Carl Jung and Deep Work

In the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, near the northern banks of Lake Zurich, is a village named Bollingen. In 1922, the psychiatrist Carl Jung chose this spot to being building a retreat. He began with a basic two-story stone house he called the Tower. After returning from a trip to India, where he observed the practice of adding meditation rooms to homes, he expanded the complex to include a private office. “In my retiring room I am by myself,” Jung said of the space. “I keep the key with me all the time; no one else is allowed in there except with my permission.”

In his book Daily Rituals, journalist Mason Currey sorted through various sources on Jung to re-create the psychiatrist’s work habits at the Tower. Jung would rise at seven a.m., Currey reports, and after a big breakfast he would spend two hours of undistracted writing time in his private office. His afternoons would often consist of meditation or long walks in the surrounding countryside. There was no electricity at the Tower, so as day gave way to night, light came from oil lamps and heat from the fireplace. Jung would retire to bed by ten p.m. “The feeling of repose and renewal that I had in this tower was intense from the start,” he said.

Though it’s tempting to think of Bollingen Tower as a vacation home, if we put it into the context of Jung’s career at this point it’s clear that the lakeside retreat was not built as an escape from work. In 1922, when Jung bought the property, he could not afford to take a vacation. Only one year earlier, in 1921, he had published Psychological Types, a seminal book that solidified many differences that had been long developing between Jung’s thinking and the ideas of his onetime friend and mentor, Sigmund Freud. To disagree with Freud in the 1920s was a bold move. To back up his book, Jung needed to stay sharp and produce a stream of smart articles and books further supporting and establishing analytical psychology, the eventual name for his new school of thought.

Jung’s lectures and counseling practice kept him busy in Zurich – this is clear. But he wasn’t satisfied with busyness alone. He wanted to change the way we understood the unconscious and this goal required deeper, more careful thought than he could manage amid his hectic city lifestyle. Jung retreated to Bollingen, not to escape his professional life; but instead to advance it.

Curl Jung went on to become one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. There are, of course, many reasons for his eventual success.


The above is an excerpt taken from the fascinating book, Deep Work by Cal Newport (available on Amazon)

1 thought on “Carl Jung and Deep Work

  1. Pingback: Carl Jung and Deep Work | Carl Jung Studies

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