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A critique of Jung and Freud

Freud and Jung are forever associated with dreams. They both certainly achieved a great deal in understanding the dream mind. They were a great improvement on what had gone previously. They turned psychoanalysis into a respectable profession and they are still widely quoted on dreams. But is this reputation justified? Should we still be looking to the works of Freud and Jung?

CRITICISM OF FREUD: I have never been a big fan of Freud and generally I dismiss him out of hand. I make a distinction between Freud, the man who studied dreams and Freud the psychologist. He probably understood psychiatry more than he understood dreams. The time before Freud was the dark ages in psychology. Patients were locked up and ignored. Treatments were quite brutal and harsh involving cures like hot and cold baths. Therapy was not used at all. Freud simply listened to his patients and tried to understand their problems. So he probably made a greater contribution to psychology than dream analysis.

One problem with Freud was that he has forever made people link dreams to deep psychological issues. Most dreams will not reveal deep psychiatric illness. They will not expose problems in your personality. They are just linked to your judgement about the world around you. Even now people associate dreams with deep seated problems and the psychologists couch. Freud himself admitted that many dreams linked to day to day issues and there were not many personality dreams. But still people link dreams to deep issues and problems in our childhood.

FREUD'S OBSESSION WITH SEX: The most common criticism of Freud is linked to his obsession with sex. He listed many symbols which were phallic metaphors. Why the obsession with sex? Why not with food? Freud was born and brought up during the Victorian era and his obsession with sex was probably linked to a highly repressive society. Most importantly Freud had an affair with his own sister in law. Freudian have tried to deny this but he is known to have signed into a hotel with his sister in law as man and wife. So Freud's obsession with sex and repression was linked to his own complicated sex life and his own guilt. Freud's understanding of dreams was linked to his own dreams. Others would not have that same obsession with sexual repression.

Certainly we have dreams about sex. These could be called distraction dreams. If your mind is preoccupied with something else during sleep then you will dream about it. If you are sexually aroused during sleep then you will probably have sex dreams. But surely human's are more complex than that. Surely we dream about other things?

JUNG AND THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS: The collective conscious certainly has some use in explaining dreams. It was a major improvement on the past. On the other hand the whole concept is rather vague and difficult to grasp. I prefer to use the word stereotype rather than archetype. People behave in stereotypical ways. We try to classify people according to stereotypes. We see people as hero's and villains. So when we dream we will classify people's behaviour and try to fit them into these various archetypes/stereotypes.

Freud was the better writer of the two great psychoanalyst's. He won awards for writing and his ideas are usually clearer. The collective consciousness is a term which is rather vague and unhelpful. It is useful in understanding how dreams have symbolic meanings. But the reader is in danger of becoming engulfed in vague and complicated ideas. Put simply we see the world in stereotypical/archetypal ways and our dreams help us classify current events in simple terms. During dreams we see life in terms of good versus bad, hero's versus villains, right versus wrong.

But Jung has over complicated this and turned it into hippy nonsense. The collective unconscious drags you in deeper and deeper and doesn't help you to understand dreams. Surely it would be easier to say that dreams use symbols and that we use these archetypes to help us understand the world by comparing the present to the past. That's it - end of story. Instead we are drawn into something which is over complicated and confusing. Understanding this collective unconscious does not really add anything to the understanding.

CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS MIND: Freud and Jung both tried to classify the mind in terms of the conscious and unconscious mind. This involved a great deal of insight for the time. Since then science has moved on. What do the men in white coats say nowadays? Are doctors and nurses classifying the human mind in terms of conscious and unconscious? Has neural science helped verify the ideas of Freud or Jung? Modern science divides the brain up into the left and right brains. The left side deals with rational matters. It deals with questions regarding mathematics and science. It will resolve questions where there is just one answer. Two multiplied by five always makes ten! Mixing yellow paint and blue paint always makes green! The right mind deals with more intuitive matters where we have to guess the answer. That is why the right mind deals with emotional issues. It will resolve questions where we have not got enough information to make a proper judgement. So the right mind will resolve questions like "should I trust my boyfriend after he has already cheated on me".

Modern science has also discovered the hippocampus which acts as a bridge between the left and right mind.

Having read the work of Freud and Jung it is difficult to believe that their understanding of the mind corresponds to the way the modern neuro scientist understand the brain. So it seems logical that we should think of dismissing their ideas. The unconscious mind does not seem to have been verified by modern science so why do we continue talking about it?

Freud and Jung both perpetuated the myth of the unconscious mind. For Freud this was especially the case. His view of his patients was rather condescending. He looks down upon his patients and tells them what their dreams mean. Jung too emphasised unconscious forces. The idea seems to be that people are not aware of things which are happening to them. Put simply why would have brain processes which are unconscious? It seems like a criminal waste of resources to commit so much brain power to a section of the mind that we are going to ignore. The intuitive mind is a far better title to describe the complicated emotional and creative processes which take place in the right mind. To describe the right mind as the unconscious is not helpful. The right mind is linked to brain processes which we are conscious of. Yes we may be in denial - but deep down we know the truth. However, we will not admit it to others.

So if Freud and Jung have both described the mind in terms which have not been verified by subsequent science then why continue with the myth? Surely these ideas will confuse rather than help? The conceptual framework on which they base their ideas is simply not verified by reality.

Linking dreams to recent events and emotions is much better framework. If we were really able to translate the meaning of dreams they would usually begin with phrases like "yesterday I was feeling..." or "I have been thinking about tomorrow and..." Dreams then are much more in the here and now. Freud and Jung were psychologists so they tried to look for evidence of psychological problems in dreams. However, most dreams will simply link to small changes in our feelings. They will pinpoint fresh conclusions about the world around us.