Jungian Therapy, The Numinous, & The Spirit That Resides Within

Anima and Animus by Melissa Currie

“Woman is compensated by a masculine element and therefore her unconscious has, so to speak, a masculine imprint. This results in a considerable psychological difference between men and women, and accordingly I have called the projection-making factor in women the animus, which means mind or spirit.

The animus is the deposit, as it were, of all woman’s ancestral experiences of man – and not only that, he is also a creative and procreative being, not in the sense of masculine creativity, but in the sense that he brings forth something we might call….the spermatic world.”

A brief note from the perspective of Jungian analysis. Jung through his study of archetypal or “numinous,” symbolic experience and what that means for the patient is “the approach to uncover their numinous is the real therapy” and that to assist with this, the therapist “must abandon all preconceived notions and, for better or worse, go with him in search of the religious and philosophical ideas that best correspond to the patient’s emotional states.” It is for this reason that many individuals seek the religious and spiritual perspectives of Jungian therapy.

The numinous experience means transcendent experience: human experience that is imbued with a feeling of something holy, divine, or mystical. Spiritual experience, however, is not usually a psychotherapeutic topic (except with reference to delusions or psychoses). Whether it should be or not depends on one’s worldview and philosophy, but it is clear that Jung gave religion and spirituality the highest value. He sometimes described the goals of psychotherapy specifically in religious terms. “The goal is transformation,” he once said, “….the only criterion of which is the disappearance of ego hood,” which is a Buddhist concept; or, when describing the experience of the Self, an analytic goal that is also a God-concept, “Yet not I live, but Christ liveth in me,” which is Christian doctrine from St. Paul.

It’s important for the patient to have an understand of his’ or her’s unique psychological problems in order to effectively confront them and “certainly, anyone who has transcendent or conversion experiences can be healed by them or, as Jung also noted, overwhelmed by them.” Jung’s approaches were encouraging to those seeking and creating deeper, sometimes uniquely spiritual meaning in their lives, and their Jungian paths sometimes involved direct transpersonal experience through introspection and imagination. From a religious perspective, transcendental experiences would probably be considered acts of grace (or illusions), outside of psychotherapeutic intention. Religious “close encounters” should be responded to empathetically and with guided aid to help the patient understand what they mean to him or her and that goes as well for anything that is presented during a therapy session. For Jung, the solution is in the spirit, but Jungian therapy needs to be able to relate to mundane psychopathology and the more deeply disturbed patients often seen today, who cannot be effectively approached with a primarily archetypal-symbolic method. It is for this reason that Jungian therapy isn’t for everyone. Jung himself recognized that most of his patients were what he called “the walking well.” He also noted they were culturally sophisticated individuals with previous therapy experience. They were also well adapted to society and thus concerned and able to be concerned about problems of self-realization. Jung said, “About a third of my cases are not suffering from any clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and aimlessness of their lives. I should not object if this were called the general neurosis of our age. Fully two thirds of my patients are in the second half of life.” Without diminishing this insight about twentieth-century alienation and about the nature of personal suffering – since emotional pain is not necessarily correlated with psychopathology – it still seems that a good number of individuals within our societies, even today, are still suffering from this same “senselessness and aimlessness” of their lives.

Have you ever uncovered your numinous or the presiding spirit that resides within you? Or have you ever dreamed of your anima or animus which is your symbolic opposite?

Opening quote from Anima and Animus, The Collected Works of Carl Jung

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