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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

A Few Facts About Fiction



The word fiction means “made up,” “a story put together.” The English word is derived from the Latin facere and fingere and the two Indo-European roots dhe I and dheigh. According to Shipley (1984) dhe I means set down, make, shape . . . [Latin] facere, factum: make, made. Fact, factotem: jack-of-all-trades . . . . fiction” (p. 62). Dhe I is also the Indo-European root for thesis, antithesis and synthesis. The other root, dheigh means “touch; knead, mix dough, shape clay; put together; fasten . . . [Latin] fingere, fictum: form . . . . Fiction: story put together” (p. 64). The idea of fiction is important to depth psychology. Hillman (1983b) devotes an entire book, Healing Fiction, to it, where he quips: “Those in literature see the psychology in fiction. It’s our turn to see the fiction in psychology” (p. 18). When Hillman and Ventura (1992) discuss the need for psychoanalysis to have new fantasies about itself, Hillman explains what he means by fantasy, which Ventura has pointed out most people associate with “unreal”:


Hillman: Fantasy is the natural activity of the mind. Jung says, “the primary activity of psychic life is the creation of fantasy.” Fantasy is how you perceive something, how you think about it, react to it.

Ventura: So any perception, in that sense is fantasy.

Hillman: Is there a reality that is not framed or formed? No. Reality is always coming through a pair of glasses, a point of view, a language, a fantasy. (p. 39)

Crapanzano (1992) remarks that the beginning of Freud’s Irma dream begins like a romantic novel. He notes that Freud’s case history was a new genre that Hillman (1983b) discusses at length, in an essay entitled “The Fiction of Case History.” There Hillman discusses this notion of fiction and its relation to depth psychology, especially as it relates to Freud, but goes on to observe:


Jung’s case material presents spontaneous psychic fictions and their interpretations. The stuff is fiction though it be called “unconscious material.” Where Freud was a writer of fictions, in the sense above, Jung was a writer on fictions. And as for Jung, the more fictitious and far-out the better (hence alchemy, Tibet, Zarathustra, astrological aeons, schizophrenia, parapsychology) for such “materials” obliged him to meet them on an equally imaginative level. Jung’s style of writing psychology takes various forms . . . like Hermes whose winged feet touch down as well in Hades as on Olympus and who carries messages from every one of the Gods, Jung’s hermeneutic knew no barriers of time or space—Chinese yoga, Mexican rites, contemporary historical events, hospital patients, modern physics—he would interpret anything, anything was prima materia for his psychological operations. His psychology presents itself as a continuing essay. Versuch. No more than any other great essayist, Montaigne or Emerson for instance, Jung, too, as he always insisted, did not write a system. (pp. 33-34)

Hillman (1983b) saw that one of Jung’s important contributions was his taking the crucial step into drama “approximating psychology to poetics” and realizing that “the nature of mind is poetic . . . . To understand the structure of dreaming we turn to drama, poesis is the via regia to via regia (royal road). The unconscious produces dramas, poetic fictions, it is a theater” (p. 36).


Since Hillman has brought us back to the depth psychology’s fictional beginnings, I need to say a bit about art and its relation to depth psychology’s origins. Otto Rank (1929/1989) observed that play was the prelude to art (p. 323) and as play is behind art, by examining the arts, we can see play shine through.


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