Jung the Man

Penny Pickles

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What do we know about Jung the man?  Unlike Freud who started destroying his papers from 1885 onwards, Jung left a huge volume of archives, a significant proportion of which still remain to be published.  The Philemon Foundation which was set up relatively recently to publish these archives, estimates that there are a further 30 volumes to publish over the next 30 years. For now, the main personal source we have is Memories, Dreams, Reflections published in 1963.  This was the result of many requests for biographies to be written about him or for him to write an autobiography.  It was originally planned by Jung and Aniela Jaffe, his secretary, as a biography by her with contributions from Jung.  As she progressed with it, he asked her to make it less extravert and more introvert and important aspects and significant events in his life were subsequently omitted (Shamdasani 1995).    Nonetheless it is an important book in terms of Jung’s own reflections on his life.  The Red Book which Jung wrote between 1914 and 1930 and which contains not only his writings but some of his paintings was published in 2009. Jung’s own comment about The Red Book was that ‘it lets the cat right out of the bag’ (Bair 2004 p. 293). It is his confrontation with his unconscious, particularly in the time after his rupture with Freud.

Jung’s parents

When Jung was born in 1875, his parents had been married for a number of years. His father, Paul, met his mother, Emilie, when he became a student of her father, a Hebrew teacher.  He became a pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church.  His parents were both the final child in their birth families.  Accounts vary as to whether they were the 8th or 13th child but whichever it was, they came from large families where perhaps the amount of time, energy and love their parents had to give them was limited.  Jung’s mother, 27 in 1875, had already given birth to two stillborn daughters and one son who had died at 5 days old two years previously.  It is difficult to imagine that his birth was not accompanied by ambivalent feelings for his parents, joy at having a live son but also anxiety that he too might die. He was what we might call today a replacement child for those other dead babies. He was an only child for nine years until his mother gave birth to a daughter. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections he writes of the shock at seeing his newborn sister and his disbelief at his father’s explanation of the stork bringing her to them. Rather he felt that his mother ‘had once again done something I was not meant to know about’ (Jung, 1963, p. 41).

Early years

From an early age, Jung was aware of difficulties in his parents’ marriage, of his mother’s depression and acerbic tongue.  He felt she became a different, more mysterious personality at night.  At the age of 3 his mother was hospitalised - it is commonly thought for depression - and Jung was sent to stay with a spinster aunt 20 years older than his mother. Consequently he said he ‘.. always felt mistrustful when the word ”love” was spoken’ and that the ‘..feeling he associated with woman was for a long time that of innate unreliability’  (Jung 1963 p.23). Luckily, he had a more affectionate relationship with the family maid whom he later described as being important in his development of his theory of the anima.  His father was a more reliable but powerless figure; one of his earliest memories of him is of his soothing his feverishness at night when he was very young and suffered from eczema (Jung 1963 p. 22). These are some of his more interpersonal early memories. Feldman (1992) writes of the conspicuous lack of people in his earliest memories as described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Jung 1963) and Winnicott in reviewing the book considered that Jung may have suffered from childhood schizophrenia (Winnicott 1964).  Whether or not this was the case, Jung described himself as a child who had  ‘an unconscious suicidal urge or, ….. a fatal resistance to life in this world’ (Jung 1963, p.24). At around 11 he suffered from fainting fits and was taken out of school, much to his delight (Jung 1963 p. 46).  One of his oldest friends from childhood, Albert Oeri, said that he ‘had never come across such an asocial monster before’ (Oeri,  p. 3 in Mcguire and Hull (eds), 1978).

Growing up and inner life

Jung went on to become a serious student. In the Face to Face interview with John Freeman on BBC television in 1959, he rather contradicts his autobiography and says he was pleased to go to school as he was lonely at home.  But he said that he had difficulties with his teachers and on one occasion, when accused of plagiarising an essay, his rage was such that he said he wanted to kill his teacher. He admitted to beating up other boys and was afraid of his own strength and violence.  All in all his interpersonal relationships sound to have been quite problematic as a boy and he seems to have been much happier when on his own and immersed in his internal world. He described himself as having two personalities; the one the son of his parents who had difficulties in school and with relationships, and the other, the old adult, distant from men but close to nature, the night and dreams (Jung 1963 pp. 61&62).  In his autobiography, in which, as Feldman points out, he is reflecting back on his life from the age of 83, filtered through a lifetime of creative experiences (Feldman 1992),  he describes in detail his first dream of an underground phallus.   Jung remembers this as being between the ages of 3 and 4 but Feldman estimates that it would have been more likely to have been around 5 or 6 because of its cognitive complexity and structure (ibid).  Whatever age he was, it was the first of many creative dreams that he continued to have throughout his life, some of which he described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections and which undoubtedly influenced both his personal life and consequently, his development of analytical psychology. There is not space in this short profile to go into any more detail of these dreams unfortunately.


As a young man, he told Freeman in the interview in 1959, he said he felt his heart thumping when he started studying psychiatry and read that psychosis is a maladjustment of the personality. He felt becoming a psychiatrist would be an opportunity to try to unite the contrasting sides of himself.  In 1900 he took his first job at the Burholzli in Zurich under Bleuler and for the first six months didn’t leave the grounds.  His dissertation, On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena (1902), was written about his cousin Helene Preiswerk and reflected his mother’s and her family’s interest in the occult. It was around this time too that he started work on his association tests.  In 1903 he went to Paris to study with Pierre Janet and, by then, he was engaged to Emma Rauschenbach, the second richest heiress in Switzerland.

Emma Jung

Emma, like Jung, was the eldest of 2 children.  Her mother, Bertha, whose family owned a Gasthof in Jung’s father’s parish, took Jung for walks as a child.  Bertha married well, but Emma’s father went blind in 1894 and Emma then started reading to him, acquiring large amounts of knowledge in the process. It is important to note that at this time in Switzerland, women were very much the second class citizens in terms of education and opportunity. Emma and Jung married in February 1904, Jung went back to the Burgholzli and in December that year, Agatha, the first of their five children was born.  Emma’s money allowed Jung to bring his mother and sister to Zurich and also allowed him a certain professional freedom.

Sabina Spielrein and the Zurich Pelzmantel

Much has been written by Jung’s biographers and others about the events in the Burgholzli in 1904, with the admission of Sabina Spielrein as a patient whom Jung started to treat and with whom he developed a close and troubled relationship over a number of years (Carotenuto 1982, Kerr 1994, Covington and Wharton 2003 and Jung’s biographers).  But as Rosemary Dinnage has said in reviewing Carotenuto’s book in the Times Literary Supplement,   ‘Later generations who try to find out who did what to whom sexually are always on a losing wicket’ ( Quoted in Kerr 1994, p.224).  Jung’s relationships with women, Spielrein, Toni Wolff, Louise Von Franz and others (some of whom were known as the ‘Zurich Pelzmantel’ i.e. the wealthy fur coated  women who moved in Jung’s circle) have come under considerable scrutiny.   Undoubtedly there were strains in the Jung marriage, and to read Jung’s paper, first published in 1925 and then in English in 1928, Marriage as a Psychological Relationship (Jung 1928), is to get a glimpse of how Jung perceived the potential constraints of marriage. But this is not the same as saying he was a serial adulterer, as some of his biographers have tried to claim, and perhaps one should keep the quote from Dinnage, above, in mind.  Shamdasani,  in his review of Jung’s biographers, challenges the assumptions of some authors with what he calls their ‘interprefactions’, that is to say, the treatment of interpretations or constructions as facts (Shamdasani 2005). Interestingly, many of his biographers did not consult the Jung archives in Zurich. That Jung was a charismatic man whom women found attractive, and who found women attractive but difficult and mysterious, is not in doubt, his theory of the archetypes of anima and animus emerged possibly as a result of his problems in trying to work through his relationship struggles. Similarly his theory of the shadow and perhaps his fundamental disagreement with Freud that the content of the libido is not purely sexual, which one can well imagine he would want to believe,  were probably influenced by his relationships with women.

Jung and Freud

Jung’s correspondence with Freud began  in April 1906.  Almost immediately, the tone of their relationship was set, with Freud replying ‘I am confident that you will often be in a position to back me up, but I shall also gladly accept correction’  (McGuire (ed) 1974 p. 43). Jung, in his next letter, says ‘’…though the genesis of hysteria is predominantly, it is not exclusively, sexual.  I take the same view of your sexual theory’ (ibid p. 44).  As previously mentioned, this disagreement about libido theory was at the core of their differences, and as their correspondence developed it became clear how difficult it was for Freud to accept any correction. Both Freud and Jung were pioneers in their field and around this time they were discovering much of what we take for granted in analysis today.  Jung’s relationship with Spielrein and his attempted analysis of Otto Gross, which ended badly, might have been different had he had, our knowledge of the importance of transference, countertransference, boundaries and the analytic frame.  In 1909 Jung wrote to Freud,  ‘Gross and Spielrein are bitter experiences. To none of my patients have I extended so much friendship and from none have I reaped so much sorrow’  (McGuire (ed) 1974, p.151).

The Jung/Freud relationship developed, and it seemed as if Jung would be Freud’s natural successor.  Jung became the first President of the International Psychoanalytic Association as well as editor of the Jahrbuch.  But by 1912, after what Jung called the Kreuzlingen gesture (Freud came to Switzerland, but did not meet with Jung), their personal relationship deteriorated, and in December of that year Jung wrote to Freud, ‘..your technique of treating your pupils like patients is a blunder.  In that way you produce either slavish sons or impudent puppies ….. Meanwhile you remain on top as the father, sitting pretty….nobody dares to pluck the prophet by the beard and inquire for once what you would say to a patient with a tendency to analyse the analyst instead of himself.  You would certainly ask him: “Who’s got the neurosis?”’ ( ibid p. 292).  Jung was no longer happy to be the son to Freud, he wanted to be treated as an equal. The relationship broke down and, in 1914, Jung resigned as President of the IPA.

Personal crisis

Jung’s personal crisis and creative illness that followed the break with Freud was central to the divergence of analytical psychology from psychoanalysis and Jung’s development of the theory of the Self and individuation. Jung travelled widely in mid-life and his theories were influenced by the breadth and depths of his interests in anthropology, mythology and religion. Some of his work has not been received without contention.  For instance, during the 1930s he became embroiled in accusations of anti-Semitism (Samuels 1993 , Casement 2001,).  Jung was also a prolific correspondent using his correspondence as a means of clarifying and arguing his ideas.  In recent years two volumes of letters detailing his friendships and disagreements with two men have been published,  Wolfgang Pauli, the Nobel prize winning physicist, and Father Victor White, a catholic priest.


He died in 1961 at Kusnacht, where he had lived for over 50 years. By that time he was a widower with 5 children,19 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Part of his legacy is to have given us ideas which have moved into common usage and which the lay person uses without knowing how they link to his theories, archetypal, introvert, extravert, individuation, shadow, trickster, the word association test, the Myers Briggs personality test. There have also been a host of misappropriations of his ideas. To this day, whilst Jungian analysts may read Freud and other psychoanalysts it is relatively rare to find a psychoanalyst who is open to Jung’s ideas or who has read him.

It is impossible to give a full picture of Jung the man in a few pages and this brief outline obviously omits large parts of his life. But mention of the circumstances around his early years, his marriage and his relationship with Freud are a starting point in trying to understand the man behind analytical psychology and to look at his life is to see a deeply creative, spiritual, intelligent, complicated but often troubled man.


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