It is impossibly to think of the field of psychology without one or both of these names coming to the fore. Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Schlomo Freud are giants in the field of psychology.  They were at differing times both fast friends and firm foes in the field of psychology.

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It is said that at their initial meeting in 1906 when Freud was fifty years old and Jung thirty one that they spoke without rest for thirteen hours straight. Their passion for the nascent field of psychology was so strong, and that the opportunity to discuss this burgeoning field with another of like mind was extraordinary to both men.

Their dialogue extended far beyond that first meeting and the two regularly corresponded with one another.  Over 360 letters still remain and have been published together as a discourse between these two towering minds.

Jung and Freud shared not only the newest research and theories they developed with one another over an approximately 7 year period, but also more personal matters as well. Jung wrote to Freud about many aspects of his life including the extramarital affairs he engaged in, which later became a polygamous relationship.  Freud poured praise into Jung, for who Freud took him to be his Heir-apparent, as his “Successor and crown prince.” This praise had a obsequious edge to it, and Freud would denigrate other friendships and professional associations as a demonstration of his ’fidelity’ to Jung.

Jung

CGJungJung was not entirely comfortable with the tone Freud took with him, and revealed to Freud the discomfort stemmed from having been sexual assaulted as a boy by an older man he had worshipped.  It is well documented that one of the major fissures in the relationship between Jung and Freud was their differing interpretations and placement of the role of sex and libidinous desires in consciousness.

Freud

Sigmund Freud. Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
Sigmund Freud. Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Freud was very much the material scientist and grappled with the hard problem of consciousness by making it about the sexual self and repressed desires in human beings. Jung however was far more spiritual in his outlook, something Freud dismissed in many ways. Jung’s model of consciousness included something called the collective unconscious, which loosely defined is an immaterial state in which all of consciousness is shared to a greater or lesser extent, and that which we can access through ritual and dreams.  Freud believed that the unconscious was merely a kind of dumping ground for repressed desires; particularly sexual desires as the sexual self and forms the core around which he wraps the rest of the human personality.

Dreams and their interpretation

Dreams and their interpretation was another major bone of contention between the two men, both wrote extensively on dreaming and their role within the human psyche. It was the fixed nature of Freud’s symbolic representation that differed with Jung’s much more open interpretations. Again it was the notion of a collective unconscious that made such a schism in ideology between the two.

In the end it was Jung’s concern with Freud’s failing health that brought a finality to their relationship.

For some time the two maintained their correspondence, but the nature of it was acidic and veiled (and some not so veiled) slights were exchanged between the two. Jung was attempting to transcend the previous nature of the friendship in which Freud had always been the superior father figure. This grated with Jung who was attempting to establish his own reputation in the field of psychology. However their relationship still had a cordiality about it and they would still attend meetings and symposiums and dine with one another during these events.

It was after a dinner in Munich that Freud suffered the second fainting spell in the presence of Jung.  Jung was deeply concerned for Freud and wrote to him some days after the incident expressing that concern and avowing to continue a relationship if only in a personal as opposed to an intellectual one. Freud responded in a dismissive fashion, writing about the fainting spell by saying it was “A bit of neurosis that I ought really look into.” This piece of denial enraged Jung and the exchanges quickly deteriorated into little more than snipes and backbiting. Soon after their exchanges ended entirely bar a few pieces of purely business related correspondence. To read the work in entirety it is available here: http://press.princeton.edu/

Any fan of the work of either man would be likely to be disappointed by the pettiness and ego aggrandisement displayed by both of these great men in these exchanges.

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