Jung on the Hammer and the Anvil

Consider this observation by Jung (1939) on the hammer and the anvil:

Conscious and unconscious do not make a whole when one of them is suppressed and injured by the other. If they must contend, let it at least be a fair fight with equal rights on both sides. Both are aspects of life. Consciousness should defend its reason and protect itself, and the chaotic life of the unconscious should be given the chance of having its way too – as much of it as we can stand. This means open conflict and open collaboration at once. That, evidently, is the way human life should be. It is the old game of hammer and anvil: between them the patient iron is forged into an indestructible whole, an “individual.” (CW Vol.9.1, par. 522)

Open conflict and open collaboration at once? And how does “the old game” capture the conscious-unconscious tension? Which is the hammer and which the anvil? And then there is the mysterious image of the patient iron being forged, through heat and repeated hammering, into an indestructible whole, an “individual.”

What might we look like if/when we become our true selves, all the way through? Jung’s image suggests a great deal. This work requires a sustained energy and sometimes, striking blows. 

At a time in history when we find ourselves swimming in a collective sea of life threatening conflict and hard rhetoric, it is helpful to believe in a depth psychological perspective. And, to recognize the process of becoming conscious is by nature, at best, very, very difficult.

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