The case in question is that of an intelligent girl of eleven years of age, of good family. Dr. Jung starts discussing her in his book, on page 113 ("A CASE OF NEUROSIS IN A CHILD"), at one point he wrote:

These sexual tendencies have caused the fear of the father. Still, we must not forget that she had this dream in her fifth year. At that time these sins had not been committed. Hence we must regard this affair with the other girls as a reason for her present fear of her father; but that does not explain the earlier fear. But still, we may expect it was something of a similar nature, some unconscious sexual wish, corresponding to the psychology of the forbidden action previously mentioned. The moral value and character of this wish is even more unconscious with the child than with adults. To understand what had made an impression on the child, we have to ask what happened in her fifth year. Her youngest brother was born at that time. Even then her father had made her nervous.

-THE ANALYSIS OF THE TRANSFERENCE, page 121, The Theory of Psychoanalysis, By C. G. JUNG (NERVOUS AND MENTAL DISEASE MONOGRAPH SERIES, No. 19, Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Co., New York, 1915).

But I never found on the book what happened in her fifth year that made her afraid of her father, why or what, in her fifth year - when her youngest brother was born Even then - her father had made her nervous?


1 Answer 1


Mostly, Jung is making stuff up based on an unfounded assumption that we can best understand kids by assuming they have sexual fantasies about their parents and that most things that are wrong with them are because these fantasies are somehow unresolved.

Jung's theory about girls is called Electra complex, based on Freud's Oedipus complex (originally applied to boys, though also expanded to include girls; Freud disagreed with Jung that they should be named separately).

As written in Wikipedia:

There is very little scientific evidence for the reality of the Electra complex. The predictions of the theory are not substantiated by experiment.[21][22] The Electra complex is not widely accepted among modern mental health professionals and is not listed in current versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.[23]

Earlier in the book, Jung talks about a dream the girl had:

At the third interview the little girl related a dream she had had when she was five years old, and by which she was greatly impressed. She says, " I'll never forget this dream." The dream runs as follows : " I am in a wood with my little brother and we are looking for strawberries. Then a wolf came and jumped at me. I took to a staircase, the wolf after me. I fall down and the wolf bites my leg. I awoke in terror."

In your quote, "she had this dream in her fifth year" is referring to this dream. Jung says this sounds like the "well-known German fairy-tale of Little Red Ridinghood, which is, of course, known to the child". He goes on to talk vaguely about a broader astro-mythological context to fairy tales and mythology and then jumps to:

These currents are caused by the libido in its unconscious forms. The material which comes to the surface is infantile material, hence, phantasies connected with the incest-complex.

Jung has no evidence for this, Freud has no evidence for this, they just say it and then start interpreting everything as based on this, kind of like a conspiracy theorist would. It's an absolutely terrible way to go about actually understanding the world, and not at all how science works.

Other statements seem a bit more believable at face value:

The fear of the wolf in the dream is therefore fear of her father. The little patient explains her fear of her father by his severity towards her. He had also told her that we only have bad dreams when we have been doing wrong.

Basically, her father is "severe" towards her - maybe that means he yells at her, maybe it merely means he is strict about her behavior, maybe it means he is physically imposing or abusive; the details are not given. But it seems he has told his young daughter that if she has bad dreams it means she's doing something wrong; I can imagine that making a kid feel pretty uncomfortable by itself. What Jung thinks is more important than that, though, is this sexual obsession she has with her father.

As far as what happened to her in her fifth year? It's right in your quote:

Her youngest brother was born at that time

He elaborates:

This dream illustrates the first impressive appearance of the sexual problem, obviously suggested by the recent birth of the little brother, just such an occasion when experience teaches us that these questions become vital.

So in other words, Jung says girls are sexually obsessed with their fathers, "obviously" having a sibling born surfaces these obsessions, and so all this trouble has magnified around when the girl is 5.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you kindly elaborate on how (the author rationalize) sibling born surfaces these obsessions (sexual obsession with father) please? What is the link (according to Jung)? $\endgroup$ Jul 21 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @ConsiderNon-TrivialCases I think it's really a waste of my time and yours. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 21 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Not mines, certainly, and should not be yours either as the guardian (moderator) ...I understand you are disturbed by psychoanalysis, and you have been repeatedly warned about this, but I am really interested about the thinking process of Jung, Freud (not about psychoanalysis), so if you can, please do it, thanks. $\endgroup$ Jul 21 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @ConsiderNon-TrivialCases I'm not "disturbed" by psychoanalysis, I'm bothered that something has such a hold on popular perceptions of psychology despite having been long debunked and not having been based on any evidence in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 21 at 16:11

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