Two Essays on Analytical Psychology Summary

Carl Jung


Two Essays on Analytical Psychology has often been called the best student introduction to Carl Jung’s work. “The Unconscious in the Normal and Pathological Mind” and “The Relation of the Ego to the Unconscious” are 1928 revisions of essays that Jung wrote earlier. Almost all of Jung’s early work was revised extensively before its appearance in the collected edition to which he devoted his last years.

The work begins, as do so many of Jung’s writings, with a version of his famous criticism of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. Jung, who was Freud’s most famous disciple from 1909 to 1914, held ideas different from Freud’s and Adler’s that led to personal differences between them, and these differences have been continued with rancor by their followers. One of the crucial points of disagreement is Jung’s opinion that Freud’s concept of the libido is too narrowly concerned with sexual energy and that Adler’s definition of libido as a will to power is also too simplistic. Jung calls the libido, the basic reservoir of human drives, “psychic energy.” Jung, however, endorses the cornerstone of Freud’s theory, dream analysis, calling this technique “the royal road to the unconscious.” Jung advises rising above too exclusive a concern with sexuality or the will to power. These drives are more important to young men than they are to the complete person over a long life span. Jung sees them as partial truths, and he proposes a theory of the psyche that can transcend them.

Undoubtedly there is much to be said for Jung’s criticism of Freud and Adler as being concerned too reductively with elective forces in the analysis of human motivation. As time passed, Jung turned more to mythology and folklore for keys to understanding the unconscious, while Freud always stayed within the confines of a patient’s personal experience from childhood on. Moreover, no matter how positively one reacts to Jungian theory, one must acknowledge an unrelenting tendency in the Swiss psychologist to schematize. During Freud’s productive career, his ideas about the unconscious and its significance changed because of the material presented to him by his patients. In Jung’s analysis, however, a few details from dreams led him to set up categories of psychological behavior drawn from his extensive research into primitive religions and the mysticism of Europe and the Near East. This tendency to set up formal patterns of meaning from dream, myth, and legend has led many of Jung’s critics to refuse him the name of scientist; they insist that he is a philosopher, and a medieval one at that.

Like many makers of mystical systems, Jung insists that everything within the mind is doubled or paired. Conflict may be destructive to mental health, but it is also necessary to spiritual development. His belief is that energy results from the tension of opposites. According to Jung, for the young the conflicts are outside—with parents, with society—and here, as noted, the analysis of Freud and Adler is most valuable. The conflicts of mature people, however, are within. Many are unable to form significant selves because they are unable or unwilling to come to satisfactory terms with...

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Barnaby, Karin, and Pellegrino D’Acierno, eds. C. G. Jung and the Humanities: Toward a Hermeneutics of Culture. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990. Collection of essays from an international conference on the significance of Jung’s ideas includes discussions of archetypes and creativity.

Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Translated by Richard Winston and Clara Winston, edited by Aniela Jaffé. 1963. Reprint. London: Fontana, 1993. Presents Jung’s life story as he related it to his secretary. Includes an informative glossary of Jungian terms.

Kerr, John. A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. Study of Jung’s intellectual development places emphasis on his relationships with Sigmund Freud and Spielrein, one of the world’s first female psychoanalysts. Discusses the early versions of Two Essays on Analytical Psychology.

Noll, Richard. The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994. Controversial work suggests that Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious, first announced in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, marked a departure from science and a turn to religion.

Stevens, Anthony. On Jung. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. Excellent introduction to Jung by a practicing Jungian analyst provides an overview of Jung’s theories of the unconscious and personality, followed by an account of Jung’s life. Offers a Jungian perspective on the different stages of development.

Tacey, David. How to Read Jung. London: Granta, 2006. Presents an accessible explanation of Jung’s psychological concepts, including the language of symbols and dreams, the second self, myth consciousness, and the stages of life.

Young-Eisendrath, Polly, and Terence Dawson, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Jung. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Collection of essays covers topics such as Jung’s ideas and their context, the historical context of analytical psychology, and analytical psychology in practice and in society.