Genius and Madness

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Why Freud and Jung Broke Up

Sex made Freud and Jung "break up"

Just finished a class called Freud and Jung. Learned a lot, not so much about theory, which is already firmly cemented in my head, but the personal factors at work in the relationship. On that subject: WOW. So much going on. From the very beginning--the first meeting and fevered discussion for something like 13 hours straight--a sense of high promise combined with undeniable doom. Freud had always been the victim of intense anti-Semitism; he saw in Jung a stronger, younger man, full of charisma, yet also, maybe most importantly, a gentile, someone who could take psychoanalysis into places denied him. For a few brief years Jung was content to follow, to champion Freud's ideas--even about sexuality--in fact, to be more adamantly Freudian than Freud himself, yet always, and inevitably, there comes a time when the son must kill the father. It got messy, to say the least. There were charges and counter-charges. Freud fainted several times while in Jung's presence. Freud says Jung harbored death wishes towards him; Jung laughed the idea off. (I tend to side with Freud on that one).

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But in the end, deeply ironically, the "break up"--and that is exactly what it was, down to the sophomoric connotation of the phrase--was all about sex. Not Freud's theory of sex, but sexual feelings between the two. I always knew these were in play, but not to the degree I discovered. Freud, in a letter to a colleague, referred to "unruly homosexual feelings transferred from another part"--the part in question being a previous collaborator, Wilhelm Fliess. Jung recognized the same in himself. Because of early sexual trauma at the hands of an older, trusted male figure, Jung found intimacy with other males repulsive. He came to feel towards Freud a "religious crush." Yet gradually the attraction disgusted him, betraying its baser origins, and so Jung had to move away. He was filled with paranoia--displaced homosexual feelings--and that made any subsequent collaboration impossible. Again, this was nothing new for Jung. As many were to observe, he always had trouble sustaining close male friendships. Woman were, of course, another matter entirely. Jung tended to find females endlessly enthralling, so much so that he posited a female archetype--the anima--in every man. She was a guide to the male's cloaked interior. She showed men themselves because, without her, they tended to go nowhere...

Jung spent so much time decrying Freud's tendency to find sex under every rock. But in the end, their relationship confirmed that emphasis. Sex derailed the work.

We tend to think of theory development as emerging out of an objective, scientific attitude. Wrong. All theory is autobiography. The person the theorist really wants to understand, more than anyone, is himself. The subjective can never be elbowed aside. It hovers inescapably, like an off-stage voice, whispering, whispering, whispering...

 

 

William Todd Schultz, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at Pacific University in Oregon and edited the Handbook of Psychobiography (Oxford University Press 2005).

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