[Carl Jung on Tarantula Madness]

Revenge is in thy soul: wherever thou bitest, there ariseth black scab;
with revenge, thy poison maketh the soul giddy! [Nietzsche’s Zarathustra]

This of course refers to the tarantula dance, the madness caused by the tarantula.

You see, that idea suggests something one very often encounters when people approach their inferior function; they have attacks of vertigo or nausea for instance, because the unconscious brings a peculiar sort of motion, as if the earth were moving under their feet, or as if they were on the deck of a ship rolling in a heavy swell.

They get a kind of seasickness; they develop such symptoms actually.

It simply means that their former basis, or their imagined basis, has gone certain values which they thought to be basic are no longer there-so they become doubtful and suspended in a sort of indefinite atmosphere with no ground under their feet, always afraid of falling down.

And of course the thing that is waiting for them underneath is the jaws of hell, or the depth of the water, or a profound darkness, or a monster-or they may call it madness.

And mind you, it is madness to fall out of one’s conscious world into an unconscious condition.

Insanity means just that, being overcome by an invasion of the unconscious.

Consciousness is swept over by unconscious contents in which all orientation is lost.

The ego then becomes a sort of fish swimming in a sea among other fishes, and of course fishes don’t know who they are, don’t even know the name of their own species.

We know that we belong to the species of homo sapiens and the fishes do not, and when we fall into the fish species, we lose our identity and might be anything else.

That is the state of insane people: they don’t know whether things are true or not, take an illusion for granted as an overwhelming fact.

If they hear voices, they are quite convinced that they hear those voices; and if they go into the street and discover the sun is double, or that people have skulls instead of heads, this is a fact to them.

They don’t doubt it because it is too overwhelmingly clear.

So there is absolutely nothing within their disposition to defend them against such realities.

One cannot help being convinced by what one hears and sees.

That simply comes from the fact that in a moment when the conscious is invaded by the unconscious, the energic value of consciousness is depotentiated, and then one is no longer up to the contents of one’s psyche.

We have not learned to behave like fishes, to swim in that flood.

If you have learned to swim, then you get through: you can stand being suspended in water without getting seasick and losing your head.

So people who possess a certain psychological insight have always a better prognosis when they become insane: the more the psychological insight, the better the prognosis.

Of course certain people who have a latent psychosis just go insane and there is nothing to be done about it.

But if they have acquired a certain amount of psychology, there is a chance that they can swim; they recognize something in that flow and may be able to get out of it again.

While people who are rigid, without any psychological insight whatever-who are utterly unable to see themselves under another aspect than the one they are accustomed to-such people simply explode, fly into splinters, and they never return.

It is as if the knowledge of psychology were making our brain more elastic, as if our brain box were becoming elastic so that it can contain more contents and vary its forms, while those people with rigid convictions are like a sort of box made of stiff boards which can only contain so much, and if the thing that wants to enter the brain box is too big for it, then the whole thing blows up.

In such cases an attack of insanity often begins with a pistol shot in the head, or the feeling that something has broken or snapped.

You see, a board has split; they cannot shut the lid because the thing that came in was too big.

Therefore in treating such cases, we always have to look out for enlarging the vessel, the mental horizon, and making it ready to receive any amount and any size, so that it will not explode with the inpouring contents of the unconscious.

To use that simile of the fish, one should equip people to dive; the diver is equipped and doesn’t get drowned.

This fear of madness is always associated with the inferior function, so when Nietzsche approaches the problem of the earth and of evil, he naturally will realize that fear, all the more so as ultimately he was not inclined to accept the inferior man.

The question as to whether he can finally accept the inferior man comes later on-and he cannot, he refuses him, and that of course breaks his head.

Our shadow is the last thing that has to be put on top of everything, and that is the thing we cannot swallow; we can swallow anything else, but not our own shadow because it makes us doubt our good qualities.

We can assume that the world is bad and that other people are bad and that everything is going to hell as long as we are sure that we are on the right side; but if we are
no longer sure, it is too much. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 1088-1090.