Does legitimate in Carl's quote:

Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.

mean due suffering ?

  • 3
    Given that this particular sentence of Jung's has been debated very heavily, I suggest this isn't an English Language Learner question, and belongs at Psychology psychology.stackexchange.com
    – jonathanjo
    May 14 '19 at 12:53
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ColleenV
    May 14 '19 at 17:13

Jung was not a native English speaker, so even though his English was very good we have to consider that, for him, the word "legitimate" might have had subtleties and shades of meaning that would not be found in a dictionary. Jung might have been thinking of a German word and used "legitimate" as the closest English equivalent.

We also have to consider the use of this word in the light of Jung's overall philosophy. I'm not familiar enough with Jungian psychology to do this, but you can try over on the Psychology SE if you want a more authoritative interpretation.

Moreover, we have to read the quote in context to really understand the nuance of what Jung is trying to say:

Freud discovered that repression is one of the main mechanisms in the making of a neurosis. Suppression amounts to a conscious moral choice, but repression is a rather immoral “penchant” for getting rid of disagreeable decisions. Suppression may cause worry, conflict and suffering, but it never causes a neurosis. Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.

The Collected Works of C.G. Jung: Volume 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East (par 129)

It seems this quote is a paraphrase of Freud, and may or may not be Jung's own point of view. Nevertheless it does sound as if Jung is using "legitimate" in the common definition of "justifiable" or "valid". If that is the case, then this quote can be paraphrased as:

Neuroses is always a false suffering used to (immorally) repress real suffering.


Here, legitimate is the opposite of "pretending to", "fake".

In other words, the sentence could be read as:

People can choose to suffer, or to develop neurosis.

Of course, the "choose" is done at an unconscious level. I assume nobody will willingly choose to become "crazy".

  • 6
    The meaning is certainly debatable, but I'd read it as "useful suffering". An article about this statement says "In the end, their neurosis becomes a poor substitute for the noble suffering it takes to become a person of real character." counsellingresource.com/features/2010/08/03/…
    – jonathanjo
    May 14 '19 at 12:17
  • I know that it is difficult to explain what things are - when talking about psychology and stuff. That is why I chose to explain using an antonym, rather than a synonym.
    – virolino
    May 14 '19 at 12:21
  • @Andrew: closer to the opposite of "avoidance of" is the reason of neurosis, but not the meaning of "legitimate". Your sample sentence overlaps 100% with my thinking. Some people suffer when a sick tooth aches (legitimate suffering), but some other people only claim to suffer for some reason (e.g. I will cry if you do not take me to Bahamas) - this fake suffering is not under discussion in our context.
    – virolino
    May 14 '19 at 13:06
  • @virolino Actually I deleted my comment after reading the quote in context. It seems that Jung may have been saying exactly what it sounds like -- that neuroses is a kind of "false suffering".
    – Andrew
    May 14 '19 at 13:08
  • @Andrew: neuroses is a kind of "false suffering" - I agree with your interpretation..
    – virolino
    May 14 '19 at 13:09

As is referring to suppression and a contraposition of it, legitimate is about recognition and validation. In this way, neurosis is developed as a masked real suffering.

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