The dialogue with the unconscious in working with anxiety

Main Article Content

John Beebe


A defining tenet of Jung’s approach to psychotherapy is that the therapy is more than a dialogue between the psyche of the patient and that of the therapist. There is an invisible but active third perspective in the room: that of the unconscious, representing a viewpoint that, though shared by the therapeutic dyad, has its own autonomy and objectivity. Following Bion, psychoanalyst James Grotstein has said that in each session the analyst must freshly specify the anxiety that is present. Expressions of the unconscious, as in dreams, active imagination, and artistic products, tend to be very helpful in this task, sometimes calling attention to what is at the heart of the anxiety and sometimes reframing the situation to show that there is a limit to how much a particular anxiety has to teach us. Drawing on dreams reported in his own practice, as well as by seminal Jungian teacher Marie-Louise von Franz and a friend in analysis with another colleague, the author demonstrates how such expressions from the unconscious have illuminated and contextualized the nature of anxiety in therapy and life situations. Offering a fourth example of the unconscious bringing objective insight, the author describes his own consulting of the I Ching about a political development that was making him and many of his patients anxious. This divinatory method, introduced to analytical psychology by Jung, seems particularly well designed to help understanding that is unconscious become conscious and explicit. 

Article Details

How to Cite
Beebe, J. (2021). The dialogue with the unconscious in working with anxiety. Metalepsis: Journal of the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis, 1(1), 42-58.