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Freud, Jung, Adler, and James
The Theoretical Positions

In my current fascination with the human mind, or in some cases, the lack thereof, I thought you may be in need of a theoretical refresher... as I was.

The brilliant and diverse minds of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and William James have fueled centuries of psychological studies to come, with their contrasting theoretical approaches and discoveries. At times these great minds worked together to formulate concepts of understanding, only to later separate vigorously over conceptual disputes. While Freud seemed to be at the epicenter of much of their studies at some point, each of these great thinkers contributed their own, equal theoretical concepts and developed schools of thought that continue to be embraced by many great psychologists today.

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud


Background and Basic Theoretical Positions

Sigmund Freud

One could argue that Sigmund Freud was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. He was the pillar upon which psychoanalysis was formed and combined his research and knowledge as a physiologist, psychologist, and medical doctor to develop theories and teachings that have been the foundation of many continuing schools of thought for psychology. He began working very closely with Joseph Breuer and expanded on the concept that the mind is comprised of a complex energy-system, and its design is the arena of psychology.

Freudís basic theoretical positions include the concepts of repression, the unconscious, and probably the most notable; the infantile sexuality. The tripartite account for the structure of the mind was one part of his many ground-breaking concepts at the time. It was also reference for the teaching and understanding of psychological development in the human as well as the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal mental conditions. Despite his radical theories and brilliant, independent thought, most versions of todayís psychoanalysis fundamentals can be tracked back to the original work of this exceptional thinker.

Freudís unique concepts, theories and diagnoses of human dreams, human actions and even cultural artifacts that unequivocally possess relevance have proven to yield great success in his research. It has also positively influenced an extremely diverse spectrum of disciplines including anthropology, semiotics, psychology, and artistic. Despite all of Freudís influences, interests and accomplishments, his claim that psychoanalysis is a successful science of the mind, is still a subject of many debates and even more controversy.

Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Jung

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung was the creative influence behind the concept of analytical psychology. It was he that developed the theories of the personalities; extroverted and introverted, the archetypes as well as the collective unconscious. Jung drew on personal experiences more than the typical psychiatrist and he, himself, believed he had two distinct and separate personalities, one of which was introverted and other, extroverted. According to Jung, these two personalities are the key components of human personality. The extrovert is socially oriented and very outgoing while the introvert is withdrawn, quiet, and more interested in concepts than other people. The relationship between these two personalities he believed he possessed yielded his study and extensive research in integration and wholeness. Interestingly, it was this unique study that led to Jungís work influencing more than just the world of psychology. Literature and religion are also heavily influenced and referenced by Jungís work, even today.

Before he made the decision to study medicine formally, Jung studied and researched zoology, archaeology, biology, paleontology, philosophy, mythology, early Christian literature. After obtaining his M.D. in 1902 from the University of Zurich, his first formal research began two years later with word association. Working with individuals suffering from some form of repressed psychic, his study inevitably drew him to the work of Sigmund Freud.

Jung's study and research ultimately confirmed many of the theories, concepts and diagnoses from the previous (and controversial) work of Freud. The two began to perform studies and research very closely together for five years and in 1912, the two split over differences with regard to the relevance of sexuality in human life. This proved to be the defining separation of his career since he disputed Freud's analytic principles. Jung felt Freudís position was biased, too definitive, and far too personal. When Jung decided to write and publish "Psychology and the Unconscious" containing many arguments in direct conflict with Freudís theories and hard-fast beliefs, their relationship was terminally ended. Jung went on to publish texts vehemently distinguishing the difference between individual psychology and psychoanalysis, giving his new discipline the title "analytical psychology."

Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler


Alfred Adler

An Austrian physician and psychologist, Alfred Adler was the founder and driving for behind the birth of individual psychology. Adler looked at human development as a whole and how and individual lives, interacts and relates to the surrounding society, family unit, and the entire world. Adlerís concept of human connectedness was his definition for mental health. This connectedness included a desire to further oneself as well as contribute to the betterment of mankind. This Zen, optimistic view of human nature and awareness contributed to Adlerís popularity. This popularity and acceptance was enhanced by the sensible perception of his "inferiority complex" concept which he claimed came from individuals striving for perfection and social acceptance.

Freud and Adler studied together for many years in Vienna, despite the fact that their perspective and theories differed and at times even contradicted each other. Adler did not agree with Freud in the area of dominance of the sex instinct being the root of neurosis and challenged the concept of the libido being driven by the ego. The challenging didnít stop there. Adler took issue with Freudís repression theories claiming that feelings of helplessness during childhood are the cause for many cases of an inferiority complex. Adler felt that most neurotic symptoms were linked to overcompensation within those suffering from an inferiority complex. Furthermore, Freud stated that neurosis was unavoidable, and Adler felt it was treatable and correctable. He also felt that the only or motivating factor or drive at the root of all human behavior was, in fact, not sex, but instead the desire for perfection. Like Maslow's concept of self-actualization, human behavior is the desire to fulfill our ultimate potential and become the epitome of our human design.

Like Jung, Adler ended his working relationship with Freud and continued to develop his own school of thought; individual psychology, which was first laid out in ď‹ber den nervŲsen CharakterĒ (The Neurotic Constitution, 1912).

William James
William James
William James

A professor of psychology and of philosophy at the illustrious Harvard University, William James was considered the most famous living American psychologist and philosopher of his era.

His inclination was to avoid the fixed and rigid conventions of the rationalists of Europe. Instead James gave rise to a hybrid of sorts, combining psychology and philosophy. His stellar academic knowledge of psychology and refreshing perspectives relating to philosophy in psychology helped develop his concept of the self and subsequently his view of human belief. It was within this endless circle of psychology and philosophy that he cultivated his pragmatic epistemology. This concept took the meaning of ideas and the truth of beliefs in an approach where they influenced the lives of people as opposed to the abstract sense of ideas. These revolutionary approaches cause controversy and criticism by those who held fast to the long-standing philosophical arguments of dualism vs. materialism, correspondence vs. coherence, and freedom vs. determinism. Regardless, Jamesí research and study outlining the understanding of consciousness and the self, a proactive position and perception of truth, and a number of other beneficial studies of social concerns helped create an outstanding philosophical system, despite the fact that he did not live long enough to see his studies through to completion. His fluid and riveting writing style combined with his innovative ideas are the basis for his great psychological and philosophical legacy.




Despite the fact that Freudís infantile sexuality concept seemed to dominate the beginning of many studies it also seemed to be the most common concept for other psychologistsí desire to disprove. While this may have annoyed or even enraged Freud at times, one could clearly see that this also fueled his own desire to further prove his concepts. It is this dynamic in the world of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and William James that pushed them to continually develop their own theoretical positions and ultimately their own schools of thought. The study of the mind will never be complete. The process of understanding how we understand will always be ongoing because even as we decipher the code of understanding we are evolving and adapting, thus creating new mental processes to analyze and understand.

The intricacies of these genius minds are only part of their contribution to the academics of psychology. It is also the collaboration and contribution they made together, voluntarily or not, that critically developed theories and pushed their art and science to the next level; into the laps of todayís critical thinkers.




References

Adler, Alfred. 1924. The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology. Harcourt, Brace & Company.

Adler, Alfred. 1998. Understanding Human Nature. Hazelden Publishers, (original work published 1927).

Adler, Alfred. 1970. Superiority and social interest; a collection of later writings. Northwestern University Press.

Atwood, G. 1993. Academic American Encyclopedia. Danbury: Grolier Inc., 467-468.

Hothersall, D. 1995. History of Psychology, 3rd ed., Mcgraw-Hill:NY

Jacobi, J. 1996. Jung, Carl Gustav (1875-1961), Colliers Encyclopedia.

Worchel, S. and Shebilske, W. 1992. Psychology, Principles and Applications. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

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