Real Men of Genius turns to examine the mind in this interview with Carl Gustav Jung a Swiss psychiatrist who studied medicine at Basle and developed the ideas of extraversion and introversion.
Professor Jung, you were born on 26 July 1875. May I first of all ask you something about your family background. I believe your father was a man of religion?
He was a pastor. I was the fourth child but my siblings did not survive. I remember that my mother was often depressed and often wasn’t around.
What led you to psychiatry?
I cannot be sure, but I think its origins may go back to
the time I was knocked unconscious at school after I was pushed to the ground
by another boy.
My parents thought I may have epilepsy because afterwards I had fainting fits when I was due to attend school or undertake homework.
I was gradually able to study again. I became interested in medicine although I had no plans concerning psychiatry until I read that psychoses were personality diseases. That interested me because of the psychological as well as spiritual aspects.
You studied medicine at Basle. What happened next?
From there I worked at the Berg Holzli mental clinic in Zurich under Eugen Bleuler. It as the first non-Austrian institution to adopt Freud’s psychoanalytical methods.
You were 28 when you married?
Yes, I married Emma in 1903 and we had five children.
How did you start your association with Sigmund Freud?
It was around 1906 that I sent some of my work to him. We met for the first time in Vienna the following year and we had what I can only describe as a very lengthy conversation; it went on for a number of hours.
What sort of impact did Freud have on you at that time?
My initial impression was that he was quite remarkable, shrewd and intelligent. We corresponded much over the next few years and I think he saw me as his protégé.
It is right though, isn’t it, that you didn’t agree with all his theories?
No, and he wasn’t at all happy about that. The message Freud preached was that sex was the underlying cause of almost every type of problem. I think that was far too dogmatic and, quite frankly, wrong.
I believe Freud was far too negative about the unconscious mind; I thought it was a source of great creativity. The more I developed my own ideas, the more difficult our relationship became.
Was that when your own theory of analytical psychology was formed?
Yes, that was completely unrelated to Freud and completely distinguishable from his psychoanalysis.
The psychological types that you described in your work harked back to the ideals of Plato?
I believe we have a collective aspect to our psyche in that there is something that connects us. There is a collective unconscious which contains all human knowledge and experience.
As well as that collective unconsciousness, there is also a personal unconscious mind, and the ego is represented by the conscious mind.
Your work also involved the examination of dreams, didn’t it?
Indeed. I concluded that collective and personal unconsciousness are brought into consciousness through dreams and are thereby assimilated into the whole personality. That enables an integration of the psyche and is quite natural.
This is part of what I have described as individuation which has the overall mental and physical effect of healing.
And you believe this has some religious significance?
I think spiritual experience is essential to our well-being and this is another area where I disagree with Sigmund Freud. I believe that individuation is at the heart of all religions and is at the heart of our transformation.
I have studied many traditions and religions, including, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnoticism and Taosim, as a result of which I believe we are here to discover our deepest potential.
Do you agree that your studies and researches have been so diverse that they overstep the boundaries of pure psychology?
It is true that I have studied as widely as possible, even to include fables, modern physics, Eastern and Western philosophy, astrology and the occult.
You held strong views about the concept of “the state”, didn’t you?
Most certainly. I could not stress highly enough the important of the rights of the individual. Some states have taken the place of God, and their acts in the forms of brass bands, flags, banners and parades are no different from ecclesiastical processions.
It seems to me that the more the state is worshipped the more freedom and morality are suppressed. It leaves the individual with deep feelings of marginalisation.
It is said that you had an indirect role in establishing Alcoholics Anonymous because you believed that spirituality was a cure for alcoholism?
I have witnessed cases where the alcoholic condition is so hopeless that it might only be saved with a spiritual experience. One of my patients, to whom I gave that advice, took a leading role in the foundation of AA, but I had no direct role in that or the so-called twelve steps.
Today many employers use a psychometric questionnaire called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. Do you know anything about that?
Of course. This questionnaire is designed to measure psychological preferences which have been taken from the typological theories in my book Psychological Types.
I explain there that the four main functions by which we experience the world are sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking and one of these feelings is dominant most of the time.
It has been criticised, however, because it does not truly fall within the psychological field and in itself has not been validated scientifically.
You died in Zurich on 6 June 1961 after a short illness?
That is correct.
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