Let me introduce myself. I am the subject of this case study. I am now 74 years old, and in good health, and the disease that was supposed to kill me has been in remission for 40 years. When I was 34 years old, I was diagnosed with pemphigus vulgaris, and treated with a radical cortisone treatment, and, in addition, a psychological treatment of my own. Needless to say, I survived the treatments (radical and psychological) as well as the disease.
Let me explain. It all started when I went to see this doctor about a cut on my forehead that kept appearing and disappearing. He was a Harley St. specialist and an expert in skin eruptions. I had banged my forehead on the corner of a kitchen cabinet, and cut it. It bled for a while, and when the bleeding stopped, it didn't look so bad. But the next morning it was oozing an orange-green muck. The next day the cut had disappeared completely, only to appear again the next day, oozing muck. This went on for several more days before I finally decided to seek medical help. The Harley St. specialist examined me thoroughly and took a biopsy, and a few days later advised that I had a rare auto-immune disease called Pemphigus Vulgaris, in which the immunization system of the body went crazy and tried to kill you. He advised that the disease could be effectively treated with cortisone, which would alleviate the symptoms and control the outbreak of the disease. He elaborated on the cortisone treatment, and I got the impression that there were two ways to proceed, and it was my decision which one I chose.
One way to proceed, assuming that I had no medical problems, was by using massive doses of cortisone (100 mg. a day) for about 6 months, to bombard the immune system into submission as well as to alleviate the symptoms, and thereafter to reduce the cortisone intake gradually (say 5-10 mg. a day depending) over another 6 months, until no more cortisone was required without the symptoms breaking out again. He advised that this way of proceeding was dangerous, depending on my reaction to the massive intake of cortisone over the six month period of time, which could kill me, however unlikely that might be, but that it held the possibility of remission, and if not, then a minimal daily cortisone dosage for life (around 10-20 mg.).
The other way to proceed was by using large doses of cortisone (say 80 mg. a day) for a short period of time (less than a month) in order to alleviate the symptoms, and then, as quickly as possible thereafter, reducing the cortisone intake to a manageable number of around 10-20 mg. a day for life. The advantage of this way of proceeding was that it was not immediately dangerous to the patient, there was little chance of a bad reaction to the cortisone, it was easier on the patient, and the end result would probably be the same.
I got the impression that the use of 10-20 mg. of cortisone for life was not an optimum result, as it was also life curtailing over the long run, however it was a great improvement over what patients had had to suffer before cortisone. Either the Harley St. specialist said, or I understood him to say (because I wanted to) that the radical cortisone treatment was preferable (assuming it was medically feasible) because it offered the possibility of remission, which, though it wasn't a cure, was a respite from the disease as well as the cortisone. I'm not sure anymore. I may well have convinced myself of what he said after talking with a psychiatrist I was referred to (whom I will tell you about in a moment).
Before I made my decision about the treatment, I chanced upon a psychiatrist who was also a skin doctor and expert in auto-immune skin diseases. A colleague of mine (a Jungian analyst with whom I had studied Jungian psychology in Zurich and London), with whom I had discussed my condition, referred me to the psychiatrist in question, and advised me not to make any decisions before talking to her. I went to visit her at the hospital at which she worked, and she advised me of the theory she had developed over many years of practice with patients who had pemphigus vulgaris. She believed that pemphigus had a psycho-chemical base and could be remitted (stopped for an indeterminate time, as opposed to cured) if the patient were able to come to grips with the thing in him that wanted to die, or, depending on how you look at it, didn't want to live. In her opinion, patients who suffered from the disease (the few among all those who potentially carried the disease) did so because something in them wanted to die, and they were unable to resist.
We discussed the two ways of treating the disease with cortisone and I got the impression that she thought that bombarding the immune system with massive doses of cortisone could cause the disease to go into remission (like bombing it into submission with atom bombs), if, at the same time, the patient were able to get through to the thing within and make peace with it. This thing within was the source of the disease (the psychological part of the psycho-chemical process). If the patient could get in touch and make peace with it, he might be able to so inhibit the apparent cause of the disease (the chemical part of the psycho-chemical process) that it would go into remission. The problem, she said, was that most patients refused to try the radical treatment, as it was life threatening, and, in any event, none of them had the psychological aptitude necessary to penetrate to the source, the thing within, and they were content to just be carried along by the disease, so long as the symptoms were alleviated.
She said that she thought that the radical cortisone treatment seemed to offer a better opportunity to test her theory, as the accumulation of cortisone in the system would be more conducive to a suspension of consciousness and utilization of active-imagination, which would be required during the inner journey to find and make peace with the thing within. She also said that she couldn't be sure that her theory wouldn't work with the conventional cortisone treatment, but that, if it could, it would require a patient with a very high degree of psychological aptitude and the ability to suspend disbelief. She confessed that she had not been able to test her theory because all her patients had already been treated with a conventional cortisone treatment, and those who hadn't yet been treated were afraid of taking massive dosages of cortisone over an extended period of time, regardless of the possibility of remission. And, in addition, none of her patients had had a sufficient psychological aptitude necessary to engage in the search for the thing within them, even if they believed in such a thing, which none of them did.
I found her theory enticing. As a Jungian analyst myself, it made perfect sense. I didn't want to die, but somehow what I wanted didn't matter. Somewhere in my psyche I wanted to die whether I knew it or not, which meant that there was a part of me that wanted to die and was prepared to take me along with it, even though I didn't want to die. So all I had to do was find the thing within me that wanted to die and confront it and work things out with it.
I went to see the doctor who was treating me for the pemphigus and told him I had decided on the radical treatment, and also told him all about the theory of my psychiatrist friend. He was polite and disbelieving and told me that he knew of no magical cures for pemphigus, and that no psychological mumbo-jumbo was going to change anything. I told him that I was prepared to test the theory anyway, that I was moving to Wales for the year and that I would check in with him once a month or so, and call if I needed him for anything. And with that I packed up and moved to a secluded cottage on a private estate in Wales on a bay near the ocean, where I was determined, one way or another, to find and make peace with the thing within.
I felt comfortable with the cortisone treatment I had chosen, and intrigued with the psychological possibilities of this thing within that wanted to die, that was able to exert such complete control over me and my destiny. I kept pondering "Who is this 'I' that is supposed to be me, and why isn't it doing something about what is happening to me? How can it know nothing about the thing within that wants to die, and if it does know, how can it not put up a fight?" I didn't have any answers, but it dawned on me that I didn't know who this 'I' that I was supposed to be, was. Maybe the 'I' that I had spent years discovering didn't live there anymore? Maybe it had been taken over by this other me, so that I wasn't me anymore? And I tried to answer these questions in Wales, where I lived in a private world of my own, just the sea and the hills and my imagination. Nobody else but me, and whoever and whatever I created to keep me company. Just solitude and serenity and cortisone, interrupted only by a monthly visit to my doctor in London. And I spent all of my time, one way or another, working on myself, with myself and within myself.
Being both analyst and patient was not difficult at all, as, during all my years of studying Jungian psychology in Zurich and in London, and during all my years of practicing Jungian psychology in London, I had had to analyze myself all the time. It's just a matter of carrying on a two-way conversation with yourself… One side acts as analyst and the other as patient, and if you can just suspend disbelief in the process, it will work. It is not as effective as working with someone else as analyst, but it can be very effective… and there was no way I could have taken an analyst with me to Wales for a year, nor would an analyst, other than myself, have spent 24 hours a day dealing with me. The analysis was essentially a Jungian analysis, but, as when I was an analyst, I also threw in a little Freud, Adler, Gestalt and everybody and anybody who seemed to work. I just treated myself as a patient of me as analyst, and as an analyst to me as patient. It was like play-acting, playing two roles, and being true to each. And once the play-acting began, it took on a life of its own, and the dialogue between patient and analyst just naturally followed as though there actually were two of us involved.
Initially, I devoted my time to working out who it was that I was bringing into analysis. I did it by typing up and re-typing and re-typing an autobiography of sorts, i.e. whatever memories struck my fancy as having any relevance to who I was. It took me several months of effort, of constantly adding and deleting, and endlessly working with and living with, to work it up. It didn't include anything new or startling, but when I was done, I had to admit that it was nice to have all of myself that I could remember in hand (so to speak). The memories that came up may have been me at one time, but they seemed to me like the story of somebody else's life. They were removed and distant from me, and obviously lacked whatever qualities made me who I was, who seemed like someone I no longer knew. Nevertheless, as I played with the memories (and the dreams they produced), and mulled them over and over in my mind, they began to form a picture of me and after condensation and summarization and more condensation, I came up with a capsulized picture of myself, as follows:
I was the first-born son of a middle-class Jewish immigrant family. Two brothers followed me into the world at intervals of five years, but, as the first-born, I was a Jewish Prince. On me was placed the hopes and aspirations of all those who preceded me. I was entitled to, and accorded, special attention and special consideration, and burdened with special responsibilities and special expectations. I bore the mantle of the Jewish Prince well. All things came easily to me and I excelled in all things. I was blessed with a charmed life. I had a happy childhood, many friends, did well in school and socially. After University I married a Jewish Princess, produced two lovely daughters and had a good life. I succeeded at my profession, became rich and respected and envied by all, and I trod my kingdom as though it were the paradise that others saw it to be. And I waited to be King. In my mid-thirties the mantle of the Jewish Prince cum King became too heavy to bear, and the charmed life became meaningless, and I began to wonder if it hadn't always been like this, and whether my life had always been only a third-party vicarious experience at which I, whoever that was, had not been present. And one day I discovered that I no longer loved my wife, couldn't stand my children, was bored with my profession, and sick and tired of being respected and envied. And I became a frog. I found myself going through the motions of living, making funny frog noises that nobody understood, sitting on my lily pad in a world of loneliness and desolation. And in the process I lost my wife and children and friends and profession and riches and myself. I wandered the world aimlessly and after a time went to study psychology in the hope of understanding my predicament and because it gave me something to do while sitting on my lily pad. And after many years as a frog studying psychology, the frog disappeared and left me in its place (or so I thought). As a practicing Jungian analyst, life began to take on some meaning and purpose, and I threw myself into being a psychologist, only to discover that the frog had not disappeared at all, as I had been diagnosed with pemphigus.
Getting all the memories out, and living with them, and distilling them into a concise picture of myself had produced a lot of dreams that I was careful to write down, and play with. But they didn't seem to lead anywhere or change anything, though they did help me to clarify and distill my memories, and to come up with the picture of myself.
Then after about 5-6 months of directionless dreams, I began to dream in earnest, and commenced some intense dream work. Dream work is not as simple as it seems, nor is it as cut and dry as Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh's dreams. It involves identifying the symbols in the dream and playing with them, amplifying them to expand their potential meaning and what they might be trying to say and where they might be trying to lead. Sometimes a dream spoke directly to me and its meaning was clear. Other times (most times), after playing with the symbols in the dream, and their meaning, and the meaning of the dream, I would have to wait for other dreams to make their meaning clear (as though the dreams were working along with me to clarify things). I don't know how to describe playing with a dream and its symbols, other than to say that it is like playing in a sandbox, with no purpose in mind, just building things, whatever comes to mind, and allowing your mind to be open to whatever happens. And the way you know that you have gotten the right meaning is that there is a click in your head that says it's right.
I also used an inner dialogue which is just talking to yourself in your head, questioning and answering yourself, prodding yourself and pushing yourself, only in my case it was me the analyst talking with me the patient. Once begun, an inner dialogue with yourself can take on a life of its own and reveal all sorts of things that can help illuminate the meaning of symbols and dreams.
When all else failed, I used active-imagination to participate with dreams characters or in dream situations, in order to help illuminate dream symbols whose meaning persisted in remaining hidden. It's a little bit like an inner dialogue, but it involves constellating characters outside yourself, i.e. allowing the imagination to create another reality that becomes absolutely real, kind-of like a hallucination. I don't know how else to describe it, except maybe as a dream come alive. Active-imagination is an extension of ordinary dream work, often more confrontational, and it comes in handy when dealing with key dreams and the characters in them whose amplification remains unclear. To put it another way, active-imagination is the stretching of the imagination to the point where what you have created comes alive in your mind's eye, and from there it comes alive externally in another reality that is an extension of your mind's eye. The point is to engage with what you have created and see where you can take it and where it can take you. The creating process is like inventing someone and letting that someone take on a life of his own (in your head and out) by suspending your disbelief that it can happen. Kids do it all the time with imaginary playmates. Well, the kid in each of us can also do it.
And I relied on my key dreams to show me the way. Key dreams are the dreams (often the last in what seems like a series) that are key to opening up doors to rooms of the psyche that would otherwise remain closed. They provide insights into yourself that are key to discovering yourself. To put it another way, key dreams are dreams that illuminate a dark place, that expand your awareness of who you are, and seem to make clear the dreams that have gone before them.
Maybe I should say a few words about the effect of the 100 mg. of cortisone a day. I suffered no reaction from the cortisone whatsoever. In fact, I thrived on it. I was, without knowing it, in a euphoric state that made my ordinary vivid imagination more vivid. I did develop a passion for cigarettes though, and smoked two packs a day, and sometimes even chewed on the tobacco. You could say that my imaginative powers seemed to increase in direct relation to my passion for cigarettes. I lived alone, in a very isolated place, with little or no contact with other people, so I was not aware of my distorted physical shape (swollen mid section, puffy face, swollen slanted eyes, etc.), until a cousin who was touring Wales stopped by and was shocked by what I looked like, and told me.
To summarize my dreams and the work I did on them (as one dream led to another and then another, and the symbols came alive, and I began to rediscover myself) the following is presented. It should be kept in mind that I had previously been through a similar Jungian analysis (while I was becoming an analyst and while being an analyst with my patients), so the territory was familiar. I was also driven by the goal of finding the thing within by re-discovering myself.
Initially there were a bunch of dreams about the sea, about me at the seashore staring out at the sea, about me in a boat on the sea, about me water-skiing, me everywhere but in the water, and about me trying to walk on the water. It was obvious that the sea symbolized the unconscious, and that I was avoiding it. I had been here before and realized that what I had to do was to learn how to swim in the sea of my unconscious again, and to discover myself anew. It dawned on me that over the years I had in fact lost touch with my unconscious and had paid little attention to its dream products as a means of communication. And I concluded that I would have to take myself through an analysis like I had undergone when I was studying Jungian psychology, and rediscover what I had discovered then, in order to prepare myself for confronting the thing within. The more I thought about it, the more reasonable it seemed. Maybe I had missed something the first time around, a seed of something that, fed by my discontent or indifference, grew into the thing. And I became convinced that, somewhere along the line, I had given up, though I wasn’t quite sure what I had given up. Maybe a zest for living, or the joy of life. And maybe the thing within was really me, and I wanted to die (didn't want to live). There was a lot to think about, and think I did, about where I had gone wrong and how I had gone wrong and what had gone wrong, and almost drove myself crazy with unanswered, and probably unanswerable questions.
I then had a bunch of dreams about darkness and things that lived in the darkness, and me being trapped in the darkness and chased by police, and Nazis, and devouring animals, and they led to the following key dream: I am walking in a field and stumble upon an old unused well with a bucket and a rope hanging from the top. I hear a voice from down the well asking for help. Without thinking, I get in the bucket so that my weight while going down will pull up whoever is there. It works, and as I go down and he comes up we meet in the middle. I can just make out that he is dirty, all covered with hair, smells bad, and is not quite human. As he reaches the top I reach the bottom, and realize what I had done. I'm scared and angry at myself for being so stupid.
The symbol of the well was familiar to me. It had to do with a place to be born anew and cleansed. The darkness and being down in it seemed to have to do with being forced to re-discover my darkness before I could be cleansed and reborn out of it, which is what I did for the hairy creature. The hairy creature seemed to be the dark side in me, who had been wallowing in the darkness all the time while I was in the sunlight (and indifferent to it), and it was now my turn to be down in the darkness once again, trying to find my way.
Which is what I did, once again looking for all the repressed things that I found hard admitting belonged to me (which I assumed I had long ago admitted to and learned to live with) and once again looking for all the unlived feelings that I had pushed away into dark corners (which I assumed I had long ago pulled out into the light). I had to let go again and accept the darkness again in order to see what was there (which was things that were me but not me). And, in addition to the many things with which I had previously dealt and accepted as mine, there were some I wasn't quite sure about, and I dealt with them. There was one that had always been problematic, and I had trouble dealing with. I still found it difficult to deal with me as just ordinary. Something in me refused to allow that I was not special.
My inner dialogue was not immediate, as it should have been, because the dream made me very uncomfortable. In any event, when I calmed down, the inner dialogue went as follows: I really had enough of these kind of dreams the first time around. – – It doesn't seem so bad. What is it that bothers you? – – Going through it all again. – – I don't understand. – – Well, the first time around, I discovered that my dark side was rather ordinary, and it was very embarrassing. No hidden killer or sex maniac or bank robber. – – And this is what is bothering you now? – – Well, yes. Being ordinary was very difficult to contend with. – – And it still is? – – Yes, I think so, but it doesn't make sense. The thing within can't want to kill me just because I am ordinary. – – Maybe it can if you can't accept it, and it has overhung everything, clouding your life, pulling you down. – – But I am perfectly content with being ordinary. At least I think so. – – Well, maybe not, whether you know it or not. Things in the darkness have a way of remaining hidden, unless you seek them out and pull them and truly deal with them.
As I learned once again to live with all the shit I brought up out of the darkness of my well, most of which I had forgotten about, I realized that I still found it difficult to contend with just being ordinary, while most of the other things were easy to contend with this time around. And I emersed myself in being ordinary and did everything I could to integrate it into myself, realizing that I would have to try to consciously keep it in mind so that it wouldn't sneak up on me from behind. It was a character flaw that would probably always be a burden.
At the same time I had a bunch of dreams about old girlfriends and a lot of unknown women, which involved the joy and pains of love, being abandoned by and abandoning love objects, and love opportunities missed that could have been and should have been taken. The latter particularly annoyed me, and was difficult to deal with and very depressing. In addition to being ordinary, I had to contend with being insensitive and stupid. And the following key dream seemed to clear things up: An owl and a pussycat go to sea in a boat. (The owl looks like me and the pussycat looks like an old love). The owl plays a guitar and sings to the pussycat. She likes it and tells him so. They land on an island, and hold hands as they walk in the moonlight on the sand. Then, when the sun comes up, the pussycat is gone, and the owl is alone, without his guitar and without his boat.
I worked on the symbols in the dream, which were from the poem by Edward Lear, and very personal. The owl, was a symbol of death (which I feared) and darkness (which I had just finished dealing with) and also a symbol of prophecy (which I wished I had the gift of) and wisdom (which I seemed to have had none of) and also loneliness and despair (which aptly described my condition). And the owl looked like me. The pussycat was a symbol of the feminine (which I was trying to figure out) and seeing the future (which I couldn't do), and also playfulness and sexual heat (which I really could have used as a diversion at the time). And the pussycat looked like a lady I had fallen in love with a year or so before the pemphigus diagnosis. The island was a symbol of isolation (which I had always desired) and the challenge of the undiscovered (which psychology was for me), and also, and in particular a refuge from the sea of the unconscious (which is where I was, without knowing it, when the pemphigus hit). The sand was a symbol of impermanence and instability (which described the nature of my relationships) and also of a foolish place to build a home (which was the last thing on my mind at the time).
I almost avoided engaging in an inner dialogue as I was sure I understood the dream. Nevertheless I did, as follows: So, you understand the dream. – – Yes, I do. It's about the lady I fell in love with and how it all went wrong. – – And the other ladies, isn't it about them too? – – Of course, they were all just a walk in the moonlight and gone when the sun came up. – – And what do you intend to do about it? – – I don't really know. They are all over and done with. – – But you're not. Think about it. What could you have done differently? Why did it always go wrong? – – O.K., it's my inner lady. All the relationships were unconscious. I wasn't really there. I wasn't aware of the lady involved and didn't relate to her in a meaningful way. But after having said that, so what! – – Don't be a pigheaded ass. You have a lot of work to do on your inner lady again. It's internal, not external. – – What is that supposed to mean? – – Don't be dense. Don't you remember your Jungian psychology? Your inner lady, in addition to mediating between you and your lady friends, is your soul guide. Where you're planning to go you will need her.
Thereafter I spent a lot of time getting to know my inner lady again. It was easier this time around as there were no actual external ladies to be contaminated, only memories, which were static and easier to separate out and distinguish from my inner lady. Slowly I began to feel as though my feelings and emotions belonged to me again, without the need to project them. And I made friends with my inner lady. I began to trust her, and readily followed where she led. In the process she showed me the inner world of feelings that belonged to me, and always had, even though I had skimmed over them previously. I didn't have an opportunity to put my integration of feelings to the test, as I remained in isolation, but I was convinced, rightly or wrongly, that once again, or finally, the feelings were mine, and, in any event, all the work was not for the purpose of outer relationships. In the back of my mind I hoped that my inner lady would lead me to the thing within because I didn't seem to be getting anywhere on my own, or so I thought .
After a while, I had a bunch of dreams about houses. Looking for one that suited me, trying to rent one, living in one that didn't suit me, and all kinds of houses that were, in one way or another, wrong for me. I was rather annoyed by the dreams, to say the least, and puzzled by what they were trying to say, as a home had never been very important to me, a house was always just a house. The more I thought about it the more I was convinced that they were talking about rebuilding my life somewhere, which was strange as the duration of my life was very much in doubt. It did cross my mind that the dreams might be talking about a place to spend whatever time I had left in peace, which was negative and disturbing, so I put it to one side, in order to maintain a positive attitude.
Then I had a key dream, as follows: I am walking up a green mountain following a guide. We pass a number of houses, but nobody seems to be living in them. As we near the top of the mountain, I am suddenly very tired and sit down. The guide keeps going, then, sensing that I am not following, the guide stops and turns around. I can see that the guide is a woman, which disturbs me because I am exhausted and she is not. Then she smiles and says in a gentle voice "You have got to get up. Our goal is the summit, from which you can see everything." I respond by getting up and following her up the rest of the mountain to the summit. Once there, I can see clearly down the side of the mountain I came up, but not down the other side of the mountain, where everything seems to be covered in fog. Then I sit down again, content to be and stay where I am.
Afterwards, while playing with the dream, I was acutely aware that the whole thing reminded me of Jung's theory of the first half and the second half of life. The first half of life was like going up the mountain (from birth) with a lot of effort expended externally to accomplish the climb, and the second half of life was like descending the other side of the mountain (to death) with the effort being expended internally to help you see your way, and the attitude of the first half is inappropriate for the second half, and requires a change before the descent down the other side. Symbolically the mountain represented to me, in addition to being a metaphor for life, a contact point between heaven and earth, where I could see things more clearly, and make whatever decisions had to be made. And the guide was my inner lady who was guiding me to where I had to be. However it bothered me that the other side of the mountain was covered in fog, and that I could not see down and had no desire to go down.
The more I played with the dream, the more I became obsessed with being somehow stuck on the summit, and needing to discover what was down the other side of the mountain. My inner lady had taken me to the summit for a reason, because decisions had to be made there, decisions that would bring me to the thing within I was searching for, but I had to get off my ass and do it, and somehow couldn't do it.
I did an active-imagination in which I fantasized following my inner lady guide up the mountain, and once there I can see myself standing at the foot of the mountain looking up at me standing on the summit. I smile at myself down below, but I am uncomfortable and suddenly panic and start to go back down where I came from. My inner lady guide stops me and says that I must not forget why I came back up the mountain, to see over and to go over to the other side of the mountain. I move to the other side of the summit to see what there is to see, but the way down is still covered in fog, and I breathe a sigh of relief and sit down on the summit, unable to function, and quite content, though angry at myself.
When I came out of the active imagination I realized that I had to go down the other side of the mountain, where the thing within had to be waiting. I knew that I had to confront it or I would never be able to make any second half of life decisions, much less have a second half of life. And it seemed to me that the new attitude that I had to formulate and the life I had to rebuild depended upon my being able to confront the thing within, and that required moving down the other side of the mountain even if it killed me. At this point in time I had accumulated about 30,000 mg. of cortisone in my system, and was totally convinced of the absolute reality of what I experienced in my active-imagination. It may have been another reality, but it was no less real for me, particularly while it was happening.
The next day, after trying to get myself together and failing miserably, I fantasized myself into another active-imagination, where that last one ended, on the summit of the mountain. As I stood there and looked down the other side of the mountain, I still couldn't see anything because of the fog. Then a voice said "Concentrate! If you want it badly enough, you will be able to see". I concentrated as hard as I could until it seemed that my head would split, and the fog began to lift. I looked down the other side of the mountain and saw a strange landscape, with strange flowers and birds and animals and people, though not so strange as to put me off. And at the bottom of the mountain there was a foreboding dark purple river. I froze in place, suddenly very tired and afraid, but my inner lady guide appeared by my side and offered to lead me down the mountain. I felt safe in her company, and let her lead me down the mountain. As we moved along, the strange landscape was no longer strange, the flowers and birds and animals were almost familiar, and the people, if not exactly familiar, were not at all threatening. When we reached the river, my inner lady advised that this was as far as she went, that I was on my own, and that this was the moment I had been waiting for. As she left, a shadow appeared in the shallows of the river and I knew it was the thing within that I had been seeking. It had no shape at all, Rather, it was a kind of irresistible force that shifted shapes at will, all of which seemed to look like me, only a horrible, monster-like me. I stood on the bank of the river, afraid to enter, and the thing within stood in the shallows, shifting from one terrible caricature of me to another. My heart was beating so fast I could hardly breathe, but I knew what I had to do, and did it, even though I was sure it would kill me. I waded out into the shallows of the river and embraced the thing within. We stood there for a long while without saying a word, and the force of the thing within became mine, but instead of killing me as I had feared, it filled me full of life, and death as well, and it felt good, like nothing I had ever felt before. Then we parted and I moved back to the river bank. The thing within moved deep into the river and disappeared. I stood there for a while looking after it, but could see nothing. From the middle of the river all was darkness. I looked for my inner lady guide, but she was not longer there. In any event I made my way back up the mountain by myself and paused on the summit. There was an old man also sitting on the summit. I asked what he was doing there, and he said he was trying to figure out what had happened down below. I told him that I was also trying to figure out what had happened down below. He asked me if I had come to a conclusion, and I said that I had. He said that he too had come to a conclusion. And, instead of asking him what his conclusion was, or delineating my conclusion to him, I let the matter drop.
I slept for a long time after the active-imagination, but when I awoke I knew that I had done what had to be done, and that I no longer had anything to fear from the thing within me or from the pemphigus. I stopped taking my cortisone, which was down to 10 mg. a day, and after two false starts at stopping, I was able to do so. When I went to see my Harley St. specialist, and told him about what I had done, and about how the pemphigus was in remission, he said only that he hoped so, but that we would have to wait and see. And I did wait, and saw that the pemphigus remained in remission. I adopted a new attitude and rebuilt my life in the way I wanted to live it, and with someone whom I could live it with.
I have not idea what the thing within (that wanted to die or didn't want or live) really was. Obviously it was some kind of unconscious death wish, but beyond that I am at a loss. How it got there, and why it manifested itself as it did, I don't know. It disappeared when I integrated it into my consciousness, i.e. accepted it as my own. Unconscious things are depotentiated when they are integrated into consciousness, i.e. they lose their power over you. And when they lose their power over you, they are no longer of any particular interest. The only thing that occupied my thoughts was what I was going to do with my life, and the anxiety that that produced. I no longer dwelled on the thing within. It was a thing of the past and the past no longer interested me. Which is how I know that the pemphigus had gone into remission. More than that I cannot say, except to paraphrase something from Jung:
The evolutionary process of life pushes in the direction of its own expansion. We don't understand it simply because we don't know the purpose of life. Nevertheless, we should live it. Life seeks to expand in an unknown direction for unknown reasons, and for an unknown duration. Quite a mystery. But there is a driving force behind the mystery, just as there is a driving force behind all movements. We don’t' know what form the forward momentum in life will take in the times ahead, or what use it will make of us. The most that any of us can do is to fashion a way to see and live life – and drop ourselves into the confusion, anxiety and uncertainty, and make an offering of ourselves to the life force, and trust it will carry us along with it as was intended