Carl Jung, another drug-free recovery from psychosis

Below are two excerpts from an article about Carl Jung’s The Red Book. I have this book on my shelf. When it arrived in the mail I took it in my hands and flipped the pages (it’s HUGE) and looked at the art and I wept. It’s like holding history and a museum piece and it’s like holding the soul of a great man, all three. I’ve not been able to read it as I’m too ill but it waits for me…I will read it one day.

This review of the book on psychology today by Dr. Stephen Diamond agrees with my own musings that people would have considered Jung psychotic at certain points. The joyful part is that he healed himself. DRUG FREE. Like so many of us do everyday even while psychiatry claims it’s impossible.

The recently published and impressive-looking Red Book (2009) tells the personal story of psychiatrist C.G. Jung’s insidious descent into what many believe to have been madness, and his eventual triumphant return to the world a transformed man. This alchemical process took almost twenty years, starting shortly after the acrimonious split from Sigmund Freud and the Freudians when Jung was in his late thirties. This loss catalyzed what Jung would come to call a massive “mid-life crisis,” in which much of his libidinal energies were withdrawn from the outer world and redirected inwardly to his inner life. Prior to this unwelcome journey into the hellish depths, Jung had, as he recalls, accomplished everything he had ever set out to do in the world and had all that he ever wanted: professional success, fame, marriage, children, wealth, prestige, etc. But he unexpectedly came to a critical juncture in his life that forced him to recognize that this was not enough. Some vital part of him had been denied. That in achieving these ego-centered outer accomplishments and material acquisitions in life’s first half, he somehow lost touch with his soul. The Red Book is a very personal record of Jung’s complicated, tortuous and lengthy quest to salvage his soul, and a first-hand description of a process that would later fundamentally inform Jung’s unique approach to psychotherapy he called Analytical Psychology. As Jung (1957) put his life’s work in retrospect, “everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”

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It seems probable to me that Jung did experience some so-called psychotic symptoms during these dark days, including hallucinations. But having said that, there is nothing pejorative intended. Indeed, to me, denying the depth of Jung’s despair and severe psychic disturbance tends to undercut the power and importance of his monumental achievement: Rather than being defeated by it as are most, Jung stared psychosis in the face, unflinchingly confronted and explored what he found there, and ultimately came out the other side stronger, wiser, and more whole. What he discovered were manifestations of both his personal and collective unconscious. In this sense, he demonstrated by personal example that the enigmatic phenomenon we call “psychosis” is often about being completely inundated or possessed by the personal and archetypal unconscious rather than caused by a genetically predisposed biochemical imbalance or “broken brain,” that it has psychological and spiritual significance, meaning and purpose, and that it can potentially be psychotherapeutically treated with the proper skills, commitment and knowledge. C.G. Jung’s Red Book begins as a detailed log of one man’s personal, lonely nekyia or night sea journey to the underworld and ends with his heroic return to the outer world renewed, much like a latter day Dante, Jonah or Ulysses. This, as he came to understand, is an excellent description of what real psychotherapy is or can be all about. (read the rest)

The emphasis is mine and thank you Dr. Stephen Diamond for stating that which many of us know but that which psychiatry denies. When we are medicated into oblivion the above journey cannot be made. And given we have so little support it’s a wonder any of us make it these days. But we do. Look here for a variety of such recovery stories. Many more people would make it if they were given a safe place and the chance to heal.

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Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters