Weaknesses of Carl Jung's Theory

Weaknesses of Carl Jung's Theory

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist who is today most noted for founding the school of analytical psychology and for his work on archetypes, introversion and extroversion, and the collective unconscious. Jung spent his childhood wandering Switzerland's rural streams and fields, and his adulthood residing at a Swiss lakefront. Early in his career, he enjoyed being part of Freud's inner psychoanalytic circle, but broke away when his differences with Freud became pronounced. His wife, Emma, became trained as a Jungian psychologist. Some of Jung's ideas have met intense scrutiny and criticism.

1 Jung's Themes and Focus

Jung concluded that human beings are whole within, but out of touch with essential parts of themselves. An individual's dreams and imagination can provide keys to the lost parts, he believed. The unconscious was at the center of Jung's research. He viewed the personal unconscious as a repository for suppressed or painful experience, separate from an individual's everyday awareness. Jung also studied what he called universal themes in the collective unconscious. After traveling in Asia and Africa, Jung discovered that dreams around the world feature common patterns and symbols. He regarded these patterns, including fire, ocean, rivers and mountains, as "archetypes."

2 Criticism Regarding the "Shadow"

One important Jungian archetype is the "shadow," a term he borrowed from the famous philosopher Nietzsche and a reference to the deepest and darkest part of a person's personal unconscious. Jung decided that once an individual recognized the presence of an evil side within, impulse control would become easier. However, contemporary critics see mysticism and occultism as irrational and too much at work in this part of Jung's theory. Critics point out that Jung seems to have protected his theory from scrutiny by never settling on any specific explanations for evil.

3 Demonstrable Research

Another major criticism of Jung's body of work is that it lacks demonstrable or measurable scientific research. Some critics point out that he rarely, if ever, made predictions and that this freed him from being proved wrong. He arrived at his conclusions through a combination of his work as a psychiatrist and his own reflection. His theory was shaped by his own dreams, thoughts and introspection in addition to that of his patients. For many critics, Jung's own thoughts and observations aren't adequate scientific observation for the basis of a major theory of human personality.

4 The Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Jung's work has impacted the social sciences in valuable ways. For example, Jung coined the term "self-actualization," meaning internal harmony, and remains today an important concept in psychological thought. The Myers-Briggs personality test was developed during World War II by two housewives interested in Jung' s work. Still widely used by employers and educators, the test has been criticized for its strict measurement of extroversion and introversion. Critics don't accept the notion that an individual is exclusively either an introvert or extrovert, and consider the test too simplistic. They conclude that, like other aspects of Jung's work, it can't be tested scientifically.

Susie Zappia teaches humanities and research and writing courses online for several colleges. Her research interests include counterculture literature of the 1960 and instructional design for online courses and she enjoys writing about literature, art and instructional design. She holds a Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills and a Master of Science in instructional design from Capella University.