Micah Toub’s Growing Up Jung is an entertaining (and educational) read about growing up as the son of two Jungian therapists.
Micah deals with issues faced by youth everywhere: shifting family dynamics, changing friendships, romantic relationships and religion. Life wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary if it weren’t for the family’s all-to-honest style of communication: His mother refers to his sister as the “terrorist” of the family – a pathological outsider – but later she has an affair and becomes the outsider herself. His father flits from hobby to hobby because to do so is to follow the “Tao” – the Way – as Jung would recommend, but he rarely seems to operate with self-awareness. His sister utterly rejects the Jungian tools and processes used by their parents. Micah, however, adopts those Jungian systems starting at a young age and later adapts them to become better adjusted.
As a psychology novice, I especially enjoyed reading Micah’s interjections about the history and development of Jung’s theories, and his friendship and “break-up” with Sigmund Freud. Freud’s focus remained narrow for most of his career, while Jung’s interests and sources of information became ever more varied. I was unfamiliar with Jung’s incorporation of mythology and Eastern philosophy into psychotherapy, but it made sense when considering his theory of the collective unconscious and its resident archetypes. One component of this may seem standard to many contemporary readers: the interpretation of dreams as expressions of our unconscious.
There is a lot of information to absorb about Carl Jung and his theories interspersed between Micah’s autobiographical escapades. Even if you are new to Jungian thought, don’t despair! Micah explains the concepts well, often relying on teaching examples originally given him by his parents. His bravery when discussing some of the less attractive concepts, such as the Oedipus complex, is commendable. I was particularly impressed with Micah’s candor when describing “process work” – exercises used to act out and sort out issues in one’s unconscious. I don’t want to spoil those parts for the reader – they were both amusing and enlightening, particularly when conducted in the park!
In the end, Micah’s memoir acts as a vehicle for his individuation – the final break from his parents by creating his own system of seeing the world. It is a highly satisfying read and an excellent means of introduction to Carl Jung.
Caitlin is a fiction writer who also dabbles in poetry, creative nonfiction and acrylic painting. When not reading, she enjoys hiking, cooking and spending time with friends and pets. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Portland and currently resides in Oregon.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by W. W. Norton & Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.