Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist. His interest in the inner world of the psyche began at an early age, and when he chose a career in medicine he specialized in psychiatry. He began his work at the famed Burgholzi Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich, revolutionary in its day for its approach to the treatment of mental illnesses.

Jung went on to study in Paris with the illustrious Pierre Janet, whose work on dissociation would later influence the development of Jung’s theory of complexes. Jung thought of complexes as splinter psyches in that they often seemed to have a life and energy of their own, functioning outside the intention of the ego.

Jung and Freud: Jung’s friendship with Sigmund Freud, beginning in 1906, began a mutual exploration of the unconscious and its significance in life. Freud named his method psychoanalysis, and in order to distinguish his method from Freud’s, Jung called his analytical psychology. Their views began to diverge, eventually causing a rift that became permanent in 1914. Jung’s split from Freud led to a personal crisis and period of great introversion that Jung came to call his “confrontation with the unconscious.”

Confrontation with the unconscious: Jung chronicled this period in the recently published “Red Book,” a large illustrated volume created between 1914 and 1930. During these years, he developed the concept of active imagination, a method of actively engaging with images from the unconscious in a non-judgmental dialogue. Jung’s confrontation with his own unconscious set the foundation for a lifetime of work that included a study of myth, world religions, cultures and fairy tales.

Key Jungian concepts: The influence of Jung’s work reaches far beyond the domain of psychology into mainstream society. In addition to complexes (core patterns of unconscious emotions, memories, perceptions and wishes relating to a common theme), his best known concepts include archetypes (universal patterns of behavior), the psyche (the center of conscious and unconscious thought and emotion in every person), the collective unconscious (the inherited layer of the psyche), individuation (the ongoing process that moves us towards wholeness), the Self (a center and centering aspect of the psyche), the persona (the mask that allows us to adapt to society), the shadow (the disowned aspects of the psyche) and many others.

The psyche is the starting point of all human experience, and all the knowledge we have gained eventually leads back to it. — Carl Jung
“The real journey in life is interior.” — Thomas Merton
 
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