Jung writes from his deepest personal encounter with his soul in The Red Book, “The knowledge of death came to me that night…I went into the inner death and saw that outer dying is better than inner death. And, I decided to die outside and live within…I turned away and sought the place of the inner life.”
Everyone experiences loss, grieves, and goes through transitions and dark passages. It is a fact of life and is an inevitable occurrence. Sometimes the experience is more than what the ego is prepared to handle. We wonder how we can go on, if help will ever come, what we have done wrong, it’s too late to change and why bother – the worst has already happened. We are learning from neuroscience that the brain registers trauma in the same way it does torture and that acceptance and healing require us to create new neuropathways. Jung’s wisdom has a psychology to get us there when he teaches that the psyche has a Religious function. He says that there are times when it is necessary to let go of the intellect in favor of the heart. How else could we endure the pain and envision a new world within and the potential to reconcile opposites that at times break our hearts?
Separation, loss, and death are the sine qua non for new and expanding life and are major themes in the analytical process. The troublesome complexities of separation, loss, and letting-go, require that we endure the suffering that inevitably follows. The intertwining of life and death was a fundamental concern for primitive peoples, whether in burial rites, fertility sacrifices, or just keeping on the good side of the Gods and Goddesses. The profound crucifixions of Inanna, Christ, Odin, are major mythological reflections of this intertwining. Just as a plant must die for the seed to initiate new life, so must worn-out patterns of behavior be discarded in order that new patterns have room to unfold.
Honoring our personal destiny asks that we enter the wilderness of our being to attend the demands of our soul. As Jung states, “When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is the dream. When a man is in the wilderness, the darkness brings the dream…and you can be sure the dream is your nearest friend.” C.G. Jung, Vol. 18
The shattering experience of death whether outer or inner brings us to our knees. And, the grief that accompanies death is a responsibility owed to the psyche. If unacknowledged it can be passed onto others for generations to come. It lasts as long as it lasts and has its own rhythm. The poet Rumi’s words capture the nature of grief drunk to the last drop.
“All theologies are straws
His Sun burns to dust
Knowing takes you to the threshold
But not knowing through the door
Nothing can teach you if you don’t unlearn everything.
How learned I was, before Revelation made me dumb.”
Anne Pickup is a licensed psychotherapist in DC and Maryland with a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She received her Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles in 1995.