Jung's Appraisal of Freud's Structural Concepts: Id, Ego, and Super-Ego
Dr. Evans: Going still further into the development of Dr. Freud's theory, which you acknowledge as a significant factor in the development of
many of your own early ideas, Dr. Freud, of course, talked a great deal about the unconscious.
Dr. Jung: As soon as research comes to a question of the unconscious, things becomes necessarily blurred, because the unconscious is
something which is really unconscious!
So you have no object—nothing.
You only can make inferences because you can't see it; and so you have to create a model of this possible structure of the unconscious.
Now Freud came to the concept of the unconscious chiefly on the basis of the same experience I have had in the association experiment;
namely, that people reacted—they said things—they did things—without knowing that they had done it or had said it.
This is something you can observe in the association experiment; sometimes people cannot remember afterward what they did
or what they said in a moment when a stimulus word hits the complex.
In the word association reproduction experiment, you go through the whole list of words.
You see that the memory fades when there is a complex reaction or block.
That is the simple fact upon which Freud based his idea of the unconscious.
There is no end of stories, you know, about how people can betray themselves by saying something they didn't mean to say at all; yet the
unconscious meant them to say just that thing.
That is what we can see, time and again, when people make a mistake in speech or they say
something which they didn't mean to say; they just make ridiculous mistakes.
For instance, when you want to express your sympathy at a funeral, you go to someone and you say, "I congratulate you";
that's pretty painful, you know, but that happens, and it is true.
This is something that goes parallel with Freud's whole idea of the psychopathology of everyday life.
In Paris there was Pierre Janet who worked out another side of the understanding of unconscious reactions.
Now, Freud refers very little to Pierre Janet, but I studied with him while in Paris and he very much helped form my ideas.
He was a first class observer, though he had no systematic, dynamic psychological theory; his is a sort of physiological theory of the unconscious phenomena.
There is a certain depotentation of the tension of consciousness; it sinks below the level of consciousness and thus becomes unconscious.
That is Freud's view too, but he says it sinks down because it is helped; it is repressed from above.
That was my first point of difference with Freud.
I think there have been cases in my observations where there was no repression from above; those contents that
became unconscious had withdrawn all by themselves, and not because they were repressed.
On the contrary, they have a certain autonomy.
They have discovered the concept of autonomy in that these contents that disappear have the
power to move independently from my will.
Either they appear when I want to say something definite; they interfere and speak themselves
instead of helping me to say what I want to say; they make me do something which I don't
want to do at all; or they withdraw in the moment that I want to use them.
They certainly disappear!
Dr. Evans: And this then is independent of any of the, you might say, pressures on the consciousness as Freud suggested?
Dr. Jung: Yes.
There can be such cases, sure enough, but besides them, there are also the cases that show that the unconscious contents
acquire a certain independence.
All mental contents having a certain feeling tone that is emotional have the value of an emotional affect—
have the tendency to become autonomous.
So, you see, anybody in an emotion will say and do things which he cannot vouch for.
He must excuse himself of a mistake; he was non compos mentis.
Dr. Evans: Dr. Freud suggested that the individual is bom under the influence of what he called the Id, which is unconscious and undeveloped,
a collection of animal drives. It is not very easily understood where all these primitive drives—all these instincts—come from.
Dr. Jung: Nobody knows where instincts come from.
They are there and you find them.
It is a story that was played millions of years ago.
Their sexuality was invented, and I don't know how this happened; I wasn't there!
Feeding was invented very much longer ago than even sex, and how and why it was invented, I don't know.
So we don't know where the instinct comes from.
It is quite ridiculous, you know, to speculate about such an impossibility.
So the question is only—where do those cases come from where instinct does not function.
That is something within our reach, because we can study the cases where instinct does not function.
Dr. Evans: Could you give us some rather specific examples of what you mean by cases where instinct does not function?
Dr. Jung: Well, you see, instead of instinct, which is a habitual form of activity, take any other form of habitual activity.
Consider a thing that is absolutely controlling which fails to function; then it's worse, and suddenly we can't think of any other thing.
For instance, a man who writes fluently suddenly makes a ridiculous mistake; then his habit hasn't functioned.
Also, when you ask me something, I'm supposed to be able to react to you; but certainly if I am pushed beyond, or if you succeed in
touching upon one of my complexes, you will see that I become absolutely perplexed.
Words fail me.
Dr. Evans: We haven't seen you very perplexed yet, Dr. Jung.
Dr. Jung: I am a good example of psychology, you know, a fellow who knows his stuff quite well—the professor asks him and he cannot say a
Dr. Evans: To continue, another part of Dr. Freud's theory, of course, that became very important, to which we have already alluded, was the
idea of the conscious; that is, out of this unconscious, instinctual "structure," the Id, an Ego emerges. Freud suggested that this ego resulted
from the organism's contact with reality, perhaps a product of frustration as reality is imposed on the individual. Do you accept this conception
of the ego?
Dr. Jung: If man has an ego at all, that is your question.
Ah, that is again such a case as before; I wasn't there when it was invented.
However, in this case, you see, you can observe it to a certain extent with a child.
A child definitely begins in a state where there is no ego, and about the fourth year or before, the child develops a sense of ego—"I, myself."
There is, in the first place, a certain identity with the body.
For instance, when you ask primitives, they emphasize always the body.
When you ask—who has brought this thing here—the Negro will say "I brought it," no accent on the "I," simply "brought it."
Then if you say—why have YOU brought it—he will say, you know, ME, ME, Yes, I, MYSELF, this given object, this thing here.
So the identity with the body is one of the first things which makes an ego; it is the spatial separateness that induces, apparently, the concept of an ego.
Then, of course, there are lots of other things.
Later on there are mental differences and other personal differences of all sorts.
You see, the ego is continuously building up; it is not ever a finished product—it builds up.
You see, no year passes when you do not discover a new little aspect in which you are more ego than you have thought.
Dr. Evans: Dr. Jung, there has been much discussion about how certain experiences in the early years influence the formation of the ego.
For example, one of the most extreme views concerning such early influences was advanced by Otto Rank. He spoke of the birth trauma and
suggested that the trauma of being born would not only leave a very powerful impact on the developing ego, but would have residual
influence throughout the life of the individual.
Dr. Jung: I should say that it is very important for an ego that it is born; this is highly traumatic, you know, when you fall out of heaven.
Dr. Evans: However, do you take literally Dr. Otto Rank's position that the birth trauma has a profound psychological effect on the individual?
Dr. Jung: Of course it influences you.
If you believe in Schopenhauer's philosophy, you say, "it is a hellish trauma to be born."
Well, there is a Greek saying that "it is beautiful to die in youth, but the most beautiful of all things is not to be born."
Philosophy, you see.
Dr. Evans: But you don't take this as a literal psychic event?
Dr. Jung: Don't you see, this is an event that happens to everybody that exists—that each man once has been born.
Everybody who is born has undergone that trauma, so the word has lost its meaning.
It is a general fact, and you cannot say "it is a trauma"; it is just a fact, because you cannot observe a
psychology that hasn't been born —only then you could say what the birth trauma is.
Until then, you cannot even speak of such a thing; it is just a lack of epistemology.
Dr. Evans: In his later writing, in addition to the ego, Freud introduced a term to describe a particular function
of the ego. That term was the Super-Ego. Broadly speaking, the super-ego was to account for the "moral restrictive"
function of the ego.
Dr. Jung: Yes, that is the super-ego, namely that codex of what you can do and what you cannot do.
Dr. Evans: Built-in prohibitions which Freud thought might be partly acquired and partly "built-in."
Dr. Jung: Yes.
However, Freud doesn't see the difference between the "built-in" and the acquired.
You see, he must have it almost entirely within himself; otherwise, there could be no balance in the individual.
And who in Hell would have invented the Decalogue? That is not invented by Moses, but that is the eternal truth in
man himself, because he checks himself. ~Carl Jung Conversations Evans, Pages 14-16.