Carl Jung’s Red Book: even the Greats have inner demons

For almost fifty years it laid hidden in one of Zurich’s most secure bank vaults. Only rumors hinted at its existence. A book, a kind of personal journal, bound in red leather, with the most secret inner thoughts written by one of the world’s most famous and celebrated psychologist, Carl Jung. Now, finally, it is revealed to the public. It tells of a most private struggle, the fight and subsequent victory over dark inner demons, and shows that even the Greats have to endure the same inner battles as the rest of us on this path called life. There is much to learn from this.

Carl Jung, 1875-1961, was one of the greatest psychologists of the first half of the twentieth century. Even Freud at one time believed him to be his own heir and successor. Just like Freud, Jung believed that our dreams are the key to resolving our psychic problems, but he also stated that there is something deeper than the personal sub-consciousness, shared by all humans, which he called the collective unconsciousness, as well as the archetypes of the psyche. Some of this, including the notion of synchronicity (inner and outer events are connected) easily crosses over into the metaphysical if not spiritual and mythological, which is why today Jung still has countless followers, especially in the United States. To many of these “Jungians” he is a modern day science Guru (he was also a great influence on my own writings in Be True, Be Happy and The Steps of Essence.

It is known that in his life, just like we all do, he went through some rough patches. For decades it had been rumored that he kept a journal of his inner struggles, meticulously detailed and illustrated. Jung believed that our inner demons have to be dealt with and resolved, or else they rule our lives. And his way was to bring his darker dreams out on paper so that he could find closure with them—then, whenever they would reappear he could simply revisit the respective pages in the book and own these darker thoughts, instead of them owning him. It is precisely this process at this low point in his life that enabled him to move forward with life and conduct the remarkable research that was to come.

For the longest time, his estate played down the existence of this book and did not let anybody see it (see New York Times article). That is, until very recently when they finally made this long “lost” book available to the public.

The reason why his heirs were hesitant to show the book was because they feared it would reveal a possibly darker side to this Genius. This is understandable because the dream world that is described in these pages naturally depicts the darker demons that Jung battled in those years. But I believe it simply shows a very human side of him. We all have such demons—clearly, they are different for each of us, but nonetheless, they are there. And it is illuminating to see how one of the Greats shares this common human trait.

But here is the real thing to learn from this: yes, we all have these inner demons--but what do we do with them?

Do you keep them locked up inside, and shy away whenever they rear their ugly heads? If so, they will rule and control your life until the day you die. They will hold you back, and prevent you from growing into many valued areas of your life.

Or do you, like Jung, draw them out into the open, reveal them, and heal them? Not defeat them, but HEAL them--by realizing they are simply a part of you that you pushed away!

The latter is a very hard way, but to me the path we must take if we don’t want our lives to be ruled by our demons. And this is why this Red Book is of so much interest to us, showing how one of the greatest psychologists went about doing this.

Jung himself used an approach based on dream analysis to heal his demons. While this is still very valid today, there now are many other ways you can use (many of which were not in existence during Jung’s life). Dreams clearly are a valid indicator to point out your demons, but their analysis may take a very long time; you can also use cognitive techniques that change the way you think about yourself much more rapidly. In my books, Be True, Be Happy and The Steps of Essence, I describe some of these techniques, as well as several others that lead you to accept yourself better using the ACT approach.

Nonetheless, the first part in all of this, and maybe the most difficult, is to come to know and own up to your demons and the restrictions that they (that, is, YOU!) place on your life.

To bring this article to life for you right now, think about this: Can you think of some things that hold you back in your life? What are some of the “inner demons” that you normally shy away from? If you know some, can you, at least for just a moment, just be with them and draw them out into the open? And how can you heal them?

Namaste ("I bow to the Divine in you")

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