Volume 2 – are we getting somewhere?

Oh my god. When I picked volume 2 off the shelf from the Jung library in Chelsea I noticed it it was the only volume with its outside cover intact, but didn’t think much of it.

Well now I know why – it’s because no one has read it – or at least if they have they’ll have given up after not many pages. This is hard going, really hard going.

I’m holding on to my respect for Jung – but only just. Endless series of the same ‘reaction time’ experiments with numbers after numbers, words after words. You can see what he’s doing – testing everything carefully, setting out his work with scientific precision.

And it’s not meant for consumption in one volume. Editors Herbert Read, Michael Fordham and Gerhard Adler have put it under one cover because these writings are from the same, early part of Jung’s career here kicking off in 1904 – and they are of similar type. But that similar type, I have to say, is pretty boring.

Anyway, being the bloody minded character that I am, I’m determined to complete it, and that has spilled over into covering lots of pages at the end of the day before sleep, and barelling through it on the tube and bus on my morning commute.

There is some sustenance for the reader gasping for relief from dry paragraphs and endless graphs – you can see the early formation of his personality types with the ‘predicate’ and ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ distinctions that come through so clearly in the experiments. Predicate folk tend to express a judgement about something – ie the test word might be ‘to marry’ and the response would be ‘forever’.

There’s also a sense of how the ‘extravert’ and ‘introvert’ is forming in Jung’s mind, based on awareness of outside objects and how that impinges on reactions – and the introvert – or in the terminology here ‘subjective’ type filtering through personal judgements.

The experiments have a patient saying a word in response to a word said by Jung or one of his colleagues at the Zurich mental hospital, the Burgholzli. The basic premise is that the more unusual the word used in response, and the longer the time between the word said by Jung and the response = mental disturbance.

And there seems some mileage in this, although plenty of tests yield inconclusive results in terms of what kind of mental illness Jung is dealing with.

Hysteria, schizophrenia – which has taken over from the incredibly c19th terminology of ‘dementia praecox’ – these are amply present and on show. And there’s still the interest in the criminal mind so beloved of the 19th century. Jung uses it to unmask a theft – he’s so proud of it that he repeats the case in two different lectures to audiences!

But I love the fact that the more disturbed a person is by a word, the less interesting the reaction, ie a word will be associated on the basis of sound properties – ‘to cook’ followed by ‘cooking lessons’. It makes me think of my mother who would also be half paying attention to what I was saying and responding in a very unengaged way. Fascinating in that way – and showing how distraction can be so destructive.

The distraction means a complex has been hit in fact – bullseye! When Jung says a particular word that is – eg when Jung says the words ‘to pierce’ to a ‘married woman who placed herself at my disposal’ (para 605) he gets the response ‘to cut’, which is evidence of a pregnancy complex, in his view.

It’s also amazingly different in style from volume 1. Gone are the mist and the fog in which Jung was bound up with in his first work, with a world of seances and visions almost dominating. Here is taking the lead with his work.

There’s also how this method is a variation on Freud’s free associating – when he would get patients to recline on his couch and say anything that came into their heads after he said a particular word. It’s more structured than that, but you can see the link.

And I’ve found that I’ve got myself caught up in the story of the two men drifting apart, looking for clues in this volume as to whether it was already taking place. He wants people to stop deifying Freud for sure:

Kraus thinks one would have to have ‘that rare gift for psychoanalysis of which Freud brings amazing evidence in his remarkable papers.’ Freud is certainly a man of genius, but his psychoanalysis is, in its principles at least, not an inimitable art, but a transferable and teachable method.

However I think this is just yet another example of Jung taking a calm, considered look at the doctor’s job and stripping away the hero-worshipping which would present the treatment of mental health being carried out fully.

And he comes out with great nuggets like this:

The first moves towards friendship and love are constellated in the strongest possible manner by the nature of the relationship with our parents, and here as a rule one can see how powerful is the influence of the family constellation. It is not rare, for instance, for a healthy man whose mother was hysterical to marry a hysteric, or for the daughter of an alcoholic to choose an alcoholic for her husband  (Paragraph 1008).

So, as I’ve just shown, there is some wheat to leaven the incredible dryness of this volume, but boy it is tough. And I’ve even found two pages that are sealed together. I really do feel like a person striking out on a path in the wilderness now – a route that no one, at least of this copy – has trod before. Published by Routledge in 1973….hmm that means the first person to read this volume fully ever in its near 40 years of existence.

And you can understand why!

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