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Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks Hardcover – Sep 28 2010
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Quill & Quire
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.
"I hated to see this book end. I loved every person in it, from the wistful dad with his 'fluffy-edged' voice, to Toub's kind and darling mom, his tolerant and loving ex-wife, even that volcanic teenaged sister... Growing Up Jung is a gem.”
— The Washington Post
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I was drawn to Toub's memoir because I wondered how I might have fared growing up in a family where both parents were therapists who actively engaged in psychological explorations. I'm also attracted to the rich stew of Jungian psychology with its emphasis on dreams, myths, symbols, and archetypes.
Toub realizes that his parents were different. He writes about them in his introduction, "Most people did not go off to seminars in the desert and sit cross-legged with a bunch of other people and talk about their spirit guides." Most kids probably didn't analyze their dreams at the dinner table. And how many teenage males have discussed a fear of impotence with their mother and had her lead them in an imaginary exercise where they were encouraged to "become the erection" to gain confidence? Depending on your outlook, growing up in such an environment could sound intriguing, engaging, or even a bit creepy.
I suspect that Toub and perhaps his editors wanted to keep what could have been a heavy subject on the upbeat and readable side. Thus, the book comes across as entertainingly self-deprecating and lighthearted with each chapter broken into short sections. Toub, now 34 and married and divorced, survived his childhood and writes on psychology and other topics from Toronto.
Toub's life has no doubt been deeply influenced by having been raised by therapists as opposed to, say, a couple of bankers or accountants. One of his biggest struggles may have been detaching himself from an emotional dependence on his parents, particularly his mother. He seems to have navigated that successfully and suffered no more or less trauma or angst than most of the rest of us. Indeed, Toub writes, "I'm a Jungian. I possessed Jungian knowledge passed down to me from my parents, and used it to help me through hard times in my life." In many ways he benefited from and was grateful for his rather eccentric upbringing.
Toub's memoir illustrates that most of us face the same challenges growing up, regardless of what kind of family raised us. As we grow older, we learn how to use what we were offered and how to recover from what was damaging or missing. Toub has offered us an engaging example of how he has traveled this path.
This is a well-written and engaging look - honest, witty and stimulating - at these kinds of questions via one young man's struggle to emerge (he and Carl Jung would say "individuate") from a nurturing but uniquely directive family environment. I call it directive not because it specified content preferred by his parents but rather because it specified definitively how one gets the job done. Not "we want you to be a lawyer, or an engineer or a musician", but rather "you'll want to discover your true self, and here's the way to go about it."
The author is a columnist for Toronto's Globe & Mail and a blogger at Psychology Today. He's an insightful writer.
Mainly however, this book was an entertaining, easy to read, humorous autobiography of child growing up with two 'free thinking', yet in some ways 'living in a reality bubble' Jungian therapists for parents. Micah shows well both the benefits and bias of his parent's worldview, with their proclivities towards promoting active imagination and what some may see as 'unicornish' thinking . His parents encouraged Micah to look for & value imaginative perspectives and think 'outside the box' about life circumstances. \
Micah shows a shrewd ability to analyze and be skeptical of some of what seems like far-fetched, magical-thinking aspects of the worldview he is raised in, yet also has wittily demonstrated incorporating aspects of this worldview in his own life in a less dogmatic, more lightly-held, flexible way in his own life.
In the book Micah did go on a bit re. his sexual attraction for his mom and her influence in his life. This recounting was uncomfortable, (as if seeing someone sitting on a toilet with the door open!) Glad to read towards the end of the book how he has matured and began to shift into autonomy and towards individuation.