Ruby Wax chooses Carl Jung

Ruby Wax, ac­tor, men­tal health cam­paigner and au­thor chooses 1875–1961

BBC History Magazine - - Contents -

“He pointed out that hav­ing a dark side – those primeval thoughts we have when we want to kill some­body, even if it’s only mo­men­tar­ily – was all part of hu­man na­ture”

Carl Jung was a Swiss psy­chol­o­gist and psy­chi­a­trist. He en­joyed a close personal friend­ship with Sig­mund Freud, the Aus­trian neu­rol­o­gist and ‘fa­ther’ of psy­cho­anal­y­sis, un­til the two fell out, in part over Freud’s em­pha­sis on sex­u­al­ity. Jung went on to de­velop some of the best-known psy­cho­log­i­cal con­cepts, such as the col­lec­tive un­con­scious, the psy­cho­log­i­cal com­plex, ex­traver­sion and in­tro­ver­sion.

When did you first hear about Carl Jung?

It was in my late twen­ties, when a shrink I was see­ing told me about him. I was im­me­di­ately in­ter­ested in find­ing out more and was in­trigued to learn that, un­like Freud, he didn’t think every­thing was sex­ual. Jung be­lieved that we had to know our­selves bet­ter, and un­der­stand the ‘con­scious’ and ‘un­con­scious’. And his teach­ings have had a pro­found in­flu­ence on me. He in­vented a whole new way of think­ing and I try to live it.

What kind of per­son was he?

Ob­vi­ously a genius – af­ter all, he in­vented a way of do­ing ther­apy that had never been done be­fore. I think he was also a lot more tol­er­ant of hu­man be­ings than Freud. He was more mys­ti­cal too – he got a lot of his ideas from Bud­dhism – although per­son­ally I’m not such a fan of his mys­ti­cal side; I’m more of a prac­ti­cal per­son. That said, he was the real deal: he be­lieved in dig­ging into the un­con­scious and fac­ing up to the bad.

What made him a hero for you?

Do­ing ther­apy with a psy­chi­a­trist who prac­tised what Jung preached changed my life. We’re all ashamed of our darker side that we try to keep buried. But Jung pointed out that hav­ing a dark side – those dark primeval thoughts we have when we want to kill some­body who’s crossed us, even if it’s only mo­men­tar­ily – was all part of hu­man na­ture. In­deed, it’s the ten­sion be­tween the two that fu­els much of our creativ­ity. All of a sud­den, I didn’t feel so alone. I felt: “Oh good, ev­ery­body’s got a shadow side.” It made me feel so much bet­ter.

What was Jung’s finest hour?

In a way, chal­leng­ing Sig­mund Freud’s be­liefs and com­ing up with his own in­di­vid­ual the­o­ries that were at odds with, and helped tidy up, much of the older man’s teach­ings. There was a near 20-year age gap be­tween the two, and Freud ar­guably saw him as some­thing of a sur­ro­gate son, so for Jung to strike out on his own – in short, to make a break with Freud – took a lot of guts, es­pe­cially as Freud took real um­brage at his ac­tions, and, in ef­fect, tried to run him out of town.

Is there any­thing you don’t par­tic­u­larly ad­mire about Jung?

I don’t agree with every­thing that Jung said. For in­stance, he thought there were in­tro­verts and ex­tro­verts, but I don’t – I think we’re a com­bi­na­tion of every­thing. I didn’t like the way he la­belled peo­ple like that, but we have to re­mem­ber that Jung came up with his the­o­ries a hun­dred or so years ago.

Can you see any par­al­lels be­tween Jung’s life and your own?

Well, we’ve both writ­ten books on psy­cho­anal­y­sis. But there’s one lit­tle dif­fer­ence: I sus­pect that peo­ple are never go­ing to talk about my book in the same breath as his!

What do you think he would have made of you if you were a pa­tient on his psy­chi­a­trist’s couch?

I think he would have found me an in­ter­est­ing sub­ject for anal­y­sis be­cause I’m pretty open. I reckon I’d have got on with him too and would at least have been able to make him laugh. He may have even given me a dis­count!

If you could meet Jung, what would you ask him?

I’d like to ask him if he un­der­stood his un­con­scious. Ruby Wax was talk­ing to York Mem­bery

Ruby Wax is an ac­tor, men­tal health cam­paigner and au­thor. Her book, A Mind­ful­ness Guide for the Fraz­zled, is out now in pa­per­back (Pen­guin Life). For de­tails of the Fraz­zled tour, visit ruby­



Ruby Wax spoke about Carl Jung in Great Lives­grammes/b00jx­hdd

Carl Jung, the founder of an­a­lyt­i­cal psy­chol­ogy. “Do­ing ther­apy with a Jun­gian psy­chi­a­trist changed my life,” says Ruby Wax

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