Douglas Thomas

Jung and the Queer Dialectic: A Heretical Tradition

At Jung’s funeral, his pastor described him as a heretic. This characterization might refer to Jung’s unorthodox approach to Christianity, but it also identifies an essential thread that ran throughout his thinking: an appreciation for the odd, the unconventional, and the anomalous. James Hillman observed that Jung was unusual as a psychological thinker for his tendency to recognize the exception to any norm as a signal that the autonomous psyche was revealing itself. We can appreciate the value of Queer culture and the impulse to “queer” the conventional as a modern iteration of Jung’s heretical tradition. We live in an era when Jungian orthodoxy is well established and preserved by training institutes and organizations that bear the master’s name. However, the preservation of orthodoxy also establishes a dialectic with the unconventional and the incompatible. What emotions are most likely to occur in such a dialectic?

I suggest that the emotions of fear and disgust are typically evoked in an encounter between an established order and that which can’t find a place to belong within that order. In the context of Queer-identified people, these emotions are often referred to as homophobia and transphobia, and they can arise as microaggressions or as open intolerance. Jung’s own tendency to seek out a place for the unconventional and the anomalous suggests that there is in fact a fundamental compatibility between Jungian psychology and Queer culture, such that the emotions of fear and disgust signal a necessary process of differentiation and integration at the group level.

Bio

Douglas Thomas, PhD, LCSW has a private psychotherapy practice in Pasadena and teaches at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. He holds a master’s degree from the USC School of Social Work and a PhD from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Areas of specialization include work with Queer clients, alternative sexualities, and dream tending. “My Kinky Shadow,” an IAJS presentation from 2017, will appear in an upcoming collection by Routledge. He has published and co-authored articles for the Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies and is currently working on a book for Routledge titled The Deep Psychology of Kink and BDSM: Jungian and Archetypal Perspectives on the Soul’s Dark Necessities.

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