SELF-LOATHING: what’s gnawing on your bones?

Feb 4, 2021

A black and white image shows a young woman clutching her face, in a moment of self-loathing.
Photo Credit: Emiliano Vittoriosi via Unsplash

The judgmental inner voice of self-loathing has volume, speed, pitch and range. It may appear as a perfectionistic critic, demanding taskmaster, or abusive bully. It also seeps in through the collective, with criteria for beauty, status, and wealth that are unrealistic and artificial. At its worst, this punitive, shaming complex incites self-destructive behavior, and has long been imaged by witches, warlocks, ogres and fiends.

Most of us would never treat anyone as badly as we sometimes treat ourselves. This internalized dynamic seesaws between extremes of idealized expectations and punitive backlash that pretends to be ‘for our own good.’ Like Sisyphus, we labor to roll the stone of achievement uphill when what is needed is self-acceptance, compassion, and the courage to confront the negative voice. Authentic encounter creates a vessel for transformation through consciousness. It makes room for choice, freedom—and soulful self-acceptance.

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I found a tiny fish in the sink. It was really beat up but alive, so I got a bowl of water for it and put it there, but it immediately started outgrowing the bowl. I got a bigger bowl but as soon as I put it there, the fish got bigger. I got a tub of water and put it there and it got even bigger. It had stripes and it was looking at me and interacting with me the whole time. This fish seemed to have a soul.” 


Robert Firestone. Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071D7ZNLS/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_Y1SXYA5KCYZBYZR4Y3EZ


Learn to Analyze your own Dreams:  https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/


  1. Taline Kavoukian

    Thank you, for these wonderful podcasts! I look forward to them every Thursday! And regarding the trope, Lisa, I will share that since listen into these podcasts, I have started remembering my dreams after about 30 years of virtually zero recall! Stay well, you three!

  2. Todd

    This technique at min 41 as decribed by Joseph works particularly well for me as i go deeper in my analysis and follow the threads down and down. I think that perhaps for people wounded in the psychoid…the deepest realms of the personal pscyhe…perhaps like me manifesting schizoid qualities… experience images as the primary mediators to that level of the psyche rather than fully developed complexes (or sub-personalities). Although i have personally found that it is the analysis of these visual images that constellate in the visual field (during meditation or AI) that bears the most fruit for me.

  3. Simcha

    Thank you! Brilliant – and devastating – talk. Precise in the descriptions and in the suggestions for healing.

    Is it possible to post a more specific bibliographical reference to John Fairbairn’s publications about the fantasy bond for an attachment?

    Starting at 10:00, JL describes how a child develops different personalities for each (parental) interlocutor with reference to Fairbairn: dutiful, gullible and eager to please the exciting withholding parent and then betraying, angry and seeking the down-fall of the monstrous parent.

    • Joseph Lee

      Hi Simcha,
      You might be served best by a thorough google search on Ronald Fairbairn and his theories on the exciting withholding object. A text to consider is ‘Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality by W. R. D. Fairbairn.
      ~ Joseph

  4. Angela

    Thank you for this illuminating discussion. It is such a relief to hear these themes spoken of and really helps me understand more about a deeply painful, lifelong problem.


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