The theories that were put forward by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung had a substantial influence on the development of the field of psychology. Both scholars took innovative approaches to study and understand the mind and their ideas keep causing controversy even in our time. Both scholars emphasized the importance of the unconscious in explaining human behavior, but their visions on the subject defer in many ways. The purpose of this paper is to discuss and compare Freudian and Jungian theories of the role of the unconscious mind in human behavior.
The concept of the unconscious mind is central to the work of Sigmund Freud. The psychoanalytic school of thought that was created by the scholar is based upon the idea that human behavior is primarily determined by the unconscious processes, of which people are not aware. Freud outlined the importance of early experience and relationships with parents in human development and saw suppressed childhood memories as the primary source of psychological problems among adults (Harris, 2009). The founder of psychoanalysis also suggested that trying to bring the unconscious drives into awareness causes anxiety and triggers defense mechanisms that serve to avoid and repress disturbing thoughts and memories. At the same time, the scholar believed that the unconscious could be understood by studying dreams, errors in speech, and unintentional acts.
Like Freud, Carl Jung divided the human personality into three parts, but he looked at it from a different perspective. Unlike Freud, who stated that human mind centers upon the id, the ego, and the super ego, Jung divided the human psyche into the ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The Jungian notion of the personal unconscious is similar to Freudian underspending of the subject. Also, Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious is close to Freud’s ideas of the id.
It is worth mentioning that Jung and Freud believed that the unconscious plays a vital role in people’s lives by significantly affecting their conscious behavior. However, unlike Freud, Jung held the view that the collective unconscious lies much deeper in the human psyche, modifying it at a fundamental level. The scholar thought that this type of unconscious is shaped by inherited patterns of thought and structures of behavior that he called archetypes (Lecci, 2015). Like French anthropologist Claude Lévi‐Strauss, Jung also believed that explanation for human actions could be found by studying myths that contain the archetypal stories (Iurato, 2015). Thus, according to this idea, mythology can be seen as a manifestation of the collective unconscious through language.
Both Freud and Jung considered that dreams might reveal much about human behavior by making the unconscious visible to conscious. However, the visions the two thinkers had on the role of dreams and human sexuality are very distinct. Freud considered suppressed sexual desire to be the main cause of the psychological problems among humans and saw dreams as a manifestation of these unconscious thoughts (Kirsch, 2019). Jung, on the other hand, suggested that events and symbols that appear in dreams might have different explanation depending on their context. In his vision, the source of the content of dreams can be found not only in personal experience but also in archetypal stories. The scholar believed that they could be used as a tool to help a person solve his or her psychological problem.
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are among the most influential figures in the history of psychology. The ways the two scholars looked at the subconscious and personality had a big impact on each other and were partly similar, but at the same time, differed in many impotent ways. The thinkers took different approaches to the subject and put emphasis on different aspects of the subconscious, yet both of them had significant findings. I think that each theory provides a useful framework for studying personality, and the two schools of thought can complement each other.
- Harris, B. (2009). Sigmund Freud: The unconscious mind (short version) [Video file]. Web.
- Iurato, G. (2015). A brief comparison of the unconscious as seen by Jung and Lévi-Strauss. Anthropology of Consciousness, 26(1), 60-107. Web.
- Kirsch, M. (2019). On the abilities of unconscious Freudian motivational drives to evoke conscious emotions. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 470. Web.
- Lecci, L. B. (2015). Personality.