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Freud and Jung Essay

Introduction At the beginning of the twentieth century, a new revolutionary way of understanding the mind had a great impact, not only in the science of psychology, but in all Western culture and in most of the aspects of society. Psychoanalysis adopted an important role, which still remains in our modern life, and Sigmund Freud was the responsible for it. Nevertheless, during this time, Carl Gustav Jung developed an important theory, making an immense contribution to psychology.

Jung didn’t just criticize psychoanalysis in order to improve it but he also provided different perspectives and new ideas with the aim of trying to understand in a more complete sense the human being, its abysmal inside world and its relations with the outside world. Jung established the pillars of the school of “Analytical Psychology”. In the following paragraphs different aspects of the theories of these two important figures in the history of psychology will be revised and contrasted.

Finally, the main weakness of Freud’s and Jung’s ideas will be presented in order to explain why it is complicated to consider their work and theories as science in its proper sense. Theories and contrasts Freud developed a dynamic psychology in which the individual is seen as an energy system. He named the energy dedicated for mental processes and psychological work: ‘psychic energy’ and completed his theory by establishing a structure of the personality, composed by three systems (Id, Ego and Superego) through which the psychic energy is transformed and exchanged.

Therefore, to Freud, a mentally healthy person was an individual with a “unified and harmonious organization” (Hall, 1964, p. 43) of these three structures. The Id, Ego and Superego co-operate allowing the individual to transit satisfactorily through its environment in order to achieve his/her desires and needs. Jung focused his work in the understanding and development of what he called the arquetypes, as he considered them really important to a proper human growth.

These are inherited predispositions of immense emotional significance, which shape the way in which the human consciousness can experience the world and its self-perception. Jung developed this concept after an intensive study. He looked for patterns in dreams and myths of many cultures and societies through history, relating them and finding a meaning in common. Finally, he began to “personify” the main archetypes of individual personality, giving significance and specific characteristics to each one of them.

Jung has been hardly criticized for personifying concepts of the unconscious: “Very few people find it necessary to personify… unconscious mental activities in the way that Jung did any more than they find it necessary to personify physical parts of themselves like the liver or kidneys, which function independently of the will. ” (Storr, 1995 , p. 13) The unconscious Even though Freud and Jung ended developing very different theories to understand the human mind, both authors were interested in exploring the concept of the unconscious.

They focused their investigation on understanding what the unconscious is and how it influences the individual. Both wanted to give a scientific explanation to this concept, so they based their models of unconsciousness on empirical research of their patients. Freud was interested in the repressed memories of the unconscious. He believed that individuals encounter thoughts and feelings with such a painful content that they have to be maintained in the unconscious in order to make it possible to cope with daily situations.

To him, wishes and fears are the most important content of the unconscious. They are often repressed due to the anxiety caused by a conflict generated by the individual’s instincts. Hence, to Freud, the aim for psychology is to look for factors in personality of which we are ignorant. Therefore, when calling them into consciousness the individual experiences a reduction of tension: “our scientific work in psychology will consist in translating unconscious processes into conscious ones, and thus filling in the gaps in conscious perceptions” (Freud, 1938, p.102).

Jung did not reject Freud’s ideas of the unconscious but he created a much more complex model of it. He thought it was composed of: the personal unconscious (which is related to Freud’s ideas as Jung didn’t make much emphasis on describing it) and the collective unconscious. The content of the collective unconscious is inherited, universal and impersonal, being common for all humans. The arquetypes are found in it. He also gave an important role to myths in his psychology.

Asexplained before, myths and archetypes are closely related and the second one evolved from Jung’s  studies on the first one. To him, myths had a positive and important function, allowing the individual to have “life dignity, meaning and purpose” (Storr, 1995, p. 43). Myth is considered as an adaptive mechanism and the collective unconscious is the “myth-creating level of mind”. Despite the religious connotations that Jung gave to the myth concept, it was also attached to the creative energy of the mind, being the source of inspiration to all the artistic fields.

So the collective unconscious becomes the responsible of the production of visions, religious ideas, myths and some dreams common to different cultures and times through history. Treatment The differences between their theories led them to focus on different points when treating their patients. Freud focused on the past and childhood developmental stages of the patient. His main aim was to let the patient find traumatic experiences or just intolerable events that are repressed and maintained in the unconscious.

As mentioned before, when making these experiences and thoughts conscious, their pathological symptoms will be reduced. At the beginning of his work, hypnosis and catharsis were the most used forms of treatment but later on he gave these two techniques less priority. Free association and the interpretation of dreams become the most popular and useful techniques for Freud. In contrast, Jung was concerned with the adulthood developmental stage. The integration and balance of the archetypes within the individual mind were fundamental to the process of growth and development of personality.

He explored the terms of individuation and transcendence. Jung believed that these two processes are the most important ones for progress in the individual’s mental life. The origin of conflict in individuals is found when a part of the psyche is ignored. Jung looked for the conflict through symbol interpretation and new developed techniques as amplification, active imagination or dream series method. Then he strengthened the individual self-consciousness and motivated them to develop their own individual personality as being distinct from the others.

The science controversy Why has psychoanalysis lost power and importance in the most significant psychological schools of our time? Why Jung’s analytical psychology does not have a proper role in the actual psychology? Since its beginning, psychology has fought to be considered as a science. Jung and Freud were equally concerned with this issue. They both based their theories in empirical research with their patients: by observation and correlation of data they drew their conclusions. They considered themselves scientists but both of them developed theories and treatment techniques whose nature contradicts the essence of science.

The first noticeable issue is that each one of them developed their theories from their own experience: Most of Freud’s patients were neurotics and Jung’s were psychotics so it is complicated to apply their thoughts and views of treating illness to the actual specific and large classification of mental disorders. Freud’s structure of personality (Id, Ego and Superego), his view of the unconscious, conscious and preconscious’ dispositions and even more basic concepts of his psychology, as the libido or cathexis, can’t be proved.

Any of them can’t be presented in an objective way. Jung’s archetypes and concept of collective unconscious have exactly the same problem. They both based their theories on subjective interpretations. Jung, in his early work, used and developed new techniques for objective measuring of different mental functioning but, as Freud, their main techniques were based on subjective interpretations: Dreams/ symbols analysis, free association technique,…

Jung’s studies on alchemy and his religious thoughts (which influenced him immensely) along with Freud’s psychology which is focused in childhood sexual development are the most important causes for the decrease in popularity of these theories within psychologists nowadays. As now, more than ever, psychology has its scientific limits established. Conclusion There is no doubt: Freud and Jung made an immense contribution to psychology. The unconscious retook popularity and was explored in different and new ways.

Also, they developed and expanded many of the key concepts that help to understand modern treatment: the defense mechanisms of the individual (identification, displacement, sublimation, repression, projection, reaction formation, fixation and regression), complexes, transcendence, individuation process, transference, the role of sexuality and the instincts, art as part of treatment… But it is also evident that the theoretical basis of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology, as Freud and Jung established them, failed in the application of the scientific method, at least as we consider the method in our days.

It is the intangible essence of these theories what doesn’t enable them to occupy a bigger and more significant place in our modern and empirical psychology.


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