Early years

Carl Gustaf Jung was born on July 26, 1875, at Kesswil in Switzerland. Jung's father, Johannes Paul Jung, was a pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church and a scholar with an interest in the Greek and Roman classics and Oriental languages. Paul Jung had originally hoped to become a professor of classical languages, but he settled for theology, on the grounds that the ministry offered a better chance of employment than university teaching. In addition, several other men in the extended family served as clergy. Jung's mother, Emilie Preiswerk, was a warmhearted woman with an unpredictable side that Jung found rather frightening. In spite of this aspect of her personality, however, Jung felt closer to her than he did to his father.

Jung was an only child for the first nine years of his life, which may partly account for his lifelong tendency to feel "different" and isolated from most of his age mates. Even in his eighties, he remarked on his isolation: "As a child, I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things . . . which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know." In addition to being so much older than his sister, Jung was an intellectually precocious youngster. His father began to teach him Latin and other ancient languages when he was only six years old, which also set him apart from other children. While Jung's father was a kind and gentle man, his mother had a more forceful character. Emilie was hospitalized when he was three years old for an illness that Jung later attributed to stresses in the marriage. Jung came to regard his father as weak, and his mother as the source of his lifelong distrust of women. "I was deeply troubled by my mother's being away. . . . The feeling I associated with 'woman' was for a long time that of innate unreliability. 'Father,' on the other hand, meant reliability and—powerlessness."

Because Jung's parents were not well-off financially, he was educated in a country school until he was eleven, when he was sent to a school in the city of Basel. This period of his education was stressful for him. "Then, for the first time, I became aware [of] how poor we were . . . I began to see my parents with different eyes, and to understand their cares and worries." Although Jung disliked mathematics—"sheer terror and torture"—and physical education, he was a gifted student who rose quickly to the top of his class. His success provoked the envy of his classmates, however, and he settled for second place in the class in order to avoid their hostility. Jung's anxiety about drawing attention to himself and his tendency to pull back from competition remained with him throughout his life; among other symptoms, he developed a tendency to faint under stress. He remained in Basel, however, for his university education. Although Jung's father could not afford the full cost of tuition, the university awarded Jung a scholarship to cover the remainder. He originally wanted to become an archaeologist, but since the University of Basel did not have a department of archaeology, Jung entered medical school instead. Although Jung's father died in 1896, during his first year at the university, he completed the requirements for his M.D. in 1900. He had thought of specializing in surgery or internal medicine, but decided toward the end of his last year in medical school to seek further training in psychiatry. This decision was prompted by his reading a psychiatry textbook, combined with his own fascination with religious and philosophical questions. Psychiatry appeared to be a specialty that would allow him to combine his interest in natural science with his equally strong search for meaning and value in life.

Jung had first become interested as a child with the notion that different personalities can exist within the same human being. He thought of his mother's changes in behavior as the result of two different personalities inside her. When Jung was 12, he began to think of himself as also possessing two personalities, one a shy and awkward schoolboy, and the other a wise old man, respected and powerful. "It occurred to me that I was actually two different persons. One of them was the schoolboy who could not grasp algebra . . . the other was important, a high authority, a man not to be trifled with." In addition, Jung developed an interest in paranormal phenomena and the occult that led him to do extensive reading in comparative religion and mythology. As a boy growing up in a rural area, he was reassured to discover that the peasants in the countryside were also fascinated by the occult and by inexplicable events. Jung wrote his thesis for his M.D. degree on his 15-year-old female cousin, who claimed to receive messages from the dead when she went into trances. Jung noted that the girl spoke only High German when she was in a trance state, whereas she spoke only Swiss German in her normal waking condition. He published his thesis in 1902.

Jung's postgraduate training in psychiatry reinforced his interest in the internal division, or even disintegration, of a human personality. In December 1900, he took a position as a clinical assistant at the Burgholzli, a mental hospital in Zurich. He began to do research on schizophrenia, a mental disorder in which the patient loses touch with the real world, as reflected in illogical thinking, delusions, hallucinations, and other behavioral or emotional disturbances.

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