Who Was Carl Gustav Jung?

Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist Carl Gustav Jung was the founder of analytic psychology, and made groundbreaking innovations in the study of the human psyche.

Jun 19, 2024By Maysara Kamal, BA Philosophy & Film

who was carl gustav jung


Carl Gustav Jung was a psychiatrist and psychologist from Switzerland who founded the school of analytic psychology. Although Jung started his journey by building on Sigmund Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis, he found his own intellectual path in the course of his unique and enigmatic exploration of the human psyche.



A picture of Jung as a child. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Carl Gustav Jung was born in 1875 in Kesswil, Switzerland. His father, Johann Jung, was a clergyman at the Swiss Reformed Church, and his mother, Emilie Preiswek, came from a rigid religious background. Jung had an unhappy childhood. His siblings died at a young age, and his mother suffered from severe mental illness. Jung grew up in loneliness and isolation. He played alone without wanting to be disturbed. He referred to the influence that his parents had on him during childhood as “the handicap I started with” (Jung, 1963). Although depressing in nature, Jung’s upbringing is what planted in him the seeds of inquiry, which would later guide his research into the labyrinth of the human psyche and distinguish him as one of the most influential psychologists in history. 



The University of Basel in Switzerland. Source: The University of Basel


Jung didn’t have better luck in his school life. When he was 12 years old, Jung reported experiencing a traumatic bullying incident at school where he was pushed to the floor by a classmate and lost consciousness. Jung stayed for the following six months at home because he fainted whenever he tried to go to school or do his homework. His condition persisted until he overheard his father’s financial anxieties about his future. Jung soon realized that he couldn’t afford academic failure as he would eventually have to support himself. Ever since, Jung took his studies very seriously. Despite facing familial pressure to walk in his father’s footsteps in the Church, his interest in philosophy during his late teens drove him away from religious traditionalism. Instead, Jung decided in 1895 to study psychiatry and medicine at the University of Basel.


Early Career

A picture of Carl Jung in front of the Burgholzi asylum. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Jung graduated in 1900 with an MD. His interest in the interrelation of spirituality and psychology was evident in his dissertation, published in 1903, where he tried to offer a nuanced non-dismissive psychological explanation of paranormal phenomena. After graduation, Jung moved to Zurich to work under psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler at the Burgholzi asylum. Bleuler introduced Jung to the works of Sigmund Freud and asked him to write a review on Freud’s The Interpretations of Dreams. Jung was fascinated by psychoanalysis, which led him to conduct experiments on word association. In 1906, Jung published Studies in Word Association and sent a copy to Sigmund Freud, marking the beginning of their friendship and collaboration.


Collaboration with Freud

Photograph with Sigmund Freud sitting at the center and Carl Jung sitting at his right. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Freud was not only impressed by Jung’s work but considered him the heir of his psychoanalysis legacy. The two collaborated for six years where Jung joined Freud on his overseas lectures and published works in psychoanalysis. Freud nominated him as the lifelong president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) in 1910, but two years later the tension between them grew as Jung deemphasized the role of the libido in The Psychology of the Unconscious. Jung disagreed with Freud’s model of psychosexual development and argued that his theory of the unconscious is “incomplete and unnecessarily negative”. Through his personal experience and private clinical practice, Jung discovered that there are universal dream themes and symbols (archetypes) that surpassed personal experience. He thus argued that the personal unconscious is connected to a collective unconscious.


Developing Analytical Psychology

An illustration in Carl Jung’s The Red Book. Source: Fine Art America


After the end of his collaboration with Freud, Jung suddenly found himself abandoned by almost all his entourage as they refused to accept his findings. Jung described this period of his life as a frightening “confrontation with the unconscious” where he experienced a “menacing psychosis” (Jung, 1962). He used his personal experience as raw material for his psychological investigation and dedicated the next 16 years of his life to writing illustrated journals that were published posthumously as The Red Book and The Black Books. Jung fully divorced himself from psychoanalysis, effectively founding his school of analytic psychology. In 1921, he became internationally recognized after the publication of Psychological Types. He traveled extensively to lecture and published many works that intertwined psychology, anthropology, mythology, and religion. Jung received numerous awards and honorary degrees from Oxford and Harvard universities.

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By Maysara KamalBA Philosophy & Film Maysara is a graduate of Philosophy and Film from the American University in Cairo (AUC). She covered both the BA and MA curriculums in the Philosophy Department and published an academic article in AUC’s Undergraduate Research Journal. Her passion for philosophy fuels her independent research and permeates her poems, short stories, and film projects.