Carl Jung explains why his famous friendship with Sigmund Freud fell apart

Jung credits their turbulent relationship with inspiring his later investigations.

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung — legendary friends and colleagues, then rivals— 'were not good for one another,' wrote Lionel Trilling in a 1974 review of their newly-published correspondence. Their friendship, begun in 1907, 'made them susceptible to false attitudes and ambiguous tones.' Freud first thought of Jung as 'the Joshua to his Moses,' his 'heir' and 'successor and crown prince.' Twenty years his mentor’s junior, Jung swore fealty to Freud’s program, hoping not to disappoint the man. But this was inevitable.

Freud’s harsh 1913 break-up letter to his former disciple shows us the limits of the Viennese doctor’s kindness as he recounts the 'lingering effect of past disappointments' that has severed his 'emotional tie' with Jung. Forty-six years later, and twenty years after Freud’s death, Jung remained taciturn about the personal details of their relationship. In the 1959 interview Jung tells us how their 'long and penetrating conversations' began after he sent Freud a book he’d written on schizophrenia. In answer to the question, 'what kind of man was Freud?' Jung gives us only a hint of his mentor’s obstinacy, saying he 'soon discovered that when [Freud] had thought something, then it was settled.'

As for himself, Jung says he 'was doubting all the time,' a consequence of his devoted study of Kant, where Freud 'had no philosophical education.' Their methodological impasse only grew as Jung pursued the symbolic depths of the collective unconscious, and their theories began to diverge on almost metaphysical grounds. And yet, Jung credits their turbulent relationship for inspiring his 'later investigation of psychological types.' During their acquaintance, the two analyzed each other frequently; asked about 'the significant features of Freud’s dreams,' Jung refuses to answer on the grounds of keeping 'professional secrets.'

Jung died two years after this interview, and in 1970 the Freud and Jung families made what Trilling called 'the enlightened decision' to publish their correspondence together in one volume, in German and English. You’ll hear Jung discuss his unwillingness to release the letters before his death. At the very end of the short interview he talks more explicitly about his break with Freud. While Freud may have felt let down by his onetime disciple, Jung expresses his own disappointment with Freud’s 'purely personal approach and his disregard of the historical conditions of man.'

Originally published in Open Culture.