In case you missed it, June 6th, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s passing. Jung, born July 26, 1875, is one of the most compelling figures in psychology.
Many people are familiar with Jung for his famous friendship and eventual split from Sigmund Freud, who considered their relationship at first to be one of father and son. Jung strongly disagreed with Freud’s sole emphasis on sex and other parts of his theories, and their relationship soon deteriorated. However, the two pioneers did agree on one thing: an individual must analyze his mind’s inner workings, including his dreams and fantasies.
Jung founded analytical psychology, which emphasizes the importance of exploring both conscious and unconscious processes. According to one of his theories, all humans share a collective unconscious. Unlike the personal unconscious, which is made up of each individual’s personal memories and personality, the collective unconscious holds the experiences of our ancestors. Proof of this can be seen, according to Jung, in mythology, which shares similar themes across cultures.
Below are four other tidbits you might not know about the man behind some of the most fascinating and controversial theories.
1. Jung coined the terms introvert and extravert.
Jung believed that there are two main attitudes that people use to approach the world, which he called introvert and extravert. People aren’t either an introvert or an extravert. All of us are usually a mix of both, but one type is more dominant than the other.
According to author Frieda Fordham in An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology:
“… Jung distinguishes two differing attitudes to life, two modes of reacting to circumstances which he finds sufficiently marked and widespread to describe as typical. […]
The extraverted attitude, characterized by an outward flowing of libido, an interest in events, in people and things, a relationship with them, and a dependence on them; when this attitude is habitual to anyone, Jung describes him or her as an extraverted type. This type is motivated by outside factors and greatly influenced by the environment. The extraverted type is sociable and confident in unfamiliar surroundings. He or she is generally on good terms with the world, and even when disagreeing with it can still be described as related to it, for instead of withdrawing (as the opposite type tends to do) they prefer to argue and quarrel, or try to reshape it according to their own pattern.
The introverted attitude, in contrast, is one of withdrawal the libido flows inward and is concentrated upon subjective factors, and the predominating influence is ‘inner necessity’. When this attitude is habitual Jung speaks of an ‘introverted type’. This type lacks confidence in relation to people and things, tends to be unsociable, and prefers reflection to activity. Each type undervalues the other, seeing the negative rather than the positive qualities of the opposite attitude, a fact which has led to endless misunderstanding and, even in the course of time, to the formulation of antagonistic philosophies, conflicting psychologies, and different values and ways of life.”
2. Jung’s doctoral dissertation explored the occult.
In 1902, Jung published his dissertation “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena,” while working at the Burghölzli Psychiatric Clinic under Eugen Bleuler (who coined the term schizophrenia.)
In it, Jung analyzed the séances of a 15-year-old medium, which he actually attended. In The Portable Jung, editor Joseph Campbell recounts an interesting anecdote of how Jung first came into contact with the medium:
“He was in his room, studying, with the door half open to the dining room, where his widowed mother was knitting by the window, when a loud report sounded, like a pistol shot, and the circular walnut table beside her split from the rim beyond the center—a table of solid walnut, dried and seasoned for some seventy years. Two weeks later, the young medical student, returning home at evening, found his mother, his fourteen-year-old sister, and the maid in high agitation. About an hour earlier, another deafening crack had come from the neighborhood of a heavy nineteenth-century sideboard, which the women had then examined without finding any sign. Nearby, in the cupboard containing the breadbasket, however, Jung discovered the breadknife with its steel blade broken to pieces: in one corner of the basket, its handle; in each of the others, a fraction of the blade…
A few weeks later he learned of certain relatives engaged in table-turning, who had a medium, a young girl of fifteen and a half, who produced somnambulistic states and spiritualistic phenomena. Invited to participate, Jung immediately conjectured that the manifestations in his mother’s house might be connected with that medium. He joined the sessions, and for the next two years, meticulously took notes, until, in the end, the medium, feeling her powers failing, began to cheat, and Jung departed.”
According to The Guardian, this work “laid the foundations for two key ideas in his thought. First, that the unconscious contains part-personalities, called complexes. One way in which they can reveal themselves is in occult phenomena. Second, most of the work of personality development is done at the unconscious level.”
(Read the paper for yourself.)
3. Jung’s personality theory contributed to the Myers-Briggs inventory.
In 1921, Jung published the book Psychological Types, where he laid out his theory of personality. He believed that each person has a psychological type. He wrote “what appears to be random behavior is actually the result of differences in the way people prefer to use their mental capacities.” Some people, he observed, mainly take in information, which he called perceiving, while others mainly organize it and draw conclusions, which he called judging.
He also believed that there are four psychological functions:
- Thinking asks the question “What does it mean?” This involves making judgments and decisions.
- Feeling asks the question “What value does this have?” Feeling, for instance, may be judging right versus wrong.
- Sensation asks “What exactly am I perceiving? This involves how we perceive the world and gather information using our different senses.
- Intuition asks “What might happen, what is possible?” This refers to how perception relates to things like goals and past experiences.
Inspired by his work, Isabel Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator based on Jung’s ideas. They developed the personality measure in the 1940s. The Myers-Briggs consists of 16 personality types. Participants respond to 125 questions and are then placed in one of these categories.
4. Jung wrote what the New York Times called “the Holy Grail of the Unconscious.”
Jung spent 16 years writing and illustrating his Liber Novus (Latin for New Book), which is now known as the Red Book. In it, Jung delves deeply into his own unconscious, resulting in a half journal half mythological exploration.
Tucked away in a Swiss bank vault, the original copy remained unpublished until 2009. Before its publication, the Red Book had only been seen by a handful of people. According to NPR, “It took Jungian scholar Dr. Sonu Shamdasani three years to convince Jung’s family to bring the book out of hiding. It took another 13 years to translate it.”
(Readers can purchase the 416-page work on websites such as Amazon.)
According to the article:
“Jung recorded it all. First taking notes in a series of small, black journals, he then expounded upon and analyzed his fantasies, writing in a regal, prophetic tone in the big red-leather book. The book detailed an unabashedly psychedelic voyage through his own mind, a vaguely Homeric progression of encounters with strange people taking place in a curious, shifting dreamscape. Writing in German, he filled 205 oversize pages with elaborate calligraphy and with richly hued, staggeringly detailed paintings.
What he wrote did not belong to his previous canon of dispassionate, academic essays on psychiatry. Nor was it a straightforward diary. It did not mention his wife, or his children, or his colleagues, nor for that matter did it use any psychiatric language at all. Instead, the book was a kind of phantasmagoric morality play, driven by Jung’s own wish not just to chart a course out of the mangrove swamp of his inner world but also to take some of its riches with him. It was this last part — the idea that a person might move beneficially between the poles of the rational and irrational, the light and the dark, the conscious and the unconscious — that provided the germ for his later work and for what analytical psychology would become.
The book tells the story of Jung trying to face down his own demons as they emerged from the shadows. The results are humiliating, sometimes unsavory. In it, Jung travels the land of the dead, falls in love with a woman he later realizes is his sister, gets squeezed by a giant serpent and, in one terrifying moment, eats the liver of a little child. (‘I swallow with desperate efforts — it is impossible — once again and once again — I almost faint — it is done.’) At one point, even the devil criticizes Jung as hateful.”
Read the fascinating New York Times article about the Red Book’s long and complex journey to publication here. And you can read an excerpt from the book on NPR.