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The Life And Work Of C.G. Jung Reconsidered

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Jeffrey Schein

Introduction to Jung

Term Paper

Prof. Frank Faranda

Spring '04

The Life and Work of C.G. Jung Reconsidered

In my original paper on Carl Gustav Jung, I took a rather skeptical view of the doctor and his work, for several reasons that I will reiterate. However, after studying further into his work, I realized that these objections only related to his early psychiatric cases, and I found myself to be far more intrigued and impressed by his later work and theories. While I had stated in my first consideration of Jung that, "there is a frustratingly limited, almost biased quality to much of... his work", I was pleasantly surprised later on to find that many of his later theories and assumptions were anything but limited. I still believe that in his early case work he took tremendous risks, both clinically and professionally, yet it is that risk-taking aspect of his personality that ultimately allowed, or rather, propelled him to boldly go forward with some of his most groundbreaking and controversial contributions to the fields of psychology, and philosophy as well. It can even be said, and has been, that Dr. Jung is the father of modern "new-age" thinking. He also laid the groundwork for those who were inspired by his thoughts, perhaps much in the way that he himself was originally inspired by Freud. Once again, while my original opinion of Dr. Jung caused me to "wonder how much of Jung's work was truly visionary, and how much of it benefits from a positive hindsight bias because of the successes he was able to achieve" in his early casework, I must say that my current opinion, early casework aside, is that Jung was in fact truly visionary, and was the originator of some of the most revolutionary conceptual thinking that the human experience has to offer.

I will begin by giving a short background on Dr. Jung's life, revisiting some of my objections to his early case work, and then move on to the ideas and concepts that caused me to reconsider his work as a whole.

Carl Gustav Jung was born on July 26th, 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland, the only son of Johannes Paul Achilles Jung, a Swiss Reformed Church Evangelical minister. He was a strange, melancholic child with no brothers or sisters until he was nine years old. The family was steeped in religion, as he had eight uncles in the clergy as well as his maternal grandfather, Samuel Preiswerk, a respected pastor in Basel.

In school Jung gravitated towards science and philosophy, winning a scholarship to Basel University to study medicine. Alongside his medical textbooks he devoured works on philosophy, especially those of Kant and Nietzsche. He also read Swedenborg (a noted Swedish philosopher and theologian best know for his later work in which he presented ideas for a "new spiritual era") and studied spiritualism and the paranormal. Jung eventually realized that what he really wanted to do was psychiatry, and he became an assistant at Burgholzli Mental Hospital, a clinic attached to the University of Zurich.

Accounts of his early psychiatric cases, as related to his assistants at Bughholzli, provide an interesting overview of Jung as an individual as well as his formative ideas in the field of psychotherapy and analysis. These early cases and the conclusions he draws from them are, much like his predecessor and one-time colleague, Sigmund Freud, sometimes revolutionary and brilliant. Yet, as I had stated in my earlier paper on Jung, I also found there to be a frustratingly limited and seemingly biased quality to much of this work that, I felt, said as much about Jung the person as it did about the work itself. I also felt that this frustration was compounded by the fact that Jung openly criticized and departed from what he felt was non-progressive methodologies and ideologies of Freud and other contemporaries.

I was intrigued by his objections to "rubber stamped" diagnoses, and the tendencies of doctors and teachers of the time to disregard the unique individuality of their patient's cases.

He was clearly certain that each individual case must be treated in a completely unique manner. I felt that Jung was clearly ahead of his time in this matter, because it is my belief that this practice of treating patients in a non-personal manner continues to a large extent even today.

In one early case Jung tells of a woman who had been admitted to the hospital suffering from what was vaguely described by doctors of the time as "melancholia". After a series of tests she was diagnosed with dementia praecox, an early term for schizophrenia. Jung was clearly uncomfortable with this rash diagnosis, and instead perceived this to be a case of rather ordinary depression. After conducting some association experiments and some dream analysis he felt that the woman's unconscious mind had revealed information to him about her past that led to her depressive state. (Jung's work with word association tests confirmed observations about the Unconscious already made by Freud. Upon receiving results that Jung had sent him, the two began a correspondence and friendship which lasted from 1906 until 1913). What puzzled me was simply that he never reveals how he was able to piece together a reliable timeline of events and facts about the incidents that led to her mental illness. Regardless of such a lack of credible evidence to support his assumptions Jung surmised that a series of painful events had led to a psychogenic disturbance, and not schizophrenia. He felt that nothing had actually been done to treat this woman, and since no one had attempted to provide any course of action, perhaps the best thing to do would be to reveal his "knowledge" of these tragic events to the patient, who up to that point had only been aware of these circumstances unconsciously. Although he was aware that he would be taking great risks with this course of action, both professionally and in regards to the mental health of the patient, he nevertheless proceeded to go ahead with this controversial approach.

As it turned out it was a brave move for the young doctor, as the patient was well enough to be discharged two weeks later and did not, to anyone's knowledge suffer a relapse. Although the course of action seemed reckless, this case was instrumental in solidifying Jung's feeling that each patient has an individual story, and that a doctor cannot truly begin the

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