Jung and Freud are the great names in depth psychology – in the words of Joe Wheelwright, their theories “cover the waterfront” here. Between them, they uncovered the world of the unconscious mind: of powerful drives and innate ways of perceiving reality that creates our personality, and, hopefully, aid our healthy psychological development. Jung identified the personality types that provides a conceptual framework for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (see previous post for detailed description of the types).
Both Jung and Freud looked for an instinctive or innate basis for existence and personality formation. To Freud this basis was sex. To Jung it was the need for spiritual development and wholeness. But they both overlooked an equally important and all-pervasive need. Eating and drinking. There is little discussion of the subject in their correspondence, with Jung suggesting that some mental illnesses may be caused by frustration of what they called the ‘alimentary drive’. But Freud quickly dismissed the suggestion, on the basis that psychological problems related to eating can ‘easily be described by the sexual component of the alimentary drive’. Thereafter they dropped the subject.
If you read their later works, you will only find – in Freud – frequent references to phallic or gynic symbolism in certain foods and eating behaviours, and in Jung – occasional reference to the symbolism of eating and drinking in relation to the meaning of mass, and so on. They both, in other words, insofar as they symbolise sexual or spiritual needs: they largely ignore them as drives in their own right.
The reason is probably – to paraphrase Victor Frankl – that neither Freud nor Jung ever missed a meal in their lives. In Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, which details his experience inside a concentration camp, the author describes how men in extremis – while still retaining a need for spiritual experience – lose the sex drive almost completely, and begin to develop, most of all, overwhelming obsessions with food. They dream about potatoes with butter, not women. This is hardly surprising. We actually (almost all of us) spend far more time eating and drinking than making love or undergoing spiritual experience: we spend something like an hour a day at it, and if we can’t do it for 4 hours or so we begin to experience discomfort. Hunger, therefore, is a drive in it’s own right and our ways of satisfying it represent and symbolise the ‘god’ of full stomachs, who is neither eros nor Christ.
Jerome K. Jerome has written precisely upon the subject of personality as determined by eating and drinking:
How good one feels when one is full – how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented: but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper and more easily obtained.
It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, ‘work’!
After a cup of tea, it says to the brain, ‘Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, deep and tender’….after hot muffins, it says ‘be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field’….Reach not after righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgement. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your hearts, unsought by any effort of your own, and you will be a good citizen. (1, pp 92-93).
This quotation illustrates, of course, how personality may reflect healthy dietary habits. But the reverse is true as well. Dietary habits very often reflect personality. A ‘good meal’ and a ‘healthy diet’ are not the same for an ESTJ and an INFP.
One person’s bacon and eggs symbolises the same inner process, or psychological construct, as another’s fruit yogurt. The following two posts will aim to review in some detail the way that the different typological preferences are reflected in different dietary habits – both the actual foods eaten, and also the techniques of preparation and the preferred social situations for satisfying the hunger drive.