung, whom felt attracted to her for her intelligence, beauty and her own unique way of seeing life. She was one of the main axes for his development of “The Shadow”. Sabina represented aspects of his mother and his father combined. While his wife was of a prominent family, their marital relationship was to be a recreation of his parents marriage; despite this, Carl Jung was a loving father to his children.
Sabina was like him, inquisitive, eager to learn and willing to be ruthless with herself in an effort to learn more about her “core” persona. She tested his limits, pushing him to think, explore and heal his shadow. Carl Jung consulted with Freud about Sabina, however everything ceased once Jung’s wife wrote to Freud about Sabina. Freud; although described by many as frigid; was to have a sensitivity for Jung’s wife, whom was very much a resemblance of Freud’s own mother. Some judged Car Jung for his affair (s) and attempted to discredit his work due to his less than perfect history. However; let us be clear when saying Carl Jung never hid his life from his wife whom was very much aware of his inner struggles and personality differences. It has then been debated whether he was a “cheater” or a “polyamorist”. Personally I would say he fits the second better as no secrecy was involved, regardless, how is debating that important? To those in the field of psychology, Jung’s personal life does not discredit his work. As a matter of fact it was his own challenges which pushed him to become more focused on healing his own self and the listening of his inner voice. After his relationship with Sabina ended, she remarried and led on with her career. Carl Jung submerged himself in the study of the “shadow” and the psychology of the primitive people’s, which he believed held a lot of wisdom and which inadvertently holds power on us to this day.
Carl Jung is one of my favorites because of how “human” he was; imperfect but willing to learn from those imperfections. He was ready to analyze himself and be as “neutral” as humanly possible. It is said a man (or woman) doesn’t become a therapist because he is healed and has all his “shit” together; it is actually the need to understand the pain, the mistakes, the anger, the struggle, which gives birth to some of the best in the field.
I have chosen him as a role model because of his ability to be vulnerable, not only exposing his light for us to to learn but more importantly his shadow. Let us not forget wisdom is not born from perfection but is the result of the struggle and the lessons learned. As human beings we are not born to fake perfection, we are bound to make mistakes, it is learning from those mistakes which leads to our own evolvement; mistakes aren’t patterns. At times certain situations in life will be mistakes, others will be lessons, yet others are simply life unfolding as it figures best for you and your own growth.
We often talk about faith yet we lack it most when we question life’s path for ourselves, that is one of the biggest lessons this great imperfect mentor left for all us “What you deny controls you” and is in knowing our own darkness which equips us best to deal with the darkness of others.
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order. Nobody can fall so low unless he has a great depth. If such a thing can happen to a man, it challenges his best and highest on the other side; that is to say, this depth corresponds to a potential height, and the blackest darkness to a hidden light”
Carl Gustav Jung