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  • Thursday, September 28, 2023 11:00 AM | Anonymous


    I had a strange dream when I was beginning my training to become an analyst in 1996 at the C.G. Jung Institute in Küsnacht, Switzerland. In the dream, I was met by Carl Gustav Jung personally; he wanted to show me his house. 

    This was not his private residence, which is now the C.G. Jung House Museum at Seestrasse 228, but the house where the Institute is located at Hornweg 28. The Institute just celebrated its 75th year as a much-treasured institution, sought out by professionals from around the world to train to become analysts. This lovely quote from Jung captures what the work entails, from the beginning. 

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    Photo: Courtesy of the Alumni Association

    In the dream, he showed me around and finally led me into his bedroom, where the bed was turned upside down; underneath it, there were three kittens, a bit hidden from view. 

    When leaving, he told me that the plant growing on the front entrance, leading up the staircase, was called bleeding heart. 

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    That flower was familiar to me, as my mother wanted it to be planted on the grave of my brother, who had died from a too-late diagnosed appendicitis when he was still a baby and she was three months pregnant with me. 

    I was born into grief, which lasted for her whole life and which some professionals might call “frozen” grief. As a newborn, I was bedded in the same pram and probably wore some of the same baby clothes that had been his. Feelings of loss and grief also affected me for nearly my whole life, but thankfully I became conscious of this experience of being born as a replacement child during my studies at the Institute and, in a very intensive ways, during my clinical work over the past 25 years. 

    The term replacement child was introduced by Albert and Barbara Cain in 1964, three years after Jung’s death, in their sentinel article, “On Replacing a Child.” (see Parents who have lost a child know that the pain of the loss never goes away. But if they do not grieve it, their next child can become a replacement child, a condition that can affect this child and all their children throughout their lives.

    Today, we know that cells from previous lost pregnancies remain in the mother’s bloodstream and womb. So, in a sense, Jung was born on a “bed of death,” like many famous replacement children, such as the biblical Seth (born after Abel was slain by Cain), Ludwig van Beethoven, Maria Callas, Salvador Dali, Goethe, Hesse Rilke, Shakespeare, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vincent van Gogh, and many others whose creative expressions can be seen as response to the destructive influences they had felt hovering over their coming into existence. They had to look deep for the reason for their existence. The replacement-child condition is an existential condition. It entails an a priori experience of death and life.

    I did not know at the time of my dream that Jung, too, was a replacement child. It was not mentioned in his writings that his parents had mourned the deaths of three babies, two still-born girls and a boy (Paul named for Jung’s father,) who lived for only five days! This information was first published in Deidre Bair’s Jung: A Biography and confirmed to me later by Jung’s grandson Andreas. But in Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections(MDR), where Jung writes about his early years, we find many references to his being born into a family of grief, of ghosts and phantoms, and of his early efforts to externalise the images of death, which were imprinted on his soul. 

    The central part of Jung’s work is the individuation process, during which the archetypal Self inspires the search for who one truly is or can be, for unlocking one’s potential. Jung’s search took him to explore the unconscious in unparalleled fashion and is documented in hisCollected Works, his autobiography, and in The Red Book. He called the individuation process the sum of wrong turns and detours in one’s life and described it as an often- winding, sometimes-tortuous path. 

    The individuation process in an Adult Replacement Child takes awareness, recognition and compassion, or ARC: Awareness that one is a replacement child; Recognition that this may have consequences, notably for identity, self-esteem, grief, and feelings of guilt and for the kind of relationships one has later in life; and Compassion for the suffering the parents and the replacement child went through. 

    individuation process is a life-long dialogue with contents in our unconscious; in the unconscious of the replacement child, this may take the form of the presence of an absence, of a ghost, of a longing, of loneliness, which ultimately can lead the replacement child to discover its soul – like Jung did – as the inner lover, as a guide, ever-present and inspiring. 

    The individuation process allows us to discover who we truly are, the unique individual we can be, rather than a replacement for a missing sibling or another beloved, dead member of the family. For this, we can dialogue with our inner images, be attentive to inner-outer synchronicities, and try to understand through symbols, and even through our symptoms, any kind of “information” from the unconscious. We can care for our soul, or be Minding the Self as Murray Stein wrote, by valuing our dreams, by listening to our inner voices, and by trying to discern where they come from, that is, from the various levels of our unconscious: the personal, the family, the cultural, and the collective. In my hypothesis, the fact that Jung was a replacement child inspired his search. 

    Jung wrote in his autobiography, MDR, that the theme of facing death – in life – was the foundation underlying his work. And this is where I see the personal, as well as transgenerational and societal, relevance of why we should care to grieve. A replacement child is born into or designated into the replacing role to avoid grief. “Look forward” or “make another one” is advice often given by family members, or counsellors, or even medical professionals. It speaks to the powerlessness and utter despair of parents and grandparents who lose a child.

    But replacing the loss of one child with another child can end up transferring the loss and the grief. Not every child born after a loss or every surviving child is necessarily a replacement, but it is worthwhile to examine if such conscious or unconscious fantasies of replacing were existing as Ghosts in the Nursery, as Fraiberg wrote. 

    Even if a replacement child is a “golden child” and a reason to “go on living,” its life is linkedto death, and grief may end up embedded deep in its soul. It may rise to consciousness with the question of survivor’s guilt (Why do I live and not the other?) and the question of identity (Who am I really? Would I exist if it were not for the death of the other?). 

    These deep existential questions, when grappled with, can inspire a replacement child to do much soul-searching and creative work. But if they stay unconscious, they are likely to be passed on to the next generation, equally unconsciously! 

    Jung’s life was dedicated to consciousness, to making what is unconscious conscious. He has inspired millions of people to live a meaningful life, to search for meaning. There is meaning in the replacement child condition: it invites one to behold the archetypal energies of life and death consciously and to look death into the eye, thereby opening a space deep in one’s soul where we get a glimpse of what may lie beyond, of how beyond life and death there is another level, an inkling of transcendence. This is what happens when we “hold the opposites,” and in this case, the opposites are no less than life and death. “Our birth is a death,” Jung wrote at the age of 74 in a letter to the widow of a friend, “and our death is a birth.” I think that is what I learned at the C. G. Jung Institute.

    Come join me for a workshop on Transgenerational Trauma on Saturday, October 21st. Register here:

    I will also give a presentation on-line, together with Zack Eleftheriadou, on Oct. 7, 2023 on this topic. Here is the link:

    Kristina Schellinski is a supervisor and a teaching analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zürich-Küsnacht, Switzerland, a member of the IAAP, and has a clinical practice near Geneva. She is the author of Individuation for Adult Replacement Children, Ways of Coming into Being and the co-founder of . She has published many articles in professional journals on topics such as transgenerational transmission of trauma, the psyche-soma connection in transference phenomena, and Covid-19.  She is also engaged in international supervision and teaching.  

  • Thursday, September 14, 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    One pathway to deepening our assessment of the value of the work of C. G. Jung is to explore how his thought developed in the context of the world around him.  In academic circles, this type of study would belong to the field of intellectual history, though Jung’s work does not easily fit even into this category, given the centrality of non-rational, unconscious processes that he investigated through image, affect, and intuition, as well as the history of ideas.  The overall goal here is not to simply recite his achievements, but to extend the methods he used into our own contemporary views.  Where might some aspects of his approach lead in the 21st century? 

    In this short essay, I will look at the concept of the “psychoid” and suggest ways to modify and expand on Jung’s conceptions of this rather uncharted realm.  While exposed to the concept early in his career (see Ann Addison, Jung’s Psychoid Concept Contextualised, for a detailed study of Jung’s use of the term psychoid), he did not deploy the notion into his theory of archetypes until 1946 in an Eranos lecture, which later became his essay “On the Nature of the Psyche,” which can be found in his Collected Works 8.  There he states:

    Just as the "psychic infra-red," the biological instinctual psyche, gradually passes over into the physiology of the organism and thus merges with its chemical and physical conditions, so the "psychic ultra-violet," the archetype, describes a field which exhibits none of the peculiarities of the physiological and yet, in the last analysis, can no longer be regarded as psychic, although it manifests itself psychically. But physiological processes behave in the same way, without on that account being declared psychic. Although there is no form of existence that is not mediated to us psychically and only psychically, it would hardly do to say that everything is merely psychic. We must apply this argument logically to the archetypes as well. Since their essential being is unconscious to us, and still they are experienced as spontaneous agencies, there is probably no alternative now but to describe their nature, in accordance with their chiefest effect, as "spirit" …. If so, the position of the archetype would be located beyond the psychic sphere, analogous to the position of physiological instinct, which is immediately rooted in the stuff of the organism and, with its psychoid nature, forms the bridge to matter in general.… Matter and spirit both appear in the psychic realm as distinctive qualities of conscious contents. The ultimate nature of both is transcendental, that is, irrepresentable, since the psyche and its contents are the only reality which is given to us without a medium. (par. 480)

    In essence, the psychoid realm is taken as residing outside the possibility of awareness in either its material or its spiritual aspects. In his final version of the archetypal realm, Jung now referred to “the psychoid archetype” to indicate the cosmological significance of archetypes with their extension into matter and spirit.  This reformulation and expansion of the archetypal concept was in part necessitated by his articulation of the synchronicity hypothesis, which involved a constellated archetype with an objective, as well as a subjective, dimension to account for the phenomena.

    By delving into the nature of synchronistic experiences, aided by the developments in complexity theory since the 1980s, a revision of Jung’s model has become possible.  Our understanding of synchronistic phenomena can be augmented by the study of emergent phenomena in complex adaptive systems. These allow for spontaneous self-organization under the right circumstances.  The emergent forms that appear as a result are known to be non-reducible and holistic, i.e., they are more than the sum of their parts and cannot be explained in terms of the properties of the agents involved.

    When exploring art works that in the fullness of time reveal understandings of the world not available during the era the works were produced, we can come to appreciate a synchronistic element at play but operating more at the cultural than individual level.  I have argued that the intuitive leaps made in the class of art works in question implicate a psychoidal aspect in numerous instances and have suggested they point to a “psychoid imagination.”  This aspect of the imagination accesses and allows expression of what can be later verified as a true and deep insight into nature.  For example, some of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings, such as “The Starry Night,” reveal turbulence in a manner recognizable by physicists who acknowledge they have yet to fully describe the phenomenon captured in the painting.  Thus, we might say that the psychoid imagination also has a noetic quality.   In Varieties of Religious Experience, William James defined this quality as "states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority.”

    Ironically, Jung himself unknowingly displayed this capacity at times in his own artwork.  He contracted “Spanish Flu” in 1919, and in his illustrations of a series of fever dreams he had as he was recovering, he captured some essential features of the form of the virus, which was not known at the time. By exploring this aspect of the imagination for insightful representations of the “objective” world, we can envision a further valuable application of analytical psychology able to help us articulate, engage, and apply the true imagination for transformational work of persons, cultures, and even nature.  

    Joseph Cambray, Ph.D., is the Past President and CEO of Pacifica Graduate Institute and Past President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology.  He has served as the U.S. Editor for The Journal of Analytical Psychology and is on various editorial boards. He was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, and former President of the C.G. Jung Institute of Boston. Dr. Cambray is a Jungian analyst, now living in the Santa Barbara area of California. His many publications include the book based on his Fay Lectures: Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe; a recent volume edited with Leslie Sawin, Research in Analytical Psychology,  Volume 1: Applications from Scientific, Historical, and (Cross)-Cultural Research; and an earlier volume with Linda Carter, Analytical Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives in Jungian Psychology. He has published numerous book chapters and papers in a range of international journals.

  • Friday, June 09, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Somewhere in this peculiar journey we call our life we all will find ourselves needing to make very difficult decisions. Quite apart from our expectations, plans, hopes, and will, we arrive at junctures where no matter what we do there is a considerable price to pay. As I reflected on what to write for this blog, I determined to allow chance, or synchronicity, or the gods who operate in such matters to dictate the subject matter and the approach. And so I pulled two volumes at random from the Collected Works of Jung which, not surprisingly, are at my elbow. I turned to the back jackets and looked at quotes I had noted in earlier readings, some going back as far as the seventies in Zürich when I studied at the Jung Institute. And here are the two which emerged for me, and, seemingly, dictated the content and direction of this blog.

    First, from Volume 14, Mysterium Coninuctionis, on the possibility of finding the right path for ourselves.  

    We are often gripped by fear, by the comforting powers of the old adaptations whose chief virtues were anxiety management and protection, or, alternatively, the path ahead is blocked by familiar apprehensions about stepping into the unknown on our own. No wonder we tend to abide the familiar, stultifying as it may be. Yet something within us always knows, always protests, always begins to withdraw approval and support and we ratify our old inner divisions. Ego consciousness, tasked with making it all work, labors to satisfy the Anxiety Party clamoring in the back benches of the inner Parliament for surcease, for return to the old order. The insurgent Soul Party agitates for growth, renewal, risk, and enlargement, and the Honorable Ego Prime Minister is beset with the impossible task of keeping these belligerents happy. No wonder this shaky Government is overthrown each night by troubling dreams filled with brigands and guerillas stirring revolt in the provinces. No wonder so many resign this struggle for personal authority and consign their value choices to tradition, to external leaders, to others, thinking it easier to get along by going along. And if only those internal brigands and guerillas would cooperate it would all work out. But every night, in the sugar cane brakes, they agitate anew, and the insurrection within bubbles.

    So, how can we find our way, make the right choices? Sometimes we just can’t, and we have to live in the midst of the very uncomfortable for a very long time, until something unexpected appears from within. As Jung writes, “you can only feel yourself on the right road when the conflicts of duty seem to have resolved themselves, and you have become the victim of a decision made over your head or in defiance of the heart. From this we can see the numinous power of the Self, which can hardly be experienced in any other way. For this reason, the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.”  (CW 14, para. 778).

    In other words, the ultimate decisions of our lives are made by some higher agency than the ego, however important ego consciousness is in the governance of daily life. When ego consciousness can accord itself with the will of the Self, there is a profound sense of the rightness, the peace, the accord which comes from a moment of wholeness when we are at one with ourselves, and not this split, divided, warring assemblage of fractious parties.

    The second citation which leapt out at me is from Psychology and Alchemy, wherein Jung writes that sometimes one simply has to be “alone if [one] is to find out what it is that supports [us] when [we] no longer can support ourselves. Only this experience can give [us] an indestructible foundation.”  (CW 12, para. 32.)

    Both of these citations did in fact leap out at me because I had underlined them, and I had underlined them many years before because they had leapt out at me in the first place. Both of these ideas speak urgently to the Western phantasy of ego sovereignty in which we have all deeply invested, myself included, namely, the phantasy of conscious management of our lives. Such consciousness has brought us many gifts, many rewards, and larger lives, to be sure; it has also brought us considerable internal division, self-alienation, no little inflation, hubris, narcissism, and self-delusion. Both of the volumes I pulled off the shelf are among Jung’s most arcane, but both speak directly to the pathology of the Western mind and its one-sidedness.   

    Jung challenges us to consider that within each of us is a center which is wiser than our knowledge, deeper than our learning, older than our chronology, and more durable than our calcified convictions. From time to time, life humbles us, calls us to account, leads us back to the drawing board, and asks us to start over.  Isn’t it nice to think there might also be some resources available there to help us when we think we are bereft, when we have exhausted our conscious tools, when we have lost our way?

    In 1939, when he addressed the Guild for Pastoral Psychology in London Jung noted that we all need to re-member what our ancestors knew, that if we wait upon the silence, it speaks, and wait upon the darkness, it illumines. Ours is a frenetic epoch. We are ego driven, time-bound, impatient. The idea of waiting, listening, attending is inimical to the tenor of our time. This is why we are so lost, and adrift, so distracted, and so much at the mercy of any folly of the moment.  The timeless part of ourselves is the only compass which may be found in this troubled hour. Poet Emily Dickinson intuited this in the 1860s when she wrote, “The sailor cannot see the North, but knows the needle can.” She knew she had a compass. She knew a compass would be needed for the night sea journey of the modernist voyage. Jung knew we have a compass, and he provided tools to consult, to interpret, to trust, to embody that compass in this world. When the day arrives in the life of any of us that we can remember this invitation, then the encounter with the Self will not be defeat but resource, not overthrow but transformation.

    Dr. James Hollis, Ph.D., is a Jungian analyst and the author of 18 books, the latest of which is Living Between Worlds: Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.

    Dr. Hollis was born in Springfield, Illinois, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Manchester University in 1962 and with a doctorate from Drew University in 1967.  He taught Humanities for 26 years in various colleges and universities before retraining as a Jungian analyst at the Jung Institute of Zurich, Switzerland (1977–82). He served as Executive Director of the Jung Educational Center in Houston, Texas, for many years, was Executive Director of the Jung Society of Washington until 2019, and now serves on their Board of Directors.

    He is a retired Senior Training Analyst for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, was first Director of Training of the Philadelphia Jung Institute, and is Vice President Emeritus of the Philemon Foundation.  Additionally, he is a Professor of Jungian Studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston.

    He lives near Washington, D.C., with his wife, Jill, an artist and retired therapist. Together they have three living children and eight grandchildren.

    His books have been translated into Swedish, Russian, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian, Korean, Finnish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Farsi, Japanese, Greek, Chinese, Serbian, and Czech.

    Well respected and beloved by those who know him, have studied with him, and have read his books, Dr. Hollis has been generous in sharing his wisdom through the years.

    We get through hard times by going through them, as all those before us learned along the same road.  Why should we think our path should be easier than theirs?

    James Hollis, Living Between Worlds   

  • Tuesday, May 30, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    Jungian arts-based research (JABR) restores the centrality of creativity to research, is Dionysian in dis-membering and re-membering old forms of knowing and being, and brings art making, knowledge making, and individuation into a transformational temenos for the single artist or a collaborative group.

    On the one hand, JABR is new, building on arts-based research devised in the 1990s in academia, to provide an archetypal, synchronistic, and cosmological frame. On the other hand, it brings back ancient lore in providing the language of scholarship for what artists instinctively know. For the arts and the sciences were not always divided. Rather, before the hegemony of the subject/object split perspective on reality, the arts and sciences were mutually sustaining. JABR restores arts and artists to knowers and prophets. In the terms of Jungian clinical work, Jungian arts-based research is doing therapy with the world. 

    Jungian arts-based research is not art therapy. Though they may employ similar methods, the aims, ethics, and philosophical bases of art therapy and JABR are different. Art therapy is first and foremost therapy; it is bound by rules and ethics of fostering the patient’s well-being and is founded on the basis that creative activity unblocks the injured mind, allowing healing energies to emerge. Art therapy aims for patient benefit; it has no interest in art as art. No aesthetic criteria concern art therapy. By contrast, JABR creates a work of art that can go into the world and join the existing history of its genre, even if that is to radically critique it. Whereas art therapy is rooted in a belief that psyche is primary and artistic practice a revelation of it, JABR uses art itself as an ontology, or basis, for being and knowing. 

    I offer JABR as a four-stage operation:  one, consideration of it as a new research paradigm; two, preparation with psyche, form, and genre; three, process by inviting spontaneity and the unknown; and four, projection and reflection using the completed artwork. This artwork works; it assumes a place in society independent of the artist. JABR art takes on the valence of Jung’s autonomous psychic image and materializes it. Such art travels through centuries, speaks to different cultures, and generates multiple meanings, fixing none. 

    Step 1: Paradigm

    We begin with paradigm, a story a culture tells to generate knowledge and to guarantee it as valid. Western modernity is dominated by the scientific paradigm consisting of repeatable experiments. This paradigm separates the researcher from the research. It posits a model of reality of stable material objects that conform to unchanging abstract principles, such as the laws of nature. The Western scientific paradigm is hegemonic and colonial in its desire to swallow up the other.  

    By contrast JABR overcomes the subject/object split because the artist is always involved. Yet the artist does not own the meaning of the art. Rather, the art becomes an autonomous entity. It is alive because the energies of its making provoke energies every time it is viewed. In other words, it is an engine making meanings across time and across culture. This is the new paradigm. 

    JABR is a new paradigm for scholarly knowledge-making because it combines the artist’s access to the collective unconscious with the lasting autonomy of an artwork that works as a vehicle of materialized psyche. It can transform audiences in different cultures and eras. The JABR artwork can even cross continents and engage indigenous cultures, for, like archetypes, what we call “art” exists in every human group. In addition, JABR can be done in any mode of art, including performance, which brings us to the next stage.

    Stage 2: Preparation

    Before the artist begins, she requires a topic. What can be researched using JABR ranges from something as intimate as the dynamics of one’s psyche, the creative process itself, or conversely some large, external, and collective project, such as the unconsciousness around our possessing weapons of mass destruction. 

    Importantly, three types of preparation before beginning the art will focus the artmaking as knowledge making. In the first place, there are opportunities provided by formal study of the existing scholarly literature. For Ph.D. students, this means the typical literature review. Yet there is more. The JABR artist should also explore the archetypes embedded in the art form, genre, and practice. Given that art is a vehicle for human expression, it is axiomatic that archetypes, those innate patterning energies for images and meaning, are fostered in creativity. For example, in my JABR with lightly comic mystery novels, I find archetypal intensities in different types of heroism.

    The third preparation is a recommendation for bodily immersion. This could involve research via travel, engagement with people and places, rituals, and somatic practices. 

    Stage 3: Process

    Not all artists work with the collective unconscious, although arguably the unknown psyche can never be excluded. JABR invites participation by those energies beyond consciousness. To some, this would be achieved by incorporating Jungian practices, such as active imagination and amplification. Inevitably it calls for openness to, and recognition of, synchronicities. From my own practice, I can testify to characters killed off in my story who bounce back demanding to be heard, together with the unexpected arrival of a mythic figure heralding a pattern I had not seen. JABR process means welcoming spontaneity as a partner in generating meaning.  

    Stage 4: Projectio

    When the artwork tells the artist that it is finished, there is then opportunity to collect, reflect upon, and gather meaning for the world in something like an alchemical projection. One fine scholar of ABR, James Haywood Rolling, Jr. proposes four types of such research as follows: analytic or thinking in materials; synthetic or synthesizing cultural discourses to make new understandings; critical activist or making art that participates in social groups to positive effect; and improvisatory or letting the art practice go where it wants to go (Rolling 2013). 

    And so…

    JABR belongs to the world. My articulation of it merely offers words for what depth-oriented artists do and what has been advocated by pioneers such as Sean McNiff in books such as Art-Based Research (1998). My book, Jungian Arts-Based Research and the Nuclear Enchantment of New Mexico with Joel Weishaus, makes explicit what his does not and emphasizes that “art” does not have mean only visual art. Check out my JABR mystery novels,  The Sacred Well Murders and The Alchemy Fire Murder,  for examples. 


    Susan Rowland is an author of books on Jung, the feminine, and the arts. She teaches on the hybrid programs at Pacifica Graduate Institute, California. After her recent theorizing on Jungian Arts-Based Research, she now explores feminine heroism, trauma, and the climate emergency through writing the Mary Wandwalker mystery series. The Sacred Well Murders (2022) is followed by The Alchemy Fire Murder in 2023, linking alchemy, America, and wildfires.


  • Thursday, March 23, 2023 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    The hero is king in our individualistic culture. Campbell popularized it. We all may need to be the hero at some point in our lives. But what about the heroine in all of us? Like the feminine in general, the heroine has been relegated to the cultural shadow, and it’s time she made her appearance again in our culture and our lives.

    To move forward and save our planet and our humanity, we must find a new way. The warrior archetype is one sided; patriarchal control is non-inclusive and destructive; greed and narcissism abound.

    Borrowing from the Iroquois, the heroine’s journey gives us a new perspective on how to challenge power and create democracy. Ghandi accessed it and brought it to the world stage. Martin Luther King and the women’s movement harnessed it here in the US. The heroine teaches us how to confront negative patriarchy and weave a social fabric that includes and listens to all.

    On a personal level, in order to become whole, we must find a healthy relationship to the feminine. The heroine’s journey shows us the path of initiation into the power of the Dark Feminine. This aspect must be redeemed to individuate, whether you are a man or woman. Indigenous cultures know this feminine way. It is an inner journey into the unconscious, as Jung illustrates in the Red Book. He followed his soul. In it is a different orientation to our body, our everyday life, and our relationships.

    The heroine’s journey will be given voice in my presentation on the Heroine’s journey in men and women. We will speak of it through history, neuroscience, fairytale, and myth. Come and begin your heroine’s journey with us.

    Erica Lorentz, M.Ed, LPC, Jungian Analyst (IAAP) is a training analyst at the C. G. Jung Institute of Boston where she has served on the Training Board. She has been an adjunct faculty at Antioch New England Graduate School of Professional Psychology, a training analyst with the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analysts, and she has been featured on Pacifica Radio. One of Erica’s areas of expertise is working with the body in analysis. At the Ghost Ranch Jung conferences in New Mexico (1988-1991), she led Jungian Movement workshops for candidates and analysts. In 2014, she presented at the Creativity and Madness conference in Santa Fe, NM. Since 1986, she has lectured and taught workshops in the US and Canada. Presently, she is the president of the Jung Association of Western Massachusetts and has a private practice in Amherst, MA.


  • Friday, March 17, 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    The back is that part of the body which is invisible to oneself; keeping the back still symbolizes making the self still. The lower trigram indicates this keeping still of the back, so that one is no longer aware of one’s body, that is, of one’s personality

    Hexagram 52: “Keeping Still, Mountain,” I ChingVol. II, (Richard Wilhelm, trans.)


    When the flint strikes steel in the moment of conception, a spark of life, whether fertilized in utero or in vitro, worms its way into an ovum, and a journey of metamorphosis begins. In the process, an embryo develops and finds the way to its refuge in the amniotic fluid, floating and dreaming in the warmth of the womb. The alchemical metabolic journey of the personality has begun. The quality of air in every breath the mother takes affects the oxygenated blood that flows through the umbilical cord’s single central vein to the fetus. In response, the two arteries in the cord carry carbon dioxide and waste out.  

    Every stress and joy that the mother experiences in the outer world is transmitted through the rhythm of her heart, pulsing throughout her shared body. The metabolic qualities of each mouthful of her food influence the early process of accelerated fetal brain development, known as exuberant synaptogenesis. The mother goddess is conditioning the body’s personality to prepare a unique being to be born into the world. Keeping these dynamics in mind, we could use them to model daily self-care for our own precious body.

    The child’s awakening at birth is charged with duality from the first cry of chaotic emotions that interrupt the experience of oneness in the womb. This trauma triggers the fight-or-flight response from the sympathetic nervous system. The initial stress at birth is displaced as the archetypal instinct to search for nourishment is awakened. If mother is available and able after birth, the initial flow of her colostrum, the almost narcotic “liquid gold,” dense in nutrients and antibodies, soothes the infant. The golden shadow of paradisal oneness is projected within the union of mother and child. This elixir shifts the infant to the emotionally healing, digestion and procreation supporting, immune enhancing, parasympathetic nervous system. These first alternations of compensatory dualities -- psychic and somatic, diastolic and systolic, dark and golden shadow projections -- are the beginning of the hero’s bio-alchemical object-relations odyssey.

    Like a snail in a shell, we are fused with the body’s sympathetic nervous system. This initiates us into a kind of physiological “Eleusinian Mystery,” that helps regulate our rite of passage through the cycle of life and death. Jung explains, “if you could put yourself into your sympathetic nervous system, you would know what sympathy is – you would understand why the nervous system is called sympathetic. You would then feel that you were in everything; you would not feel yourself as an isolated being, would not experience the world and life as your own private experience – as we most certainly do because we are conscious persons. In the sympathetic nervous system, you would experience, not as a person but as [hu]mankind, or even belonging to the animal kingdom; you would experience nothing in particular, but the whole phenomena of life as if it were one” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 1, p. 751).

    Once we have lost the refuge of the womb, our dawning awareness within the prima materia may direct us to a sacred marriage within our earthly existence. In order to attain this goal, we will have to integrate the intergenerational transmissions from the karmic legacy of our ancestors: our genetics, epigenetics, a self-destructive culture, and a toxic overheated environment. Jung speaks to this challenge, “At all events, you are a collection of ancestral spirits, and the psychological problem is how to find yourself in that crowd. Somewhere you are also a spirit – somewhere you have the secret of your own pattern,” the quinta essentia of the self. The revelation of that secret may lead us to find refuge in what the alchemists called the “heaven in ourselves” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 2, p. 1401).

    One of Jung’s solutions for finding refuge from the burden of stress on his sympathetic nervous system was to build a small stone fortress. Without electricity or running water, cutting his own wood to build a fire, he could step out of the way of the juggernaut of modern technology and collective contagion to find stillness in the primitive comforts of Bollingen. There he could safely commune with his own crowd of ancestral spirits. 

    If only Jung had a chance to live long enough to have a dialogue with the chatbot ChatGPT after he received the results from 23andMe Holding Co. about his personal ancestral genomics. Somehow, I doubt he would be very surprised by these developments of artificial intelligence and biotechnology. These contemporary “advances” in quick gratification can be pretty scary for many of us, as they develop faster than our comprehension and, as Jung puts it, without “a corresponding development of morality.” It makes sense for us to create our own equivalent Bollingen, to create a sanctuary, for even a day, away from the distractions and incessant spam intrusions from the devices that are trying to create our identity in their image. 

    Unhealthy eating, with its negative metabolic consequences, now surpasses smoking (only 23% of the world’s population still smoke cigarettes) as the leading cause of avoidable death (or dying longer) in our world of abundance. The internet, pharmaceuticals, and sugar- and carb-spiked food products are often designed for consumption with the built-in intention that the more that consumers use them and remain unconscious of how self-destructive they are, the greater the profit for the manufacturer. Unfortunately, wellbeing is not addictive, as so many self-destructive behaviors and substances are. Jung warns: “Those people who are completely identical with consciousness are often so unaware of the body that the head walks away with them, so they lose control of the body and anything can happen to it: the whole system becomes upset. The brain should be in harmony with the lower nervous system; our consciousness should be in practically the same tune or rhythm. Otherwise, I am quite convinced that under particularly unfavorable conditions one can be killed” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 1, p. 750).

    Fortunately, realizations about these sources of suffering and death have motivated the development of research in such fields as nutrition, neuroscience, biotechnology, and detoxification. This has produced significant innovations in healing, preventative healthcare, and extending longevity that are now one of the benefits we might extract from this information age.

    The opportunistic pathogenic nature of disease is unkind and penetrates to where we are most vulnerable or unaware. Shadow projections, formed in our object relations encounters, trigger us with a similar dynamic. As we remain ignorant of the signs of triggering and the seeds of illness, toxic substances, infections, and psychic contagion can accumulate in the body. These stresses can activate the immune function that is essential for sustaining life in such a hostile environment. The placement of an antigenic substance, an “inoculum,” into the body will boost immunity to a specific disease. This process is analogous to the alchemical principle of conscious meeting unconscious, creating the prima materia, that enables the integration of the shadow. The strength of our bio-psycho-social immunity is interdependent with the quality of sleep, nourishment, and exercise we give to ourselves. All of these interactions of psyche, matter, and movement occur through the transfer of energy mediated through what the alchemists call the subtle body. 

    If we can take on this sacred task to get to know our subtle metabolic alchemy, it could save us a lot of pain. Through this process we can discover a revelatory model for transmuting the biochemistry of the body’s personality. We can develop a kind of telepathic connection to the inner self. This relationship can empower us to attain the highest degree of conjunction, the prima materia (what Jung calls “the unknown substance that carries the projection of the autonomous psychic content”) that must be extracted from the sacred bath.” Jung says of this procedure: “In the unconscious are hidden those ‘sparks of light’ (scintillae), the archetypes, from which a higher meaning can be extracted. The magnet that attracts the hidden thing is the Self” (C.G. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par. 700). 

    If we can become mindfully aware of the fight or flight nature of our sympathetic system, we can turn the reverberating effects of trauma into hormetic stress (intentional, non-chronic, beneficial stress) to create a healing crisis. Then we can build our psychic and bodily immune response to these repeated destructive patterns and eventually dissolve these imprints so that we can occupy our body’s refuge safely and thrive. Paradoxically, to do this, we often need to go “out of body,” through our subtle energy, into a world that can transcend time and space. Here, we may be challenged in an encounter with our own mortality in processes more easily identified with shamanism or the occult.  

    Promoting these non-ordinary states changes the neurobiological environment so that psychic perception is enhanced and synchronistic occurrences can be experienced in ways that references our individuation needs. This way we can integrate the patterns of ancestral object-relations trauma imprinted in the sympathetic system down to the cellular level.  This process may help us recognize that much of our reactivity to what seem to be external triggers and patterns are actually self-generated from the holographic inner narrative that fuels our mythical identity. 

    This realization, in turn, extends the orbit of our psychic awareness. Jung points out: “But you see, this collective unconscious, in spite of its being everywhere, or in spite of its universal awareness, is located in the body; the sympathetic nervous system of the body is an organ by which you have the possibility of such awareness; therefore you can say the collective unconscious is in the lower centers of the brain and the spinal cord and sympathetic system” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 1, p. 751). 

    With practice, we can develop our interoception, a synthesis of internally directed senses that creates perceivable biofeedback from the neuropsychic functions of the body. This experience can help us intentionally moderate our sympathetic/parasympathetic cycle through sensory awareness of our back and spinal cord. We can intentionally deepen our stillness, quieting the personality and freeing us from fear and agitation. This heightened inner awareness, paradoxically, leads to the revelation that our sympathetic system extends past our skin and bone boundaries, past the increase of infrared radiation from a flush of shame that can be detected miles away by a thermal scope. Our presence is conveyed beyond the archetypes and space-time into unconditioned, unbounded spaciousness of being.

    Timothy Lyons, LCSW, is a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist in private practice for individuals, couples, and families in Capitol Hill, DC and Takoma Park, MD. For over 25 years, Tim has applied the holistic mind-energy-body connection and the healing power of creativity, imagination, and dreams to his practice as well as to his teaching of depth psychology. He has a certificate for post graduate studies from the Philadelphia Jung Institute and is a frequent presenter at the Jung Society of Washington. His post-graduate studies also include infant observation and art therapy. Tim’s work is further influenced by studies in Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga philosophies, having completed teacher training in Trul Khor (Tibetan yoga). His earlier career as architect and editor includes writing for the Washington Post and lecturing at the Smithsonian Institution.

    Check out Tim's upcoming programs at

  • Saturday, February 25, 2023 11:00 AM | Anonymous


    Who can wait quietly, while the mud settles?

    Who can remain still until the moment of action?

    Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Verse 15, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English 


    One of the great concerns of the religious and spiritual traditions of the world is in learning to see clearly. Blindness must become sight; ignorance must become understanding. There is widespread agreement across the traditions that we do not see things as they are and that this is a condition that needs to be rectified.
    A common image used to illustrate this state of unconsciousness in which we generally go about our lives is that of mud.  For instance, we read in the Buddhist text The Dhammapada that the person who has achieved liberation through “right understanding” is “like a lake without mud” (The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdal). A similar idea is expressed in the Jewish tradition — this time from the other angle — in a statement from the prophet Isaiah: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud” Isiah 57:20. And it is the same kind of understanding that prompts the crucial question in the quote from the Tao Te Ching that heads up this post: “Who can wait quietly, while the mud settles?”
    The operations of the alchemical opus are often divided into four stages: nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, and rubedo. The nigredo is the initial state, the “muddy” conditions that prevail at the beginning of the opus. The first great work of the whole process, which is a kind of “cleaning up” of this state, is the work of the albedo stage. In many ways, this is the heart and soul of the entire opus and involves, we are told, the greatest efforts on the part of the alchemist. In Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology, Marie-Louise von Franz describes it this way:
    In the alchemical literature it is generally said that the great effort and trouble continues from the nigredo to the albedo; that is said to be the hard part, and afterwards everything becomes easier. The nigredo — the blackness, the terrible depression and state of dissolution — has to be compensated by the hard work of the alchemist and that hard work consists, among other things, in constant washing.
    The need for the “washing of the mud” is portrayed in an episode from the Christian scriptures in which Jesus heals a man who has been blind from birth. One of the things that is interesting about this particular episode is that it is more involved than many of Jesus’ other healings. He doesn’t just speak a word or put his hands on the man. He makes a whole procedure out of it. First, he makes some preliminary preparations of his own, and then he requires some effort on the part of the blind man. “[Jesus] spat on the ground,” we read, “and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see” John 9:6-7.
    The parallels in this story with the alchemical process are remarkable. When Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud to put on the man’s eyes, it is reminiscent of that part of the opus in which the alchemist seeks to find or produce the prima materia — that fundamental, underlying substance from which the goal of the work, the Philosophers’ Stone, can be produced. The mud that Jesus makes, of course, is an echo of the “first matter” — the dust of the ground — from which God created human beings. And, as I have already suggested, the direction to the blind man to “wash in the pool of Siloam” mirrors the work of the albedo, of which “constant washing” is an important component.
    It is not just the act of washing, however, that does the trick. The decisive factor seems to be the water in which one washes. Jesus sends the blind man to a particular pool — the pool of Siloam. Not just any body of water will do. Likewise in alchemy. Matter is to be washed in the aqua divina, the divine water, which already contains some qualities of the Philosophers’ Stone. This water, Jung writes, can be compared to the waters of baptism:
    Altogether, the divine water possessed the power of transformation. It transformed the nigredo into the albedo through the miraculous ‘washing’ (ablutio); it animated inert matter, made the dead to rise again, and therefore possessed the virtue of the baptismal water in the ecclesiastical rite.

                               - C.G. Jung, Alchemical Studies, CW 13, par. 89

    How can we understand this “divine water” psychologically? What is it, in our own experience, that possesses this life-giving power? In the images we looked at earlier, mud is often the result of a lack of stillness:

    Who can wait quietly, while the mud settles?

    Who can remain still until the moment of action?

    In his commentary on this verse of the Tao Te Ching, the philosopher Wang Pi states, “By means of intuitive understanding, the dark becomes bright. By means of tranquility, the murky becomes clear” (Lao-tzu’s Taoteching, translated by Red Pine). This corresponds exactly to the work of the albedo, which is, as von Franz notes in Alchemy, “the first stage of becoming quieter and more detached and objective, more philosophically detached.”

    Stillness, quiet, tranquility, and reflection, then, are the waters in which the prima materia of our own unconsciousness is washed. At the same time, they are the result of our washing. “One must start with a bit of the Philosophers’ Stone,” explains Edward Edinger in Anatomy of the Psyche, “if one is to find it.”

    Alchemy, it turns out, was in part a contemplative practice. The need for concentration and meditation is frequently emphasized in alchemical writings. (C.G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12). The symbol for this was the “well-sealed vessel,” which was at one and the same time the container in which the work was performed and an image of the alchemist’s own inner life — the mind and the soul. The substance in need of transformation had to be held within the vessel and not allowed to leak out in any way.

    We should not doubt that stillness and reflection are hard work. They involve more than just a state of not being busy or of doing nothing. They are, writes Evelyn Underhill in Mysticism, “the last and most arduous labours which the human spirit is called to perform.” One aspect of stillness, psychologically speaking, has to do the long and difficult work of learning to recognize and withdraw our projections.

    The stage of the albedo, as I’ve noted, was considered the hardest part of the opus. That is why its ultimate achievement was often greeted as if it were the culmination of the whole work. With it one gains a fundamental ground within oneself, which sets the stage for all that may follow. As Marie-Louise von Franz puts it in Alchemy:

    The albedo is characterized by something wonderful, for, the alchemists say, from now on one has simply to feed the fire, keep it going, but the hard part of the work is done.


    Note: This post is adapted, with minor changes, from previously published material. The original post can be found at

    Photo of Jason SmithJason E. Smith is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA. He is the creator and host of the podcast Digital Jung and the author of Religious but Not Religious: Living a Symbolic Life (Chiron Publications). Jason is a past president of the C.G. Jung Institute of Boston (now of New England) and serves as a training analyst and faculty member for the New England Institute.

  • Tuesday, January 24, 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    For those who pay attention, psyche’s agenda is endless. Presently, I see several men and women who are between 65 and 80 and I have noted some interesting phenomena. Those who handle the aches, the losses of the older years are those who have lived the richest, most risk-taking lives. Those who have not, are more often caught up in fear, regret, remorse, and a vague dread. It is not enough to say they dread dying; rather, they more profoundly dread not having lived first.

    Another phenomenon I have observed is even most interesting. So many of the dreams of these persons review their journey, bringing different stages, different people associated with each stage, sometimes even different geographies together in the same dream. Why might our psyche do that? Invariably, it brings up old associations, forgotten places, times, people…. Since we know that our psyche is this meaning-making, meaning requiring organ, and I suspect that the reason for this stirring of our histories is for more than addressing unfinished business, though it may also include that. I think this is how our psyche sorts and sifts, and helps us begin to identify the threads that run through our narratives, perhaps help us make more and more sense of what engines have been driving our lives.

    Perhaps to illustrate such an exploration, let me turn to that poet of the depths, Rilke, as he recalls images from his childhood, and allows their widening circles to amplify and stir a trans-personal awareness of our common condition. He employs a metonymy, the game of “ball” to conjure up those past hours, linking us to the greater mystery in which they, and we, all swim.

    The poem is from his Sonnets to Orpheus series, and is my translation:

    Oh you few, you playmates of long ago,

    Amid the scattered gardens of the past,

    How we circled, shyly approached each other,

    Communicating without words.

    Joy was our common ground, but how joy

    Fled before all the gathering forces

    In the anxious years to follow.

    Strange coaches clattered around us,

    Houses loomed, large, phantasmal,

    And no one knew our names.

    What was real in all that?

    Nothing…only the balls, their glorious curves,

    Not even the children…for, alas, sometimes one of them…

    O Ephemeral, would step beneath the falling ball.

    What comes up for you, when you reflect on those days? Where are those playmates? Who were they?  Where are they? They are still alive in our psyches even though we have not seen them in decades, or even thought directly of them.

    What images rise from those days for you? Those images serve as metonymies, whereby a particular image intimates a larger, often unapproachable, inexpressible experience or atmosphere.

    What persists for you from those days, what “stories,” what fragmental narratives do you carry still, like splinters beneath the flesh which wish to work their way through to the surface? As a character in a Faulkner novel put it, “the past isn’t dead; it’s not even past.” How is that past activated in, and influencing, our present lives?

    (Personally I have learned, and I am not always happy about this, many of the generative energies within me, the complexes, the wounds, the avoidances, keep showing up when I think I have left them far behind. This shows me the staying power of some of those energy clusters, and how, for good or ill, they operate autonomously).

    Since nothing that we have ever experienced has wholly left us, what do these shards of history make us do, even today, or keep us from doing?   If we wish to understand ourselves, even gain a greater measure of freedom, then we have to bring these “stories” into greater conscious life. How can we ever choose freely if we don’t know all the players on our inner field?

    As we sort through these shards of experience the psyche keeps throwing up charged images into our dreams, our impulsive choices, and repetitive behaviors. There is more than enough work here, sorting through this mélange of images, this debris-strewn history, to keep us busy for the rest of our journeys.  Again, this is not in service to nostalgia, or a desire for an earlier time; it is essential to figuring out now what continues to create our history, a history in which we are often unconscious, unwitting partners.

    Sign up for Dr. Hollis' poetry course, Quartet: Reflections on Life, Death, and the Troubles In-Between starting Tuesday, February 1st! 


    James Hollis, Ph.D. was born in Springfield, Illinois, graduated from Manchester University in 1962 and Drew University in 1967.  He taught Humanities 26 years in various colleges and universities before retraining as a Jungian analyst at the Jung Institute of Zurich, Switzerland (1977-82). 

    He is presently a licensed Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. He served as Executive Director of the Jung Educational Center in Houston, Texas for many years and now is Executive Director of the Washington Jung Society. He is a retired Senior Training Analyst for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, was first Director of Training of the Philadelphia Jung Institute, and is Vice-President Emeritus of the Philemon Foundation.

    He lives with his wife Jill, an artist and retired therapist, in Washington, DC.  Together they have three living children and eight grand-children. 

    He has written a total of fifteen books and over fifty articles. The books have been translated into 20 languages

    You can find a list of his books HERE  

  • Wednesday, December 07, 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

     “Trauma isn’t stored as history. It is stored as myth.” – Nathan Schwartz-Salant

    If fairy tales could choose us, Caperucita Roja chose me. Early in my childhood, I glimpsed myself in this Cuban version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” thanks to the clever ingenuity of my older siblings who sat me down in front of their makeshift radio to listen to a special “story hour.” The dramatic storytellers’ voices coming through the box seemed eerily familiar to me, but to a 4-year-old, the narrative was riveting. My siblings never attempted to explain the fairy tale; they simply told the story. But their Caperucita had an uncanny likeness to me, same hair, same dress, same mannerisms.  This description allowed me to draw my own inferences and hang my own projections upon the protagonist of the story. It was not until much later that I realized they had narrated the fairy tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” while stealthily attributing distinctive characteristics of my personality and appearance to the heroine – making me and her one in my young mind. 

    A year later, I was boarded onto a plane to the United States—an unaccompanied 5-year-old coming to America as a Cuban refugee. It was my Caperucita Roja doll that I clung to at the Jose Marti Aeropuerto in Habana on that frightful day. Sadly, my doll did not make it through the required military inspection, during which she was dismembered to ensure I was not smuggling valuables in her body cavity. It has taken me many years to acknowledge that, I, too, was experiencing a kind of psychological dismemberment from the rupture of family and cultural belonging and from all that I knew my world to be. Years later when I heard Carl Jung speak on exile in the documentary, Matter of Heart, my intuition was confirmed:

    Man is not born every day; he is once born, in a specific historical setting with specific historical qualities and therefore he is only complete when he has a relation to these things.... Having no connection with the past is a mutilation of the human being. 

    I understood Jung’s words to mean that to be exiled is to be psychologically dismembered, that the severance from emotional belonging, secure identity, and ancestral rootedness is a psychic wounding that perniciously persists in those who are forcibly expelled from their homelands. The words of philosopher Theodor Adorno corroborate this saying, “Every intellectual in emigration is, without exception, mutilated . . .  always astray . . . in an irreconcilable breach.” As with my decapitated Caperucita doll, parts of myself felt left behind in my native Cuba as I boarded the plane to America. And parts of myself felt lost in transit. 


    Origins of Caperucita Roja

    Although most interpretations of “Little Red Riding Hood” (LRRH) reference the Grimm Brothers’ 1812 version, scholars attribute the original narrative to Charles Perrault, noting that he wrote it to entertain the French court of King Louis XIV. It is believed the Grimm Brothers “cleaned up” Perrault’s 1697 version to make it more palatable to the general public by removing cannibalistic and sexual allusions and adding a happy ending. There are a variety of verbal and written forms of LRRH found worldwide, ranging from the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Spain, and Africa to Latin America. 

    Ultimately, since all fairy tales originated in oral form, any written version claiming originality is somewhat suspect. It all seems in keeping with the mystifying quality of the fairy tale genre: original authorship is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Fairy tales are wonderfully pliable to interpretation; they resonate with diverse cultures throughout multiple centuries. This is reflected by its time-dismissing, enduring opening words, “Once upon a time,” which suggest anytime, anywhere, applicable to any people. As Marie-Louise von Franz argued in The Interpretation of Fairy Tales (1996, p.1), fairy tales “represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest, and most concise form.” They depict symbols and motifs of universal or collective human experiences, such as suggested in this blog, the individuation of the exile. 

    In many myths and fairytales, the hero or heroine in the story is typically thrust into a forest or an unknown, foreign land. There, the protagonist is threatened to be swallowed up by hardships - sometimes arriving inside the belly of a whale, like Jonah in the Bible, or dismembered like Osiris of Egyptian mythology, and must find a way of escape. Allegorically, these myths and stories illustrate the development of consciousness as a heroic adventure. The ego (as the protagonist) must struggle with unconscious forces (the big, bad wolf, a monster, or a whale) and differentiate from the maternal fusion (grandmother, Mother[land], Great Mother) in order to proceed to individuation (wholeness, synthesis of the self).

    In the Cuban version of the fairytale, Caperucita leaves her mother and sets out on a journey alone to take provisions to her feeble Abuelita (grandmother) in a distant village. Covered in a red-hooded capa that her grandmother had made her, Caperucita enters el bosque oscuro (the dark forest) and encounters el lobo malo (the big, bad wolf) who deceives her into giving up the location of her grandmother’s cottage. When she gets to Abuelita’s house, Caperucitafinds the wolf disguised as her Grandmother and must grapple with the discrepancies: “Abuelita, ¡qué ojos más grandes tienes! (What big eyes . . . what long nose . . . what big ears you have). She eventually recognizes that it is not her true Grandmother, her trueancestral heritage and the legacy to which she belongs. The Wolf swallows both Abuelita and Caperucita, but unlike other versions of the tale, which introduce a huntsman rescuer, my Cuban version credits the young heroine as the one who outsmarts the cunning wolf: the child fights her way out of Wolf’s belly, redeems Grandmother, and refills his belly with rocks, disabling his control over her.

    Archetypal Symbols in the Fairy Tale

    The Dark Forest

    Many folk tales originated and were set in the dark forests of Europe. These were areas thick with woodlands that obscured the infiltration of sunlight. Hence, they represented the edge of civilization because they were impenetrablewild, uncultivated, and out of the control of human or conscious effort. Travelers easily lost their way traversing through these liminal spaces and were confronted with dangerous predators, like hungry wolves or bears, that laid in wait in pursuit of their next meal. In addition, magical beings like dwarves, fairies, or witches were said to have made their homes in the forests, provoking the transformations of those lost or exiled from the human world. Therefore, the dark forest has long been considered a symbol of the unknown and the unconscious, a space where the conscious human world is separated from the world of archetypal figures. 

    In this fairy tale, Caperucita is thrust into a solitary journey through a dark forest to confront devouring adversaries, traversing a place of testing and initiation where something must die for something new to be born. It is there that Caperucita emerges older and wiser to face her wolves, within and without. Similarly, the exile must relinquish that which has been familiar and familial in order to acculturate into a new country and find new life.

    The Divine Child

    The figure of the child in fairy tales and other mythopoetic narratives usually represents the archetypal image of the Divine Child, symbolizing potentiality and futurity (CW 9/1 par.278). This archetypal force makes way for future transformation and life possibilities, often in the face of apparent impossibilities. The initiation of the lone child into the forbidding forest, with the clear threat of extinction, portrays the invincible quality of the archetypal Child who manages to push onto self-realization against all odds. We see that, through the deadlocked struggle between what has been and what is yet unknown (the future that wants to manifest), individuation advances, ultimately producing an irrational third. Caperucita, as the nascent Child, must leave Mother, step into the forest of unknown, and outsmart the wolf in order to step into new life and wholeness. It stands to reason that Jung linked the Divine Child archetype to the Self, as both exemplify the impulse towards potential development, invincibility, and individuation.


    The Mother-Grandmother

    At the beginning of the fairy tale, Caperucita, her mother, and her grandmother are in the foreground of the story with no masculine figures present. We see that the tale is set in the context of the maternal or feminine archetype. The setting and opening characters purport much Eros (the feminine principle) and little Logos. When the masculine appears in the form of a male wolf, it suggests an animal-like instinctual unconscious nature, perhaps cloaked underneath Caperucita’s very own red hood! As the tale unfolds, we see the display of traditional feminine virtues, such as trusting innocence and unselfish connectedness, displaced and eventually integrated by masculine values like power, discernment, logic, and independence. Fate thrusts the innocent girl into exile, and it becomes her arena of transformation as the feminine-masculine energies are assimilated in her individuating psyche. 

    It is the mother-grandmother figures that induct this young initiate into her destiny and full potential. The description of Caperucita’s grandmother as sick and weak, needing cake and wine to strengthen her, suggests a vulnerability or weakening of the family heritage, the birthright that ancestral grandmother imparts onto her lineage. Like Caperucita, the exile’s challenge is to redeem the wounded sense of ancestral roots that have been swallowed up and annulled by the devouring forces of the exile complex.

    The Big Bad Wolf

    The politically displaced person who flees to a foreign country for asylum will confront dark forces in the unknown forest. The threats are not just external. More pervasively are the internal complexes that take residence in the psyche: despair, outsiderness, loneliness, and the feeling of being utterly unprotected are just a few of the painful disturbances that often plague the exile long after the displacement occurred. As with our heroine in the story, an exile’s violent rupture from Mother(land) and assault by devouring forces (complexes) can be felt as a rape of one’s true identity.

    Along with the mythological image of Kronos (the king of the Titans who devoured his children for fear of being overthrown), I associate the Wolf with Fidel Castro whose failed communist experiment separated thousands of Cuban children (14,000-plus Pedro Pans) from family and home, devouring their sense of familial and cultural belonging. I find it ironic that Castro’s death has been attributed to diverticulitis, as I imagine that swallowing up a whole generation of Cuban children would do that to one’s gut. 


    Summary: Seeing Through the Fairy Tales

    My personal reading of the fairy tale, Caperucita Roja, corresponds to the initiation of an exile into a new country. Like the protagonist, the exile leaves the security of mother and home and struggles toward newfound awareness or what Jung called individuation. According to Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment), “Myths and fairy stories both answer the eternal questions: What is the world really like? How am I to live my life in it?... By recalling how the hero of many a fairy tale succeeded in life,...the child believes he may work the same magic” (p. 50).  As in the fairy tale, the exile is tasked with leaving the safe containment of the Mother(land) to face the regressive forces of the dark unknown forest (the unconscious). It is by wrestling within the belly of the Wolf (the exile trauma and complex that threatens to swallow up the exilethat Caperucita is reborn into new life. Following the mythic pattern of the hero’s journey, Caperucita (as well as the exile) is pressed into individuation, where she must integrate conflicting forces that threaten to split and devour her wholeness. Similarly, the exile must rescue the vulnerable self from the grasp of the devouring complex and bring the disparate cultural states into synthesis, redeeming her enfeebled and supplanted ancestral heritage (personified by Grandmother).

    The archetypal motifs of death/re-birth and endings/new beginnings are prevalent in this fairy tale. Caperucita Roja reminds us that separation from the “containing Mother” (e.g., the archetypal Great Mother, or Mother-land) and being thrust into unknown forests of frightening containment can serve to initiate our growth, rebirth, and individuation. By identifying with Caperucita and her triumph over the Wolf, I believed I could also work the same victory in my turbulent young years. It was through the power of this symbolic story, imbued with archetypal energies, that my traumatized young self was able to imagine a way through. Jung stated it this way: “Without the cooperation of the unconscious, the conscious personality would be too weak to wrench itself free of its infantile past and venture into a strange world with all its unforeseen possibilities” (CW 5, par. 463). In this manner, the fairy tale of Caperucita Roja became a living symbol, forever conflated with my early development and exile experience fleeing Cuba.

    In this writing, I have talked about the dynamics of exile through the fairy tale of Caperucita Roja as mirrored by my own political displacement. However, this psychological distress, which I am calling the exile complex, is not limited to political banishment. In my consulting room, I observe this emotional distress in many who have never been expelled from their country and yet suffer a deep-seated sense of outsiderness and estrangement from others and from place. Existential alienation and estrangement can ensue from a general mismatch with family, the death of a loved one, the loss of a home, or the dissolution of a marriage or business. There is also the debilitating childhood wound of early insecure parental attachment or birth trauma that often leaves the individual with implicit feelings of not belonging or even deserving of life. In addition, running throughout Jung’s theories and ideas is the individuation proposition of assimilating disenfranchised or shadowed aspects of the personality, those parts of the self which have been exiled from consciousness. I submit that exile is an archetypal aspect of the human experience and that perhaps we’re not really meant to fully belong in this world but are called to suffer the tension of both home and exile simultaneously.

    Lourdes Hernandez was marked by the traumas of war and political asylum when her family fled Cuba to take refuge in the United States. She holds post-graduate degrees from Pacifica Graduate Institute and Regis University in hermeneutics, counseling, and Jungian and Archetypal Studies. After a period of study in Zurich, Lourdes returned stateside to complete her analytic training with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and has a bilingual private practice in Boulder, Colorado. Lourdes is a lifelong musician and visual artist who values the curative power of the symbolic psyche and its restorative interventions. You can learn more about her at

  • Tuesday, November 08, 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    Individuation, embodying one’s full essence, is not a solo endeavor even though it is an innately driven process of psychological differentiation from the collective. The process is inseparable from embodied moments of conuinctio with people in your life and the union of opposites within your psyche. Relationships, particularly intimate couple relationships, are an alchemical vas for encountering the unknown within yourself. As you adapt to living with the differences in your partner, your vital energies (innate essence) take shape in daily activities. As the specifics of your nature interface with the “other”—someone separate from you, your psyches naturally intertwine. This conuinctio offers an opportunity to live into your wholeness by embracing aspects of psyche that arise only in intimate relationship; or you can remain one-sided with an ego ideal that is identified with collective expectations or defended against your personal history (personal unconscious). 

    You open to the gift of Self by seeing your primary relationship as a transformative vessel where your partner mirrors unknown aspects of you. Your commitment to the “other” is bonded by unconsciously activated energies in psyche that want to be connected to your ego consciousness. This means you encounter yourself in every interaction with your partner as psyche filters the experience through your complexes. Strong, out-of-proportion affects, activated by non-harmonious exchanges, are the doorway to knowing yourself more deeply. 

    C. G. Jung writes, “The unrelated human being lacks wholeness, for he can achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in ‘You’.”  (CW 16, par. 454) The reality of psyche as a phenomenal world coexists with the reality of the external “other” world where people are who they are, not our projections or images. Individuation demands conscious differentiation of your inner imagoes and the outer partner as an individual in their own right. 

    Imagoes carry both desirable and undesirable feeling tones. The desirable traits and affects are projected in the romantic love phase of relationship. Sooner or later, these are destroyed by reality that forces you to see beyond the one-sided idealized images. As the positive illusions die, there is often the projection of negative states of the imago onto the partner. Projection is an unconscious mechanism that transfers powerful, unmediated archetypal/instinctive energy that evokes certain ways of being and acting from the other. Unknowingly, a projected complex pulls your partner to act in sync with the projection. To be whole and to have healthy relationships, you must be willingly to see and claim the unintegrated bit of your psyche instead of exporting it.

    By addressing the projection of the internal imago onto your partner, you can differentiate internal factors that shape your experience from the external realities that trigger the perceptions. This necessitates withdrawing projections through consciousness of your complexes. This increased consciousness brings a clearer perception of your partner and a more focused use of the previously split off or projected psychic energy. You become more whole in the process of owning the projected energies or shadow. 

    Owning your projection can be difficult as there is always a hook for the unconscious material. An example: Sally has a harsh and critical father complex, so she unconsciously attracted a partner who is harsh and critical. The partner is an easy projection screen as they mirror her inner father/partner. Exporting the negative, she is left with an accommodating sweetness that lacks healthy aggression and fuels blaming the outer partner for feelings of inadequacy and failure. This keeps her psychologically stuck, thwarting her individuation, as she does not consciously address the inner aggressor to claim her autonomy and initiative for life. 

    Over time, Sally let go of blaming her partner and began dialoguing with her inner critical father/partner. She now listens deeply to connect with the seed of the Self that is cloaked by the negative father complex. Through this conscious relating, she connects with the vital energy of her larger Self that holds the needed opposite to balance the negative. When this happens, she experiences an inner coniunctio that results in inner and outer boundaries rooted in healthy self-respect and self-responsibility. She becomes more whole by standing with herself internally and with her outer partner.

    Jung writes,

    Wholeness is a combination of I and You, and these show themselves to be parts of a transcendent unity…. I do not of course, mean the synthesis of two individuals, but the conscious union of the ego with everything that has been projected into the ‘You.’ Hence wholeness is the product of an intrapsychic process which depends essentially on the relation of one individual to another. (CW 16, par. 454)

    The relationships to yourself, the Self, and another individual are the heart of individuation. Couples relationships are a particularly fertile ground for individuating as your most deeply rooted, personal needs and vulnerabilities are experienced. Your willingness to engage the intertwining worlds of inner and outer relationships simultaneously is the key for fully embodying your essence. Relationships are essential to individuation.


    Kathleen Wiley is a Jungian Psychoanalyst, LCMHC, and LMFT in Davidson, NC. Her work empowers individuals to fully embody their essence through conscious relationship to the Self and other. She is an articulate and engaging speaker who moves her listeners into their depths. She leads an online community with self-paced courses focused on embodiment practices and processes rooted in Jungian psychology and alchemical symbolism. Learn more at and 

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"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." – C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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