Volume 3 – this feels like progress

This is genius –

I visit a gentleman in his office. Suddenly he starts up in a rage and swears most excitedly at a clerk who has just put a newspaper on the right instead of the left side of the table. I am astounded and make a mental note about the peculiar nervousness of this person. Afterwards I learn from another employee that the clerk has made the same mistake dozens of times before, so that the gentleman’s anger was quite appropriate.

Had I not received the subsequent explanation, I should have formed a wrong picture of the psychology of this person. We are frequently confronted with a similar situation in dementia praecox: owing to the peculiar ‘shut-in’ state of the patients we see into them far too little, a fact which every psychiatrist will confirm. It is therefore very possible that their excitements often remain incomprehensible to us only because we do not see their associative causes. The same thing may also happen to us: we can be in a bad humour for a time, and quite inappropriately so, without being aware of the cause. We snap out answers in an unduly emphatic and irritated tone of voice. If even the normal person is not always clear about the causes of his own bad temper, how much less can we be so in regard to the psyche of a dementia praecox patient!

paras 34-35

I love this passage because it show Jung explaining so clearly that we need to understand mental patients, not dismiss them. They might just seem bonkers, but there’s a reason for certain behaviour. We must make the effort, rather than do the easy thing and laugh at someone who is behaving strangely.

But Jung is also demonstrating clearly there are connections between the way we behave and the way the mentally ill act. Perhaps by understanding them we can work out them better – and vice versa?

Later Jung will talk about dementia praecox in the last chapter in the volume – and that’s much, much later. Because number III begins with a published date of 1902, and completes with its last chapter in 1957 – with a talk Jung gives to the second International Congress for Psychiatry in Zurich.

It’s a neat tracking of his thought on the subject of ‘The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease’ from one talk to the other – how illness is created by the psyche. At this later lecture he speaks of schizophrenia – ‘dementia praecox’ has been consigned to early 20th century history thank goodness.

The focuses on how schizophrenia is so frightening because even neuroses can’t survive in this state – “abstruse, grotesque or extremely unexpected fragments are produced”. We come to the situation where one almost longs for the neurosis – as a kind of “systematic character” where the “unity and inner cohesion of the whole are never seriously jeopardised”. The latent schizophrenic however “must always reckon with the possibility that his very foundations will give way somewhere”. Jesus!

Having learnt that it is good to bring the unconscious forth – know thyself etc in the ancient Greek saying it is incredible to read that Jung suggests “strict avoidance of any concern with the unconscious and especially with dream-analysis”.

In fact Jung recommends to a woman patient that she focus very much on the conscious mind – to read Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea. And he says that there are no more relapses as a result.

However, it is the study of schizophrenia “that first gave me the idea of an unconscious not consisting only of originally conscious contents that have got lost, but having a deeper layer of the same universal character as the mythological myths which typify human fantasy in general,” says Jung

In other words – thank you schizophrenia for enabling me to discover the collective unconscious! Essentially, the schizophrenic mind remains stuck in archetypal, long-standing associations – fairy tales, monsters and the like. This cuts it off from relating to other people and life.

Amazingly Jung even considers that there may be some toxin that is destroying the pathogenic complex – again fixing on the incredible idea that we want an extreme complex to remain in place sometimes or a total destruction of the personality will result.

He always surprises but I guess that is because Jung has such an open mind about his researches. The “joining of hands” of pathology and psychology is mooted by Jung in a way that would be unexpected reading his earlier works which so concentrated on the interaction, in non-chemical way, between doctor and patient.

But although I feel a little saddened that his latter thoughts have been made known to me so early on in the reading of all his works (I was looking forward to witnessing a slow blossoming of thought), there is amazing stuff in there.

And while I expect many psychologists would dismiss his work as passé, there is incredible writing in this volume. It makes travelling on the tube every day not exactly a joy – it will never be that – but bearable and in fact something I look forward to when I go to bed at night. I look forward to more of the same in volume 4.

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