I have a degree in humanistic psychology from Saybrook University in San Francisco, the keepers of the humanistic psychology contributions. Saybrook was founded by Carl Rogers and Rollo May in the 1960’s as an alternative to Freudian/post-Freudian work, and behavioral psychology from Skinner and Watson. Maslowe was in this mix as well, as psychology was looking for ways to study human transcendence and possibility and for ways not be hemmed in by those two earlier contributions. Freud had died in 1939 leaving his enormous footprint. Industry had picked up on Skinner and consequences in the workplace (still and ok contribution that I used to teach some), Jungian psychology had moved along in a parallel, but smaller universe and grew slowly out of its center in Zurich. Jung died in 1961.
Jung had been a student of Freud for six years, became heir apparent to his throne briefly, and they had a famous falling out over the rather large differences in approach to psychology that were not apparent at the beginning, but in retrospect, were inevitable. Like looking at a bad intense short marriage, it is a wonder they worked so closely together at all, but Freud’s huge impact was what the field had needed, so it was a necessary marriage in some ways, but doomed as well. Freud won the pr battle after their split, hands down, and Jung was often misunderstood, and discredited much of the time, and some of that for good reason. Jung also had a decades’ long mistress, used the terms German and Jewish psychology when he was advising the Germans to learn from the Jews, getting him implicated in anti-semitism, mostly wrongly so in my opinion. Many students avoid him for all kinds of reasons. He is hard to study for most.
There is a somewhat cultish vibe about entering Jung’s world, and it does not take long for Jungian students to start talking to each other in specialized Jungian speak that can be off putting. But in spite of all this, I believe his body of work, the questions he addressed with his psychological approaches, is more comprehensive than any other, and more in keeping with how our lives really work. He speaks to my experience of life, meaning, work and change. And his followers like Edward Edinger, MD, James Hollis, James Hillman, Thomas Moore, Sylvia Brinton Perera and so many more, have added much to his initial work.
Here are a few of his great game-changing ideas and approaches:
- Many scientists can’t/won’t take on the question of human transcendence, and Jung addressed it regularly, asking about the big reasons for human existence, and the connections between psychology and faith and religion.
- He took on body-mind-spirit questions early
- He advanced notions of stages of human development, especially second half of life.
- The neuro-biologists like Erik Goodwin, (author of Neurobiology of the Gods), are discovering what Jung had to describe through observation: that our brains at birth are factory-equipped to respond to symbols. Hence, Jung’s notion of the collection unconscious and the deep neural networks far beyond our control that we share as a species is not so far out as his detractors claim
- He discussed vocation and callings as a normal part of being human
- He understood the vast differences between Eastern and Western approaches to life and yet tied them together as well
- He was able to align empiricism with metaphor and other ways of knowing
- He realized that psychological types are at the root of many of our gifts and differences, the source of the MBTI
- He had an anthropological psychology, understanding roots and ethnic systems of living, and their impact.
- -He had an evolutionary view that included the developmental stages of human consciousness
- He had a theological psychology and studied the psychology of religion, linking him to William James
- He used himself as an experiment-this was risky, but made him more than a student of psychology, he was a living laboratory of consciousness studies
- He addressed gender and the masculine/feminine polarity at the root of so many dynamics
- He took the analyst and psychologist out of the world of expert other and made the assertion that we are all humans first: approaching each other humbly and with good intent is a useful start for all professions
- He tied psychology to many other human fields of science and art, pissing off about everybody eventually as he would question the assumptions in other fields.