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Freudian Psychology

Freud, Jung and their Complexes

Freud, Jung and their Complexes

This post is in response to
Why Freud and Jung Broke Up

Fellow Psychology Today blogger William Todd Schultz concludes in his recent posting that the reason psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung "broke up" had to do with their repressed homosexuality. This is an overly simplistic and fundamentally flawed Freudian interpretation of an extremely complex and dynamic relationship between two great men of genius.

Schultz also suggests, rightly I believe, that, especially in the field of psychology and psychiatry, different theories derive in significant part from different personality types. But what he doesn't mention is that this is precisely what Jung himself pointed out in his classic text Psychological Types (1921). "This work," writes Jung, "sprang originally from my need to define the ways in which my outlook differed from Freud's and Adler's. In attempting to answer this question, I came across the problem of types; for it is one's psychological type which from the outset determines and limits a person's judgment." Jung's basic argument is that, as for all of us, Freud's perspective of human nature stems partially from his own personality, as does Adler's and Jung's himself. (See my previous post on Jung's typology.) We each tend to see and interpret reality through our own lens.

It is true that Jung had a negative "father complex," as he himself would call it. He also suffered from a negative "mother complex." His father was a henpecked, passive, depressed Swiss parson, whom, as a boy, Jung perceived as weak, pitiable, ineffectual and somewhat feminine. Jung's mother suffered from severe psychiatric problems, instilling in him a deep distrust of her and of women (and the "feminine") in general. In his excellent little biographical study, The Wounded Jung: Effects of Jung's Relationships on His Life and Work (1997), philosopher Robert C. Smith spends a good deal of time detailing the vexed Freud-Jung friendship, citing the well-worn interpretations of sublimated homosexual impulses in the two famous men, and mentioning Jung's transferred "father complex" and Freud's "son complex." (Incidentally, it was Jung's influence on Freud during their profoundly fruitful collaboration in the early days of psychoanalysis that led Freud to use the term "complex" in his writing.)

But, as I try to point out in my review (1999) of Smith's book, I believe Smith comes closest to the truth when he notes that Jung's repressed or unconscious anger toward his father was a powerful factor in the relationship and its gradual dissolution. Jung's initial reverence of the senior and far more famous Freud eventually turned to resentment and rage, a phenomenon that occurs commonly in other transference relationships, whether clinical or personal. In Freudian terms, Jung first had an idealizing and then devaluing transference projected onto Freud, the older, fatherly authority figure. In this sense, it could be called, like so many partnerships, a love relationship turned nasty, though that love or libido need not be sexualized (unless you are a Freudian). Professor Schultz does acknowledge the likelihood that Jung, as Freud suspected, harbored unconscious death wishes toward him, a manifestation of repressed hostility with a distinct Oedipal flavor.

But Freud had his own complexes. (As Jung once said, the question is not whether one has complexes. We all do. The proper question is whether we have them or they have us.) Freud, too, had his own fondness or love for Jung, in whom he saw his own future--and the future of psychoanalysis. Freud too was angry, harboring his own repressed childhood rage, conveniently obscured from consciousness by his fixation on sexuality. Freud's own narcissistic rage was evident in his reactions to any pupil or colleague who challenged his authority. As Smith writes, at the start of their professional friendship, "this anger was projected onto their enemies. When intense stress in the relationship emerged, however, long repressed childhood anger exploded.. . . Rage on each man's part was eventually to erode the relationship." (p. 53). It was ultimately a combination of narcissistic injury and unconscious rage--their complexes--on the part of both savants that violently drove them apart.

What I find fascinating is that the daimonic, primal passions pervading their partnership and precipitating their rift--especially anger, resentment and rage--found so insignificant a place in either of their psychological theories. It surprises some to find that Freud, for most of his prolific career, paid so little attention to the role of repressed anger and rage in neurosis and psychosis. It was not until Freud was sixty-four, long after his break with Jung, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, that Freud first posited his theory of Thanatos, the "death instinct," which expresses itself as destructive aggression. This was a concession that his previous chronic fixation on infantile and childhood sexuality was, as Jung had argued, too limited. As for Jung--despite his fateful rejection of Freud's sexual libido theory along with many other legitimate differences of opinion--he too never deemed it necessary to speak or write directly of the central role of mismanaged aggression, anger and rage in the etiology and treatment of mental disorders. (See my previous posts.) Clearly, both otherwise brilliantly insightful men had a blind spot (a complex) regarding the powerful affects of anger and rage--especially in themselves.

This posting is derived in part from "Jung's Angry Genius," by Stephen A. Diamond, originally published in The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal, Vol. 17, No. 4, 1999.

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