No clear difference between psychopathology of self and psychopathology of world

This short passage is filled with astonishing insights, articulated so beautifully there is something palpable and acute that happens when I read it.

hillmanMy practice tells me I can no longer distinguish clearly between neurosis of self and neurosis of world, psychopathology of self and psychopathology of world. Moreover, it tells me that to place neurosis and psychopathology solely in personal reality is a delusional repression of what is actually, realistically, being experienced.

The whole world is sick….and you can’t put this right by having a good therapeutic dialogue or finding deeper meanings. It’s not about meaning anymore; it’s about survival.

Psychological awareness rises from errors, coincidences, indefiniteness, from the chaos deeper than intelligent control.

In any system, whether a corporation, a family or the inner arrangements of the human psyche, a vigorous “no” to the good of the whole may serve the good of the whole and increase its power even more than a compliant “yes.”

“Well, what can I do about the world? This thing’s bigger than me.” That’s the child archetype talking. “All I can do is go into myself, work on my growth, my development, find good parenting, support groups.” This is a disaster for our political world, for our democracy. Democracy depends on intensely active citizens, not children.

Psychoanalysis needs more dissidents, more even than Laing and the antipsychiatric movement; it needs its own “terrorists of soul” in the sense of a radical seeing through of its fixed investments in profession – its banks and insurance, its law courts, its palaces of bureaucracy – to return soul to the world.

“Today we need heroes of descent, not masters of denial, mentors of maturity who can carry sadness, who give love to aging, who show soul without irony or embarrassment. — James Hillman

To reframe what we’ve generally been told about mental anguish and suffering by the mental illness system is a very important part of healing. Psychiatry makes out that the individual is sick. A much more honest as well as empowering way to view much mental anguish is to see ourselves as part of the web of life. Our despair is telling us something very real and valid. We should listen to it and pay attention and learn. Feeling pain is not a weakness, it is a capacity. We can learn to let it fuel us rather than cripple us. We can learn to be what James Hillman is suggesting above.

More James Hillman on Beyond Meds

Consider welcoming symptoms rather than lamenting and demanding remedies


blue fireThe right reaction to a symptom might be a welcoming rather than laments and demands for remedies, for the symptom is the first herald of an awakening psyche which will not tolerate any more abuse.

More from A Blue Fire, by James Hillman:

One day in Burghölzli, the famous institute in Zurich where the words schizophrenia and complex were born, I watched a woman being interviewed. She sat in a wheelchair because she was elderly and feeble. She said that she was dead for she had lost her heart. The psychiatrist asked her to place her hand over her breast to feel her heart beating: it must still be there if she could feel its beat. “That,” she said, “is not my real heart.” She and the psychiatrist looked at each other. There was nothing more to say. She had lost the loving courageous connection to life—and that is the real heart, not the ticker which can as well pulsate isolated in a glass bottle.

This is a different view of reality from the usual one. It is so radically different that it forms part of the syndrome of insanity. But one can have as much understanding for the woman in her psychotic personalization as for the view of reality of the man attempting to convince her that her heart was indeed still there. Despite the elaborate and moneyed systems of medical research and the advertisements of the health and recreation industries to prove that the real is the physical and that loss of heart and loss of soul are only in the mind, I believe the “primitive” and the woman in the hospital: we can and do lose our souls. I believe with Jung that each of us is “modern man in search of a soul.”

Because symptoms lead to soul, the cure of symptoms may also cure away soul, get rid of just what is beginning to show, at first tortured and crying for help, comfort, and love, but which is the soul in the neurosis trying to make itself heard, trying to impress the stupid and stubborn mind—that impotent mule which insists on going its unchanging obstinate way. The right reaction to a symptom may as well be a welcoming rather than laments and demands for remedies, for the symptom is the first herald of an awakening psyche which will not tolerate any more abuse. Through the symptom the psyche demands attention. Attention means attending to, tending, a certain tender care of, as well as waiting, pausing, listening. It takes a span of time and a tension of patience. Precisely what each symptom needs is time and tender care and attention. Just this same attitude is what the soul needs in order to be felt and heard. So it is often little wonder that it takes a breakdown, an actual illness, for someone to report the most extraordinary experiences of, for instance, a new sense of time, of patience and waiting, and in the language of religious experience, of coming to the center, coming to oneself, letting go and coming home.

The alchemists had an excellent image for the transformation of suffering and symptom into a value of the soul. A goal of the alchemical process was the pearl of great price. The pearl starts off a bit of grit, a neurotic symptom or complaint, a bothersome irritant to one’s secret inside flesh, which no defensive shell can protect oneself from. This is coated over, worked at day in day out, until the grit one day is a pearl; yet it still must be fished up from the depths and pried loose. Then when the grit is redeemed, it is -worn. It must be worn on the warm skin to keep its luster: the redeemed complex which once caused suffering is exposed to public view as a virtue. The esoteric treasure gained through occult work becomes an exoteric splendor. To get rid of the symptom means to get rid of the chance to gain what may one day be of greatest value, even if at first an unbearable irritant, lowly, and disguised. — James Hillman, A Blue Fire

Champion of the psyche and renegade therapist

James Hillman on Archetypal Psychotherapy & the Soulless Society

Revisioning psychotherapy because psychology is afraid of reality! And don’t some of us know this from having been harmed by those who were afraid.

drawing_hillmanTherapy is set up to help the “disturbed.” Sometimes the psyche upsets us in order to allow us to go further…mental health care is thus misguided in that it tries to get rid of distress. We need to instead come to understand why the distress is there and work with it as guide and teacher. 

More posts that feature James Hillman on Beyond Meds:

The whole world is sick….and you can’t put this right by having a good therapeutic dialogue…

hillmanMy practice tells me I can no longer distinguish clearly between neurosis of self and neurosis of world, psychopathology of self and psychopathology of world. Moreover, it tells me that to place neurosis and psychopathology solely in personal reality is a delusional repression of what is actually, realistically, being experienced.

The whole world is sick….and you can’t put this right by having a good therapeutic dialogue or finding deeper meanings. It’s not about meaning anymore; it’s about survival.

Psychological awareness rises from errors, coincidences, indefiniteness, from the chaos deeper than intelligent control.

In any system, whether a corporation, a family or the inner arrangements of the human psyche, a vigorous “no” to the good of the whole may serve the good of the whole and increase its power even more than a compliant “yes.”

“Well, what can I do about the world? This thing’s bigger than me.” That’s the child archetype talking. “All I can do is go into myself, work on my growth, my development, find good parenting, support groups.” This is a disaster for our political world, for our democracy. Democracy depends on intensely active citizens, not children.

Psychoanalysis needs more dissidents, more even than Laing and the antipsychiatric movement; it needs its own “terrorists of soul” in the sense of a radical seeing through of its fixed investments in profession – its banks and insurance, its law courts, its palaces of bureaucracy – to return soul to the world.

“Today we need heroes of descent, not masters of denial, mentors of maturity who can carry sadness, who give love to aging, who show soul without irony or embarrassment. — James Hillman

hat tip to Elements of Self-Destruction

More James Hillman on Beyond Meds

Books by Hillman:

The right reaction to a symptom might be a welcoming rather than laments and demands for remedies

The right reaction to a symptom might be a welcoming rather than laments and demands for remedies, for the symptom is the first herald of an awakening psyche which will not tolerate any more abuse.

More from A Blue Fire, by James Hillman:

bfOne day in Burghölzli, the famous institute in Zurich where the words schizophrenia and complex were born, I watched a woman being interviewed. She sat in a wheelchair because she was elderly and feeble. She said that she was dead for she had lost her heart. The psychiatrist asked her to place her hand over her breast to feel her heart beating: it must still be there if she could feel its beat. “That,” she said, “is not my real heart.” She and the psychiatrist looked at each other. There was nothing more to say. She had lost the loving courageous connection to life—and that is the real heart, not the ticker which can as well pulsate isolated in a glass bottle.

This is a different view of reality from the usual one. It is so radically different that it forms part of the syndrome of insanity. But one can have as much understanding for the woman in her psychotic personalization as for the view of reality of the man attempting to convince her that her heart was indeed still there. Despite the elaborate and moneyed systems of medical research and the advertisements of the health and recreation industries to prove that the real is the physical and that loss of heart and loss of soul are only in the mind, I believe the “primitive” and the woman in the hospital: we can and do lose our souls. I believe with Jung that each of us is “modern man in search of a soul.”

Because symptoms lead to soul, the cure of symptoms may also cure away soul, get rid of just what is beginning to show, at first tortured and crying for help, comfort, and love, but which is the soul in the neurosis trying to make itself heard, trying to impress the stupid and stubborn mind—that impotent mule which insists on going its unchanging obstinate way. The right reaction to a symptom may as well be a welcoming rather than laments and demands for remedies, for the symptom is the first herald of an awakening psyche which will not tolerate any more abuse. Through the symptom the psyche demands attention. Attention means attending to, tending, a certain tender care of, as well as waiting, pausing, listening. It takes a span of time and a tension of patience. Precisely what each symptom needs is time and tender care and attention. Just this same attitude is what the soul needs in order to be felt and heard. So it is often little wonder that it takes a breakdown, an actual illness, for someone to report the most extraordinary experiences of, for instance, a new sense of time, of patience and waiting, and in the language of religious experience, of coming to the center, coming to oneself, letting go and coming home.

The alchemists had an excellent image for the transformation of suffering and symptom into a value of the soul. A goal of the alchemical process was the pearl of great price. The pearl starts off a bit of grit, a neurotic symptom or complaint, a bothersome irritant to one’s secret inside flesh, which no defensive shell can protect oneself from. This is coated over, worked at day in day out, until the grit one day is a pearl; yet it still must be fished up from the depths and pried loose. Then when the grit is redeemed, it is -worn. It must be worn on the warm skin to keep its luster: the redeemed complex which once caused suffering is exposed to public view as a virtue. The esoteric treasure gained through occult work becomes an exoteric splendor. To get rid of the symptom means to get rid of the chance to gain what may one day be of greatest value, even if at first an unbearable irritant, lowly, and disguised. — James Hillman, A Blue Fire

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: