James Hillman on the magnet power of our problems

“Why do we focus so intensely on our problems? What draws us to them? Why are they so attractive? They have the magnet power of love: somehow we desire our problems; we are in love with them much as we want to get rid of them . . . Problems sustain us — maybe that’s why they don’t go away. What would a life be without them? Completely tranquilized and loveless . . . There is a secret love hiding in each problem”

James Hillman, A Blue Fire

We are guessing that most of us have a sense of what James Hillman is saying here…. how hard we can find it to move away from some issues, relationships and behaviours, despite our sense that they harm us….. how we notice the same shapes and patterns surfacing in our lives, often with puzzlement and frustration: ‘Not this again’.

And most likely any therapist has had the experience of working with someone who is both desperate for change, and clinging with apparently equal or greater desperation to the old ways.

The writer thinks there is something to be said for the idea that we might need our problems. Certainly the ideal of non-attachment has limited appeal for her. We are here, in our human bodies and our human feelings for an experience that includes struggle, intense feeling, engagement and attachment. That is part of aliveness, and generates energy, movement, growth.

Here’s the book link:-


Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

This entry was posted in actualizing tendency, compulsive behaviour, conditions of worth, emotions, growth, human condition, James Hillman, meaning, self concept, therapeutic growth, therapeutic relationship, transformation, working with clients and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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