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Carl Jung’s Comrades and Rivals

Your favorite critic has plenty of frenemies.


Sigmund Freud

My ultimate frenemy, Mr. Freud. He dug my early work with schizophrenia and asked me to hang out. We tooled around Vienna for a time and cruised through the United States together, wowing pretty much everyone. We basically established psychoanalysis as a legit science. Not to toot my own horn. I'm just sayin'.

But then we went our separate ways.

It's weird that people call what happened between us a break-up. Or, they say that I was the wayward pupil rebelling against my master. Um… I did a lot of cool stuff way before I knew Siggie so, really, I was never his disciple.

Don't get me wrong. I think he's spot on about certain issues, like childhood trauma. But as for adult, midlife crisis stuff, I've got him beat. That's all. Oh, and about fighting over Sabina Spielrein, I'm kind of an introvert (a term I invented by the way), so I would never really fight anybody for the affection of a woman. She liked me better for it. She was never into Sig. But, hey, Hollywood, I'm flattered you'd think I'm such a ladies man.

Pierre Janet

A year in Paris. What a wonderful, romantic break from all that Germanic-ness of my upbringing. I'm an art lover, so my year with Pierre Janet was just what I needed to begin an exploration of the good stuff of the unconscious—you know, as more than just a dystopia lorded over by childhood monsters. Pierre actually coined the term the unconscious, so Sigmund and I owe her a great debt for that. I readily admit that fact at parties, Sigmund… not so much. You know how he gets.

Anyway, Pierre and Sig and I were all buds. But things got a little weird when we talked about what was going on in our heads. Freud couldn't let go of sex and childhood trauma. Pierre and I thought the subconscious was more like Disneyland—fun and scary, but in a creative, less harmful way. We thought that imagination helped adults push through neurosis without going back in time. As you can imagine, Sigmund wasn't too into those ideas of ours.

Alfred Alder

So I wouldn't say that Alfred Alder and I are besties. We did smoke a few cigars together when I came to Vienna to pal around with Freud for a while. Yes, together, the three of us are the proud papas of psychoanalysis, as you all know it today. We're all into the unconscious and how that stuff works to inform our public behavior. Alfred also had to split with Freud, like so many of us did, because Siggie was just sure that he had found the answers and all the rest of us were to simply continue and expand his work.

Sig was the mean Dad of our group. Al and I both disagreed with Freud that the therapist should remain distant and impartial to his patients. Al was the fun guy. I was the art project dude. Al and I didn't even want to call the people we worked with patients. However, we didn't call them our children. That would have been really weird. But Al and I did want a more interactive and personal connection with our clients. Mean Dad didn't like that.

Otto Gross

Never heard of him? Yeah, that's because all of my buddies made sure this guy was scrubbed from the history of psychoanalysis. But I've got to get real here, and tell the stories of guys like him… because things about me are coming to light that may shock some folks.

What can I say about Otto? I didn't like this guy much, but I thought he had a brilliant mind. A colleague, then also a patient of mine, Otto was an anarchist, a heavy drug-user, and an advocate for women's rights.

He was also shamelessly open about his sexuality and championed the general overthrow of all of Western Judeo-Christian social ethics. In other words, Otto was a guy from another planet in another time. He was obviously before our time, anyway.

But counseling Otto as my patient was even more inspiring to me than having him as my friend. Our session shook a lot of ideas loose for me, particularly the ideas of the two personality types: the introvert and the extrovert. Boy, was Otto one heck of an extrovert. But like some extroverts you know, I'm sure, he was too much for him or anyone else around him to take. He ended up dying from pneumonia and a drug overdose (both I guess? Maybe they fought it out for his last breath? I dunno) after he was found passed out and near frozen to death on the streets of Berlin.

Sabina Speilrein

Now my story gets a little scandalous. What can I say? Otto elicited behavior from me that I hadn't explored before. I'm an introvert, so I needed some help unleashing my inner wild man. I can't get into the details but she was my patient and, yeah, we were madly in love. She had a huge influence on both me and Freud. Her ideas on the sex drive were very insightful. (I hear you snickering. I know, what you're thinking. Now that's some hands-on experimentation, am I right?)

I have to mention her because her ideas about the libido containing the powers of both destruction and transformation predate my ideas on the matter, as well as Sigmund's idea of the death drive. Plus, she's a woman who should be recognized for her role in shaping some of the most important intellectual ideas of the modern age. Plus, I must admit, this information proves that Sig and I were not the most perfect human beings. Which is important, because understanding you're imperfect is pretty crucial to self-acceptance. So, hey, we had issues too. A lot of issues.


Sigmund Freud

Honestly, I never wanted to be at odds with Sig. His ideas are gigantic, right? Who are you still talking about today when you think of psychotherapy? You've never heard of a Jungian Slip have you? I just thought Sigmund had too much sex on the brain. Yeah, we all think about sex a lot, especially men. At least that's what we've been telling ourselves.

But women think about sex too. And about children and story-telling and art and music. They also have creative lives that can be sources of remarkable healing. That's why I name the man's soul the anima. It's female. Men have female souls. Sigmund thought this notion was totally loco. He thought women's lives are primarily molded by the fact they lack a penis, and their penis envy makes them mad for life. I didn't leap onto that sexist bandwagon. You're welcome, ladies.

Sigmund Freud

So, yeah, the other thing is that Sigmund never grew out of his obsession with the negative psychological and emotional effects of early childhood experiences. He believed every single darn funky, disturbing thought you've ever had was a result of your infancy. In his opinion, we're all thumb-suckers for life, so we just need to get used to it. For Sig, there is only your personal unconscious to contend with, and you struggle with that for the rest of your life. No thanks.

I like all of the stages of life, and think they're all important to our psychosocial development. I like being an adult. I like music and literature and mythology and all of the amazing things adults and cultures do well beyond the years they spend gumming soft carrots and pooping their pants. The collective unconscious takes us out of childhood and exposes us to the wonder of the universal experiences of human beings at all ages of life. Who wants to stay on the kiddie rides when there are all these epic psychic rollercoasters out there for those of us who are four feet tall and taller?

Sigmund Freud

I know it's a bit silly to keep beating this dead horse, but I really didn't have major disputes with most of my colleagues. However. Most of us had some beef with Sigmund. I'm talking whole sides of beef—the tail, the tongue, the hooves, the whole cow. Many of us threw down with S. Freud. And by "throw down" I mean we wrote really, really unpleasant letters to him. And then let our (contrarian) work speak for itself.

Sigmund and a few of his disciples were convinced that he had found the absolute truth of psychology. And whoever wanted to work on other issues beyond what he put his seal of approval on had to take a hike. So I peaced out. I thought that while our internal lives can be dark and scary, they are also full of creativity and imagination. These are two powerful positive forces that can help people work out their personal demons by looking to the future, not simply plowing through the past.

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