Carl Gustav Jung might be one of the most well-known psychotherapists and psychiatrists aside from Sigmund Freud. Jung’s theories and philosophies are well-known, and many people may be using terms or ideas coined by Jung without even knowing it (Carter, 2011). Jung was born July 26, 1875 In Kesswil, Switzerland, by Lake Constance (Casement, 2001). He was an only child for part of his childhood (Casement, 2001). Jung had two brothers, but both died during infancy (Casement, 2001). At the age of nine, Jung’s sister, Trudi, was born (Casement, 2001). Jung’s father was a pastor at the Basel Reformed Church (Casement, 2001). His mother was emotionally unstable and spent time in a mental hospital, which had an impact on Jung (Casement, 2001).
Jung was immersed in his dreams as a young child. There were a few dreams that stuck with Jung throughout his life (Casement, 2001). Jung’s focus on the dream world is represented his life’s work. Jung attended medical school in Basel where he decided to take on psychiatry (Carter, 2011). During his residency, Jung took on research under Eugen Bleuler studying psychosis and schizophrenia (Casement, 2001). In fact, Bleuler was the one who coined the term schizophrenia (Casement, 2001).
On February 27, 1907, Jung met face-to-face with Freud (Casement, 2001). Jung and Freud worked together, but eventually fell out of relationship due to theoretical differences (Casement, 2001). Jung had difficulty believing in Freud’s sexual theory. Freud once mentioned to Jung, “My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. This is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark” (Corey, 2009, p. 79). Jung was interested in understanding consciousness and personality by examining spirituality, mythology, and dreams rather than through sexual energy. As Jung split away from Freud’s psychoanalytical approach, Jung developed his own school of thought called, analytical psychology (Corey, 2009). Corey (2009) describes this approach as utilizing and incorporating history, anthropology, religion, and mythology to understand human nature.
Jung’s approach to living was based around symbols and symbolic language (Casement, 2001). One way that Jung worked with the symbolic language of nature was through dreams (Casement, 2001). The purpose of working with dreams and other symbolic language was to help understand how to live a better life. Jung believed that dreams could help inform one about how to live and how to work towards developing a better life in the future (Carter, 2011). The concept of better understanding one’s life through symbology and dreams is central to Jung’s theory on personal development.
Individuation is a Jungian concept that describes the integration of the unconscious and conscious aspects of one’s self (Corey, 2009). Jung believed that the process of life was to individuate and believed that dreams and symbols were a way to work with the different parts of self. Corey (2009) states that Jung did not believe that just past events shaped who we are, but that the future also has an influence on development and personality. An individual’s personality is shaped by who he or she was and what has happened to them, but also what the person is aspiring to become in the future. (Corey, 2009). Jung believed that humans were driven towards individuation, but often needed someone to help guide them, such as a therapist (Corey, 2009).
During Jung’s middle age, he experienced a crisis of shedding his old beliefs. He writes about this experience in the book, Memories, Dreams, Reflections at the age of 81 (Corey, 2009). Kail and Cavanaugh (2013) state that Jung believed in the middle-aged crisis as a developmental process and that this concept was a focus of his theory and work. Jung believed that the beliefs and patterns that help with getting one through the first part of his or her life were no longer needed (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2013). Jung also believed that the lack of symbolic language and symbolic life in many people’s lives was the cause and reason for neurosis (Casement, 2001). The expression of the symbolic life was the need and desire of the soul (Casement, 2001).
Overall, Jung was very influenced by his own personal life. Jung’s vivid dreams world and need to understand the spiritual domain of life is very present in his theories. Towards his later years, Jung believed that the mid-life crisis is an important development phase because it allows one to let go of old parts of self and start to move towards a more whole version of self. Jung believed that by working with the unconscious and conscious, and bringing to light both parts were important for a person’s own process of individuation. Dream work and working with archetypal and symbolic images was one way that Jung understood the process of individuation. Finally, Jung believed that for a person to become whole, they must balance both the light and the shadow parts of one’s personality as well as balance the masculine and feminine energies.
Carter, D. (2011). Carl Jung in the twenty-first century. Contemporary Review, (1703), 441.
Casement, A. (2001). Key figures in counselling and psychotherapy series: Carl Gustav Jung. London, GB: SAGE Publications.
Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2013). Human development: A life-span view (6th ed.). Boston, MA, United States: CENGAGE Learning Custom Publishing.