The Essential Jung:
Readings & Discussion of Some of Jung’s Essential Writings

INTERVIEW WITH
Dr. Constance Avery-Clark

OCTOBER 2020

INTERVIEWER:
Teresa Oster M.S., M.S.W., CJSSF board member

In anticipation of our first reading, we have interviewed one of the Board members about the readings, Constance Avery-Clark, Ph.D., Vice-President and Program Director of the Jung Center. Dr. Avery-Clark has a Ph.D. not only in Clinical Psychology but also in the Psychology of Jungian Studies under the tutelage of noted Jungian analyst and author James Hollis, Ph.D.

CJSSF: The reading material you have recommended for our first-ever virtual Center event appears rather dense. Can you talk a little bit about that?

DR. AVERY-CLARK: Yes, some people will begin the chapter and think, “What in the heck is this? I don’t even know what is going on.” We start in Part II, Chapter 7 in the midst of Jung’s detailed analysis of the fantasies of a young woman (Ms. Frank Miller… yes, you read that right) who has taken a lengthy trip from New York to Europe. She has spent much time on the deck of the ship allowing her mind to wander in what Jung refers to as non-directed or fantasy thinking where “image piles upon image, feeling on feeling” (para. 19). In this state of regressive reverie, Ms. Miller eventually has the vision of the Aztec figure, Chiwantopel, whom Jung uses as a symbol of heroic energy in the chapters prior to the one we are reading. We meet Chiwantopel in Part II, Chapter 7 (The Dual Mother) as the hero is wrestling with the powers of the mother archetype. This wrestling is what our chapter is all about.

 

CJSSF: What are the powers of the mother archetype?

DR. AVERY-CLARK: We identify with the nurturing energy of the mother, the one who will understand and tend to us. In the opening paragraph, Chiwantopel bemoans the most horrible of horrors, when there is “not one who understands me… not one among them all who has known my soul” (para. 464). It is this comprehending one’s soul for which we all yearn and that is imaged in the mother archetype. But we forget there is another side to the tending mother archetype: she who has given birth to us and nurtured us also restrains and ultimately kills us. “The greater becomes the danger of this kind of ‘comprehension’ hindering its natural development… the libido of the child regresses to the sheltering ease of the mother’s arms and fails to keep pace with the passing time” (para. 465). The entire chapter describes the ongoing, dynamic tension between our overwhelming desire to drown our fears about life in the sheltering ease of these arms, and our heroic compulsion to break free and leave our creative mark on the world. The “regressive tendency has been consistently opposed from the most primitive times by the great psychotherapeutic systems which we know as the religions” (para. 553).

 

CJSSF: Is this chapter an endorsement of religion?

DR. AVERY-CLARK: It is certainly an endorsement of the powerful role spirituality plays in our lives and, at the time Jung was writing Symbols of Transformation, the loss of a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves. This historical context is important to understand when reading this work. Jung was writing this at the beginning of the 20th century when there was an enormous critique of literalism. Critical analysis was being applied to such cherished texts as the Bible, questioning the literal interpretations of its stories. This caused an upheaval in the spiritual world, and people were searching for connections to the spiritual world in new ways. At this time, Freud was dismissing any purposeful dynamism to the psyche, focusing instead on the nervous Nelly of the ego as it shifted back and forth between the instinctual and social demands within the individual, and trying to keep both satisfied. Jung didn’t disagree with any of this but broke with Freud in asserting that there was more to the psyche than just the poor ego’s regressively trying to put out intrapsychic fires and falling into the comprehending arms of the mother archetype. He suggested that the psyche also has a progressive, creative, purposeful, and heroic energy that wants to overcome these seductive forces of fear-infused darkness, and connect with something transcendent. This became the new way with which to connect with the spiritual, through our psychological, Chiwantopel vitality. This entire book takes on the subject of spiritual connection, a subject Freud rejected. As a result, this book represents Jung’s break with Freud. It resulted in Jung’s sinking into his own world of fantasy thinking to the point he was worried he might be having a psychotic break.

 

CJSSF: Does Jung’s fantasy thinking have anything to do with Symbols of Transformation?

DR. AVERY-CLARK: Absolutely. The most compelling way to read this book, and particularly this chapter, is to view it as Jung’s projection of his own heroic struggle to assert his spiritual perspective and not fall back into the secure arms of the Freudian viewpoint. This book is not so much about Ms. Miller’s fantasy thinking as it is a projection of Jung’s own imaging energy into Ms. Miller’s material. Whenever Jung mentions Ms. Miller, think “Jung.”

 

CJSSF: If you had to pick one paragraph that summarizes the readings, what would that be?

DR. AVERY-CLARK: Paragraph 551: “The spirit of evil is fear, negation, the adversary who opposes life in its struggle for eternal duration and thwarts every great deed… who threatens us with bondage to the mother and with dissolution and extinction in the unconscious… For the hero, fear is a challenge and a task, because only boldness can deliver from fear. And if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is somehow violated, and the whole future is condemned to hopeless staleness, to a drab grey lit only by will-o’-the-wisps.” James Hollis considers this the essence of Jungian thinking and individuation. The heroic energy within all of us must boldly and relentlessly challenge the fear that results in our being seduced back into the calming but suffocating arms of the mother, into the void of numbing distractions, whether they be drugs, food, rigid patterns, workaholism, or something else. This battle is the process of individuation, and it never ends. But if the mantle of boldness is assumed, the possibility of our own connection to larger meaning is possible. And that is why the theme for the Center’s 33rd year is On the Psychology of Boldness in Hard Times.

Headshot of Constance Avery-Clark, Ph.D.

Constance Avery-Clark, Ph.D., is a Jungian-oriented, licensed Psychologist with Ph.D.’s in Clinical Psychology and in Psychology-Jungian Studies. She is also an AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist and served as Research and Clinical Associate at Masters & Johnson Institute for five years. She has been in private practice for over 30 years, specializing in sexual, intimacy, and relationship difficulties from cognitive-behavioral, systems-oriented, and depth psychological perspectives. She co-authored the book Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual. Constance has presented several times for the Center for Jungian Studies, most recently on James Hollis’s The Eden Project and on her dissertation topic, Sex, Jung, and Photographs: The Nature of Yearning. She is CJSSF’s Vice-President and Program Chair.

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SEND MAIL TO:

Center for Jungian Studies
c/o Richard Chappell
20533 Biscayne Blvd Ste 104
Aventura, FL 33180-1529

Join Our Newsletter

ABOUT CJSSF

As a Not-For-Profit organization we exist because of the generosity of our friends, volunteers and donors. None of the work that we do would be possible without you.