Jung the Man: Part V

Jung as Father and Husband

“Can you imagine living with a man who left you with full responsibility for his house and his children while he passed the time playing their games or being in that same house with another woman?… When we got home, Marianne ran across the lawn to Mother and cried, ‘Just look! Franz’s father bought me a little cake.’ Of course Mother immediately said, ‘Now, look, Marianne, you must understand that Franz’s father is yourfather, too!’”

Franz Jung ( 1995)[1]

“Things we did as children did not amuse him…”

Franz Jung (1995)[2]

“Then he [Jung] began talking…analysis requires a new adaptation from a man, for to sit still and patiently try to understand a woman’s mind is far from a masculine attitude. The only time he does it is as a lover to his mistress; he will not do so for his wife, for she is only his wife….”

Esther Harding, quoting Jung (1922)[3]

            The private life of Carl Jung reflected both his temperament, his personal history, his nationality and his generation. In this Part V of our biography of Jung we consider him as father and husband.

Jung as Father

Carl Jung married Emma Rauschenbach on Valentine’s Day, 1903.[4] In the first 11 years of their marriage they had 5 children: Twenty-two months after their wedding they had their first child, Agatha, followed by Anna Margaretha (Gret) 14 months later. Their only son, Franz, was born in November, 1908, and they had two younger daughters, Marianne (born in September 1910) and Emma Helene (born in March 1914).[5] In one of the many letters he wrote to Freud, Jung noted how they tried to prevent pregnancies but obviously without much success.[6] After 1914, the Jungs had separate bedrooms, which was the usual arrangement for persons of their social class with completed families.[7]

What sort of parent was Jung? In a word, “severe.”[8] As was noted in the previous essay, Jung came out of a problematic family background, with parents who fought and left him feeling abandoned and disappointed.[9] Laurens Van der Post speculated that the failure of Jung’s father to parent him well could have led to Jung himself remaining underdeveloped in his sense of fatherhood.[10] In terms of temperament, Jung as an introverted thinking type did not have the qualities of extraversion and feeling that are helpful in dealing with young children. He had little interest in children in general,[11] as his own minimal treatment of children in both his practice and his writing indicates.[12]

Besides temperament and his own experience of being fathered, there were other reasons why Jung was seen by his children later in their memories as having come up short. First was the consequence of Jung’s professional ambition and absorption in his work: There were many demands on his time in the years 1904-1930, when his children were growing up. Early in that interval he had his job at the Burgholzli clinic along with all the administrative work connected with Freud’s International Psychoanalytical Association.[13] After he left the clinic and had broken with Freud, he had his own practice, an extensive international correspondence that demanded his attention and many foreign trips, which (absent airplanes) took weeks or months.[14] Besides his professional activities and responsibilities he also had military duty each year, which took him away from home for a month at a time.[15]

The family took vacations throughout the year, as school holidays permitted and Jung joined in their activities. But when he did he often played practical jokes and nasty tricks on his kids.[16] In one instance, he set off a firecracker that left his daughter Gret deaf in one ear.[17] He took his children swimming, sailing and camping and played games with them, but they recall how he always wanted to win and was not above cheating to do so.[18] He could fly into angry outbursts without much provocation, and often battles would arise between Jung and Gret.[19] His children also remember that he could become loud, rambunctious and get carried away in his frolics,[20] leading his mother-in-law to reprimand him. Jung was not completely absent as a father, but in terms of daily life, he was more of a non-participant in their lives.

Jung’s daily schedule had little time for his family: He usually came down to breakfast in the mornings just as his children were going off to school,[21] so he didn’t see much of them then. In the evenings, the family had dinner together, but Jung forbid any speaking during meals, as if his children’s lives and experiences had little interest for him.[22] On Sundays he would spend time in his study (locked away, so as not to be disturbed) resting and restoring himself for the work week ahead.[23]

But besides his focus on work there were choices Jung made that reflect his lack of interest in his children. He did, after all, have somefree time—evenings, weekends, holidays—when he could have spent time with family. But instead he chose to do research or inner work in the evenings, locked away in his study, the children in bed.[24] This was especially true in the years after his break with Freud—just the years when his family was forming, and his children were young. Another choice that took his focus off his family was his taking up with Toni Wolff. Rather than keep his mistress discreetly out of his domestic life, he brought her into their home, so it was obvious to his children when he was spending time with her, rather than with them.[25] As they grew older and came to understand social norms, they grew to resent Toni, feeling she had stolen their father from them.[26]

While Jung was not an active participant as a parent, he was very much a presencein their lives, due to the patriarchal nature of early 20th century Swiss society. Fathers ruled. Father’s expectations determined children’s upbringing, education and future. Jung was typical in his attitude that women existed to support men and he had his daughters brought up for this purpose.[27] None of them went to college, although the family had the means to send them, and some (especially Gret) wanted to go to the university[28] and become analysts. Adhering to the philosophy that “children should be seen, and not heard,” Jung lost the opportunity to engage his children in the times (like dinners) when they were together. Because he saw his patients in his own home, he insisted it be quiet, and so his children were not permitted to bring friends home, except on birthdays,[29] for the requisite party. Not given to effusive displays of affection (perhaps as an introverted thinking type), Jung did not enjoy hugging and kissing.[30] The family’s interactions were described by others (like Ruth Bailey) as “formal”[31] or, as noted above, “severe.”[32]

Much as Jung’s father had been a limiting figure in his life, so Jung himself became a limiting, restrictive presence in the lives of his own children. So it fell to Emma to be their children’s real parent.[33] Unfortunately she was no more temperamentally suited for this role than Jung was. As an introverted thinking type also, she came across to her children as cold and unfeeling.[34] It was only years later that they understood Jung’s type system and could see their mother was not given to the warmth of the extraverted feeler. While she was present and took a more active role in the children’s lives, Emma was not thorough as a parent: She never told Agatha about menstruation. Agatha learned about it from one of the maids, and then taught her younger sisters as they grew up.[35] Emma also never taught her daughters the particulars of running a household, managing servants etc.; this they picked up from their maternal grandmother.[36] When supper was over each night, Emma left the children at the table and they were put to bed by the maids.[37]

Emma’s real focus was not on her children, but on Jung.[38] She very much wanted to be his intellectual companion,[39] a role usurped by Toni Wolff. That Jung had such a devoted wife, yet took a mistress begs the question, “What sort of husband was he?”

Jung as Husband

Before we examine Jung’s life in this regard, we must understand the context of his life. Jung was Swiss. To most Americans Switzerland appears to be like the rest of Europe—modern, egalitarian, “with it.” But in reality it is both insular and very conservative, even now, in the 21st century. Back at the turn of the 20th century it was even more conservative. It comes as a surprise to most Americans to learn that the Swiss gave women the vote only in 1971.[40] The culture remains patriarchal, socially conservative, and reluctant to change. In Jung’s day, a married woman had no rights: no vote, no right to her children if she divorced, no right even to her own premarital property. Once she married, her property became the property of her husband.[41]

A second point we must recognize is that Jung came out of the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and language colors thinking. “Kinder, Küche, Kirche”—children, kitchen, church—are the 3 focal points of the woman’s life in Germanic thinking. While this is less true today, back in the 19th century (when Jung was growing up, and his thinking was being formed) it was very much the expectation. Another relevant point in the fact that Jung spoke German is its use of gender to express insult.[42] “Woman,” “girl,” and the terms used to refer to single and married women are all feminine gender in German, but the German for the married woman who expresses herself, gets out of line or starts to be “uppity” is neuter: das Weib. Huh? In the German mentality there is some transformation that occurs in the woman who steps out of the cook/caregiver/homemaker role—a transformation that somehow “neuters” a woman. The depreciatory attitude Jung had toward “wife” we saw in the quote from Esther Harding’s notebook recording her visit with Jung.[43] Part of his attitude toward Emma might derive or have been influenced by his German-speaking background.

A third fact to consider is Jung’s generation. He was born in 1875. His formative years were the end of the 19thcentury—a long time ago, a time when the attitudes and assumptions we have today did not exist. Talk of women’s equality was going on then only in America and, to some extent, in Britain,[44] not in Continental Europe. It was a near-universal assumption that women’s role was to support men. So it is not surprising that Jung expected Emma to serve him, to be the hausfrau (housewife, factotum of all things domestic), mother of his children and general supporter.[45]

These 3 facts might explain, to some degree, why the Jungs had a marriage that seems to us so strange. Partly it is due to the different time, different culture, different language and a host of assumptions that are no longer widespread in modern American society. But there is another element more particular to Jung himself.

This is his negative mother complex. In Part IV of this essay we noted how Jung grew up mistrusting his mother and, by extension, women in general. One aspect of this complex was a fear of being controlled by the “Great Mother,”[46] which he identified with his mother’s “number 2 personality.” Another aspect of this complex was fear of abandonment.[47] Becoming emotionally dependent on a woman (as Jung did in marrying Emma) meant fear of being abandoned. And it is well known that what we fear is what we tend to bring to ourselves.

So it is not surprising to learn that Emma tried to divorce Jung 3 times during the course of their marriage.[48] But each time he either fell sick or got into an accident, leading her (in her devotion to him) to give up the idea.[49]

Why the desire to divorce? As I investigated this question and learned the facts of the Jungs’ marriage (sketchy though they be, given the circumspection of the Jung heirs), I found myself marveling that Emma thought of divorce only threetimes! It seemed that, from the beginning of their marriage, she suffered emotionally and socially, from his outrageous behavior and in the roles she had to play.

Emotional Suffering. Jung was not long at the Burgholzli clinic when he developed a reputation as a “ladies man.”[50] Perhaps this was one reason why Emma Rauschenbach refused his first marriage proposal.[51] They were not married long when rumors began to swirl in the small community of the clinic of Jung’s affair with Sabina Spielrein. Emma revealed this affair to Sabina’s mother and was considering divorce when she discovered she was pregnant with her third child.[52] She didn’t go further with the divorce but forced Jung to agree to her demands for a home of their own. By 1909 they were living in their new house in Kusnacht but Emma discovered that the change in place made little difference to their emotional reality: He was no closer to her than he had been.[53] She found herself relegated to the sidelines,[54] when she had hoped to share his professional interests.

Emma had a deep emotional commitment to Jung and yearned to forge a close bond based on both sexual passion and common intellectual interests,[55] but Jung was evasive. Emma was astute: she wrote to Freud that her husband put up the argument that he had to earn money, when clearly this was just a front for “something else to which he has resistance.”[56] This “something” could have been Jung’s mother complex, making him leery of getting too close, of allowing “The Mother” to have too much of him.

The result of this evasive attitude was that Jung shut Emma out: She was not allowed to see his Black Books.[57] He never discussed with her his inner work.[58] She never became his confidante, and this caused her deep wounding and humiliation.[59] She was pushed more and more into the background as Jung’s professional and social life grew more complicated and his fame spread across Europe and America.[60] She stood on the sidelines, watching as all the “Valkyries” loved Jung, while she found herself “instantly cordoned off as the wife…”[61] Barbara Hannah recalls that Jung caused Emma grief as well in his inability to sustain friendships with men for long.[62]

Surely Emma’s most extreme emotional suffering must have centered around Jung’s relationship with Toni Wolff. This cannot be termed an “affair,” because it lasted for 43 years, and Jung told Emma bluntly that he did not think of Toni as his “mistress” but rather as his “other wife.”[63] Surely Emma resented Toni. Observers of their curious ménage à troisspeak of Emma’s obvious pain, and they wondered why Jung continued to bring Toni into his home, take her with him in public and treat her as his confidante,[64] when it clearly caused Emma suffering.[65] That she usurped the role of intellectual confidante was what Emma resented most, and in the face of her continual devoted activities on his behalf it must have been terrible indeed for her to realize she was not the chief object of his attentions. She gave him her all; he gave her slights and social embarrassments.

Social Slights. When she married Jung, Emma was the second-richest woman in Switzerland.[66] She had high social standing in Zurich society and was therefore expected to play a role in the social activities of the closed enclave that was (and still is) Zurich society.[67] But Jung was something of a country bumpkin, with the table manners of a slob, and a disdain for social niceties that went way back to his rebuffs of his mother’s attempts to civilize him as a child.[68] While she could dress him properly, Emma could not take him out into polite company without being embarrassed by his gauche behavior[69] (more on his behavior below).

Besides Jung’s crudeness, there was the problem of his profession. Jung’s specialty as a profession was not just “doctor,” but “psychiatrist”—a very new and socially ostracized activity barely understood and certainly not appreciated by the stolid Swiss burghers of Zurich.[70] Many people in her circles regarded Jung’s profession as weird, and they kept both her and Jung at arm’s length. Even the children felt the brunt of this prejudice against psychiatry: many of their school chums were not permitted by their parents to play or spend time with the Jung kids.[71]

So Emma had few friends and those who came to the house came to see Jung,[72] not her. When she tried to discuss this with Jung he would suggest she get a life, do something to take her mind off the social opprobrium.[73] It became clear to Emma that the family would have to develop an inwardly-derived self-confidence, and to her credit, she was able to instill this in her children.[74]

Jung’s Outrageous Behavior. Poor social manners were one behavior that gave Emma grief. Other behaviors were much worse. There were repeated instances when Jung would attend some conference and would put Sabina, Toni or other women forward, while slighting Emma.[75] As she wrote to Freud, she would get “… instantly cordoned off as the wife…”.[76] When attendees were listed in the conference program, Emma would get billed as part of the “feminine contingent.”[77] Two weeks after Emma gave birth to their fifth child, Jung went off on a vacation to Italy with Toni Wolff, leaving Emma and the baby to be cared for by her mother, and the other 4 children by his mother.[78] Such flagrant public behavior made it clear to everyone that the marriage was in trouble, but Jung was “dismissive” about it, saying only that he was “… in the midst of the anima problem.”[79]

For decades Emma suffered from having Toni in her house, day and night, at times never knowing just when she would show up. Emma tried to shield her mother from this peculiar situation, which meant that the frequent visits her mother was used to making to see her grandchildren had to be regularized to Sundays and other dates planned carefully ahead of time.[80] Over time Emma came to be aware of other of his affairs. Why did she stay with him? When they were posed this question Jung’s grandchildren suggested that she stayed because she knew he would fall apart if she left.[81]

Another reason might have been more practical: Under Swiss law, a woman’s premarital property became her husband’s after the marriage.[82] If Emma had divorced him, she could have put in a claim for compensation—une créance—which Jung could have agreed to or not. In other words, there was the possibility that she could have wound up out on the street, penniless. More than that, she would have no right to her children, and she certainly would have had even less access to the intellectual world Jung inhabited. So she stayed, suffering, while undertaking the roles Jung expected.

Emma’s Roles. There is an old saying that “Behind every great man is a woman.” Never was this more true than in the relationship between Emma and Carl Jung. She took care of all the mundane details of his life:[83] she managed his household (assisted by a host of servants); she took up the “lion’s share” of the responsibility for raising their children.[84] She handled the finances for 50 years (even though he was legally responsible).[85] Both she and her brother-in-law, Ernst Homberger, recognized that Jung had no head for money and he gladly turned over to her the handling of their money.[86] In consultation with her family Emma invested the money Jung earned from his practice and writing, leaving him much better off when she died. Not surprisingly (given the 50+ years Jung caused her to suffer) she did not leave her money to him, but to the children.[87]

“Kinder, Küche, Kirche”—children, kitchen, church. Only the third of these classic German hausfrauroles did Emma not fulfill. Neither she nor Jung had much use for organized religion and none of the children were confirmed.[88] In this she and Jung were more “liberal” than most Swiss parents of their day. In every other way, in the face of behaviors, slights, infidelities and indignities that modern women would find intolerable, Emma kept it together, watching on the sidelines, with the dignity of a Queen—quiet, cool, reserved, “serene”[89]—as the “Valkyries” descended on her husband at every opportunity. Jung’s relationship to these women is the subject of the final section of this essay.


Anthony, Maggy (1990), The Valkyries: The Women Around Jung. London: Element Books.

Bair, Deirdre (2003), Jung: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Brome, Vincent (1978), Jung. New York: Atheneum.

Dangerfield, George (1961), The Strange Death of Liberal England. New York: Capricorn Books.

Flexner, Eleanor (1972), Mary Wollstonecraft. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

________ (1975), Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States, rev. ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Hannah, Barbara (1976), Jung: His Life and Work, A Biographical Memoir. New York: G.P. Putnam.

Harding, Esther (1977), “From Esther Harding’s Notebooks,” Jung Speaking, eds. William McGuire & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C.G. (1965), Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

Mill, John Stuart (1971), On the Subjection of Women. Greenwich CT: Fawcett Books.

Van der Post, Laurens (1975), Jung and the Story of Our Time. New York: Vintage Books.

[1] Quoted in Bair (2003), 251.

[2] Quoted in ibid., 731.

[3] Harding (1977), 26.

[4] Bair (2003), 69,81.

[5] Brome (1978), 84.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bair (2003), 250.

[8] Brome (1978), 185.

[9] Ibid., 25; Bair (2003), 30.

[10] Van der Post (1975), 79.

[11] Bair (2003), 250.

[12] Critics have noted how little attention Jung gave to children’s therapy. In part this could have been due to his feeling that children’s problems were caused by the parents’ complexes and neuroses, but it could also be due to Jung’s own lack of interest in children in general. For more on the psychological problems of children and Jung’s attitudes toward them, see the essay “Jung on the Problem Child,” archived on this blog site.

[13] Bair (2003), 52-59,209; Jung (1965), 188,192,199.

[14] His travels included multiple trips to America, two trips to Africa, a trip to Indian and several to England, besides many travels in and around Switzerland, Italy and Germany.

[15] All Swiss males must perform this duty annually; Brome (1978), 63.

[16] Bair (2003), 318.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Brome (1978), 111,169.

[19] Bair (2003), 326.

[20] Brome (1978), 169 and Bair (2003), 253.

[21] Bair (2003), 250.

[22] Ibid., 318.

[23] Ibid., 192.

[24]Ibid., 250.

[25] Ibid., 265.

[26] Ibid., 293.

[27] Ibid., 388.

[28] Ibid., 318.

[29] Ibid., 253.

[30] Ibid., 356.

[31] Ibid., 565.

[32] Brome (1978), 185.

[33] Bair (2003), 250.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., 321.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid., 208.

[38] Ibid., 322.

[39] Ibid.

[40] For this fact, go to: http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/chronology-womens-right-vote-switzerland.html

[41] Bari 92003), 566.

[42] Personal communication with Klaus Schmidt, 21 January 2011.

[43] Quoted at the beginning of this Part V.

[44] On the rise and development of feminism and the suffrage movement, cf. Mill (1971), Flexner (1975) and Flexner (1972) and Dangerfield (1961).

[45] Bair (2003), 180.

[46] Jung (1965), 49; Anthony (1990), 9.

[47] Bair (2003), 30.

[48] Ibid., 191.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 113.

[51] Anthony (1990), 15.

[52] Bair (2003), 191.

[53] Ibid., 180.

[54] Brome (1978), 111,131.

[55] Bair (2003), 204.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid., 250.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid., 250,322.

[60] Brome (1978), 111.

[61] Ibid., 131.

[62] Hannah (1976), 90.

[63] Bair (2003), 266.

[64] Anthony (1990), 26.

[65] Ibid., 16.

[66] Bair (2003), 69,81.

[67] Ibid., 82.

[68] Ibid., 104,319.

[69] Brome (1978), 201.

[70] Bair (2003), 253.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ibid., 180.

[73] Ibid., 181.

[74] Ibid., 253.

[75] Ibid., 180; Brome (1978), 111.

[76] Brome (1978), 131.

[77] Bair (2003), 200.

[78] Ibid., 248.

[79] Quoted in ibid.

[80] Ibid., 252.

[81] Bair (2003), 321.

[82] Ibid., 566.

[83] Ibid., 83.

[84] Anthony (1990), 25.

[85] Bair (2003), 566.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Ibid. Swiss law required that she leave him a certain percentage, but the bulk of her fortune she left to her children.

[88] Ibid., 321.

[89] Ibid., 322.