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Supplemental Essay: Assimilation of the Aggression of the Antagonist

This supplemental essay contains quotes and expanded explanations as background for the material in the main essay. You can skip this supplemental essay if you're not interested in the details.

Recapping the N level: In my description of the Struggler at the N level, I noted that the Struggler assumes increasing agency in his flight from the Great Mother. I said, He resorts to chastity and flight in a bid to strengthen his independence. [...] But in determining his own fate, the Struggler becomes complicit in his destiny. Flight turns into self-castration and suicide.


In other words even as he is victimized by the Great Mother, the Struggler increasingly takes responsibility for his own fate.


At the S level: With the onset of the S level, the hostile energy from the Antagonist at the N level is fragmented off and assimilated by the child. In The Origins and History of Consciousness Erich Neumann says, "[T]he adolescent experiences part of this destructive force as belonging to him personally. He is no longer merely the victim of the Great Mother, but, through his own self-mutilation and suicide, he negatively assimilates the destructive tendency which has turned against him. The ego center gains control over this aggressive tendency of the unconscious and makes it an ego tendency and a content of consciousness [...] Only gradually, and to the degree that the ego recognizes this destructive tendency as being not just a hostile content of the unconscious, but as part of itself, does consciousness begin to incorporate it, to digest and assimilate it, in other words, to make it conscious. The destruction is now separable from its old object, the ego, and has become an ego function. The ego can now use at least a portion of this tendency in its own interests."[1]


Neumann notes that these destructive tendencies of the unconscious are harnessed by the analytical powers of consciousness for the purpose of breaking down and assimilating the world: "This is expressed not only in its capacity to distinguish itself from the unconscious and keep its distance but also in utilizing this capacity in its ever-renewed attempts to break down the world continuum into objects, thus making it assimilable for the ego. The assimilative powers of consciousness which enable it to grasp objects first as images and symbols, then as contents, and finally as concepts, and to absorb and arrange them in a new order, presuppose this analytical function. By its means the destructive tendency of the unconscious becomes a positive function of consciousness."[2]


This harks back to the S level function of narrative: Causality, consistency, and coherence become the principles for associating thoughts. The result is the construction of narratives. (See the main Sensing essay under the "Description of Sensing" heading.)

Link: Return to Sensing (S)

~Posted November 14, 2023


[1] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XLII (Princeton University Press, 1954, First Princeton Classics edition, 2014), pp. 316-317.

[2] Ibid., p. 317.

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