Jane Wheelwright and Carl Jung

Sue Mehrtens is the author of this and all the other blog essays on this site. The opinions expressed in these essays are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Jungian Center faculty or Board members.  Honesty, as well as professional courtesy, require that you give proper attribution to the author if you post this essay elsewhere.



Jane Wheelwright and Carl Jung


“Jung seemed to be without unconscious shadow. He must have assimilated his shadow, as all of us would be advised to do.”[1]


“Jung himself seems to have lost interest in his own early concern with psychological types once he had explained away his difficulty with Freud.”


“Jung himself was too powerful a man. He left no room for women to show off their powers.”


“I think of Jung as having been very male–and even more so–because of his female warmth and sensitivity.”


“… he was a loner and a pioneer. Although Jung had charm, he was not a ‘people person,’…”


“‘Uncertainty’ was Jung’s watchword. He kept his thinking fluid, never hesitating to contradict himself. He seemed to fear being categorized or turned into an authority for others to follow blindly.”


“Jung was like that. You never knew which way he would go. He was unpredictable like nature.”


“I don’t think Jung ever discovered the importance of relationship.”


Jane Wheelwright met Carl Jung when she was 30 years old and he was 60–old enough to be her father. She arrived in Zürich in a dire mental state, having “tipped over into the unconscious.” That is, Jane was psychotic, out of touch with reality.

Jung had a reputation for being able to bring people out of psychosis, and he took an interest in Jane which had many ramifications: She was healed; she got interested in Jung’s psychology, eventually becoming a Jungian analyst herself; she gained many insights into herself; and Jung got a devoted (but not uncritical) advocate for his brand of psychology, as well as insights that helped him flesh out his theories.

This essay offers Jane’s portrait of Jung–positives and negatives. Ever independent in her thinking, Jane was able to see Jung in the fullness of his humanity. While he had many laudable traits, he also had foibles, and Jane noted these in her journal. In the final section, we will consider their similarities and differences, and the impact Jung had on Jane.


Jung’s Personality


As he did for most people, Jung appeared to Jane as a big man: tall, hale and hearty, a formidable presence, but “big” also in his powerful demeanor and manner.

Unlike her father (whose focus on the ranch left Jane feeling abandoned), Jung took a personal interest in her, for he was fascinated by her background. If Jung seemed to Jane to be a “big” person, Jane surely struck Jung as a big opportunity, for here was an unusual analysand: Formative years spent in wilderness, the good fortune to have escaped being trained into academic orthodoxy, a husband and two children (sufficient ties to the outer world to provide grounding) and now, a deep personal experience of the unconscious. Jane would offer Jung the chance to test old theories and formulate new ones, while he brought her back to reality and opened a career venue for her.

In the four years they had on-site contact (1935-1939), Jane observed Jung the “rounded-out” man of mature years, charming, animated, striving to make contact with others, “embedded in his maleness,” but full of warmth and humanity. A brilliant intuitive but able to access his inferior sensation, Jung gave of himself generously, in his desire to know as much as possible about his patients. It did not take Jane long to be won over: “Jung won me over to his psychology on first contact because he was such a ‘big’ person.”

“Big,” yet “a very human man,” with a strong “moral, religious fiber” reflected in his belief that

“the advantages that come out of [a person’s] inherited endowments must be paid for by giving back to those less endowed.”

This attitude led Jane to conclude that Jung “was definitely democratic.”

He was impressive to Jane in other ways as well, e.g. his “catholic choice of books.”

“He always seemed to read whatever was sent to him, and he referred to many other books, most of them esoteric, but some that were only topical. Jung was not always a highbrow.”

Nor was he “at all the super-duper scientist that much of the world applauds.” Jane saw firsthand the “most human” person that Jung was.

By the time Jane arrived in Jung’s consulting room, his five children were all adults, and Jane noticed how he allowed them to find their own way, allowing them “to live their eccentricities,…” a parental attitude so very different from the criticism Jane had endured from her mother.

Jane was “won over,” but not swallowed up by the great man. Unlike some of the women around Jung, Jane Wheelwright always retained her independence of mind and her keen critical faculties, so she spotted some of Jung’s personal foibles. For example, what Jane saw as Jung’s non-judgmental attitude toward his children could also be the result of his limitations as a father. Emma was a much better mother than Jung was a father.

Others of Jung’s problematic personality traits included his inconsistency and unpredictability, leaving people unsure of which way he would go; his overbearing personality and powerful ego, which could lead Jung to pontificate to his patients for most of their allotted hour of analysis; and his anima deficits–coldness and lack of compassion–which Jane witnessed one time when Jung turned his back on Toni Wolff (his mistress) as he left a public meeting with Emma. Jung failed to promote Toni’s independence (something he came to regret after her death) and he could come across to feeling types as indifferent or unaware of the emotional weight of a moment. Jung’s remarks to Jo Wheelwright in their last session together are an example:

“Jo said he expected some positive approval. Instead, Jung called across the family garden on his way into the house, ‘Wheelwright! When you feel everything is just fine and you feel okay, look out. That’s when terrible things could happen. Goodbye.'”

Unlike Jo Wheelwright, Carl Jung was “a loner,” not a “people person,” and his interactions could seem transactional and impersonal to Feeling types.


Jane’s Assessment of Jung’s Work


Besides Jung’s personal traits Jane sized up Jung the scholar/writer. In this assessment she recognized her major type difference from Jung: He was a “brilliant intuitive” thinker, while she was a strong sensate. Jane could enjoy Jung’s letters, in which he “humanized psychological material” and wrote in a simple, factual style, but when Jung veered off into his alchemical works (written after his heart attack, when he decided to write for himself, rather than for a broader public), Jane “felt totally lost” amid his “far-out” concepts.

Allowing for their type differences, Jane could see positive and negative qualities in Jung’s oeuvre. On the plus side, Jung had extraordinary insight and a remarkable willingness to confront the deepest levels of the unconscious. He was both a genius and a pioneer in creating his empirical psychology, and in his prophetic vision he could justifiably wear the designation Marie-Louise von Franz gave him: Merlin. Jane agreed: Jung was a “Merlin-type person.” He was also the creator of a personality typology that Jane felt was a major achievement, to which she was devoted for the rest of her life (going so far as to work with Jo and Horace Gray to create the Gray-Wheelwrights Type Test).

But there were negatives as well. Sharing a common complaint about Jung’s work, Jane recognized how inconsistent Jung could be, how he seemed never to hesitate to contradict himself, and then she would hear from others, like Michael Fordham, to whom Jung complained about being misunderstood. What did he expect?

Jane noted how Jung seemed to lose interest in his type system in later years–a system she and others considered to be perhaps Jung’s most important contribution. Much like Toni Wolff, who tried to dissuade Jung from taking up alchemy, Jane found Jung’s later explorations in alchemical literature to be incomprehensible.

Jane reflected her feminist, environmentalist identity in faulting Jung for not being pro-nature or pro-woman. She understood this was in part due to his era: Jung was of an earlier generation when gender equality and ecological concerns were not hot topics. But, while Jung was a prophetic visionary in some ways, Jane felt he was so “caught up in the male spiritual ideas” that he “failed to see women as the wave of the future.”


Differences and Similarities between Jung and Jane


Jane’s feminist concerns and Jung’s 19th-century Swiss German gender conservatism was one difference they had. Another was their approach to Nature. Both Jane and Jung grew up in and loved Nature, but Jane became a committed environmentalist, while Jung died before the active protection of natural ecosystems became a political issue. Jane repeatedly expressed the wish in her journal that Jung would have spoken up more:

“…he claimed that he cared a whole lot about nature. If so, why didn’t he include what nature was all about in his formal, psychological theorizing. I don’t feel that he did understand,…”

Jane could see herself being “identified as one who has an affinity with nature, in contrast to the German intellectual tradition.”–a tradition that her mother, Lottie, represented in her Göttingen Ph.D. and that Jung also exemplified, in his rigorous gymnasium education.

Other differences were noted earlier, e.g. their type difference, he being highly intuitive, Jane, highly sensate, and Jung’s moving beyond his type system to explore other areas, while Jane remained focused on his typology.

Some differences reflected their circumstances: Jane was an English-speaking American cowgirl, brought up on a California ranch; Jung was a German-speaking Swiss medical doctor trained in the rigorous world of European scholarship. Jane grew up in wealth, in a life of private schools, high society, and global travel, while Jung grew up as the only son of a poor Swiss parson, having to scrape by until he married Emma. Eager to observe animals and avoid her mother’s notice, Jane learned early on how to be invisible, an unusual trait that Toni Wolff took note of. Jung was anything but invisible, as the focus of media interviews when he traveled, and the center of attention at Psychology Club events and other activities among his followers.

But they had more in common than they had differences. Both Jung and Jane grew up in rural settings, amid nature, with few playmates. Both developed parental complexes, particularly negative mother complexes. Both smarted under the memory of a negative school experience (Jung’s, being accused of plagiarism as a schoolboy, Jane’s, of her year-long failure to measure up to the Bryn Mawr curriculum).

Later, in adulthood, both Jane and Jung grew to be independent in their thinking, willing to depart from conventional wisdom and march to their own drummer. Neither was a crowd-follower, and both had a strong Thinking function. Both appreciated Native/indigenous wisdom, and both shared a sense of being set apart, somehow different from or misunderstood by others (Jane, for her critical pessimism, Jung, for his psychic, prophetic vision). And, as Jane acquired an understanding of analytical psychology from her lived experience of analysis, she joined Jung in appreciating the unconscious, valuing dreams, and believing in the reality of the psyche.

Jung’s break with Freud precipitated his confrontation with the unconscious, while Jane’s facing her shadow side caused her to “tip” over into psychosis, so both Jane and Jung had personal experience in (not just with) the unconscious. From their lived experience of woundedness, both became committed to applying their energies to helping others to heal. Unconventional as he was, Jung welcomed Jane as an analyst, even though she had no formal academic training.


Jung’s Impact on Jane


The most obvious impact Jung had on Jane was that he brought her out of psychosis. As he worked with her and came to know Jane, Jung could see her talents for introversion, introspection, listening, and independent thinking–all qualities that he also had and regarded as important for analysts. That Jung gave Jane her life’s work was the second most important impact.

Other ways Jung had a major influence on Jane relate to her life: She took to heart Jung’s stress on the individual cleaning up his own psychic backyard, and she worked for her remaining 60+ years of life to scrutinize herself, explore her shadow and uncover prejudices. Jung urged his followers to find the god within, and Jane did so, her “god” taking the form of Nature and the “Big Something.” Jung told his analysands to “live in old age as though we would live forever,” and Jane accepted this advice initially only because he said so, but, as she moved into her 80’s, she could “sense that there is truth in what he said.” At the age of 86 Jane could say that she had “developed [her] own philosophy and let [her] consciousness grow.”

Late in life Jane could look back and say that Jung “certainly helped me find myself more than anyone else,” that she had “always looked for his guidance,” and that she still thought “Jung knew best because of his genius and his extraordinary insight.” She recognized how she had “adopted for [her] own use some of Jung’s attitudes,” and how in meeting and working with Jung he had “influenced the deepest levels of [her] unconscious. She was clear that “Jung influenced my psyche and life drastically. I feel that his presence was introjected, to use the Freudian term.”

Re-reading her journal, Jane discovered that she tended “to write about Jung as though he were still alive,” and that “he certainly is alive in me.” As she read “more and more from his published work,” Jane went on learning from him. A voracious reader, Jane relied on Jung as a guide for evaluating what she read. She also found “Jung’s introverted bias all-important” as a counter-balance to our “overly extraverted Western world.”

Jane had dreams of Jung, dreams in which he recognized her by name, dreams indicating that she was carrying on “the lines Jung had established in his lifetime.” These dreams, plus his writings, led Jane to work to reconcile the opposites, in the hermaphroditic goal: becoming both male and female.

A fourth way Jung impacted Jane’s life was intellectual: His ideas about “the archetypal aspects of psychology,” and his stress on the need to be connected to nature in order to be in reality, resonated with Jane. Jane was “impressed by how fresh his thoughts are,” and she “adopted for [her] own use some of Jung’s attitudes.”

She regarded Jung’s concept of individuation as his “greatest contribution,” and she felt that “his system of types still does lead to individuation.” Jane credits Jung as opening up for her “the world of irrational thought,” to the astonished disgust of her uncle Steffie. But Jane was undeterred by Stef’s vehement opposition. She found “Jung’s scientific claims” to be in line “with modern thinking,” and she felt Jung had “broadened collective consciousness” by his work in “extending the scope of scientific observations.”

Jane felt that “Jung’s insights have improved the quality of life for countless numbers of people,” and she was “very impressed by the accounts of Jung’s view of ‘opposites’.” Her journal is full of references to opposites, which she began to see everywhere. All in all, Jung had become a strong influence on Jane.

Why so? Jane realized that it was because Jung “was an iconoclast and kept hold of his original thoughts,” which was also Jane’s way, even in the face of criticism and protests from those who failed to understand. Jane was loyal: she refused to cave or repress Jung’s ideas.



[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from Jane’s journal, now available for sale, in hard copy and pdf form, on the Jungian Center website.