Personality Dynamics from a Jungian Perspective
A Q & A about reading Mitch Walker's lecture on Jungian Analysis
Q 1. Toby, what inspired
you to choose a topic like “Gay Personality Dynamics from a Jungian
Perspective”? Carl Jung was one of the early psychoanalytic theorists along
with Sigmund Freud. Do his ideas have any relevance to modern gay
A: I just read a really interesting book
on the subject and it’s brought up lots of ideas for me:
Gay Liberation at a Psychological
Crossroads: A Commentary on the Future of Homosexual Ideology by Mitch Walker,
Four talks given in West Hollywood CA for
the inauguration of the Institute for Contemporary Uranian Psychoanalysis,
Mitch Walker was one of the early gay
psychologists in the 70s. He’s one of the founders of the Radical Faeries –
along with Don Kilhefner, Mark Thompson and, of course, Harry Hay and John
Burnside. The idea for a specifically gay spiritual/cultural “movement”
centered on the positive strengths of gayness started with Walker and
Kilhefner. They approached Harry and John who were living in New Mexico at the
time, working on an Indian Reservation; Harry Hay was the Founder of the
Mattachine Society, the organization that started modern gay consciousness as
we know it.
Hay was always interested in left-wing
politics and progressive, post-Christian, post-religious spirituality. As a
youth, he’d discovered the writings of Edward Carpenter who was a British
philosopher of culture and sexuality in the late 1800s to early 1900s. He was a
contemporary of the novelist E.M. Forster. Carpenter wrote about
homosexuality—what he called “the intermediate sex”; he was especially
interested in homosexuality among “primitive peoples” and the phenomenon that
what we would now call gayness was seen as a vocation to be a shaman and
spiritual leader. Harry Hay understood modern gayness as a call not just to be
a sexual libertarian, but to be part of the evolution of human consciousness
and to be outfront, leading the way.
Mark Thompson was cultural editor at The
Advocate magazine which at the time was THE major gay media. He had connections
AND he too was interested in the idea of gay consciousness as a spiritual
phenomenon, coming out of west coast hippie and American countercultural
ideologies of the 60s/70s.
These men organized a gathering at the
Shri Ram Ashram, a retreat camp in the desert in Arizona in 1979. From that
developed the Radical Faeries.
Arthur Evans gets credit for the
precursor of this gathering which was a series of talks in 1976 in San
Francisco based on his book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture.
So all these guys were basically
“Jungian,” cause Jung’s ideas about psychoanalysis and personality theory and
psychotherapy were focused on myth and symbol. Jung understood the goal of
psychoanalysis to be spiritual growth, not readjustment to popular neurosis.
Q 2: What is Mitch Walker’s
book about? You said that was what inspired you.
A: Walker and his associates, Chris
Kilbourne, Doug Sadownick, Roger Kaufman, have established a center for what
they called gay-centered psychotherapy. They use a term from the Victorian Era
– back to Edward Carpenter. The Center for Contemporary Uranian Psychoanalysis.
Uranian came Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first person to ever “come out.” He
wrote in the mid 1800s articles acknowledging himself as a homosexual. It comes
from the planet Uranus which had just been discovered less than a hundred years
before – 1781. Just as Mars was said to rule men and Venus women, so Uranus was
said to rule “the third sex” – and just as Uranus had only recently been
discovered, so homosexuality was only now being “discovered.”
All this is VERY Jungian; it’s about
symbols and myths and “spiritual”/psychological understanding of gayness.
Walker’s book is a series of four talks
he gave for the startup of this Institute. The talks cover his own personal
development as a psychologist and as a Jungian AND tell about the founding of
the Faeries and about Walker’s efforts through the years to keep gay liberation
focused on psychological, spiritual health, not just “getting rights and
Q 3: This is the
essentialist/assimilationist debate, isn’t it? Are homosexuals different from
heterosexuals with different values and life goals and satisfactions? What did
Jung say about that?
A: Writing back in the early 20th
Century, Jung didn’t really know much about homosexuality as such. He
surrounded himself with strong women—several lesbian. And, of course, there is
a theory that the reason Freud and Jung went different ways about personality
theory is that Jung, then a young man, was afraid the older Freud was coming on
to him. So there’s some personal stuff there. But in his collected writings, he
questioned the idea that homosexuality was pathological because in the biblical
myth the original Adam would have been “homosexual” in the sense of being both
male and female. You see, the emphasis was not on sexual behavior (with the
same sex) but on how maleness and femaleness exist in human personality. Jung
seemed to accept the “two-spirit” idea, that gay people have both a male and a
Jungian theory says that men and women
are attracted to one another because all human beings in a way have two spirits
or two halves. Their conscious self is one sex; their unconscious is the
opposite, so men have an unconscious that is symbolized (in dreams, especially)
as a woman. And when they meet a real woman who is like their unconscious they
fall in love and vice versa.
What Mitch Walker importantly contributed
to Jungian thinking was that gay people aren’t attracted to the unconscious of
the other, oppositely-sexed, person, but rather to what he called The Double.
He was the first openly gay psychologist to publish about homosexuality in a
Jungian journal, back in 1976. (Spring Journal).
His idea is that we look for an idealized
reflection of ourselves in order to actualize those ideals. This is a different
model for relating than complementary opposites coming together to complete one
The archetype of the Double can be found
in early myth once you start looking for it—Walker particularly cites Gilgamesh
and the early Sumerian myths as evidence that this is basic to human nature.
But Walker’s real fascination has been
with the Jungian idea of The Shadow.
Q 4: The Shadow? That
sounds like a 1930s radio show!
A: Well, Jung wasn’t referring to the
radio show, but the famous line from the show IS exactly what Jung was talking
“Who knows what evil
lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”
A: Exactly. The Shadow is one of the most
interesting ideas in Jung.
The idea is that people project onto
others things in themselves they don’t like and don’t want to recognize. When
they see these traits in other people, they get compulsively upset and annoyed.
It’s the phenomenon that we don’t recognize the “evil that lurks in our own
hearts,” so we blame other people for it.
Of course, the perfect example of this
dynamic is the Republican Party: they condemn President Obama for calling for
"death panels" while, in fact, the Republican governors are cutting
medical funding and deciding which patients to let die without health care.
The way to hide the bad things you do is
to blame other people.
You see this with the Catholic Church as
well. To hide the fact that so many priests are gay—and that they had problems
with sexually active priests, the Pope (who sure pings my own gaydar!) condemns
honest and openly gay priests and throws them out in order to protect the
secretive, closeted and conflicted ones who are the problem AND he objects to
gay marriage and gay liberation in order to make himself look straight.
Same thing among politicians.
Q 5: How are these ideas
useful in psychoanalysis?
Jung called the Shadow "the royal
road to the unconscious" because the shadow is the one archetypal
constellation that is easy to bring into consciousness. The shadow is something
we experience all the time--and with self-awareness can understand it as such.
This is the shadow as the behaviors we
don't like in other people, the things that get us riled up and
Mitch Walker includes in the idea of The
Shadow the consequences of "internalized homophobia": how
homosexuals' inculcated negative ideas about homosexuality result in
"self-loathing" and guilt, shame, fear of exposure, feelings of being
"left out," distancing from the body and feelings in the body. These
are ideas that psychologist Don Clark wrote about in Loving Someone Gay.
This “self-loathing” is the source of
"shadow" in gay people.
The shadow shows up as gay people's
disapproval of other factions of gay people. "Straight-appearing,
straight-acting" gays don't like drag queens and are embarrassed and
annoyed when they see effeminate men. That our community breaks up into so many
"warring factions" is the result of the gay shadow.
So in therapy and self-therapy, what you
want to do is recognize what bothers you about other people and forgive them,
understanding you’re upset because of your own fears about who you are.
This really helps people get over that
“self-loathing”—when they come to value and honor their homosexuality then they
can recognize how they have changed the ideas that had plagued them when they
were growing up.
Therapy is always about getting over your
childhood errors in perception.
Where it also comes up, I think, is in
the experience of attraction and rejection.
I have a very vivid memory of being at
The Midnight Sun on Castro St one night back in the 70s: there was a guy I was
attracted to who wasn't paying any attention to my trying to cruise him AND
there was another guy whom I could feel sexual vibes from which I resisted and
resented because I wasn't attracted to him, so I ignored his effort to cruise
me. It was "instant karma"--I was getting back exactly what I was
putting out. I think that was a clear moment of shadow obsession. I was hurt
and angered that the "pretty man" wouldn't notice me; I judged
"pretty men" as being shallow and narcissistic, while I was doing
EXACTLY the same thing to the man who apparently had put me in his
"pretty" category. AND I resented and judged him for being sexually
aggressive and annoying because he wouldn't accept my ignoring him as a no.
I think that is a very common experience
of gay men and I think it is a perfect experience of the shadow dynamics.
So in therapy or self-examination, the
shadow is easy to see because we can feel it. And as we feel ourselves having
strong, compulsive emotions/feelings, we can get a glimpse into our
This is a practical way to use the idea
of the shadow in therapy: it's a clue to our own unconscious material.
The assimilationism that Mitch Walker and
Don Kilhefner and the Radical Faeries struggle against seems a cultural gay
shadow. The younger generation of non-identified homosexuals resist and judge
"gay" culture as middle-class and shallow because they project their
own gay shadow out and are compulsively annoyed at openly gay people because
they are afraid of being gay (i.e. afraid of that pain/shame/guilt/etc which you
identify as the traumatic shadow).
I want to acknowledge a whole 'nother
kind of "gay shadow" and that is the way in which homosexuals are the
recipient of projections of straight culture. Straight people don't want to
admit their own unruly sexual drives (especially their sexual attraction to
their own children--because they see themselves in their children and are
automatically reminded of, and turned-on by, their own youthful sexual
vitality). And so they blame homosexuals as being child-molesters.
We are the straight culture's shadow.
Q 6: You’re saying that
psychological analysis and self-analysis/self-examination is important to the
gay liberation struggle, not just personally but politically and culturally.
A: I think the current gay political activists
tend to use reason, logic and appeals to justice to defend gay rights. This
doesn't recognize the psychological dynamics behind homophobia. Straight men
have necessarily suppressed their boyhood sexual fascination with their own
bodies as they become heterosexual adults. Their attraction to themselves in
the mirror has been pushed into their shadow as a necessary and automatic
consequence of sexual maturing. And so they blame all the bad things that can
happen because of sex on those who constellate that shadow, i.e., the
Jung has another idea about how the human
psyche has these four functions—thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. This
is another topic entirely and we shouldn’t focus on it here. But the goal of
Jungian analysis was to bring all these functions into consciousness and to
understand how the mind works.
This is by yet a fifth function, called
the Transcendent Function, meaning the ability to look at yourself and the
dynamics of the world as psychological phenomena and to rise above it all
enough to not let it ruin you.
This outsider status—taking a “critical
perspective” is something gay people are trained at in growing up and
discovering their sexual differentness.
So this Jungian model for personality
really applies to us and helps us understand what’s going on. AND it shows us
that this is a real “spiritual” thing we’re going thru. Being a good homosexual
is being a kind of saint!
Toby Johnson, PhD is
eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his
teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and
religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual
issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's
spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In
addition to the novels featured
elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN
THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF
THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000.
His Lammy-nominated book GAY
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003.