Useful Notes / Carl Jung

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"All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination?"

Carl Gustav Jung (July 26, 1875 — June 6, 1961), the Swiss psychologist was, next to Sigmund Freud, arguably the most influential psychologist of the 20th century, at least in the arts and humanities. Having started his career as Freud's protege, the two eventually fell out over differing views on the unconscious as well as a personal and professional falling out over Jung seducing one of his patients, Sabina Spielrein, who he also tried to mentor as a psychoanalyst and then lied to Freud about the circumstances, which greatly upset the latter when he learned the truth.

Jung was born to a religious family of Lutherans, his father was a pastor as were several of his uncles. He defied his family to go into a clinical profession where he treated cases of women suffering hysteria. His treatment of these cases brought him into contact with Freud's writings and this started a personal and professional friendship between the two. Freud at that time was seen as an eccentric weirdo who was, besides that, Jewish, in a city and Empire that was Catholic. Freud believed that if the Swiss-Born Lutheran Jung represented psychotherapy, then it would become mainstream and accessible and have a long practice. In either case, it didn't pan out. Jung's personal conduct aside, he also started to differ and question on many points of Freud's theories - namely, the essential one (the importance of the sexual drive in the psychological makeup). Jung believed the unconscious had the source for a higher understanding and meaning while Freud believed that it would be incorrect to say what, if anything, the unconscious had and that it was up to the patients in the sessions of psychotherapy to find their own relationship and meaning by discussing and allowing them to talk about all the repressed parts of existence. Jung expressed belief in a "collective unconscious" and that, by accessing and accepting it, patients could resolve and solve their problem. This led Jung to set off and form his own school of thought: Analytical Psychology.

Jung pioneered a number of groundbreaking ideas in psychology, chief among them the idea of the Collective Unconscious, a deeper level of the human unconscious wherein are found the archetypes — primordial psychological forms that exist in everyone's psyche, which means that while every single conscious mind is unique, every human being has the same primordial motifs inherent since birth (similar to tropes, only deeper and more mind-boggling). Having rocked the world of psychology with his radically different interpretation of the psyche, Jung then went even further. Freud believed that all psychological neuroses could be dealt with by unearthing repressed thoughts causing them. Jung argued that neuroses arise through a lack of individuation — the process of assimilating the conscious and unconscious to form a "psychological whole" while maintaining their precarious balance. It is a process of transformation from an unhealthy, neurotic mind into a healthy, enlightened psyche that has gained knowledge of the self. Freud felt that this idea was at its core religious and not scientific. Freud disagreed with Jung's emphasis on religion and mythology, given that he was a committed atheist who regarded religion as merely a flight from dealing with real problems. Freud's own later works, chiefly "group psychology" and his studies on religion, anthropology, and human society (in Civilization and its Discontents) show him dealing somewhat with Jung's field of inquiry but with an entirely different and more skeptical emphasis.

On account of outliving Freud greatly, Jung was altogether more famous, successful, and influential among the public. He spent much of his life exploring mythology and philosophy, especially comparing Eastern and Western ideas. Fittingly, Jung's idea of the archetypes had a huge impact on the study of myths. Joseph Campbell freely admitted that Jung's ideas were instrumental in his formulation of the Hero's Journey. Jung also spent much of his life exploring and discussing spirituality, alchemy, and astrology, being especially intrigued by meaningful coincidences, for which he coined the term "synchronicity" — a term still widely used in various spiritual and occult circles. When he was 38, he had a "confrontation" with the unconscious. Fearing he might be going mad, he decided to "induce hallucinations" and record the workings of his imagination. The results were released decades later as the Red Book, a lavishly illustrated compendium of psychedelic paintings and calligraphic text.

Due to all this, Jung is perhaps one of the few people who can be classed as Mad Artist, Mad Scientist, and Mad Doctor. Or, alternatively, a 20th century Renaissance Man. The Mad part cannot be de-emphasized however. During The Thirties, Jung participated in a conference and publication of a psychoanalytical journal by an organization of German psychologists who were loyal to the Nazi regime. In addition to that, he made a number of pro-Hitler and pro-Nazi statements. On the other hand, Jung was kind to Jews on a personal level and counted Jewish friends. Yet when many of them were being persecuted in Austria and Germany, Jung generally did not speak out or denounce Nazism and its ideology.

Jung's impact was considerably more on the cultural field during his lifetime. Chances are, if a work has some psychological imagery, and it's not referencing Freud, then it's referencing Jung. His influence can be seen in TV shows such as Northern Exposure and The Sopranos, artists such as Tool, Peter Gabriel, Billy Corgan, the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole, and Cunninlynguists, the films of Federico Fellini (who was under therapy by a Jungian analyst). He was famous enough to appear on the cover of The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Police's album Synchronicity was influenced by Jungian's theory on synchronicity.

In fact, it's possible that TV Tropes itself owes its existence to Jung's work. Perhaps we should call him "Trope Codifier Prime" for laying the groundwork of all that you read here while Wiki Walking through this site. At any rate, he forms, with Aristotle and Roger Ebert, the Trinity of Grand Tropemasters.

Jung's first years as a psychoanalyst, as well as his relationship with Freud, his extramarital affairs, and his emerging theories on the unconscious, are featured in the 2011 David Cronenberg film, A Dangerous Method, in which he is portrayed by Michael Fassbender.

On a semi-related side note, "Jung" is ROT13 for "What". Coincidence, or synchronicity?

Tropes common in his work include:

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Subverted. Jung saw examples of these as symbolic of individuation.
  • All Myths Are True: In psychological terms, at least.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Subverted. Jung started out as a Freudian, but jumped ship and formed his own school when he got tired of blaming sex for everything. Among psychologists, Jung has had very little long-term influence. While many have corrected and moved away from Freud (whose work is of increasing relevance to the science of neurology), Jung's ideas on archetypes are regarded as more useful in the humanities.
  • Archetypal Character: The Trope Namer.
  • Bad Dreams: In keeping with his idea of the unconscious as a healthy thing, Jung believed dreams were never bad for their own sake. If you have a vivid, or particularly uncomfortable dream, your unconscious is trying to tell you something...
  • Beneath the Mask: Several levels of beneath the mask, in fact. The most commonly known ones are the "persona", or public face, and the "shadow", or hidden desires, analogous to Freud's id.
  • Distaff Counterpart:
    • Psychological example in the form of the Anima/Animus, an element of the human unconscious which manifests as basically the gender-flipped inner personality of a person, as in a male's inner feminine (Anima) and a female's inner masculine (Animus).
    • Freud was highly critical of Jung's one-to-one separation of male and feminine traits which he didn't think was easily separable. He also regarded Jung's "Electra Complex" an inversion of his Oedipus Complex as Comically Missing the Point, since to him the Oedipus-element was only a name (he had originally planned to call it the Hamlet Complex) for the parent-child relationship model common to all children. Freud pointed out that every boy and every girl had elements of masculine and feminine traits.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Both Jung and his patients have recorded instances of prophetic dreams. In his early works Jung more often than not avoids naming himself when he reports his own prophetic dreams, as he was hoping to be seen as a medical doctor and not a "mystic" or a "psychotic".
  • Extraversion Tropes/Introversion Tropes: The extraversion-introversion duality is a creation of Jung's, and thus this classification of tropes is largely his work.
  • Gut Feeling: Intuition is one of the four functions in Jung's personality schema and he believed it to be a perfectly valid means of obtaining information about the world. Most simply it can be described as the ability to obtain information from the inner world of the unconscious. It is the opposite of sensation, through which one derives information from the external world.
  • Hive Mind: The collective unconscious can be seen as basically something like this — either literally or metaphorically.
  • Humanity Is Insane: Perhaps not all the way insane, but Jung definitely believed modern man had issues.
  • Myers–Briggs: Not his own work, but strongly influenced by his ideas.
  • One Myth to Explain Them All: Again, in psychological terms. With Joseph Campbell, the Trope Codifier.
  • Ouroboros: The serpent that devours its own tail was one of many symbols Jung tried to explain as he studied alchemy. He identified the it with "Prima Materia", the unformed world that exists prior to any understanding or differentiation of its contents. Jung also believed that the symbol was an excellent analogy for the circular movement of the alchemical opus (and his own brand of psychotherapy).
  • Our Souls Are Different: In Jungian psychology the Soul is a specific aspect of the unconscious. Jung met many people whose illnesses he traced back to their Egos becoming estranged from their Souls, and his cure attempted to reconnect these people with these repressed or unheeded parts of the unconscious. Interestingly, Jung also believed that whole nations or eras could lose their souls.
  • Psychopomp: One of many psychic phenomena that Jung studied. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, one can read about a vision Jung experienced after having a heart attack at age 69 in which he flies out into space, sheds his mortal being, and sees a gigantic dark block before entering a small antechamber, where he sees a black-skinned Hindu priest in a white gown sitting silently, who Jung instinctively knew was waiting for him. Jung was prepared to leave the mortal world but to his great annoyance his doctor flew up into space and made him turn back. The doctor did not return.
  • Rule of Symbolism: He wrote whole books on the subject. He hypothesized that the unconscious psyche had a natural tendency to create such symbols, the roots of dreams and mythologies, as a way of communicating things to the Ego that were just outside its areas of understanding.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Jung believed his theories averted it in that it outlined a more complicated and intricate view of the consciousness, while critics, chiefly Freud, argued that, despite identifying multiple issues, he ended up reducing them to the issue of collective consciousness and stability, rather than explore how even a single issue gets entangled in multiple, endlessly complex, and difficult to resolve issues that keep recurring and repeating all the time.
  • Shadow Archetype: Jung is the Trope Namer. The Shadow is one of components of Jung's unconscious. The confrontation with the Shadow is one of the first steps in Jungian psychotherapy.
  • Synchronization: Synchronicity is a single, temporary and mindscrewy instance of this.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Jung has been accused of being a supporter of Nazism, an accusation that still continues to this day despite the decidedly anti-Hitler streak in his writings.
  • We Used to Be Friends: With Freud.
  • Word Association Test: In his early days as an experimental psychologist Jung invented some "thematic" association tests as a way of tapping into the unconscious. Soon afterwards he got in touch with Freud and largely abandoned such tests in favor of dream interpretation.
  • You Are What You Hate: Jung saw emotionally-charged obsessions with others' faults as unconscious externalizations of one's own repressed faults in order to avoid having to face them.

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