Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher born in 1875. He started out as a medical student around the turn of the century, eventually turning to psychiatry. Jung had a brief friendship with Sigmund Freud; however, as their theories diverged, the friendship ended. He died in 1961.
Considered the founder of analytic psychology, Carl Jung used elements of human identity and society — dreams, art, religion, and mythology — to interpret human nature. Many of his psychological theories contain references to religion and myth, and he is often central to any study of mythology.
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Like Freud, Jung had a theory of the unconscious mind — a vast portion of the mind that was virtually undetectable by the conscious mind. He disagreed with Freud’s focus on repressed memories in the unconscious, however. Freud believed that the unconscious was a harmful thing to mental wellness, spawning hysteria and other psychological conditions. Jung, on the other hand, saw the unconscious as a creative potential.
The Swiss psychiatrist also took the notion of the unconscious and pushed it forward, developing the notion of the collective unconscious. He believed that there was an collection of ideas that are a part of the mind shared between all mankind. His justification for this theory was based on the vast similarities between different religions: flood myths, female figures such as the virgin and the crone, and other distinct similarities. He called these features of mythology “archetypes,” attesting that they were repeated in one form or another throughout all the world’s religions because they were basically pre-programmed into the collective unconscious, a part of the mind that every human being shared without exception.
Carl Jung expanded on Freud’s ideas in other areas, too. Whereas Freud had a rather rigid view of gender identity and how it developed, Jung believed that all men had an unconscious feminine side to their minds, and vice versa. He called the feminine component in the male mind anima, and the masculine part of the female mind animus. In this manner, he was one of the first theorists of the era to touch on concepts of androgyny.
The last major concept in Jung’s theories is that of the shadow. He viewed the shadow not as a negative influence on a person but as a part of the unconscious that was the exact opposite of the person’s normal personality. The best analogy would be the surprising incident of a usually gentle, meek individual shouting at someone or becoming violent.
Unfortunately, Jung’s theories are not often studied in psychology, as they are now viewed as more philosophical in nature, thanks to his extensive analysis of mythology. Regardless, the man and his theories had a great deal of influence on psychology.