SURVIVING MASS TRAUMA: How did Jung process catastrophic events?

Dec 7, 2023


Art Credit: Jano Tantongco, jano.tantongco@gmail.com


The great catastrophe of Jung’s generation was the rise of Nazi Germany and WWII. His insights into the collective psyche of nations remain relevant today as we grapple with war and violence worldwide.

Prepare to discover how collective hysteria and moral downfall lead to loss of individual responsibility and susceptibility to authoritarian control, whether collective guilt and the psychological impact of evil affects not just perpetrators but entire societies leading to collective moral crisis, when national fixations on power and technological prowess compensate for deep-seated inferiority, why lack of introspection leads to catastrophic consequences, the value of internal reckoning and moral awakening, which societal reforms are futile without individual psychological transformation and so much more…


“I discovered a river inlet in the city I used to live in. I take the guy I am seeing there. He wants to go for a swim, but I tell him he shouldn’t as there are probably a lot of tiger sharks in there. He jumps in and swims out away from the jetty. He immediately gets attacked by a shark. I know I should jump in to save him, but I am too scared of the shark. I put my arm in the water, grab the shark’s tail, and pull it back towards me. I poke the shark in the eye as I know this is their weak spot, and I pull the guy out of the water. He has lost both his legs and an arm. I am sobbing, asking him to please hold on. I called my mum to ask her what I should do, and she told me to call an ambulance. I do, and he survives, but he has lost both his legs and an arm.”


“First, there was a part about overthrowing an oppressive regime by undermining a female associate of the dictator. In the next part of my dream, I was walking with the skin of a shark in my arms. It was a great white shark or something similar. I could carry it (although with much effort) as if it were a sturdy blanket folded over my underarms. The shark was comatose. If it were put in water, it would come alive and be whole again. I walked for days, sometimes putting it on a rod to hang while I rested. It was a heavy task. I felt love and fear for the shark at the same time. Towards the end of my journey, the children and their teacher walked with me. It seemed that they came to see the shark in the water. The children were fooling around with the shark; they were not afraid. I tried to tell them it would be appropriate to fear the animal. We reached the destination by walking over a broad, straight sandy road. It was a small building near the sea, where the water was shallow at first. I hung the shark over a line before putting it in the water. I was glad this painful journey was ending for both of us. I sat down on the wooden floor of the shack and looked at the animal. Then I woke up.”


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  1. Jason Pickard

    Hello, I loved this podcast. Thank you. Do you perhaps have a transcript of it?

  2. Heda Kvakan

    Could you please specify where in CW is this essay to be found. Thank you in advance.

  3. Lori Wallace

    Thank you for this impassioned exploration. The lack of rootedness in one’s own soul is so prevalent in humankind’s synch to mass hysteria and demagoguery.

    I have been doing my internal work all my life and have wondered deeply about the origin of cruelty as being expressed through severe narcissisim, racism, misogyny and the rest. This relates directly to the topic of your incredibly illuminating dialogue.

    I’d like to first offer a reference to the book by Barbara Eherenreich called “Blood Rites”. She analyzes the origin of war and rejects the convenient cover story that its naturally due to testosterone (boys will be boys).

    Instead, she looks back to when early humans began to hunt as precision predators. I call this the first split. The men were designated the hunters as the woman were attached to noisy infants that scared the away the prey.

    Predation was a salve to the anxious ego fearful of being torn to bits by sabertooth tigers. Killing an animal for food started the psychological process of abating the fear of being prey, and so early humans created “blood rites”, or other acts of killing in order to keep the ego satisfied. Women fed the complex by enabling the most dominant in order to not only be protected and have food, but to also avoid being prey.

    This dynamic has only grown deeper and more dangerous, as you call out, through the years.

    But, that original split where men ascended to predator and women moved to enablers seems to me to be a the heart of the human trauma. Humans are split from their anima or animus (depending on cultural pressures due to born gender).

    This split in turn splits men from their hearts and feeling selves. To be the predator, one must feel far less.

    The split from heart is a split from soul as the heart is the conductor of soul. Without feelings, the soul is walled off in a dark cave sulking, rotting, raging at the night.

    In your discussion, many times you asked what can be done.

    In my work helping people transition between jobs, I take the position of inspired sherpa. My work is to free the heart to lead again. To set up a dynamic where the heart is behind the wheel, and the ego in the passenger seat calling out GPS coordinates.

    Healers must show up in the practical places where pain is most prevalent, and then guide people back to heart resilience with actual tools and experiences of success. My “Mindful Interviewing” is a game changer and it invites people back to wholeness and feeling. From there, they begin to awaken, get curious, go deeper, and liberate their soul from bondage.

    I’m answering the call of the moment as healer, as Goethe would say, “bringing poetic form to everyday life.”

    I know we can do this, individually, and collectively. Call the men back to true feeling love and women, celebrate their return. It starts there . . .

  4. FMJN

    One of the facts that therapy has taught me is that perpetrators like to revisit their sin. If they know your name and where you live chances are they will return to remember what they have done, relive the sin, and to do more harm. When in therapy we learn how to not relive the harm to ourselves after we have integrated it, and to learn how to not act-out the assault to our person.
    A psychopathic society seems to retaliate war crimes in perpetuity.

  5. Sally

    Thank you Joe, Deb and Lisa. What is the title of the essay that you discussed in this episode?

  6. Keith R Wilson

    What is the document from Jung that you were reading from in this episode?

    • Joseph Lee

      It is from the Collected Works of CG Jung, Volume 10 “Civilization in Transition,” the essay ‘After the Catastrophe.” It begins on paragraph 400.

  7. Karen Gallagher

    These words come listening to this. Thank you for the wisdom and the mirrors 🙏

    This choiceless choice with which we are faced
    Align means LOVE all else misplaced
    Once you see beyond illusions dream your enemies will cease to be
    Then every foe you once condemned a dearest brother is found in him
    A mirror for the shadow soul, a guiding light to reclaim the WHOLE
    Honour him now that you see redemption is bought through he
    Behold! There is but beauty ALL around

    The I of the merchant, the I the poor
    The I of the wounded, the I seeking more
    The I of the begger, the I of the thief
    The I of the joyful, the I steeped in grief
    Look, and then look once more
    Beyond these fractured I sores
    Here EYE rest in love and peace
    Awaiting communion when all I’s cease

  8. Joseph Yeber

    Joseph — you mentioned Jung’s stance on Communism. Can you point me in the direction to some of his essays?

    • Joseph Lee

      This is scattered about the collected works.


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