Evaluating Jung

Jung was an impressive scholar, fond of citing obscure sources and using rare words. You should have a dictionary nearby when reading Jung. But Jung was not a careful writer who revised his works. He said he just let it all spill out, and future generations could try to make sense of it all. Indeed, Jung's writings are full of contradictions and confusions. He saw connections between things most people never heard of, such as obscure mythical figures in different cultures. To Jung, two mythical figures in different cultures might be obvious expressions of the same archetype. But there is no way to prove this. Ultimately, such observations are just opinions, albeit in Jung's case the scholarly opinions of a man who was extremely well read in ancient mythology and was therefore able to draw connections not obvious to other people.

What did Jung think of numerology?

Jung embraced occultism and superstition. Although he did not believe in UFOs, he accepted many other ideas that seem even farther out. For example, he was fascinated by numerology—the idea that certain numbers have a special, almost magical significance. Perhaps you have heard of the belief of some Christians that the number 666 is a sign of Satan. Jung studied this type of number magic...not just a few special numbers, but many numbers. Most scientists reject numerology as superstition. To Jung, it was an important part of human culture, not just a historical curiosity but also a living reality.

What is synchronicity as Jung described it?

Jung also believed in astrology, which most scientists reject. Jung believed in something called synchronicity, which he described as an "acausal connecting principle." In essence, synchronicity is meaningful coincidence. For example, Jung reported cases in which he was emotionally upset and an object in the room would suddenly break. To him, that was a significant event, a synchronization of mind and matter. Most scientists would say such an event is a coincidence.

How did Jung "not follow his own advice" when it came to dream interpretation?

As a young psychiatrist seeing his first patients, Jung proposed a reasonable, common sense technique for dream interpretation in which the dreamer is allowed to guide the interpretation. As he got older, Jung stopped following his own advice. When presented with a dream, he would find archetypes and mythical themes which were known to Jung because of his great scholarly background, but which could not possibly have been known to the dreamer. That was OK with Jung; he believed such "archetypical contents" could erupt independently and insert themselves into anybody's dreams. Jung, in his later years, always seemed sure these archetypal themes captured the deeper meaning of a dream. Many psychologists would say his earlier suggestion was better: it is the dreamer, not the analyst, who best knows the meaning of a dream.

Has research supported the idea of Jungian personality types?

Jung's personality types are widely accepted by the public, in part because the Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory is so widely available. Jung's personality types are widely accepted by the public, in part because the Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory is so widely available. Jung's personality typology lines up with three of the Big Five traits. If the Big Five has the validity claimed for it in modern research, the Jungian typology probably shares that virtue, especially if agreeableness and intelligence are added to the usual Jungian dimensions.

What were some of Jung's ideas that later became popular in academic psychology?

Jung coined the term "self-actualization" which was later picked up and emphasized by the humanistic psychology movement, notably by Abraham Maslow (discussed in Chapter 9, Motivation) and Carl Rogers (discussed in Chapter 13, Therapies). Jung believed in something he called individuation that was growth and development of the personality. It did not stop in early adulthood; Jung said; it continued throughout life and flowered in middle- to old-age. Even a very old person, if willing to look deep within, was likely to discover surprising and useful insights, according to Jung. That is a modern-sounding idea and Jung was one of the first people to put forward the idea of lifelong growth and development in personality.


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