The Disappearing Jung

Can you imagine a history of Europe without mention of Napoleon? Well, the learned editors of the highly esteemed New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry have done something similar in the second edition (2009) compared with the first edition (2000).

In the Preface, from which I quoted in a previous post, it says ‘textbooks are still needed to provide the comprehensive account of established knowledge’. Indeed.

But right here we have a difficulty. To talk of ‘established knowledge’ in relation to psychiatry is an assumption bordering on hubris. Psychiatry essentially involves the mind observing itself, so how is one to decide what is established knowledge and what isn’t? Even in physics, for example when considering Newton’s laws of motion or the periodic table of the elements, such knowledge is only established until disproved by later developments. In fact, throughout the Textbook a much more modest approach is evident in the various sections where the provisional and speculative nature of many psychiatric diagnoses and treatments and their theoretical underpinnings are acknowledged.

In the current edition there is a whole section on Sigmund Freud, but while there was a  chapter by Anthony Storr on the famous Swiss psychiatrist, C G Jung, in the first edition, there is barely a word about him in the second, and he does not appear in the index.

I wrote to each of the four editors of the Textbook about this surprising omission and received replies from two of them. One said: ‘We thought long and hard about Jung: Anthony Storr’s chapter in the first edition was excellent but he died before we prepared the second. We therefore took – and followed – expert advice.’ Of course he wouldn’t tell me who these experts were nor their reasons for advising that Jung be excluded.

Anthony Storr died in 2001, so there should have been plenty of time to find someone else to write a new chapter on Jung if that was what they wanted to do. For one, there is Dr Anthony Stevens, an eminent psychiatrist who has written extensively on Jung. Or they could have simply reprinted Storr’s chapter – after all, the chapter on Freud is reproduced virtually unaltered.

I also wrote to the publisher, Oxford University Press, and was told they wanted to keep the book to a reasonable size. Since the new edition is 110 pages shorter than the old (2021 v 2131 pages), I found this unconvincing.

Why then, when Freud and others in the psychoanalytical movement are mentioned, with Freud rightly having a chapter to himself, is Jung all but expunged? (Jung is mentioned twice, but only very briefly in footnotes.) Even if the editors disagreed with Jung, why didn’t they say so in a section offering a critical assessment of his work?

The contribution of Freud to psychoanalysis can hardly be over-estimated, but Jung built upon Freud’s theories and developed them much further. The two men met in 1907 and until 1912 enjoyed a close and fruitful relationship. Jung was nineteen years younger than Freud who at first looked to him as his heir. But Jung’s independent spirit and need to stick to his own path led to their inevitable falling out – a breach which took a heavy toll on both of them. The main reason for this was that Jung could not accept Freud’s theories that the unconscious is merely the repository of repressed and forgotten  memories, and that the sex drive is at the root of virtually all human motivation. Jung’s concepts, based on empirical data, of the collective unconscious and the archetypes are two of his main contributions to psychiatry, and the idea of the psychological types called introversion and extraversion (note the spelling) derive from his work.

An example of the importance of Jung today can be seen in the congress of the International Association for Analytical Psychology, held in Kyoto in 2016, where I was one of nearly seven hundred participants from all over the world.

I am, therefore, left to speculate as to the reasons for this glaring omission from the Textbook, and can only conclude it is because Jung was perceived as not being ‘scientific’ enough. This criticism he often had to deal with in his lifetime, especially, as he ruefully observed, when it was made by people who had not read his books, let alone understood them.

Jung was at pains to emphasize that he was an empiricist, not a metaphysician; he dealt with observable facts. For example, if someone believed in God, that was a psychological fact; whether God actually exists he was not in a position to say. Jung was even accused of being a mystic, but it will be obvious to anyone who takes the trouble to study his works that he was nothing of the kind.

Jung said: ‘People sometimes call me a religious leader. I am not that. I have no message, no mission; I attempt only to understand.’

Text © Gabriel Symonds

This entry was posted in C G Jung, Medical, Psychiatry and tagged Anthony Stevens, Anthony Storr, Freud, IAAP on October 25, 2016 by Gabriel Symonds

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