Jung on the Persona, and the Consuming Fire

‘Every calling or profession has its own characteristic persona. It is easy to study these things nowadays, when the photographs of public personalities so frequently appear in the press. A certain kind of behaviour is forced on them by the world, and professional people endeavour to come up to these expectations. Only, the danger is that they become identical with their personas – the professor with his text-book, the tenor with his voice. Then the damage is done; henceforth he lives exclusively against the background of his own biography. . . . The garment of Deianeira has grown fast to his skin, and a desperate decision like that of Heracles is needed if he is to tear this Nessus shirt from his body and step into the consuming fire of the flame of immortality, in order to transform himself into what he really is. One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.’

Jung: “Concerning Rebirth” (1940). In CW 9, Part I: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. P.221

This feels relevant to the current therapeutic scene. We notice a number of popular flavours of therapist ‘characteristic persona’. There is a question about how far these serve clients, or the cause of therapy (as a way of working with the challenges of being alive).

We all have our stories of ourselves, and we all have a need to belong. For us, the learning edge is around working with this in awareness, in reflective process and in supervision. If a therapist experiences their ‘characteristic persona’ as the ‘right and proper’ way for therapists to be, it can become a short step to seeking – subtly or more explicitly – to impose aspects of this on others.

We believe the task in therapy is to accompany and support the client in his (her or their) unique, delicate journey ‘to transform himself into what he really is’. A therapist who conceptualizes their own persona in terms of ‘the right way to be/do’ is unlikely to be able to offer such companionship at depth. We cannot go with our clients where we are unwilling or unable to go ourselves.

This is why at this service we look for therapists who show:-

  • fuller engagement with their own process,
  • an openness to other perspectives, underpinned by an ability to respond and act from an internal locus and withstand pressures to conform,
  • a willingness to be with vulnerability, and a commitment to real relationship characterized by the core conditions (inwardly and with other people).

Such a therapist inhabits a place where the question changes from ‘what are the rules?’ to ‘who am I, as a person and as a therapist, and how may I most deeply and effectively meet myself and another, in the service of us all?’.

With thanks to this site for the quotation (and much other interesting material):-


Here is a Wiki reference, if you would like to follow up on the mythology:-


Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

This entry was posted in congruence, consciousness, core conditions, cultural questions, Disconnection, ethics, external locus, fear, healing, human condition, identity, interconnection & belonging, internal locus of evaluation, Jung, Palace Gate Counselling Service, paradigm shift, perception, person centred, reality, relationship, self, self concept, therapeutic relationship, values & principles, working with clients and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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