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This Jungian Life

Dec 16, 2021

Jung understood libido as psychic energy: desire, will, interest, and passion. Libido includes instincts for fulfilling bodily appetites and engaging developmental tasks. Although energy infuses all human activity, it is not a function of ego alone; for many, a worthy goal has lacked the libido to achieve it. Feelings and actions can veer into symptoms, such as neurosis or addiction. Low libido is often a form of depression, and libido that is too high can be mania. Most often, a problem with libido is experienced as “stuckness,” the stasis produced from conflict between our natural, instinctual selves and familial and cultural expectations--internalized “shoulds.” We can face fear and engage desire, for acknowledging the truth of where attraction lies creates pathways along which life energy can flow. Psychotherapy could be considered a quest for each person’s authentic psychic energy. The innate direction of libido, the enlivening wellspring of the soul, is in service to individuation.

Here’s the dream we analyzed:

“I am walking around a garden, praying. I’m not sure whether I’m praying to God or to the earth or the trees, but I’m expressing gratitude for the beauty around me. There are two huge beech trees next to each other at the end of the garden. The knotted and gnarled trunks make each look like a laughing face - two friendly giants. I look up at the canopy high above - they almost seem to fill the sky with leaves. Then I notice that one tree is rocking in the wind, and there is a crack at the base of the trunk that opens and closes as it does so. I am concerned that the tree will fall. Behind the trees in the neighboring garden is a large, modern house which looks rather austere and forbidding. I wonder if I should warn the people in the house about the tree. Now two men in dark blue boiler suits arrive to examine the trees. Each reaches out a hand toward a tree, but before they can touch them, both trees fall over with a crash. I am sure the house will be smashed, but instead, the trees fall neatly onto two flatbed trucks which happen to be waiting. The men examine the trees and shake their heads. The trunks were hollow, and it’s clear they were not attached to the roots at all. The trucks drive off. The garden is left looking empty and forlorn.”


Murray Stein. Jung’s Map of the Soul,


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