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Evaluating Jung

Jung was an impressive scholar, fond of obscure sources and rare words. If you read Jung, be ready to look up many unfamiliar terms; it can be an exercise in vocabulary-building.

Jung was not a careful writer who revised his works. He said he did not want to impeded his creative processes, so he just let his ideas come out, and future generations could make sense of it all.

Jung did not hesitate to suggest deep psychological connections between obscure mythical figures in different cultures. To Jung, similar patterns from different cultures were expressions of the same archetype. There was no way to prove this; he just assumed it.

Ultimately, Jung did not rely upon research or replicable evidence. He was much more interested in fascinating, if obscure, mythical symbols rather than scientific regularities. He drew connections not obvious to other people.

What did Jung think of numerology?

Jung embraced some forms of occultism and superstition. Although he did not believe in UFOs, he accepted many other ideas that seem even farther out.

For example, Jung was fascinated by numerology: the idea that certain numbers have a special, almost magical significance. Most people in our culture have heard that 666 is a sign of Satan. Jung studied number magic like this from various cultures and (like everything else he encountered) he took it seriously.

What is synchronicity as Jung described it?

Jung believed in astrology, which most scientists reject. Jung proposed 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, with no connection at all between the two events except in the mind of the observer.

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

Jung suffered from some dream interpretations at the hands of Freud that were incorrect, forced into Freud's scheme in which dream symbols were all treated as references to sex and violence. Perhaps in reaction to this, Jung developed a very open-ended dream interpretation technique. He allow the dreamer to guide the interpretation.

As he got older, Jung stopped following his own advice. When presented with a dream, he would find references to archetypes and mythical symbols known to Jung but not the dreamer.

Jung seemed confident that these interpretations (which could have come from nobody in the world but Jung) captured the real, deep meaning of the dreams. Many psychologists would say Jung's more modest, 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 typology included the extraversion/introversion distinction that became part of all modern personality theories. Jung's other distinctions are interesting and several of them match up to Big Five traits.

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

Jung coined the term "self-actualization" which was later emphasized by the humanistic psychology movement. It was one of the most important concepts in the systems of Abraham Maslow (discussed in Chapter 9, Motivation) and Carl Rogers (discussed in Chapter 13, Therapies).

Jung spoke of individuation as a movement of the personality toward an integrated whole. It did not stop in adulthood; 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. Jung was one of the first people to put forward the idea of lifelong growth and development in personality.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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