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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Carl Jung and Tuberculosis as a possible psychic disease




To J.A.F. Swoboda

Dear Dr. Swoboda, 23 January 1960

Very early on, at the time of my association experiments, I became interested in tuberculosis as a possible psychic disease having observed that reactions due to complexes frequently cause a long-lasting reduction in the volume of breathing.

This inhibition causes defective ventilation of the apices of the lungs and may eventually give rise to an infection.

The shallow breathing due to complexes is often characterized by repeated deep expirations (sighs).

I also observed that a large number of my neurotic patients who were tubercular were "freed" from their complexes under psychotherapeutic treatment, learnt to breathe properly again and in the end were cured.

As a result I jokingly called tuberculosis a "pneumatic disease,' seeing that psychic relief brings about a radical change of mental attitude.

I am therefore entirely of your opinion that a salutary dose of psychology should be administered not only to tubercular patients but to many others as well, and also to so-called normal people.

Just how this could be done is a problem with horns, since there is a shortage of staff and doctors who would be capable of performing such an operation.

By and large the universities are against it and they don't encourage young people to acquire any psychological knowledge since the professors have none themselves.

This is very understandable, since such knowledge cannot be acquired if one assiduously avoids knowing oneself.

In medicine every conceivable method can be employed without one's being affected by it in any way.

This is not possible in psychology, where everything depends on the dialectical process between two personalities.

Holding lectures, giving instruction, pumping in knowledge, all these current university procedures are no use at all here.

The only thing that really helps is self-knowledge and the change of mental and moral attitude it brings about.

There are only a very few people who are minded to take such an apparently thankless task upon themselves for the good of their fellow men, and besides that they meet with the bigotry and mistrust of official organizations and institutions.

What people would like best is the pursuit of science without man, completely oblivious of the fact that the individual psyche is the source of all science.

Under these circumstances any organization that proposes collective methods seems to me unsuitable, because it would be sawing off the branch on which the psychotherapist sits.

In the last resort, the salutary effect can only come from one man's influence on another.

However, much would be gained if intellectualism and rationalism were at least purged of their prejudices, so that a more favourable climate could be created for the psychological approach.

I have done my utmost in this respect and now, at 85, am no longer the right man to shoulder such a Herculean task.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 533-534