Jim Hollis, Psychology

Photograph of Jim Hollis

Jim Hollis

Psychology Faculty

As a graduate student in the humanities, studying literature, philosophy, and religion, Jim Hollis had bumped into the work of Carl Jung several times. "He had an academic appeal," Hollis remembers. He appreciated it at a scholarly level.

But then, at 35, Hollis had a midlife crisis, and found himself in a therapist's office trying to figure out what his life amounted to.

That was when the work of Carl Jung really mattered.

"The first passage of Dante's Inferno is ‘midway through life I found myself in a dark wood, having lost my way.' Well, that's where I was when I walked in the door to my first hour of analysis – and I think that happens to a lot of us," Hollis says. "And what I found was that Jungian analysis was the beginning of a deep journey through it."

Because, Jim realized, even if he did everything he was supposed to … even if he was successful in his field and lived up to the American dream and did everything his family expected; even if he took the drugs psychiatrists prescribed for his depression and said the affirmations they told him to say … even then, he was still going to be looking at his life asking "Who am I?" and "What have my choices meant?"

You can't drug those questions away. You can't work them away. You can't accept other people's answers: you can only answer them yourself, and that takes insight. That takes wisdom. That takes analysis.

Jungian psychology offered Jim everything he needed to get out of that dark wood – and he took it.

It gave him his life back, but it turned out that wasn't all. Jim's scholarly passions have always overlapped with his life's journey, and so he couldn't just be a recipient of Jungian therapy: he needed to study it, too. He found himself on a plane, flying to Zurich, studying to become a Jungian analyst … he found a new direction for his life's work.

Today Jim is one of the world's most renowned Jungian scholars. The search for meaning, he says, like the one he went through, is still one of the most profoundly human experiences – and every bit as relevant to the 21st century as the 20th.

"What we've discovered is that technology doesn't take away spiritual hunger," Hollis says. "Pharmaceuticals don't take away psychological needs. People still have them, and Jungian psychology focuses on those needs, not just on pathology: it's not just about fixing something that's wrong, it's about getting something important right."

In fact, while most people who come to Saybrook's Jungian Studies programs are interested in becoming clinical therapists, a substantial number aren't: often they just want to better understand the world and their place in it.

"Jungian psychology offers a deeper look at religion, at popular culture, at the currents of history," he says. "It offers a wider way of looking at the world than is offered by most modern psychologies because it's about more than symptom reduction. Each student is on a personal journey of discovery, and people tell me that what they really want to do, apart from professional advancement, is deepen their understanding of themselves."

He understands perfectly – that's what started him on his journey, too.