These are the top 10 most influential quotes from Carl Jung. Carl Jung was a famous Swiss psychiatrist active from the late 1800s through the first half of the 1900s. He was a student of Sigmund Freud and his work was impactful not only in the world of psychiatry and psychology but also in the fields of philosophy and theology.
Carl Jung explored the mind and delved deep into the idea of the unconscious, embedded archetypes (characters humans recognize instinctively, without training), and the collective unconscious. Jung, like Nietzsche and Carl Sagan, is a huge influence on the philosophy of Digital Nihilism. Here are some of the most insightful Carl Jung quotes:
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung
How true that knowing oneself is paramount to realizing what one truly wants to become. Self-actualization requires not only the ability, resources and drive to accomplish your goals, but also the self-awareness and self-understanding required to truly define one’s purpose and what is truly worthwhile to aim toward.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung
Jung had a big focus on self-actualization and individuation, which are incredibly important when trying to find meaning in life. One of the things Jung talked about, and other philosophers talk about as well, is how true communication is impossible because the complexities of other people are unknowable and all action is filtered through your own flawed perception. When you’re dealing with other people, you are not dealing with them as they view themselves, but as you view them filtered by your own experiences; thus the behaviors you recognize and focus on vs. the behaviors you discard are reflections of you. When you judge another, you are, in a sense, judging yourself.
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung
Reaching a point of true understanding is difficult. Many psychologists find it difficult to judge others, because when you reach a point where you understand the causes and effects of other people’s actions, you begin to understand why they engage in certain behaviors other people may immediately judge. Understanding yourself contributes to this as well; we are all capable of darkness and evil, and when we understand our own darknesses, not only can we better recognize the intentions of others, we can better understand, empathize with, and correct those behaviors.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” – Carl Jung
Most people like to believe that they’re good people. Main characters. Protagonists of their own personal story. However, if this were the case, Hitler would never have risen to power. Genghis Khan would have never conquered the majority of the known world. When you see yourself as inherently virtuous, or a protagonist, you’re in denial about the reality of you and the darkness that you’re capable of. More than that, you develop a blindspot to your own darkness and thus become more susceptible to it. Fully understanding yourself is difficult — perhaps impossible — and in the process of attempting to do so, you will learn things about yourself and what you’re capable of that terrify you.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” – Carl Jung
As with many philosophers, Jung subscribed to the general notions of nihilism — that the universe has no objective meaning and subjective meaning needs to be created by discovering one’s purpose through the process of self-actualization and then engaging in that purpose. I wrote a whole book on this subject, but the general point to take here is this: finding out what makes life fulfilling and then engaging in the most fulfilling aspects of life is what makes life feel worthwhile.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed” – Carl Jung
When speaking with others, as I mentioned before, you’re also speaking with a reflection of yourself, according to Jung. So not only does speaking with others help teach you about another person, it also teaches you about yourself. Clashing personalities can teach you a great deal about yourself and your preferences and deficiencies. Likewise, compatible personalities do the same. Engaging with others can lead to profound growth.
“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” – Carl Jung
A truism like the oft-repeated “excellence is not an act, but a habit,” and “watch what people do, not what they say.” Not only is this quote true on its surface, but it’s also important to keep in mind that doing what you say you do contributes to a reputation of integrity. More importantly, it’s important to remember that if you want to accomplish things, you must take action; thinking and discussing are not enough.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” – Carl Jung
If meaning has to be derived from self-actualization, then the process of self-actualization (or, in Jungian terms, Individuation) is the most important thing a human being can engage in. Without self-actualization, a human can never find and pursue their own proper function or meaning. This quote is short and simple, but is one of the most important Carl Jung quotes to remember.
“Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” – Carl Jung
This is a very important quote for modern times. Spiritualist types often like to refer to a dichotomy between fear and love; where fear leads to militarism, distrust and pain, and love leads to cooperation, safety and unity. Right now we live in a fractured world and, whether or not you believe unity and oneness is possible, Jung’s quote here to elucidates a true way to gauge where on this fear/love spectrum we currently are. The more people cling to power and seek to achieve dominance over others, and the more they’re rewarded for doing so, the worse we’re doing as a species in terms of our achievement as a civilization attempting to overcome humanity’s instincts towards savagery.
“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” – Carl Jung
Judgment is, generally, a poor character trait. Judgment tends to be the go-to move of people who don’t seek to understand or aren’t capable of understanding different ways of thinking or behaviors from their own. There is sometimes a place for judgment or rather dispassionate discernment, but judgment, in general, goes hand in hand with narrow-mindedness. Judgment is not only damaging to the victim of judgment but also to the perpetrators of it; because judgment robs the judge of the learning and expanded awareness that can be obtained through understanding the actions and behaviors of others.
That does it for the Top 10 Carl Jung quotes. Be sure to check out the Philosophy & Spirituality Section for more content like this, such as quotes by other influential thinkers like Carl Jung. You might also be interested in some of the concepts discussed in the Thoughts Section.