A brief introduction to Jung’s, by now, infamous Red Book. Published in 2009, it’s contents were created in the early decades of the twentieth century. A time of upheaval and the traumas of two world wars. So too was the content of the book generated with great angst, confusion, fright, and pain. The causal details of which are absent from the pages (or review of the pages) I’ve had any access to. A matter of family and estate preference, no doubt, as has been the case with so many other prominent figures in history.
The book is filled with representations that, in a relatively subdued way, describe Jung’s inner-world disruptions during this era of his of life. Some described him as having gone mad, at the time. And Jung’s answer to this mid-life crisis? Imagine the ongoings in your inner-world as you would a story, a drama, a myth. Paint draw sculpt what you see, name those whom appear, narrate what occurs. Keep honest but don’t think on it too much. And, whatever you do, don’t leave off there.
Most dreams and imaginings ought not to be taken literally but recognized as deferring to a melange of personal memory, worldly observations, anticipatory associations, problem-solving processes, familiar feelings and sensations. Preserved impressions and compulsions allow for a revisiting. A re-divining. New insight refining, with time, again and again.
This is where my preference for Jung’s projections and interpretations, over Freud’s, becomes relevant. Most folks I know, and that feel this way, attribute the preference to the character of their spiritual beliefs. However, like Freud, I am an atheist. Nonetheless, my favouritism is also founded on a seemingly unshakable faith. A faith in our interpersonal capacities and a value for creative, sensing, feeling, intuitive processes.
Besides, to whom would a child-like obsession with libido, an aggressive competition with their father, and the matter of penis envy most apply?
We now know that both Freud and Jung learned from and even cultivated theories that were presented to them by patients. Most of Freud and Jung’s patients were women. Mania, depression, sexual deviance, hysteria, and The Talking Cure. One might say that the doctors’ own experience of transference were frequently overlooked. Their entanglements were reported back to us with plenty of ‘he’, ‘him’, and ‘his’ Freudian slips.
This is where Sigmund left off but where Carl then re-commenced.
Both men were very concerned with how ‘the establishment’ would judge their careers. Women weren’t granted much legitimacy in the sciences though, generally, would have had more insight on the topic of developmental behaviours. Both men were known to have particular relationships with their mother figures; one especially idolized and catered to, while the other resented and rebelled against her control. At a time where fathers were at war, or lived long hours in a world severed from family and the rearing of children. Both self-medicated. Though only Freud sustained a, reportedly functional, addiction. He was seen to have been a father figure to Jung. The latter was, for a while, referred to as the apprentice whom surpassed his master’s teachings.
We suspect more the flip sides of a coin, the more we learn more about their lives, and of the conflict that triggered each of their meltdowns. Gravitating to one another to such integral an extent that, with the benefit of our hindsight, their so deeply felt rift seems like an inevitably driven one.
Freud fainted and Jung built a house.
Sometimes, we endeavour to understand others so as to understand ourselves. And yet, in order to empathize with others we must already have emotional comprehension of ourselves. Back and forth and so on. Not merely a cliché but a way of describing the reciprocal gift of our relations, where those involved dare to invest, and especially during a time of conflict or crisis.
Their conflict, and Jung’s habit of introversion, provided opportunity for personal excavation and growth. The Red Book traces Jung’s inward journey and then concludes where some his most influential theories would begin.
Of course, we don’t need to choose between these two scholars. In both their archives we find strength of insights and biases, and there’s plenty that has happened in the field since. I’ll get there yet, in the months to come. For now: Breadcrumbs, in place of in-depth explanations, so that you’ve a digestible trail to follow to and from future posts.
A wee ‘lil primer, though it is too reductive, it does provide a quick ‘n dirty recap on the major differences in their most referenced theories: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung Lecture
A longer peak inside the meaning of The Red Book, in Jung’s own words : The World Within
A video and interactive introduction to the book’s contents from the Rubin Museum of Art: Sonu Shamdasani Introduces The Red Book