Freud and Jung – The Main Conceptual Differences Between the Two Schools

Do you know the basic differences between the psychological schools of Freud and Jung? Do you know the main issues that caused the falling apart of their early association?

Freud defined the unconscious as a collection of repressed personal material. Jung went further.
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He divided the psyche in three parts: the conscious (ruled by the Ego), the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. This last part was the main culprit for their breaking apart. Although Freud could not deny the existence of the instincts, he did not accept the depth proposed by Jung to the collective unconscious.

Jung explained that, similar to the evolution of the human body that keep traces of our ancestral bodies (the coccyx, for instance), the human psyche carries all the previous history of human development in the collective unconscious. Freud could not accept such broad statement, and they parted ways when Jung published his book “Symbols of Transformation”, in 1912. At that time, Jung was 37 years old. From there on, Jung, who Freud had chosen to be his crown prince, went into a solo career, and their theories continued to diverge.

Another point of contention was the sexual libido. Freud, at least in the early development of his theory, considered the sexual libido to be the only mover of a person. Jung contested him, postulating that the sexual libido was a powerful force in the human psyche, but not the only one. When you are young, the sexual libido may govern your life, but, as you grow old, other factors acquire importance. Jung considered the human psyche as, by nature, religious. In fact, he made this a focus of his exploration.

In dream interpretation, for instance, Freud considered any sharp-pointed object in dreams as a symbol of the penis, while Jung considered that even the penis could symbolize something else, depending on the dream’s content. Creativity, for instance. That is how far apart the two genius where. Jung even gave a new name to his psychological school, to substitute Freud’s psychoanalysis. He called it analytical psychology.

Jung was the son of a pastor and studied, in addition to Christianity, the Eastern religions, Alchemy, Gnosticism, Mythology, I Ching, Astrology, and almost everything that could be classified as occult sciences. Jung explorations and discoveries raised the level of psychology well above Freud’s original developments. This does not disavow the importance of Freud. Before Newton, there could be no Einstein. I do not know if Jung could have reached the heights he did, if not by the early influence of Freud. The fact is that the two theories are years apart.

Different views on religion

Another major difference between these two genius has to do with the way they saw life. Freud had a critical view on religion and was an atheist. Jung insisted that human beings should pay attention to their spiritual life. Some of the writings of Freud concerning religion are:

• “Religion is an illusion, and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.” – Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis,1933.

• “Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis.” – Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, 1927

• “Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. [… ] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man’s evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity.” – Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 1939

• “The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how a large number of people living today, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable, nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard actions.” – Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930

From these statement, it is obvious that Freud held a materialistic view of the world, and considered religion an illusion to keep the masses happy, very much in line with the communist thinking. By the way, Freud did not sympathize with communism.

According to Jung, the human soul needs religion to live a psychologically meaningful life. In opposition to Freud’s thinking, Jung considered religion to be extremely important. He argued he did not know any middle-aged person suffering from depression (what the primitive people called loss of a soul) who could recover without taking a spiritual standing, even if this did not involve an established church. In fact, he suggested to several of his patients a return to their family religion.

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