Jung and Others on Fear Part II

Part II: Fears of Knowing, Growing and Becoming Conscious

“But modern man’s consciousness has strayed rather too far from the fact of the unconscious. We have even forgotten that the psyche is by no means of our design, but is for the most part autonomous and unconscious. Consequently the approach of the unconscious induces a panic fear in civilized people, not least on account of the menacing analogy with insanity.”  

Jung (1953)

“We know that it is far more convenient for the patient to be ill, because recovery brings with it a great disadvantage: she would lose her analyst. The illness reserves him, as it were, for her needs. With her interesting illness, she has obviously offered the analyst a great deal, and has received from him a good deal of interest and patience and return. She certainly does not want to give up this stimulating relationship, and for this reason she is afraid of remaining well and secretly hopes that something weird and wonderful will befall her so as to rekindle the analyst’s interest. Naturally she would do anything rather than admit that she really had such wishes. But we must accustom ourselves to the thought that in psychology there are things which the patient simultaneously knows and does not know.” 

Jung (1961)

“What may be forgotten is that alongside, and in opposition to, the forces stimulating psychological growth, there exists a fear of it. Jung attributed this fear to an instinctive regressive force inherent in the psyche, a force whose mythological image is the devouring aspect of the Great Mother.” 

Steinberg (1990) 

“The shirker experiences nothing but his own morbid fear, and it yields him no meaning.”

Jung (1966)

As we noted in Part I of this essay on fear, analysts have seen a variety of what I regarded as “strange” fears: Why would someone fear joy? success? achievement? Why would an analysand fear getting well, or resist making therapeutic progress? In this Part II, we address these questions and consider some reasons why people fear knowing the truth, fear growing into health or wholeness, or resist becoming conscious. 

Fear of Joy 

In the blog essay “Jung and the Numinosum,” archived on this web site, I noted how both Jung and the author of “Hebrews” understood that fear is often experienced when we contact the Self. It can be a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and analysis is sometimes the context where this happens, as we wrestle with the characters in our “inner city” in the depths of the unconscious. As much as we might feel “awe, wonder and joy” in a numinous moment, the ego can at the same time feel terror, disorientation, fear and defeat.