The infant and its environment
In 1927, C.G.Jung wrote the following: “We cannot fully understand the psychology of the child, or that of the adult, if it be regarded as a subjective concern of the individual alone; for almost more important than this is his relation to others” (Jung, 1927, par. 80; my italics). In Jung’s opinion, children are “so deeply involved in the psychological attitude of their parents that it is no wonder that most of the nervous disturbances in childhood can be traced back to a disturbed psychic atmosphere in the home” (Jung, 1927, par. 80). Jung supposes that one cannot speak of an individual psyche, in any truly valid sense, until the age where the child begins to say “I”; and that is, as hypothesized by Jung, between the third and fifth years of life. The infantile psyche is, in a way, only a part of the maternal-and somewhat later also the paternal-psyche, due to the common, or shared, psychological “atmosphere” (Jung, 1928a, par. 106). As mentioned above, Jung concluded from this observation of psychic interdependence that the emotional disturbances of children, at least up until school age, are based exclusively on the disturbances of the psychic “sphere” of their parents. Jung came to this conclusion mainly by observing the dreams of children. For instance, he tells us of the case of the boy of 8 years old who “dreamt out the whole erotic and religious problem of his father” (Jung, 1928b, par. 106). The father could remember no dreams at all; so for some time Jung analyzed the father by means of the dreams of the 8year-old son. Eventually the father began to dream himself and the dreams of the child stopped (Jung, 1928b, par. 106). This is the reason why Jung was so skeptical about all attempts to treat young children psychotherapeutically. More important in his opinion was the attempt to facilitate the self-exploration of the child’s parents; because what has
the most impact on children usually has to do with whatever aspects of life which the parents and their forefathers have not, yet probably should have, lived out (Jung, 1927, par. 87).