The science of psychotherapy has become biased, Storr believes, by the unduly emphasis on interpersonal relationships as a gauge happiness. The ability to tolerate oneself is just as, if not more, accurate a barometer of mental health. Indeed, without the intense craving for solitude displayed by many of our world’s brightest thinkers, including but not limited to Isaac Newton, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Immanuel Kant, humanity would be robbed of many of its greatest discoveries.

This is valuable reading material for the psychologically inclined. Storr’s talent for gab may be pedestrian, but this well-sourced perspective fleshes out ideas from Freud and Jung that I had only passing experience with. It provides a good amount of foundational reading material. The main criticism is that it tends to get too bogged down in specific examples of creative individuals.

Highlighted passages:

Jung’s self-analysis convinced him that,  whereas the young individual’s task was primarily to emancipate himself from his original family, establish himself in the world, and found a new family in his turn, the middle-aged individual’s task was to discover and express his own uniqueness as an individual. Jung defined personality as ‘the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being.’

This quest was not primarily egotistical since, in Jung’s view, the essence of individuality could only be expressed when the person concerned acknowledged the direction of a force within the psyche which was not of his own making. Men became neurotic at the mid-point of life because, in some sense, they had been false to themselves, and had strayed too far from the path which Nature intended them to follow. By scrupulous attention to the inner voice of the psyche, which manifested itself in dreams, phantasies, and other derivatives of the unconscious, the lost soul could rediscover its proper path, as Jung himself succeeded in doing. The attitude or ‘set’ required of the patient is really a religious one, although belief in a personal God or adherence to a recognized religious creed is not part of the undertaking.

‘Among all my patients in the second half of life — that is to say, over thirty-five — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life . . . This of course has nothing whatever to do with a particular creed or membership of a church.’

The path of self-development upon which such individuals embarked under Jung’s guidance was named by him ‘the process of individuation.’ This process tends toward a goal called ‘wholeness’ or ”integration’: a condition in which the different elements of the psyche, both conscious and unconscious, become welded together in a new unity.

‘If the unconscious can be recognized as a co-determining factor along with consciousness, and if we can live in such a way that conscious and unconscious demands are taken into account as far as possible, then the centre of gravity of the total personality shifts its position. It is then no longer in the ego, which is merely the centre of consciousness, but in the hypothetical point between conscious and unconscious. This new centre might be called the Self.’

Jung describes reaching this point as achieving peace of mind after what may have been long and fruitless struggles.

‘If you sum up what people tell you about their experiences, you can formulate it this way: They came to themselves, they could accept themselves, they were able to become reconciled to themselves, and thus were reconciled to adverse circumstances and events. This is almost like what used to be expressed by saying: He has made his peace with God, he has sacrificed his own will, he has submitted himself to the will of God.’

This is not healing through insight, nor through making a new and better relationship with a person, nor even through solving particular problems, but healing by means of an inner change of attitude.

‘When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tyired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.’

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