Niccolò Fiorentino Polipo

“Adelphos” or the Anxiolytic Function of the Self: A Common Ground for Jungian Analysis and Third-wave CBT?

Anxiety is a negative emotion at the basis of some of the most common forms of psychological sufferance. Much is known about the cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety. Little is known about a treatment of anxiety informed by Jungian psychology. Jung did not leave a systematic theory of anxiety (Baker, 1986). Only a few case studies exist which describe a Jungian treatment of anxiety disorders (Machado, 2020; Cohen, 2018). As a result, anxiety remains one of the least systematized clinical presentations in Jungian theory (Wuehl, 2016). Using the theoretical framework of the ego-Self axis, we differentiate between two types of anxiety. Psychotic anxiety is characteristic of an ego that panics over the threat of an invasion by the Self (Kalsched, 1998).

Neurotic anxiety is characteristic of an ego that worries about being an “only-ego” without a Self (Neumann, 1957). In this paper, we focus on the latter type of anxiety and reflect on how the anxiolytic function of the Self can be activated. We characterize this activation as the development of a “self-talk” by which the fretting ego reassures itself in the tranquil and comforting voice of the Self. We propose that the activation of an “observing Self” is a goal common to Jungian psychotherapy and third wave cognitive-behavioral therapy (Beitman & Soth, 2006; Deikman, 1982). Examples are discussed illustrating the activation of this anxiolytic function of the Self. In symbolic terms, it is proposed that the function be represented not as a Father reassuring a Son, but as an Older Brother reassuring a younger co-uterine sibling. The soothing voice is that of someone “born from the same womb” who can relate to the ego’s fear while at the same time indicating the way beyond it. That is why it is proposed to refer to this anxiolytic function as the “Adelphos”.


Niccolò Fiorentino Polipo is a clinical psychologist and a scholarship-holder PhD student at the Psychological Sciences Research Institute of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, a second-cycle degree program in clinical psychology at the University of Bologna, and a master of science in forensic psychology at the University of Kent. He is training as an aspirant Jungian analyst with the Belgian School for Jungian Psychoanalysis.

Recent publications

  • Polipo, N. F. (2021). The emerging field of Jungian ethics. Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche, 15(4), 96-101.
  • Polipo, N. F. (2020). Vulnerability and incorruptibility: An aretaic model of the transcendent function. In E. Brodersen, & P. Amezaga (Eds.), Jungian perspectives on indeterminate states: Betwixt and between borders. London: Routledge, pp. 240-259.


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