The Development of Personality

Since there is no nag that cannot be ridden to death, all theories of neurosis and methods of treatment are a dubious affair.

So I always find it cheering when businesslike physicians and fashionable consultants aver that they treat patients along the lines of “Adler,” or of “Kunkel,” or of “Freud,” or even of “Jung.”

There simply is not and cannot be any such treatment, and even if there could be, one would be on the surest road to failure.

When I treat Mr. X, I have of necessity to use method X, just as with Mrs. Z I have to use method Z.

This means that the method of treatment is determined primarily by the nature of the case.

All our psychological experiences, all points of view whatsoever, no matter from what theory they derive, may be of use on the right occasion.

A doctrinal system like that of Freud or Adler consists on the one hand of technical rules, and on the other of the pet emotive ideas of its author.

Still under the spell of the old pathology, which unconsciously regarded diseases as distinct “entia” in the Paracelsian sense,8* each of them thought it possible to describe a neurosis as if it presented a specific and clearly defined clinical picture.

In the same way doctors still hoped to capture the essence of the neurosis with doctrinaire classifications and to express it in simple formulae.

Such an endeavour was rewarding up to a point, but it only thrust all the unessential features of the neurosis to the forefront, and thus covered up the one aspect that is essential, namely the fact that this illness is always an intensely individual phenomenon.

The real and effective treatment of neurosis is always individual, and for this reason the stubborn application of a particular theory or method must be characterized as basically wrong.

If it has become evident anywhere that there are not so much illnesses as ill people, this is manifestly the case in neurosis.

Here we meet with the most individual clinical pictures it is possible to imagine, and not only that, but we frequently find in the
neuroses contents or components of personality which are far more characteristic of the patient as an individual than the somewhat colourless figure he is all too likely to cut in civilian life.

Because the neuroses are so extraordinarily individualistic, their theoretical formulation is an impossibly difficult task, as it can only refer to the collective features, i.e., those common to many individuals.

But that is precisely the least important thing about the illness, or rather, it is totally irrelevant.

Apart from this difficulty there is something else to be considered, the fact, namely, that nearly every psychological principle, every truth relating to the psyche, must, if it is to be made absolutely true, immediately be reversed.

Thus one is neurotic because one has repressions or because one does not have repressions; because one’s head is full of infantile sex fantasies or because one has no fantasies; because one is childishly unadapted to one’s environment or because one is adapted too exclusively to the environment; because one does or because one does not live by the pleasure principle; because one is too unconscious or because one is too conscious; because one is selfish or because one exists too little as a self; and so on.

These antinomies, which can be multiplied at will, show how difficult and thankless is the task of theory-building in psychology. ~Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 203