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Steinberg, W. (1989). Depression: A Discussion of Jung's Ideas. J. Anal. Psychol., 34(4):339-352.

(1989). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 34(4):339-352

Depression: A Discussion of Jung's Ideas

W. Steinberg, Ph.D.

Jung did not evolve a theory of depression but left ideas on the subject scattered throughout his writings. The aim of this paper is to systematise these ideas theoretically and evaluate their ability to explain depressive phenomena. Areas for further development of the theory will be suggested.


Depression can be either normal or pathological. Normal depression, like normal anxiety, is a natural reaction of the personality; it is appropriate in certain circumstances and is a transitory experience. Depression, again like anxiety, can in certain circumstances become a disorder with specific mechanisms and dynamics. There is a predisposition to develop a depression, and this predisposition is one of the main discriminants between normal depression and the disordered variety. The same current event may act as a precipitant to both kinds of depression. In normal depression the mood passes. In pathological depression it sets off the predisposition and a disorder develops.

For the purposes of this paper pathological depression will be differentiated into simple and melancholic.

When people suffer from a simple depression they do not want the depressed mood, feel it inappropriate to their life situation, and try to fight the depression off. The mood itself is characterised by feelings of weakness, lack of motivation, pessimism and loneliness. A negative view exists—of the world, themselves, and the future.

Melancholic depression is characterised by a profound and overwhelming feeling of self-blame, hopelessness and self—depreciation. Such people suffer from a pervasive melancholia, disorder of thought processes, psychomotor retardation and somatic dysfunctions.

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