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This Jungian Life

Oct 24, 2019

The question of whether, when, and what psychoactive medications may be helpful is both big and ambiguous. Mental distress has always been strongly influenced by cultural filters and subjective perceptions. Whereas a person might once have sought to placate a god, sufferers today may turn to medical management rather than mining their psychological symptoms for meaning. In his autobiography Jung describes his years of mental turmoil—and that they became “the prima materia for a lifetime’s work”; his Red Book documents his encounters with the unconscious in compelling and artistic detail. There is much evidence of the potential suffering holds for self-awareness and psychological depth – and it is also important to acknowledge that judicious use of today’s medications can relieve unnecessary or pointless suffering. No matter where on the spectrum of severity emotional illness may lie, psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle, and relationships can all play a role in recovery and growth.

“I am walking toward a large concrete structure with an unbelievably fit, handsome and powerful man. He appears to be my friend although I am envious of his physical attributes. We climb into a small passage that leads to a clearing in which undulating hills descend into a body of fast-moving water. I am immediately struck that there is a goal or intention to swim across this water and scale a flat concrete wall which is about 100 feet up, facing us across the body of water. My companion says, “I've got this,” and “I do things like this all the time.” He jumps in the water at the exact moment I become aware of holes in the wall which then begin to fire cannonballs. I rush back to where we began to avoid the cannon barrage, but also (it seems) to “watch” the negotiation of the obstacle. I am now with another man who is soft and slightly overweight. I ask him where the best place to watch this endeavor is and he leads me up a stairwell to a room that contains two old CR TVs. One is large and a smaller one is on top of the larger. The room has a greenish-yellow carpet and it looks very much like the late ’70s or early ’80s. I feel sorry for the man because in that moment I realize this is all he can afford. Next, I am struck with an awareness that the fit man has successfully completed his endeavor – although I did not see it happen. I then become aware that the room adjacent to the one I am in is filled with two groups of women. The first group are sitting at a table conducting what appears to be an executive meeting. The second group are on the floor engaging in a yoga class. My wife is among the women doing yoga and her cousin is among the executives. I suddenly am struck by the realization that I am only wearing a t-shirt and I’m naked from the waist down, and I fear they will discover this.”


Hillman, James. The Myth of Analysis (Amazon).
Whitaker, Robert. Anatomy of an Epidemic (Amazon).
Perry, John. The Far Side of Madness
Lingiardi & McWilliams. Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, Second Edition
Jung, C.G. The Red Book.