Most men would not turn to their mothers for advice about erectile dysfunction, nor would they confront their aggressive impulses by shopping for jeans. But having been raised by two Jungian psychologists, Globe and Mail columnist (and Q&Q contributor) Micah Toub isn’t most men.
Growing Up Jung is as much a primer on Jungian psychology as a lighthearted memoir. Toub devotes each chapter to explaining an aspect of his personal growth through the lens of a particular Jungian concept, and vice versa. It’s a fascinating way to structure a memoir, and for the most part it works. He achieves some distance from the events of his life, while also offering insights into the history and development of Jungian psychology, a subject central to his sense of self.
But there are two problems with this approach. First, it sometimes affords Toub too much distance from his material. By the end of a chapter devoted to his adopted sister, Rochelle, for example, the reader has an excellent understanding of her role in the family according to the theories of Arnold “Arny” Mindell – post-Jungian founder of Process Oriented Psychology and guru to the Toub clan – but virtually no sense of her as a person, or of how Toub actually feels about her.
The second problem is depth, or more precisely, a lack thereof. Growing Up Jung’s split personality means that Toub often truncates anecdotes or psychological explanations just as the reader becomes engrossed with them. More could have been done to explore the relationship he sees between the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Jung’s interest in alchemy, for example, but as things stand, Toub barely has time to point out this relationship.
Growing Up Jung succeeds mostly through Toub’s commitment to asking difficult questions of himself, even if he does crack jokes while doing so. He acknowledges that Jungian psychology can seem “flaky” to outsiders, and at times even to him, and he tackles such criticisms head on, with real openness. Growing Up Jung isn’t aggrieved, sensational, or even celebratory, but rather genuinely curious and searching. It’s a book about process – about Toub understanding his own story through the act of telling it.