Willfulness and Greed vs Mother Nature

Guess who’s going to win? It’s Mother Nature every time.

Two traditional stories—“fairy tales,” Märchen (in German) – tell the fate of human greed and willfulness. One, Frau Holle, I will discuss this month. I will take up the other, The Fisherman and his Wife, in August. Both tales teach the same lesson: given half a chance and a little help, Mother Nature always wins in the end, and the greedy, willful person loses.

We can read some of these traditional stories literally. Other traditional stories don’t make any sense at all from a literal point of view. Up to a certain point, the Frau Holle story could describe a family triangle: widowed mother, daughter, and step-daughter. But after a certain point in the narrative, literally makes no sense. We have to move to allegory. But I’m getting ahead of the story. First, the story, originally recorded in the 19th Century by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their Kinder und Hausmaerchen.

Once upon a time, there was a widow who had two daughters; one of them was beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy. The mother, however, loved the ugly and lazy one best, because she was her own daughter, and so the other, who was only her stepdaughter, was made to do all the work of the house and was quite the Cinderella of the family. Her stepmother sent her out every day to sit by the well in the high road, there to spin until she made her fingers bleed. Now it chanced one day that some blood fell on to the spindle, and as the girl stooped over the well to wash it off, the spindle suddenly sprang out of her hand and fell into the well. She ran home crying to tell of her misfortune, but her stepmother spoke harshly to her, and after giving her a violent scolding, said unkindly, ‘As you have let the spindle fall into the well you may go yourself and fetch it out.’

The girl went back to the well not knowing what to do, and at last in her distress, she jumped into the water after the spindle.

She remembered nothing more until she awoke and found herself in a beautiful meadow, full of sunshine, and with countless flowers blooming in every direction.

She walked over the meadow, and presently she came upon a baker’s oven full of bread, and the loaves cried out to her, ‘Take us out, take us out, or alas! we shall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long ago.’ So she took the bread-shovel and drew them all out.

She went on a little farther, till she came to a tree full of apples. ‘Shake me, shake me, I pray,’ cried the tree; ‘my apples, one and all, are ripe.’ So she shook the tree, and the apples came falling down upon her like rain, but she continued shaking until there was not a single apple left upon it. Then she carefully gathered the apples together in a heap and walked on again.

The next thing she came to was a little house, and there she saw an old woman looking out, with such large teeth, that she was terrified, and turned to run away. But the old woman called after her, ‘What are you afraid of, dear child? Stay with me; if you will do the work of my house properly for me, I will make you very happy. You must be very careful, however, to make my bed in the right way, for I wish you always to shake it thoroughly so that the feathers fly about; then they say, down there in the world, that it is snowing; for I am Mother Holle.’ The old woman spoke so kindly, that the girl summoned up courage and agreed to enter into her service.

She took care to do everything according to the old woman’s bidding and every time she made the bed she shook it with all her might so that the feathers flew about like so many snowflakes. The old woman was as good as her word: she never spoke angrily to her and gave her roast and boiled meats every day.

So she stayed on with Mother Holle for some time, and then she began to grow unhappy. She could not at first tell why she felt sad, but she became conscious at last of great longing to go home; then she knew she was homesick, although she was a thousand times better off with Mother Holle than with her mother and sister. After waiting awhile, she went to Mother Holle and said, ‘I am so homesick, that I cannot stay with you any longer, for although I am so happy here, I must return to my own people.’

Then Mother Holle said, ‘I am pleased that you should want to go back to your own people, and as you have served me so well and faithfully, I will take you home myself.’

Thereupon she led the girl by the hand up to a broad gateway. The gate was opened, and as the girl passed through, a shower of gold fell upon her, and the gold clung to her so that she was covered with it from head to foot.

‘That is a reward for your industry,’ said Mother Holle, and as she spoke she handed her the spindle which she had dropped into the well.

The gate was then closed, and the girl found herself back in the old world close to her mother’s house. As she entered the courtyard, the cock who was perched on the well, called out:


Your golden daughter’s come back to you.’

Then she went into her mother and sister, and as she was so richly covered with gold, they gave her a warm welcome. She related to them all that had happened, and when the mother heard how she had come by her great riches, she thought she should like her ugly, lazy daughter to go and try her fortune. So she made the sister go and sit by the well and spin, and the girl thrust her hand into a thorn-bush so that she might drop some blood on to the spindle; then she threw it into the well and jumped in herself.

Like her sister she awoke in the beautiful meadow and walked over it till she came to the oven. ‘Take us out, take us out, or alas! we shall be burnt to a cinder; we were baked through long ago,’ cried the loaves as before. But the lazy girl answered, ‘Do you think I am going to dirty my hands for you?’ and walked on.

Presently she came to the apple-tree. ‘Shake me, shake me, I pray; my apples, one and all, are ripe,’ it cried. But she only answered, ‘A nice thing to ask me to do, one of the apples might fall on my head,’ and passed on.

At last she came to Mother Holle’s house, and as she had heard all about the large teeth from her sister, she was not afraid of them, and engaged herself without delay to the old woman.

The first day she was very obedient and industrious, and exerted herself to please Mother Holle, for she thought of the gold she should get in return. The next day, however, she began to dawdle over her work, and the third day she was idler still; then she began to lie in bed in the mornings and refused to get up. Worse still, she neglected to make the old woman’s bed properly and forgot to shake it so that the feathers might fly about. So Mother Holle very soon got tired of her and told her she might go. The lazy girl was delighted at this, and thought to herself, ‘The gold will soon be mine.’ Mother Holle led her, as she had led her sister, to the broad gateway; but as she was passing through, instead of the shower of gold, a great bucketful of pitch came pouring over her.

‘That is in return for your services,’ said the old woman, and she shut the gate.

So the lazy girl had to go home covered with pitch, and the cock on the well called out as she saw her:


Your dirty daughter’s come back to you.’

But, try what she would, she could not get the pitch off and it stuck to her as long as she lived.

This tale of the Dirty Daughter gives me a lot of satisfaction: I haven’t succeeded at greed and willfulness like a lot of people, and I’m always gratified when they get their just desserts, fall from grace, or otherwise run out of what they call their “luck.” There’s a part of me that wants what it wants when it wants it: now. My unsatisfied greed shadow is “happier” when someone else’s greed shadow loses out.

We can read this story in several ways. We can take it as a family drama: a widowed mother, daughter, and step-daughter. Unfortunately, stepchildren sometimes get stepchild treatment. Some parents treat their biological children far better than their stepchildren. In some families, one child works overtime trying to please the parent(s), but without success. Unfortunately in waking life such a family drama usually doesn’t have the “fairy tale ending” of this story. We can also read the story from the viewpoint of either daughter. And in principle we could take the stepmother’s stance as our point-of-reference, or – more challengingly – look at the events in the story through Frau Holle’s eyes. However, the story told in Frau Holle makes the most sense when we look beyond the literal reading and take the setting and the actors in terms of allegory and symbol.

First, what do I mean by “allegory” and “symbol”?

I mean a story (or poem or picture, etc.) in which the characters and events express or reveal a pattern that informs/structures the narrative of different characters in different circumstances. Usually, an allegory represents particular moral, ethical, religious, or political ideas. And I would add psychological insights.

A symbol, 1) means more than it (literally) is, and 2) seems to convey endless meanings. Said otherwise: we can legitimately understand a symbol in many ways. An authentic symbol continues to fascinate us. If only we had more words, we could better say what it means.

Back to Frau Holle via a detour. Many years ago I had a young man client who came because his uncle thought it would be good for him. We didn’t have many sessions because a dream alerted me to his lack of interest in anything outside of his consciousness. Here’s his dream:

I enter an underground room. It’s very large. There are all sorts of things there on tables and shelves. In one corner there is a little old woman sitting. I walk around, looking at all the stuff, and then walk out.

When he told me this dream, I immediately thought of the Frau Holle story: he wasn’t interested in all the “stuff” underground, nor in the old woman. Here’s why this is important.

We, humans, live above ground. For us, what’s underground is hidden; we are “unaware” if it, that is, “unconscious” of its existence. In the Frau Holle tale, the girl finds the bread ready to be taken from the oven and the apples ready to be picked, and then Frau Holle herself, whom, as the girl leaves for “home”, showers her with gold coins as a reward for her service. In his dream, my client saw nothing of value in the underground room. Only the above-ground world meant anything to him, so I concluded that he wouldn’t be able to do anything useful in therapy with me. As I said, we humans are unconscious of whatever may be “underground,” i.e., outside of our conscious awareness. However, both the story and the dream tell us that there is much of value “underground,” below our threshold of awareness.

Let’s think about both the “good” daughter and her “ugly” sister, and the different conscious attitudes they portray.

In the story, the good daughter cooperates with the oven, the apple tree, and Frau Holle. Translated into conscious terms, she pays attention to “messages” that emerge into her awareness of “the unconscious.” In terms of the story, these messages are the baked bread, the ripe apples, and Frau Holle herself. The good daughter has the correct relationship to those real needs, possibilities, hunches that enter her consciousness unbidden. Because she has a right relationship to the unconscious (Frau Holle’s underworld realm), she prospers.

Willfulness and greed characterize the ugly daughter’s conscious attitude. She – and her mother appear to operate on the basis of “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  She and her mother want the “gold,” but the only way to get the gold comes through honoring and workings with the natural growth and fulfillment processes of the unconscious dimension of the psyche; or in terms of the story, taking the bread out of the oven when it is baked, picking the apples when they are ripe, and fulfilling to Frau Holle’s – i.e., Mother Nature’s – requirements. For her part, Frau Holle – Mother Nature – can and does respect the good girl’s need to relate to her conscious world, her home, crappy though it may be.

Now what about the “stepmother”? We all know that “stepmother” neither necessarily, nor always, refers to a woman who is not the biological mother. Similarly, feeling treated like a stepchild characterizes a second-class (or worse) status in a family. The stepmother and Frau Holle reveal two aspects of mother: mother as a conscious, waking-life experience — the stepmother – and mother as an “inner” or “in-born” capacity to nurture and provide guidance.

Maybe this is a little difficult to get our heads around. We’ve all heard the admonition, “Be good to yourself.” But some people really do not know how to be good to themselves. Sure, they may indulge in food, drink, shopping, or something else, but indulgence doesn’t work. “Be good to yourself” means open to your innate, inner good mother, or as in the story, open to Frau Holle and her realm. Following the story, we could say that people who do not know how to be good to themselves have, in effect, a cruel stepmother, just as does the girl.

Early childhood experience influences whether a person – man or woman – has, in effect, a stepmother or a Frau Holle, an abuser or a nurturer, dominating their conscious life. Early relationships establish patterns of expectation and behavior that can and all-too-often do endure for life unless a person realizes that change is possible. Then with courage and perseverance, a person can gradually replace old patterns of relating to others and to oneself with less-punitive and more nurturing patterns.

We can easily extend this story from individual to mass psychology. The blessings of industrialization on our little planet no longer look quite so inviting as they did over the last seventy years following the Second World War – if you are old enough to remember the advertisements and the promises of “better things through chemistry.” Monsanto, anyone?  Chernoble? Deepwater Horizon? Dakota Access Pipeline? And yet we also know that, given half a chance and a little help, Mother Nature rebounds: Bison again “gradually roam much of the 3,500-acre Nachusa Grasslands — the key part of an ambitious prairie restoration 95 miles west of Chicago.” And this is only one example of many.

Nevertheless, the struggle between Frau Holle and the evil stepmother – personal and collective – is far from over.

What I have written here only begins to discuss the richness in this “fairy tale.” If this story touches your compassion or your wounds, think on it. Note down what comes to mind: emotions, memories, thoughts. As you live with Frau Holle, chances are you will deepen your understanding of this powerful and paradigmatic tale. And maybe it will begin to change your life, if only a little bit . . . at a time.

  1. Text from http://www.authorama.com/grimms-fairy-tales-21.html. “This eBook of “Fairy Tales” by the Grimm Brothers (based on translations from the Grimms’ Kinder und Hausmärchen by Edgar Taylor and Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes) belongs to the public domain.”
  2. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-bison-return-illinois-met-20141006-story.html

July, 2018 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and Director of the Analyst Training Program. He has been in practice since the mid-1980s.  To schedule an appointment, call the Ommani Center, 262-695-5311. Learn more at www.ommanicenter.com

Peace Treaty


When committed friends or couples fight, there are two things going on simultaneously with each partner. They have a valid concern or need that they are trying to get across and their concern is often distorted by old emotional allergies and projections that the other person is wrong and therefore at fault. Most of us focus on our point of view and the other person’s distortion in an argument. As most of you know, this approach does not work very well. The Peace Treaty is a constructive healing method to resolve chronic conflict and deepen your loving connection with yourself as well as your partner.

During the honeymoon stage of a relationship, which can last from one day to two years, we admire our partner’s positive qualities, while every void within suddenly feels whole. Smitten, many of us secretly hope we can absorb those qualities through osmosis. I’ve noticed throughout my career that lovers pick partners that will activate every dream, but also every illusion buried within about love. Like a circus funhouse, love provides mirrors so each partner can eventually see their own reflection. It is as if our soul recognizes a worthy partner and love compels us to grow into our full potential.

After emotional commitments are made to each other in a relationship, the working stage begins in earnest. While hiding our illusions and unconscious motivations from polite society is relatively easy, it becomes nearly impossible to do with an intimate partner. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and will reveal any block to its full expression. Sometimes it is difficult to find our saboteurs or realize how our partner mirrors our issues so we can see our reflection. So the deepest part of our psyche picks partners that push buttons. By acknowledging and healing our illusions hidden within, we will experience even deeper love and joy.

Often the very quality we admired in our partner during the honeymoon stage of a relationship creates great frustration later. The only way we can strengthen a quality within is by facing and healing our illusions our self. This illustrates an important tenant within the Peace Treaty. Most of us focus on our partner and the discomfort they cause us. Partners always push buttons, but they are our buttons or shadow material nevertheless. When we lose touch with our illusions and unconscious material our partner will provide mirrors so we can see our reflection. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, the things that really aggravate us about our partner are reflections that trail back to both partner’s disowned issues and needs. When each individual takes the time to find the origins of the underlying issue or trauma that touches their shadow in the current situation with each other, an opportunity to heal within and transcend illusion greatly improves.

The Peace Treaty considers chronic conflict and powerful emotional reactions as opportunities for individual growth. In effect, an emotional crisis can be seen as a way to express and get our deeper needs met, heal our shadow material and strengthen our relationship with our partner.  Blaming your partner for triggering these unpleasant emotions prevents you from discovering the opportunity that your anger and/or powerful emotions could be teaching you. Expressing your valid concerns and needs with mindfulness increases the chances for your heart’s desire to be addressed. Transforming a current crisis and making the connection to previous injuries in the past, prevents us from dumping suffering on our partner and activating a matching victim-perpetrator paradigm within our partner. In this way a crisis becomes an opportunity to feel more joy and deepen your connection with your partner.  

When we muster the courage to self-reflect, heal past wounds, and stop projecting problems onto our partner, a powerful surge of love, compassion and nurturing energy ignites. This often stimulates our beloved to follow our lead and look at his/her illusions and unresolved issues. When we take the time to reconcile our deepest needs and illusions, we start the process of truly loving ourselves. And when we love ourselves enough to do this, love warms the heart of your partner and a positive cycle of love, self-responsibility and joy is mutually experienced.

The Peace Treaty is a tool to help a couple or an individual move from chronic conflict to self-responsibility and deeper bonds. If two people own their emotional baggage, a sovereign sense of love, cooperation and gentleness returns to the relationship. When you allow yourself to pursue personal illusions and bring the light of day to your wounded heart, you can truly learn to meet your needs and communicate your heart’s desire to your partner. Mindfulness creates matching energy and then…everyone wins.  

If you’d like guidance in how to create more love in your relationship, please call The Ommani Center to schedule a session to learn all the steps within the Peace Treaty. In September, I will offer a free presentation on Thursday 9-13-18 from 6:30-7:30Pm at The Ommani center about my book Henosis: The Psychological Wisdom and Eternal Principles That Lead to Lasting Peace and Wellbeing. A two-day course that goes into depth about the core concepts within the book will occur on two Saturdays… 9-15-18 and 9-29-18 from 9AM to 4PM at the Ommani Center.

July 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He’s available to see patients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

Finding Your Purpose in Life

In the April 2018 blog I wrote about the “soul’s code,” a term popularized by James Hillman in his book by that name. As I wrote there, “Essentially it’s the idea that we grow down into this world from a spiritual dimension, and that gradually we discover—if we are blessed and have good-enough mentors along the way—what we are supposed to manifest on the planet.” This month I will expand that idea in some ways that may make it easier to embody and manifest. The Japanese idea of ikigai—a concept meaning “a reason for being” similar to the French phrase, raison d’êtrewill help us ourselves discover our soul’s code—our ikigai—and ways to operationalize it in our lives.

The illustration at the left* shows several interlocked and overlapping circles as one way to visualize ikigai. At the center of all the circles is ikigai, the reason for being from which we proceed. The world’s spiritual traditions proclaim this notion: we do not just matter, we are much more complex than matter. Rather, as material creatures, we are physical manifestations of “something” immaterial, of an “energy” or of a “spirit.” (This notion, by the way, finds support in the view of the world formulated by quantum physics and in chapter 5 of  Dr. Kumar’s book, Becoming Real.) For me, the “soul’s code,” ikigai, and “what God made us to be” express this basic idea in different ways.

Ponder the ikigai diagram. I think you will notice your attention moving from one segment of the diagram to another, and then to another, round and round. They interlock. Notice that each circle includes the central element of the diagram: ikigai. “Passion” proceeds from ikigai and embraces “What you LOVE” and “What you’re GOOD AT” and can develop into “profession.”And “What you LOVE” can manifest as “passion” or “mission” leading on to other intersecting areas. If we start with “What you can be PAID FOR,” it can develop into “profession” or “vocation,” leading to meeting “What the world NEEDS” and/or to “What you are GOOD AT.”

Discovering and living one’s purpose in life—ikigai—charts the path to fulfillment: one has discovered “what one is essentially good for” and “how to manifest that essence in a way that both benefits the world and secures one’s worldly existence.” It doesn’t get much better than that. The ikigai diagram helps in visualizing what I have written about in past blogs: adaptation to one’s essence and adaptation to the world. (See Ommani Jewel, Dec 2015, Potentials & Adaptations.) Or to put it differently: realizing one’s “soul’s code” in one’s lived life, here and now.

Now comes the hard part: discovering and realizing one’s soul’s code, or one’s ikigai. As C.G. Jung pointed out, and everyone who hasn’t thrown in the towel already knows, life is full of false starts, dead ends, wrong turnings, and setbacks. Each of us needs to embrace and practice self-reflection and self-discovery. Each of us needs to be attentive to our continuing growth and development.

A colleague once gave me a piece of good advice: “The body does not tell lies about itself.” If you take the time, if you slow down, you can notice subtle body movements. These are the beginnings of emerging body memories or intentions.  These memories hint of incomplete experiences and future possibilities. Follow these hints. With practice you will become able to discern with ever greater clarity your “next step,” and then the one after that. Gradually you will become ever better attuned to what lives in you that “wants” your conscious awareness to notice and respond. In this way your “outer mind” will learn progressively more about your ikigai, and you will make real, in the here and now, what you potentially can become. This is the path to purpose and fulfillment.

*Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikigai

June2018 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and serves as Director of the Analyst Training Program at the Jung Institute. To schedule an appointment with him, contact us at 262.695.5311

Let’s Be Real Workshop with Mary Brill, LCSW

“Let”s Be Real”… How to Live an Authentic Life

Approved and highly recommended by Drs. Rose Kumar, MD, and Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW

A workshop beginning September 7, 2018


You get to a point where the old life no longer works. It’s possible it never did. Maybe

you ask yourself, “what’s next?” The life that you’ve known no longer seems to fit. Or

something feels off and you wonder if you’re alone in feeling this way…


This group offers you an opportunity to open your heart, enliven your body, engage your

mind, and deepen @ soul level. The possibilities are limitless when group energy

collides with intent. It takes courage to express your dreams, desires, and what you

yearn for. It involves accepting support to bring your aspirations into form. It requires

clearing obstacles that get in your way.


This is a group to explore possibilities; to consider stretching your limits, to think outside

the box, to reflect on what needs to be released and to explore untapped potential.


I invite you to explore with us. I invite you to find the Real you.  Won’t you join us?


Dates: 9/7/18- 11/16/18

Day: 6 Fridays

Time: 10:30AM-12:30PM

Fee: $95/session

Register via email  –  Mary@brillcounseling.com


Mary Brill, LCSW is an experienced psychotherapist who uses her skills in problem-solving and mentoring to help people develop their inner resources. She has lead national and international seminars and tours focused on personal growth, dreams, feminine wisdom and spirituality. She is known for her unique ability to tame the inner critic and foster self-acceptance.  

A Different View of Why We Are Here

Let’s face it: Why are we here on the planet?  Apparently other people have asked this question before. I just googled “Why are we here on earth?” and got more than ten pages of hits. I’m not going to review them here. If they interest you, you can google and follow up. What I want to do is to suggest a viewpoint that makes more and more sense the older I get. Maybe it will make sense to you, too. And then I will reference an interview with the late psychologist, James Hillman, who elaborates this point-of-view with his interviewer.

First, we’re not here to keep the economy humming. We’re here to make actual, real-in-the-world, whatever potential is in us. Hillman calls this “the acorn theory.” In the interview, he says, “It is a worldwide myth in which each person comes into the world with something to do and to be. The myth says we enter the world with a calling. Plato . . . called this our paradeigma, meaning a basic form that encompasses our entire destinies. This accompanying image shadowing our lives is our bearer of fate and fortune.”

In our culture, “nature and nurture” are the terms usually invoked when people talk about what we turn out to be. The nature part is often thought of as our genetic endowment. “You’ve got your father’s nose.” (That’s genes.) “You are so dependent! Your mother spoiled you.” (That’s nurture.) Both of these views are essentially materialistic and causal (in the mechanical sense).

There is another view, the one that Hillman talks about, his “acorn theory,” which he discusses in his book, The Soul’s Code. Essentially it’s the idea that we grow down into this world from a spiritual dimension, and that gradually we discover—if we are blessed and have good-enough mentors along the way—what we are supposed to manifest on the planet. I encourage you to read the interview in which Mary NurrieStearns discusses ideas in The Soul’s Code with Hillman. It’s worth your time—especially if you’re wondering why you’re on the planet.

Here’s the link: http://www.personaltransformation.com/james_hillman.html .

Apr 2018 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and serves as Director of the Analyst Training Program at the Jung Institute. To schedule an appointment with him, contact us at 262.695.5311.


Facing the Dragon

Fifteen years ago, my late friend and colleague, Robert Moore, published a little book whose relevance has lost nothing in the intervening years. In his preface to Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity, Moore (2003, xi) quotes a sobering passage from Jung’s Answer to Job:

Everything now depends on man: immense power of destruction is given into his hand, and the question is whether he can resist the will to use it, and can temper his will with the spirit of love and wisdom. He will hardly be capable of doing so on his own unaided resources. He needs the help of an “advocate” . . . . The only thing that really matters now is whether man can climb up to a higher moral level, to a higher plane of consciousness, in order to be equal to the superhuman powers which the fallen angels have played into his hands. (1)

Moore shows how “pathological narcissism results from archetypal energies that are not contained and channeled through resources such as spiritual disciplines, ritual practice, utilization of the mythic imagination, and Jungian analysis” (2003, xii). We need not look far to find people inflated with super-human, archetypal energies that generate pathological narcissism and the fantasies that their ICBM is bigger than your ICBM. But we really don’t have to look toward Pong Yang or Moscow or Washington at all: when we’re so sure we are right, a glance in the mirror may reveal another person swelling up with spiritual grandiosity.

“Why,” Moore asks, “do I emphasize the dynamics of human evil in my research and teaching in psychology and spirituality?” (2003, 1) He answers that we must avoid two traps when we face the threat of personal and collective destructiveness. First, a “flight into the light” enables denial and requires very little reflection or action. It’s an easy out. Second, we have to master the temptation to blame our plight on a scapegoat: the one percent; the other party in power; the other gender; immigrants; the poor. All [of us] must respond to the challenge of coming to an understanding of evil that is neither naïve nor grounded in scapegoating of the other, but which may account for some of the forces of destructiveness that threaten to destroy us” (2003, 2).

Lest this sounds abstract or esoteric, I will illustrate with two personal examples, one from my teen years and one from present time. Both reveal my vulnerability to destructive power.

As a sixteen-year-old, I got my driver’s license and a .22 caliber rifle. My grandparents lived on a farm three miles out-of-town. My grandfather was still working at a lumber company, and came home for lunch each day. There were many barn cats. My grandmother believed there were too many. She asked me if I could dispose of some of them. One summer day while my grandfather was at work I went to the farm with my gun and killed several cats. When my grandfather came home, he didn’t say anything – he typically didn’t say much – but I’m sure he noticed that there were fewer cats.

I still feel shame as I tell this story, decades later. That experience vividly showed me how easily I could get intoxicated with and swept away by destructive power.

Fast forward to present time. The lure of exercising destructive power still tempts me. I regularly watch the PBS Newshour, hardly a program given to inciting violent emotions, yet some news stories trigger murderous anger in me. “Shoot the bastards!” Fortunately, the “bastards” are far away and I have no firearm. I am aware that my irritability quickly escalates toward violent fantasies. And it’s not only the news that inflames my anger.

In both examples from my life, an energy gets activated in me that claims power over life and death. In Jungian language, we call this condition “inflation.” From the Christian Bible we have the admonition that “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” (2) From ancient Greece, we get the term “hubris,” which is Greek for “too big for his britches.”

One example is King Midas who, in his greed for gold, got his wish. Everything he touched turned to gold. At first, he was delighted: roses, apples, etc., turned into gold. But whatever he touched – including what touched his lips – turned to gold. Realizing he was doomed to die of hunger and thirst, Midas begged to be freed from his golden touch.

Moore references spiritual disciplines, ritual practice, utilization of the mythic imagination, and Jungian analysis as approaches to these energies that inflate us beyond our human proportions. A story from Greek mythology illustrates hubris in action. Apollo, the Sun God, fathered a son with a human woman. The boy, Phaeton, wanted proof that Apollo was his father. Apollo promised to grant whatever Phaeton asked for. “I want to drive your sun chariot for a day.” Apollo hadn’t thought ahead. “I can’t let you do that. Even I have a hard time controlling the horses. Even I am afraid some times.” But to no avail. Not able to withdraw his (Apollo’s) promise, Phaeton takes off in the sun chariot.

The boy has already taken possession of the fleet chariot, and stands proudly, and joyfully, takes the light reins in his hands, and thanks his unwilling father. Meanwhile, the sun’s swift horses, Pyroïs, Eoüs, Aethon, and the fourth, Phlegon, fill the air with fiery whinnying and strike the bars with their hooves. When Tethys, ignorant of her grandson’s fate, pushed back the gate, and gave them access to the wide heavens, rushing out, they tore through the mists with their hooves and, lifted by their wings, overtook the East winds rising from the same region. But the weight was lighter than the horses of the Sun could feel, and the yoke was free of its accustomed load. Just as curved-sided boats rock in the waves without their proper ballast, and being too light are unstable at sea, so the chariot, free of its usual burden, leaps in the air and rushes into the heights as though it were empty.

 As soon as they feel this, the team of four run wild and leave the beaten track, no longer running in their pre-ordained course. Phaeton was terrified, unable to handle the reins entrusted to him, not knowing where the track was, nor, if he had known, how to control the team. Then for the first time the chill stars of the Great and Little Bears, grew hot, and tried in vain to douse themselves in forbidden waters. And the Dragon, Draco, that is nearest to the frozen pole, never formidable before and sluggish with the cold, now glowed with heat, and took to seething with new fury. . . . .

 When the unlucky Phaeton looked down from the heights of the sky at the earth far, far below he grew pale and his knees quaked with sudden fear, and his eyes were robbed of shadow by the excess light. Now he would rather he had never touched his father’s horses, and regrets knowing his true parentage and possessing what he asked for.(3)

The chariot rises too high and melts the polar ice; it swoops too low and dries up the rivers. Heaven and earth complain. Phaeton cannot control the power he has unleashed. To put an end to the destruction, Zeus throws a thunder bold, striking Phaeton, who plunges into the sea.(4)

Hubris, spiritual grandiosity, pathological narcissism, characterizes much of the emotional atmosphere of our times, as cartoons, posters, and TV shows attest. I say “atmosphere” because the energy – the emotion – that empowers hubris infects us all just as polluted air does, but rather than smelling it with our noses we sense it working in our feelings and fantasies.

The Bible, Greek mythology, and contemporary cartoons(note: Hubris comics created by Greg Cravens , header) advise us that a greater power exists. What does Jungian psychology offer us?

Jungian psychology does, of course, cite the stories from the past in which overweening pride, archetypal inflation, spiritual grandiosity, and pathological narcissism depict the consequences. Waking fantasies and dreams from the night can and do offer images that may counterbalance the attitudes and preoccupations of the conscious minds. Psyche, through dreams and fantasies, presents a challenge: pay attention, notice! Sometimes psyche sends urgent messages; sometimes the information comes in subtle ways on the fringes of our waking awareness, or as a mild sense of discomfort or dis-ease, a sensation that “something” isn’t quite in order.

When I notice, I need to take the next step by finding where the image or fantasy has similarities with known stories, movies, myths, or passages from spiritual scriptures. That provides me with the human context, situating the image or fantasy from psyche within the body of experience of the ages. Then I ask: What does that mean for me? What am I doing to which the image or fantasy speaks? Finally, I have to evaluate what I am doing and the compensatory message that psyche offers. These four steps constitute part of a feed-back loop that starts with my action or attitude, psyche’s compensatory comment/response (in the form of a dream, an image, a fantasy), and my understanding and evaluating both my situation and the compensatory information. Here, in brief, we have the outline of a psychological discipline that will satisfy what Moore calls for.

The dangers of personal and spiritual grandiosity appear to be part of being human. Thousands of years of human experience attest the danger of succumbing, whether as King Midas or Phaeton or a contemporary man or woman, you or me. We live in a dangerous, infections emotional atmosphere these days. Sniff the air. Pay attention. Find an advocate to help you work at what’s necessary to climb to a higher moral level and plane of consciousness.

(1) Moore, R. L. (2003). Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications, quoting C.G. Jung (1952/1958), Answer to Job, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol. 11, p. 459. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

“Dr. Robert Moore was Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Spirituality in the Graduate Center of the Chicago Theological Seminary where he was the Founding Director of the new Institute for Advanced Studies in Spirituality and Wellness. An internationally recognized psychoanalyst and consultant in private practice in Chicago, he served as a Training Analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and was Director of Research for the Institute for Integrative Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and the Chicago Center for Integrative Psychotherapy. Author and editor of numerous books in psychology and spirituality, he lectured internationally on his formulation of a neo-Jungian psychoanalysis and integrative psychotherapy.  His publications include THE ARCHETYPE OF INITIATION: Sacred Space, Ritual Process and Personal Transformation; THE MAGICIAN AND THE ANALYST: The Archetype of the Magus in Occult Spirituality and Jungian Psychology, and FACING THE DRAGON: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity.” (Moore bio by Benjamin Law, blaw@jungchicago,.org). Several MP-3 recordings of Robert Moore’s classes are available from the C.G. Jung Institute (www.jungchicago.org/store).

(2) Romans 12:17-19; Deuteronomy 32:35

(3) Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book II, 150-178, mythological index and illustrations by Hendrik Glotzius. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Metamorph2.php#anchor_Toc64106105

(4) Ibid, lines 272-328  

(5). http://hubriscomics.com/comic/hubris-they-still-have-paper/. Hubris Comics, created by Greg Cravens, and reproduced here with his permission.


March 2018 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and serves as Director of the Analyst Training Program at the Jung Institute. To schedule an appointment with him, contact us at 262.695.5311.


Companions for the Journey IV

From time to time I discover a book that helps orient me in the turbulent times in which we live. Recently, a friend gave me Soul Food: Stories to Nourish the Spirit & the Heart, by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman (1). The authors have collected stories from a wide variety of sources: Taoist, Buddhist, Sufi, Christian, Zen, Desert Fathers, Hindu, and the man or woman who never gets quoted anywhere else. I want to share with you some stories.

“I have only three enemies. My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better, is the British Empire. My second enemy, the Indian People, is far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence.”(2)

These five short sentences from Gandhi focus on life’s biggest problem – self-acceptance, as Jung pointed out when he wrote, “Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple, and so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life.” (3)

The second section of the book opens with several accounts of simplicity. Nasrudin, the “wise fool” who appears in many stories from the cultures of the Near East through Central Asia, tells his friends in the tea shop the story of his life:

Nasrudin was now an old man looking back on his life. He sat with his friends in the tea shop telling his story.

“When I was young I was fiery—I wanted to awaken everyone. I prayed to Allah to give me the strength to change the world.

“In mid-life I awoke one day and realized my life was half over and I had changed no one. So I prayed to Allah to give me the strength to change those close around me who so much needed it.

“Alas, now I am old and my prayer is simpler. ‘Allah,’ I ask, ‘please give me the strength to at least change myself.’’ (4)                                                                                                                 

One of the Hassidic stories recounts the travels and fame of two rabbis who were brothers.

“In the course of their long wanderings, the two brothers Rabbi Zusya and Rabbi Elimelekh often came to the city of Ludimir. There they always slept in the house of a poor, devout man. Years later, when their reputation had spread all over the country, they came to Ludimir again, not on foot as before, but in a carriage. The wealthiest man in that little town, who had never wanted to have anything to do with them, came to meet them, the moment he heard they had arrived, and begged them to lodge in his house. But they said: “Nothing has changed in us to make you respect us more than before. What is new is just the horses and the carriage. Take them for your guests, but let us stop with our old host, as usual”(4)

The third section of the book, entitled “Living Our Truth,” opens with another delightful Nasrudin story.

‘One day Mulla Nasrudin got word that he had received a special message from the Sheik of Basra. When he went to pick it up they told him that he must first identify himself. Nasrudin fished in his trousers and took out a brass mirror. Looking into it he exclaimed, “Yup, that’s me all right.”(5)

To live our own truth we first must discover our own truth. Early on in the Red Book Jung admonishes the reader not to imitate him (nor what he writes in the Red Book). “It is no teaching and no instruction that I give you. On what basis should I presume to teach you? I give you news of the way of this man, but not of your own way. My path is not your path, therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.” Jung’s words remind me of the passage where Jesus is reported to have said “Man, if thou knowest what thou doest, blessed art thou; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed and a transgressor of the Law.” Consciousness makes all the difference.

“Mindfulness,” rather than “consciousness,” is the word people now often use. The friend who gave me the book told the story of two Zen masters, one visiting the other.

“It was raining as the visiting Zen master made his way to the other master’s house. When he arrived, he set his umbrella down by the door, knocked, and was let in. In the course of conversation the host asked his guest whether he had set his umbrella to the right or to the left of the door. Surprised and confused, the guest master could not remember. Whereupon he relinquished his position as master and returned to ranks of the students.”

The story makes a simple, but profound point: be aware of what you do. Another story (this one from the book) reminds us that mindfulness, that knowing what we are doing, depends on attention and on intention. No autopilot here.

“A young female disciple undertook to develop the meditation on loving-kindness. Sitting in her small room, she would fill her heart with loving-kindness for all beings, yet each day as she went to the bazaar to gather her food, she would find her loving-kindness sorely tested by one shopkeeper who would daily subject her to unwelcome caresses. One day she could stand no more and began to chase the shopkeeper down the road with her upraised umbrella. To her mortification she passed her meditation master standing on the side of the road observing this spectacle. Shame-faced she went to stand before him expecting to be rebuked for her anger. “What you should do,” her master kindly advised her, “is to fill your heart with loving-kindness, and with as much mindfulness as you can muster, hit this unruly fellow over the head with your umbrella.” (8)

So what is it about these stories that make them “soul food”? Why call them “soul” food at all? These and similar stories produce a specific effect on me: They alter my point of view. More precisely, they take me out of my “business-as-usual” mindset. By shattering the expectations of my conditioned mind, they open me to a different way of seeing and being. But why call them “soul food”?

In Psychological Types, Jung defines the soul as “the relation to the unconscious . . . and as a personification of unconscious contents.” A little later on he writes: “The organ of perception, the soul, apprehends the contents of the unconscious, and as the creative function, gives birth to its dynamis in the form of a symbol”.

In other words, “soul” is that capacity in each of us: 1) to become aware of something not in our current consciousness; 2) to be moved by that something, by its dynamis; and 3) to experience that “something” in a form and shape that carries more meaning than we can unpack (i.e., it is a symbol in Jung’s sense).

These stories feed that capacity in each of us that takes us outside of and beyond our current mental state. They enliven and energize our consciousness in unexpected ways. (That’s the dynamis, the energy effect.) In a word, they liberate us from our stuckness in the here-and-now that so often can feel oppressive and stifling. Understood in this way the question in Mark 8:36 begins to make sense: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Then we have Scrooge, Midas and the whole lot who, as people used to say, “Know the price of everything, but don’t know the value of anything.”

Soul food stories combat the soul-less-ness of a dog-eat-dog reality and offer us a liberated way to see and understand what’s going on around us.



(1) Kornfield, Jack, and Chrfistina Feldman (1996). Soul Food: Stories to Nouris the Spirit & the Heart. New York” HarperOne.

(2) Kornfield and Feldman (1996:55).

(3) Jung, C.G. (1953). Psychology and Religion, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Princeton: Princeton University Press, para. 520.

(4) Kornfield and Feldman (1996:184)

(5) Kornfield and Fledman (1996:269).

(6) Jung, C.G. (2009).  The Red Book: Liber Novus, A Reader’s Edition. Ed. Sonu Shamdasani. New York: W.W Norton, p. 125. (Italics in the original.)

(7) “List of authentic agrapha,” Codex D of Luke 6:4. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01225c.htm

(8) Kornfield and Feldman (1996:274).

Feb2018 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and serves as Director of the Analyst Training Program at the Jung Institute. To schedule an appointment with him, contact us at 262.695.5311

Emotional Responsibility

In his Emotional Intelligence (1995) and Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998), Daniel Goleman focused our attention on the profound role that emotions play in our personal, work, and social lives. His presentation is well grounded in neurology and richly illustrated with vivid examples of emotions running riot; as well as calm and calming responses to infectious emotional situations. In a section on self-control, he writes: “The ultimate act of personal responsibility at work may be in taking control of our own state of mind. (1998, p. 84). Taking control of our own state of mind implies emotional responsibility—not only at work, but in all areas of life. Practicing emotional responsibility frees us to follow the advice of the I Ching about brightening our bright virtue, as I wrote in the December column.

What does it mean to be emotionally responsible? To illustrate emotional responsibility I often use the term “emotionally house-broken.” We know what happens if our domestic pets are not house-broken: they let go wherever they happen to be. A person who is not emotionally house-broken “lets go” wherever and whenever, pretty much regardless of the situation or who is present. Such an individual has no sense of responsibility for polluting the environment. Because emotions are contagious, another person’s uncontained, emotional outburst can trigger a corresponding or complementary emotion in us. Whether we wish for that to happen or not.

For example, we feel intimidated or assaulted by the angry person’s uncontained anger. We cringe or want to strike back. The whiner elicits revulsion in us or the impulse to “give him (or her) something to whine about.” In the presence of a depressed person, we may try to cheer him up or try to escape and avoid the deadening pull of depression. In these examples, the angry person, the whiner, and the depressed person let their emotions flood the area, affecting everybody nearby. These people take no responsibility for their emotions.

What tells us that a person is emotionally responsible? We feel emotionally safe in that person’s presence. We can recognize that the other person is experiencing some sort of emotion, yet we don’t feel infected. Taking responsibility for emotions means containing them; but containing does not mean suppressing them, and it does not mean denying them. You can contain an emotion while at the same time tell another person what emotion you are experiencing. You experience the emotion, but the emotion doesn’t do the talking. Another part you your mind that is in charge speaks about your emotion. That is emotional responsibility in action.

The importance of cultivating emotional responsibility extends beyond our private lives. The constant emotional bombardment from advertising, news, and politicians aims at arousing and manipulating our emotions to further their purposes, buy their product, believe this or that side of a dispute, support this or that candidate or policy. In both private and public life, letting emotions have their way with us polarizes and divides us one from another. As difficult as it may be to develop emotional responsibility so that we contain our emotional reactions, we must do just that if we want to find common ground with others and make it possible to live together in the same house, the same city, the same country, and ultimately on the same planet.

What I write here proclaims no new wisdom, yet each one of us has to learn it for ourselves, probably the hard way.

Return of the Light

Several years ago the husband of a friend had a life-saving experience of light. During a psychotic episode due to a severe infection he felt he was in a pitch black space. In the distance he could see a point of light. He knew that he would survive if he could keep the point of light in sight. For him, “the light at the end of the tunnel” was much more than a metaphor.

In a few days, we arrive at the longest night and shortest day of the year: the Winter Solstice. Flicking a switch to turn a light has dulled our appreciation for the natural rhythm of light and dark. Winter Solstice—the return of the light—meant incalculably more to people who lived by firelight and candle light. Consequently we can have light on demand. We can easily get stuck in the literal meaning of light, but we also associate light with consciousness. A return of the light implies a return or an increase in consciousness.

When I started thinking about what needed to be said in this December article, the famous lines from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities came to mind:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . . .

Dickens’ first edition came out in 1859. The frontispiece has two panels: on the left, a bourgeois garden party; on the right, a poor slob sitting in a cell in beggars’ prison. We could easily update the pictures for 2017.

Then I consulted the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching, perhaps the oldest of all books. You can read the I Ching as a wisdom book; you can also approach it as an oracle. I asked the I Ching a simple question: What needs to be said in the December issue of the Ommani Jewel. The I Ching’s answer surprised me: “Progress.” The sun rising over the earth images “Progress” in the I Ching:

The sun rises over the earth:
The image of Progress.
Thus the superior man himself
Brightens his bright virtue.

The rising of the sun over the earth instructs the “superior man” to brighten his “bright virtue.” The “superior man,” the chün tsu in Chinese, represents “the ideal of a person who uses divination to order his/her life in accordance with the Tao rather than willful intention.” TaoRi “literally, The Way, is the flow or stream of creative energy that makes life possible, the way in which everything happens and the way on which everything happens.”

Richard Wilhelm, translator of the I Ching, comments on the image of the sun rising over the earth. He writes that light of the rising sun is by nature clear. The higher it rises, the brighter it shines, “spreading the pristine purity of its rays over an ever-widening area.” So too the “real nature” of the human being is originally good, “but it becomes clouded by contact with earthly things and therefore needs purification before it can shine forth in its native clarity.” What, then, are the earthly things that obscure the natural brightness of the human being?

Our unhealed wounds and the conditioning that has shaped and mis-shaped us, distort our essential nature. Although expressed in various ways, the great spiritual traditions agree that we let progressively more of our innate radiance shine forth as we clear away the accumulated emotional and mental debris. In this way we “brighten” our “bright virtue” and bring about progress, an “ever widening expansion and clarity.”

The sun will continue to rise following the Winter Solstice. We will gradually have more and more daylight. If we want more expansion and clarity, however, the I Ching tells us we must brighten our bright virtue. Simply put: we have to work on ourselves if we want to affect progress. We have to identify and heal our wounds. We have to recognize those aspects of our conditioning that prevent us from expressing the goodness in us.

It’s up to us to change the story of the best of times and the worst of times. Ultimately we must serve something greater than our narrow self-interest.  The Chinese called this the Tao, the path, the way.

I wish you all a time of reflection and the peace and courage to brighten your bright virtue as we celebrate the Return of the Light.


What are we to make of the transgender phenomenon? A Google search for “transgender” brings up 67,600,000 results. GLAAD, an organization that for more than 30 years has been at the forefront of cultural change, accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community”1 posts this description on its website:

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender identity is a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or boy or girl.) For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into those two choices. For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.2

The American Psychological Association (APA) website essentially echoes the GLAAD definition, adding that “The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.”3

In this month’s column I want to suggest that the transgender phenomenon continues a trend with a long history, and adds a significant new dimension. But I must also point out that some North American native peoples far outpace us in their understanding, acceptance, and honoring of transgender persons.

Various North American native peoples honor Two Spirit individuals in their communities. Tony Enos writes on Indian Country Media Network that

While the term Two Spirit was coined in 1990 in Winnipeg, Canada as a means of unifying various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations/Indigenous individuals, the term is not a specific definition of gender, sexual orientation or other self-determining catch-all phrase, but rather an umbrella term.

Two Spirit people have both a male and female spirit within them and are blessed by their Creator to see life through the eyes of both genders.

The term does not diminish the tribal-specific names, roles and traditions nations have for their own Two Spirit people. Examples of such names are the winkte among the Lakota and the nadleeh among the Navajo people.

These names and roles go back to a time before western religion. Two Spirit is not a “New Age” movement, but rather a reclamation of Two Spirit’s rightful place in Native culture.3

Tony Enos clarifies that Two Spirit and “gay” do not embrace all the same people: “Being a gay native is oftentimes confused with being Two Spirit. While the two may have parallels and intersections, they are not the same. Gay specifically is about attraction to a person of the same sex. Two Spirit is more about the embodiment of two genders residing within one person.”3

Although the term Two Spirit may be used primarily or only in reference to Native American persons, transgender appears to be the non-native culture’s designation for a similar phenomenon. The emergence into public view of transgender represents, in my view, a significant development in recognizing that gender—a person’s inner sense of maleness or femaleness—does not correspond to anatomical sex. Or to put it better: the designation “transgender” proclaims the reality that gender—the sense of being male or female—can be independent of sexual orientation or anatomy.

The longer-term trend that transgender now joins has to do with the growing awareness of the archetypal feminine vis-à-vis the archetypal masculine. These terms—archetypal feminine and archetypal masculine—mean that gender traits are not subject to personal preference. Rather, as “archetypal” they exist prior to learning, personal preference, and socialization. Archetypal “masculine” traits include initiative, assertiveness, decisiveness, confrontation (to name only four). Archetypal “feminine” traits include receptivity, nurturing, soothing, feeding, containing. We all know women who are no less “feminine” when they take initiative or assert themselves. Likewise, we can name men who do very well at nurturing, soothing, and containing. Fundamentally, the ancient Chinese terms, yang and yin, serve us better than “masculine” and “feminine” because these words all too easily lead to “secondary personalization”4 which identifies archetypal potentials (the yang and the yin) with anatomical assignment sex. The “law of secondary personalization,” Eric Neumann writes, “maintains that contents which are primarily transpersonal [i.e., archetypal] and originally appeared as such are, in the course of development, taken to be personal…. If … transpersonal contents are reduced to the data of purely personalistic psychology, the result is not only an appalling impoverishment of individual life—that might remain merely a private concern—but also a congestion of the collective unconscious which has disastrous consequences for humanity at large.”4 We need think only of the excesses of empire, that arch-patriarchal—“real man”—pursuit of domination and exploitation.

For a long time our society tended to assign a person’s gender on the basis of anatomical sex: men are men and women are women, and the gender roles got assigned and societally enforced at birth. Recently I witnessed a testimony from a mother who told the group I attended what her child had told her. Born an anatomical female, she told her mother that she had known “she” was in the wrong body since age three. Society had assigned her the female gender role, which did not correspond with her inner sense of herself.

This rigidity has changed markedly over the last several decades thanks to the various phases of the Women’s Movement and Feminism. In 1976 June Singer, a Jungian analyst practicing in Chicago, published Androgyny: Toward a new theory of sexuality. “Starting as I had from a position in the twentieth century,” she writes, “I found it difficult to comprehend the meaning behind the rapidly shifting views of individuals regarding their own sexuality, and it was still more difficult to interpret the changes in the ways they viewed the sexuality of the opposite sex.” Singer “searched the pages of history and mythology,” and everywhere she “found the androgyne gazing up at [her] with that curious smile which is neither altogether masculine nor altogether feminine.” She makes the point of emphasizing “the harmonious coexistence of masculinity and femininity within a single individual” that the androgyne represents. The sexual revolution of today, she writes, “may appear to be a reaction against the injustices of the past century or two, but I have tried to show that this is a mere surface manifestation of a fundamental principle that has existed for so long that it may be said to be inherent in the nature of the human organism. Not reactive, but intrinsic, is the principle of androgyny.” 5

Although I could not appreciate her insight at the time, I now see that she had brought into focus a trend that now—after the feminist and the LGBYQ revolutions—we witness in the transgender phenomenon: the recognition that archetypal yang and archetypal yin traits exist in every individual, and some persons have a more acute awareness that their anatomical sex and their sense of gender don’t correspond. The trend, as I see it, moves toward more openly honoring the archetypal feminine principle in our patriarchal society, regardless whether it emerges in a man or a woman. But I do have some serious concerns about the men and women who identify as “trans” and take measures to alter their bodies with hormones or surgery.

So far as I know, the Native American Two Spirit individuals find no need for sex-change hormones or surgery. Not so with non-Native Americans. The long-term consequences of sex-change hormones and surgery remain unknown. Early in June 30, 2015, PBS / Frontline story, “When Transgender Kids Transition,” we read that “new medical options are allowing transgender children to start the process of transitioning at younger ages. But doctors tread carefully, navigating medical interventions that carry risks that are both known and unknown.” 6 Walt Heyer published a piece on February 2, 2015, on the website of The Federalist, “What Parents Should Know About Giving Hormones to Trans Kids.”  He writes: “The United States Endocrine Society says that cross-gender hormones should not be used on kids under the age of 16. The standards in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Australia agree. The reason is simple: Cross-sex hormones have irreversible effects on fertility. Cross-gender hormone treatments can sterilize kids ….”7 Although these references are neither current nor medically authoritative, as non-technical sources, they say to a general public that their long-term effects remain unknown.

In my view, sex hormone therapy and sex-change surgery look like literalizations and concretizations of an essentially psychological (for want of a better term) issue. Native Americans move on saner ground with their acceptance of and respect for Two Spirit people. June Singer addressed that issue over forty years ago when she wrote, as I quoted above, that the androgyne presents the image of “the harmonious coexistence of masculinity and femininity within a single individual.”

Tony Enos said it well: “Two Spirit people have both a male and female spirit within them and are blessed by their Creator to see life through the eyes of both genders.” Little by little we approach that day when archetypal feminine and archetypal masculine not only coexist in a woman or a man, but can generate a robust synergy.


  1. https://www.glaad.org/about/history (as of 2017-10-24)
  2. https://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaq (as of 2017-10-24)
  3. https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/culture/social-issues/8-misconceptions-things-know-two-spirit-people/
  4. Neumann, Eric (1954). The History and Origins of Consciousness. Bollingen Series XLII, Princeton: Princeton University Press, xxiiif.
  5. Singer, J. (1976). Androgyny: Toward a new theory of sexuality. New York: Anchor Press / Doubleday, vii-viii. (Male and female bodies are joined in the figure of the androgyne.)
  6. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/when-transgender-kids-transition-medical-risks-are-both-known-and-unknown/
  7. http://thefederalist.com/2015/02/02/what-parents-should-know-about-giving-hormones-to-trans-kids/


Nov 2017 Boris Matthews, PhD, LCSW practices Analytical Psychology (a.k.a. Jungian Analysis) at the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. He is a teaching and supervising faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago, IL, and serves as Director of the Analyst Training Program at the Jung Institute. To schedule an appointment with him, contact us at 262.695.5311.