Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are two of the most well-known figures in psychology, with both considered to be the founding fathers of the widely-used psychoanalytical approach to psychology. In many ways, they may lay claim to being the founding fathers of modern-day therapy itself.
Their work has helped shape the understanding and treatment of mental health, and still impacts the world to this day. But both famously had differing approaches, in this article we outline them.
Freud, who was born in 1856 and passed away in 1939, originally trained in medicine, before focusing more on conducting a significant psychological research.
In the 1880s, he developed ideas revolving around different areas of the overall person, including the mind, personality and more. This would eventually become known as psychoanalysis, with Freud’s theories forming a wide body of work.
Carl Jung meanwhile was born in 1875, and passed away in 1761. He focused on psychiatry from the outset of his adult life, and spent some of his early professional career working in a mental asylum.
It was at this asylum where he was able to look into mental illnesses further, and build on earlier work by other figures in psychology. Jung is credited with founding analytical psychology.
In the beginning
In something that isn’t always known, Freud and Jung were actually close friends at the start of their overlapping careers, with both working on the unconscious psyche – what would later become the theory of the unconscious mind.
They met in 1907, and it is believed the duo sat and spoke for 13 hours straight – enjoying one another’s company and theories. As Freud was the elder of the two, Jung looked up to him as a father-type figure, with Freud seeing Jung as an energetic and enthusiastic person eager to advance interest in the psyche.
While Freud was always esteemed, Jung soon became universally-revered himself, without Freud’s influence. The two’s once strong friendship deteriorated, with differing stances on certain theories causing a rift to develop.
Key Theories: Similarities and Differences
Freud and Jung both proposed theories on a huge range of areas. Their work overlapped in several areas. Both shared some opinions, though there were also many differences. We summarise their work here.
Freud and Jung both agreed in the importance of the unconscious mind, they differed in the details and intricacies of the theory. Freud believed all of our repressed emotions, feelings and memories were located in the unconscious mind, and that it also hosted a human’s sexual drives. These different areas resulted in mental disturbance. Jung however suggested there were two layers to the unconscious mind, as will be described in the next area.
In terms of the areas of the mind, Freud and Jung differed on areas like the ego and other areas of the human psyche. Freud believed the mind centred upon three areas – the id, the ego and the superego.
These three forces connect with one another to help build a personality. The id is focused on survival, the superego has the intention of making sure a person behaves in line with moral and cultural expectations, and the ego mediates between the two.
Jung agreed that there were three parts to the human psyche, but he identified different parts. He believed the psyche comprised the ego, the personal conscious and the collective unconscious. Jung believed the ego is the conscious, the personal unconscious involves memories of the past, and the collective unconscious was likened to a reservoir which stored all human knowledge and experience.
Jung based this on the unexplainable feelings of connectedness that every human shares. He went further into an area called archetypes – a concept of different, but universal patterns that are similar to instinct; contributions to religion, the wider field of science and more .
Dream analysis was an important tool in the study of the unconscious mind for both Freud and Jung. In fact, they placed significant emphasis on its importance.
Freud proposed that dreams were a manifestation of deep-rooted desires in a human, and can be linked to some kind of sexual desire. When awake, a person’s ego and superego prevent desires to be acted upon, but these weaken when a person sleeps, and therefore, the dreams offer a look into the unconscious mind and find a person’s true desires.
Jung disagreed with Freud’s assertion that content in dreams could almost always be linked back to sexual desires. Jung focused on dreams offering symbolic imagery of both the real world and a dream-like world, and that dreams could mean a number of things – and thus shouldn’t be fixed on certain meanings.
In terms of actually offering talking therapy, Freud believed it was important to frequently see patients. He suggested they should be seen on most days of the week. Jung suggested just two sessions a week would be necessary.
Freud is seen as popularising the use of a couch for therapy – something that is seen in every media depiction of therapy to this day. Jung suggested face-to-face interactions were preferable.
Freud and Jung’s work continue to be the basis of some talking therapies. Freud’s work tends to be the basis of Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy, while Jung’s work helps form the basis for Jungian therapy.
Both Freud and Jung largely agreed on the topic of repression. Freud stated that when something traumatic or hurtful happened to someone, they would automatically consign it to the unconscious mind. Jung agreed, stating certain memories or ideas are withdrawn from recollection, due to them potentially causing pain.
Furthermore, they agreed that repressed emotions and feelings can influence a person in the present day, even though a person may not realise it at the time.
Jung and Freud debated on a number of other issues. Many of these weren’t too relevant to mental health. But they included sexuality – with Freud believing sexual feelings were the biggest force behind behaviour.
Freud’s infamous Oedipus Complex has been lambasted from its conception. Jung meanwhile felt that behaviour was influenced by some form of psychic energy.
In terms of the paranormal, Freud refused to even entertain the notion that it could exist. Jung meanwhile approached the subject with interest, and even took part in séances. Jung also revealed that when talking to Freud, that the two of them witnessed a paranormal incident, though it was never discussed between the two . Freud was a critic of religion, while Jung had a more positive opinion of it.
It is important to mention that the work of both Freud and Jung were subjected to significant criticism. But regardless of this, when taking a step back, one can only marvel at the work they completed. Well over a hundred years after their theories were introduced to the world, they continue to be widely discussed, and also used in the treatment of mental health conditions.
It is regrettable that the two men drifted apart as the years went by, especially as they had once shared an incredibly close bond. But it is entirely possible that these two great thinkers wouldn’t have hit the heights that they did without the other. Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are highly-respected individuals, and their legacy will last a long, long time.
It is often asked who ‘won’ in the battle of Freud and Jung. Simply put, the real winner was modern day psychology, and all that have been treated thanks to the work of Freud and Jung.
- 5 Key Differences Between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung
- What is the Difference Between Freud and Jung’s Psychoanalytic Theory?
- Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious Theory and Mental Health
- Overview of Sigmund Freud and His Theories
- Freud and Mental Health
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 Jung, C (1947). On the Nature of the Psyche. London: Ark Paperbacks.
 Hydge, M (1991). Jung and Astrology: Catching the Golden Scarab. Unknown: Mandala.