In this interview, Marie-Louise von Franz, the great protégé of Carl Jung, answers some questions about Jung’s work and about the psychology of the times, while we see the beauty of the Swiss countryside (very close to Jung’s house, where he built his alchemical tower). At minute 46 it says: “A depression is a divine blessing, in the individual, it is the greatest blessing”. This, the interviewer interpellates, is not the way we usually see depression. Von Franz explains that without a depression or a neurosis, the human being does not look inwards: “As long as things go well outside, we flee from ourselves”. And within us lies the true wealth, the light that can illuminate our lives.
Evidently, for people suffering from chronic depression, this idea will hardly be welcome. Depression looks like a curse and, certainly, it can turn into it. Jungian psychology, however, considers that the psyche is the primordial reality and, therefore, a depression is a way of communicating with the deepest parts of the psyche, as if it were to come into contact with the divine or numinous underlying to the daily conscious experience.
We must mention that, according to Jungian psychology (and consistently with, for example, Buddhism), physical illnesses have psychic origins. Thus, for example, a disease or a difficulty is, paradoxically, the soul’s attempts to heal, to force the individual to change or, at least, to observe certain things that are in his unconscious and need to manifest. One could even suggest that diseases, rather than symptoms, are the physical manifestations of the symbolization of the psyche, of the unconscious that has access to the archetypes and to a plethora of untouchable information.
In a famous letter to a patient, Jung wrote:
When the darkness becomes denser, it will penetrate to its core and bottom, and it will not rest until a light appears in the pain, since in exessu affectus [in an excess of passion] nature reverts.
In other words, depression can be the source of a kind of unfading happiness; the real treasures, the gold and so on are in the depths of the earth. Or, as Camus wrote, “in the middle of winter I found an invincible summer in me”.
This vision of depression can be compared with the ideas of the Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa:
Depression does not exist in a vacuum alone, it has all kinds of intelligent things that are happening in it. Basically, depression is extraordinarily interesting and is a highly intelligent state of being. That’s why you’re depressed. Depression is a mental state of dissatisfaction for which you feel you have no way out. So it works with the dissatisfaction of depression. Whatever is it is extraordinarily powerful. It has all kinds of answers, but the answers are hidden. So, in fact, I think the energy of depression is one of the most powerful. It’s a hugely awake energy, although you probably feel it as sleepy.