Tag Archives: the denial of instinct

Emotional Energy

… To think logically, intellect must repress emotion; to the degree that we identify with it, we are at odds with ourselves. The over-reliance on one function to the exclusion of others is a threat to our psychic balance. The unconscious attempts to restore equilibrium by creating circumstances through unintended and “accidental” consequences which form an inner counter-pole to conscious direction: the basis of the tension of opposites, their relativity, and the swings produced by changes from within.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

Considered psychologically, our intellectual enlightenment is an illusion. That the mere interpretation of facts can make them relative is a great paradox for an objectively oriented culture; yet it continues to create subjective conditions which only accentuate the broader psychic conflicts we face today. Jung wrote in 1961:

Through scientific understanding, our world has become de-humanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had a symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god…

No river contains a spirit, no tree means a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom, and no mountain still harbours a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things… His… communication with nature is gone forever, and the emotional energy it generated has sunk back into the unconscious…

Since energy never vanishes, the emotional energy that manifests itself in all numinous phenomena does not cease to exist when it disappears from consciousness… it reappears… in symbolic happenings… At least the surface of our world seems to be purified of all… irrational admixtures. Whether, however, the real inner world of man — and not our wish-fulfilling fiction about it — is also freed from primitivity is another question.

“Numinous” describes the pull of unconscious energy to the symbolic ideas which appeal to it: the strange attraction of a painting or the uncanny feelings excited by dreams — or our projections into objects. It has a compelling quality — a feature of instinct.

Over the centuries, the denial of instinct was based on conscious ideals which in no way matched its power of attraction. This darker side of the psyche is likewise spiritual; though in a form unacceptable to the ideal. Its deeper, symbolic aspects were the focus of Jung’s  studies. 

Psychologically, Jung considered instincts as functions of relationship; not just biological drives to maintain the race. Instinct isn’t blind, it’s unconscious; we can’t see it but through its effects. We may have created a separate reality for our own ego-purposes, but our instinctual natures will always serve as a counter-pole through unintended consequences: the symbolic reality we can’t see.

Psychic functions are more emotional than sensual. Religious devotion was once the medium through which an unconscious nature expressed the urge to symbolic understanding, to lift us beyond mere instinctuality. Though we have evolved in some aspects, the world we create today as much reflects the inhumanity and spiritual inferiority as the one Christ sought to inform. The natural balancing of consciousness is effected by an unconscious counter-pole: a two-sided devil we may dismiss as superstition, though we remain subject to its hidden will.

The conflicts between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, science and religion, reflect this dual nature. Science has proved the duality of all energic processes, yet it dismisses emotion as fantasy. Preachers can’t incorporate it but through an obsolete dogma. Psychology can’t interpret it but by rote method. Philosophy grows stale before a material truth, and culture seems more divided today than ever. Confusion increases with each partial answer.

As Jung has shown, the nature of the unconscious is fluid and ever-changing, and it relentlessly pursues its own purposes. We may want more certainty than that implies, yet it’s this tension of doubt and uncertainty which is intended to make us aware of inner changes.

The value of myth and religion is that their images express the deeper conflicts below consciousness. Its purposes are not determined by ego, but are its burden. Through this mystery, we have inborn functions which enable us to relate to it. But, only if the symbols are re-interpreted to reflect changes in consciousness will they make any sense.

Ego must attain a certain level of stability to see its inner opposite as a part of itself. This is only possible through the emotions it creates. When unconscious tension is projected and explodes into the objective world, it is fantasy become real, and the instinctual energy contained in them can be very destructive.

There’s no other way for consciousness to conceive a world beyond the senses, strive as science and psychology may to understand the psyche through fact and statistic. The denial of spirit for the material world, where subjective images become concrete, is now at the expense of the reality that sustains it.

We don’t have to perceive the wind or thunder as the voice of a god to know it’s a power we can’t see or control. We won’t ever again conceive concrete things as spirits in the literal sense. Yet the way we relate to nature today, the unconscious awe, the fear and disdain, does speak to us. But only a small whisper does it sound; easily drowned by the siren-song of technology, material progress, and all the rest of the fear of god that makes us strangers to ourselves.

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