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Carl Jung The Concept of Ambivalence

5 Ambiv

Symbolic Life


  1. G. Jung: The concept of ambivalence is probably a valuable addition to our terminology.

In one and the same thing the opposite may be contained. Altus = high and deep.

Pleasure may derive from pain.

This implies not a sequence of one after the other, but a simultaneous one-in-the-other: a uniform given. He [Jung] objects to the statement ”

Ambivalence is the driving force.” Ambivalence probably is not the driving force, but rather a formal aspect as we find it everywhere.

Freud has adduced many examples from the history of language.

Modern words too show ambivalence, e.g., sacre  luge (Irish) = contract;  bad (English) = bat = bass (Middle High German) = good.

Through the migration of language the meaning of a word is transformed into its historical opposite.

Dreams make use of similarities as well as of opposites.

Among the possibilities of similarity, contrast is closest at hand.

He, Jung, had this dream: He is a small man with a beard, wears no glasses and is no longer young.

Hence, everything the opposite.

If we want to demonstrate our psychoanalytic view, we too, just like the anatomists, command an unambiguous kind of material that we find in the monuments of antiquity and in the field of mythology.

For example, the fertility god is at the same time the destroyer (Indra).

The sun means fertility and destruction.

Therefore we have the lion as a zodiac sign standing for the intense heat of the sun.

Ambivalence is evident in the mythological successions.

Odin becomes the wild hunter who molests lonely girls on the highways.

Freia has turned into a she-devil. Venus, as the philologists teach us, acquired a good aspect and turned into St. Verena (St. Verena, the patron saint of Baden, Ct. Aargau; watering places, as we know from history, were consecrated and subject to Venus).

St. Verena, Venus, however, also lends her name to dangerous mountains ( Verenelisgartli near the Glarnisch; St. Verenakehle is the name of the great avalanche chute on the Schafburg in the Santis mountains).

Devas (Sanskrit, = angel) becomes the devil in Persian.

The snake on the pole corresponds to the ambivalence of the concept of Christ.

The representation of libido oscillates between the symbols of the lion and the snake, the principle of dry and wet: both are opposite sexual or phallic symbols.

Jung saw a stele of Priapus in Verona.

The god smilingly holds a basket full of phalli on his arm and points with the other hand to a snake which bites off his erect penis.

Nice examples of ambivalence are shown by the language of erotic jokes, such as occur in the Golden Ass of Apuleius; also in the language of mysticism; Mechtild of Magdeburg says: “By Christ’s love I have been wounded unto death.”

Through the killing of the bull (in the Mithras mythologies) creation is brought about.

“The bull is the father of the snake and the snake is the father of the bull.”

Our Christian religious ideas are likewise based on this principle.

Through Christ’s death, man is redeemed for life eternal.

We encounter the same idea in the cult of Mithras, which was of great importance in antiquity and helped spread the concepts of Christianity.


  1. G. Jung: The expression “taken off my chest” in reference to the discussion of the tormenting complex is very apt and characteristic of analytic therapy.

An officer, whenever his complex was about to get the better of him, commanded: “At-


As a contribution from child psychology to the significance of sacrifice, C. G. Jung tells about the “Tantalus Club” which was founded by some youngsters for the celebration of sexual mysteries.

Their emblem depicted a man who hung from a gallows by a rope tied to his penis and his nose.

The sacrificed and tormented were the youngsters themselves, just like Tantalus whose torment consists in constantly being denied satisfaction of his most ardent desires. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 443-445