People have studied themselves for as long as there has been life. One of the most complex parts of the human body is the brain. The desire to understand how people think and why they think in the ways that they do has long concerned individuals among the human species. Psychology developed as a means of formally studying the human mind and understanding how it works or doesn’t work properly. A significant contributor to the field of psychology was Carl Jung. Who was this man and how did he advance the field of study in psychology?
The study of the mind goes back a long way. Psychology is that science which deals with mental behaviors and how these are processed. The psychologist seeks to drill down below the outer veneer of physical behavior to uncover the mental drives that produce these actions. Psychology works on the belief that people are essentially thinking being and that their behaviors are merely a reaction to stimuli that come from the brain. In order to modify outward behavior, a change of mind must take place. Only by understanding how the mind works and how it processes various stimuli can this science achieve the result of helping people to modify their behavior to achieve a specific goal.
The latter part of the nineteenth century saw the institution of psychology as an academic discipline. Though the mind has been studied for centuries, it was at this time that it became a source of focused, scientific study. As the century came to an end, the first doctorate in psychology was awarded, the first professorship in psychology was instituted, and the first professional society, the American Psychological Association, was founded. Different approaches to the science were considered in the early going. Functionalism focused primarily on the specific functions of each area of the brain, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis focused primarily on unconscious drives that cause outward behavior, and Edward Tichener’s structuralism focused on the specific contents that made up the mind and how those contents caused specific behaviors.
Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875 and grew up during the time that the young science of psychology was just bursting on the scene. His upbringing as a solitary child in a nation transforming from the old world into the modern greatly affected his approach to life and his approach to the field of psychological science. His belief that he was a part of two worlds led him to study the formation of the mind and the way in which the mind taps into collective knowledge. As he grew and interacted with thought systems from other cultures, he was able to make connections between these thought systems that reflected each of them drawing upon a collective unconscious available to all. His later understanding of psychological archetypes that the minds draws upon and of the affliction causes by neuroses both resulted from experiences that were a part of his childhood.
The newly emerging field of psychology was perfectly suited for Carl Jung as he emerged into adulthood. His exposure to the reality of psychoses or personality diseases helped to explain many of the challenges which he encountered during his upbringing. Psychology offered Jung the opportunity to bring into one field of study the physical workings of the body and the spiritual workings of the mind. Jung and Sigmund Freud had some early interactions, but eventually their career and individual paths separated. Jung’s development of the psychology of the unconscious took him on a different path than that taken by Freud. There was much work to be done in establishing the new science of psychology and each of these great thinkers took his work in a different direction. In doing so they were able to broaden the field of psychology and introduce different approaches that could be developed more by others. While they both influenced each other, Jung was less focused on sexual development and more interested in understanding how the mind accesses and makes use of the collective unconscious.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Jung became an important speaker and contributor to the field of psychology. He gave lectures, edited periodicals, and served as chair of psychological associations. Though he was committed to psychoanalysis as a method of studying the mind, he continued to distinguish himself from Freud. Freud was committed to the libido as the core driver of human activity, but Jung in contrast was committed to a more religious understanding of these drives and motives. Jung traveled beyond his native Switzerland to places such as Germany, England, and America where he could interact with many influential people who were part of the growing movement in psychology. Mixed in with his public work, Jung continued to experiment with inducing unconsciousness in order to gain insight into his theories of the mind. This led at times to isolation from others in the field that mirrored his upbringing. Jung published books in the field of psychology up to his death in June of 1961.
There are a number of important psychological theories that were developed by Carl Jung during his lifetime. The idea of a human being having either an introverted or extraverted personality has its origin in Jung’s thinking and resulted in part from his own development as a child. The idea of a complex as the source of unwanted behaviors was developed by Jung. These help to explain patterns of behavior that are hard to modify. Archetypes and the availability of the collective unconscious were particularly central to Jung’s thinking. He studied in detail the ways in which the mind accesses these collective understandings and uses them to cause specific outward behaviors. Jung developed the ideas of individuation and persona that deal with how a person is able to integrate himself of herself with the collective unconscious, but at the same time to remain a distinct individual. This idea has been central to psychology and psychological development ever since it was first put forth by Jung. His impact on psychology was profound. Jung established the foundations of psychology as a science and set forth a path of study for others to follow in the future.