Imp of the Perverse: struggling with our fiendish shadow

Jul 21, 2022

Photo Credit: Joseph Lee

What is the imp of the perverse? A fiendish inner spirit can prompt behavior that defies self-interest and even common sense. In Edgar Allan Poe’s story, the protagonist acts on his diabolical urge to commit murder, followed by a self-destructive urge to confess it. Jung says, “If he has done it secretly, without moral consciousness of it, and remains undiscovered, the punishment can nevertheless be visited upon him…” The impulse to take irrational and even immoral risks can cause inner torment and lead to damaging actions. The trickster within tempts us to yield to impulse, succumb to negligence, or be recklessly perverse—simply for the sake of indulging the foolish or forbidden. Posing as merely mischievous, the imp of the perverse proffers a sense of power and grandiosity. He challenges us to meet him with the power of self-reflection, ego strength, and restraint, the components of conscious choice. 

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I am with my wife and child on the North pole. We are in a small cabin. I don’t know why we are here or how we got here. It is not a familiar place, but I’m not surprised to be here. There is a blizzard raging outside. Inside it is dark; a fire is burning in a traditional cast iron stove. We huddle together by the fire. I am responsible for the fire. The door blows open, and I can see the white blizzard outside. I fear that my daughter will somehow be sucked into the blizzard. I manage to close the door. I search for firewood, but the cabin is dark and unfamiliar. I venture out into the storm and find some firewood. I return inside to tend to the fire. I find my wife and daughter asleep by the stove.” 


Edgar Allan Poe stories online: https://poestories.com/read/imp


Become our patron: https://www.patreon.com/ThisJungianLife


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

PAJA Advanced Clinical Practice Program: https://www.cgjungphiladelphia.org/assets/2022-2023-advanced-clinical-practice.pdf

Philadelphia Association of Jungian Analysts, Seminar in Jungian Studies: https://www.cgjungphiladelphia.org/seminar.shtml


  1. Simcha

    Hello. thanks for another great podcast.

    Is the TJL “team” responsible for or teaching these PAJA seminars?

    There seem to be two: an advanced clinical practice program for clinicians only and then a seminar open to anyone with 20 Jungian analytic hours as a patient.

    • Lisa Marchiano

      There are two programs. You have that just right. PAJA is where the three of us trained and we continue to be involved behind the scenes. I don’t believe any of us are teaching in these programs this year, but our colleagues are.


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