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This Jungian Life

Aug 19, 2021

We seem hard-wired to split the world into polarities: right/wrong, either/or, victory/defeat, Democrat/Republican. Infants and toddlers have not yet achieved the developmental capacity for complexity; they are believed to split their feelings toward caretakers into “good” and “bad,” depending on whether their needs are being met in the moment.

Although it distorts reality, splitting reduces anxiety by locating the problem “out there,” allowing us to reject what we find aversive and affirm our own virtue, self-worth, and blamelessness. The capacity for ambivalence—the ability to hold opposite feelings—requires more differentiated cognitive skills and emotional range. Can we bear anxiety in the face of what seems intolerable without retreating to the fortress of one-sided (usually righteous) certainty? Doing so can increase capacity for objectivity, self-reflection, and ability to bridge the split. 


“I was in a room full of people, not sure where or with who, but I suppose they were all friends of mine. I was walking past the couches of people, and I stumbled upon this table. Underneath the table was a head of a person who looked a lot like Sigmund Freud. I approached the sort of “floating head” and said, “you look a lot like Sigmund Freud.” He was smiling at me greatly, and he said, “that’s because I am.” Then his head disappeared like a ghost disappearing into a wall. I jumped back, gasped, and looked around the room to see if anyone saw what I just witnessed. No one had, they all were busy talking, and so I just stared at the spot where his head was trying to make sense of what I saw.” 


Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry Eleventh Edition by Benjamin J. Sadock

 Love, Guilt and Reparation. By Melanie Klein


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