The Eden Project – In search of the Magical Other: James Hollis

The Eden Project – In search of the Magical Other: James Hollis

41+BnSYzgwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Jungian Perspective on Relationship

“The Eden Project is a timely and thought-provoking corrective to the generalized fantasies about relationships that permeate our culture. This is not a practical guide on how to fix a relationship, but rather a challenge to greater personal responsibility in relationships, a call for individual growth as opposed to seeking rescue through others.”

James Hollis, Ph.D. has a Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. He is the acclaimed author of four previous books in this series, including The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife (1993) and Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (1996). He lives and practices in Houston, Texas, where he is the Director of the C.G. Jung Educational Center.



The book is in essence about how a relationship can survive the reality of the two wounded individuals who enter into it. It explains how the concept of the Other manifests in an emotionally intimate relationship, and why it manifests through our projections. The focus of relationship dynamic according to Jung (and Hollis) is that wholeness and individuation is the goal, and it depends largely on my relationship with myself. In discovering through dialogue that the Other actually ‘lives’ in ourselves, we can become hope to find true connection and restore the disconnectedness that results once we are born. Transformation and Individuation through relationship is the true purpose of our Soul.
If one is familiar with the Jungian term of Projection, Hollis further explains how this specific dynamic of the psyche causes so much trouble in relationships. The way to ‘save’ a relationship (vs the individual partners saving each other) is through the humbling and courageous task of withdrawing one’s projections. So that a relationship can begin in one place and evolve to quite another.



Our false identity after leaving Paradise
The Tree of Life to the Tree of Knowledge – from connection to separation. We experience a subject-object split after birth. The ego that springs from this, is fragile.

The Self is the mystery of who we are – Jung. It is not an object or a goal, it is an activity, a process. “Reading” the intentionality of the Self in Jungian-orientated psychology (is) presumed to be the key to healing. (p.16)
“Consciousness is achieved only through the loss of the Other…” (p.17) There is no other way to get to consciousness about our inner world.
“How we read our ego-selves vis a vis the Other begins at birth. The child experiences bonding, or lack thereof, as an extrapolated statement about the world at large. Is it reliable, protective, or is it unpredictable, even hurtful.” (p.18) The child’s way of dealing with this lack of connection is by engaging in “…magical thinking…” (p.19)

Our wounding as children in is internalised as complexes.

“The deeper question is whether we have the wounds or do they have us.” (p.21)
Jung: “The child’s nature perceives, but without capacity for reflection it is obliged to swallow what it perceives.” (p.22)
“If I have found myself essentially powerless against the Other… so I am inclined to identify with the Other.” (p.23)

This is how we lose our sense of having power, and we go on to believing that we are not responsible for our inner world.

“It is not exaggeration to describe progressive self-estrangement as tragic.” (p.29)

And we become masters in using all kinds of adaptive strategies in the hope of restoring this sense of a lost connection. The question is, do we have the courage to look within?

“So we bring ourselves to relationship. With scant knowledge, we seek our identity in the mirror of the Other…we bring…the yearning to merge with the Other, the one who will protect, nurture, save us” (p.32)



Eros, Projection and the Magical Other 33

Projections and the Magical Other: How the Magical Other manifests in an emotionally intimate relationship, and why. We approach relationship with the fantasy that there is a Magical Other out there who will fill all our voids and meet all our needs. We unconsciously project this fantasy onto our partner.

“Eros involves yearning for the Other… toward the Other as some guiding star… Eros is the desire for connection. Eros… as energy…is always going somewhere, seeking to connect, to fill in…our psyche is terrified by emptiness…psychic energy is… recreating in order to fill the lacunae.” (p.32,34)
“If there is a central law of the psyche, it is that what is unconscious will be projected.” (p.35)
“All relationships… begin in projection.” (p.36)                                   “…the original attraction to the partner was in great part guided by the imago…. More often, the pathology of the parent-child relationship was calling the shots” (p.37,38)

Until the imago is made conscious, it will be the silent driver toward our relationship dynamic.


This Crazy Thing Called Love 39

In actual fact love is not what we think it is.

Young love (is) “fragile and ill-withstand the test of conflict or disappointment.”

“So to be fascinated by the Other is to be possessed by an affective idea. Without us being conscious of this at first, this “is what happens in projection.” (p.40)
“In an intimate relationship, one is more willing to champion the cause of the other, for one is more deeply invested in the Other’s well-being.” (p.41) “What more commonly has brought people together, the energy which seeks synergy, are the operative complexes of each.” (p.42)

But we would rather not think of love in this way. It does not seem romantic.
According to the book the biggest challenge to keeping the love we so desperately desire, is by accepting “… the idea of projection. What we do not know about ourselves – and we cannot, ever know much at all – will be projected onto the outer world.” (p.45)

Otherwise disappointment and the feeling that our needs have not been met, will cause us to exit our relationships.


The Inner Dynamic of Projection 46

This section introduces the concept of Projection in more detail and illuminates the trouble it causes. So without any further ado, let the grand illusion called, Projection begin. The diagram on page 47 illustrates the directions in which energy flows between two people in a love relationship. Prior to us making our projection conscious, we are convinced that “My soul, my reality, is in the hands of the Other. When the Other is not there for me, or spurns me, or I feel blocked by extraneous forces, I suffer a loss of the sense of self.” (p.49)


Withdrawing Projections 51

The humbling and courageous task of withdrawing our projection. We let go of the debilitating fantasy of ever finding/recovering the ‘lost Other’ (our lost self) in our intimate partner. Marie-Louise von Franz describes the five fold process as follows. The withdrawal of our projection is the process of putting the broken-off pieces of our psychic back together again.

First, a person is convinced that his or her inner experience is truly outer, for it is experienced ‘out there.” (p.51)
“The second stage of the projective process arises out of the often gradual perception of discrepancy, the widening gulf between who the Other is supposed to be and our concrete experience.” (p.51)
“The third stage… obliges the assessment of this new perception of the Other. One’s partner must now be seen anew.” (p.52) Also known as the end of the Honeymoon Stage.
“The fourth stage leads one to recognize that one was… experiencing the Other in here.”
“The fifth stage requires the search for the origin of that projected energy within oneself.”

In an intimate relationship; one can recognise projection in a physical way; it is known by the type of energy it generates; it is always disproportionate to the situation. If we are not aware that “what we fall in love with is some aspect of ourselves as reflected back to us from the other” (p.55) we engage in a process which will eventually ‘end in tears.’ The initial high of butterflies and a sense of ‘coming home’ is purely a connection of our missing parts that we recognize in the Other.

Instead, we should ask ourselves: “What am I asking of this Other that I ought to be doing for myself? Of every projection I must ask: What does this say about me.” (p.57)

If we really love the Other, “we have taken on the responsibility for our own individuation, or own journey.” (p. 57)

Why it liberates to withdraw projection:

“Without the otherness of the Other we would have nothing to counter the inflated certainties and one-sidedness of ego-consciousness.” (p.58)

If the Other does not frustrate me, disappoint me, refuse to meet my needs so to speak, I would not get the message that the solutions lies in myself.

“The encounter between two people generates the possibility of what Jung calls ‘the reconciling third’, or transcendent function… we are two ones who have also become a third” (p.59)

The ‘third’ is the place where we reassess our expectations; where we come to realise that the relationship is an entity that exists because our lives touch each other, but that it primarily serves as a ‘messenger’ about ourselves.

“My dialogue with you is my dialogue with the cosmos… You oblige me to consider, to reflect, to grow, to enlarge…” (p.59)


Love, Relationship and Soul 59

If not the generalised fantasy, “we must be clear about what relationship offer” (p.59)

“the withdrawal of projections obliges us to recognise our parts unknown or disowned.” (p.59)
“and on the other hand the otherness of the Other obliges the dialectic which can stimulate, and is necessary for the growth of both parties. ‘I am more than me with you, because of you’ ”. (p.59)
“(Our) hidden agenda can be replaced by something richer. Conversation is the bridge.” (p.61)
“Neediness must be confronted and replaced by consciousness.” (p.62)

Transformation and Individuation is the goal.
“So…relationship is not about happiness, then. It is about transformation.”
“Loving another’s otherness is heroic. Love is wanting the Other to be.” (p. 62)

I allow you your own journey with your wounds.


My relationship with myself – finding the Other in me

Hollis makes it clear that the process of discovering the nature of my relationship with my self is key to having a successful relationship.

“To abandon the ‘going home’/Eden project is to open to the mystery of the encounter with the Other… and finally to free relationship for its highest service to us – the enlargement of our journey through the unfolding mystery of the otherness of the Other.” (p.65)

E.g. what does, what I want from you, say about what I actually need from myself.



Dialogue with the Other; transformation and wholeness through relationship is central to what coupling should be about. “Our subject is the reality of relationship”. (p.66)
In the previous chapters it is clear that our projections have their origin in the imago of our childhood programming. For e.g. one should ask one’s self, to what extent did I experience powerlessness in my original parent-child relationship? p.67
We deploy complex strategies to ensure that we keep fear in an unconscious state. “The secret dynamic which stirs the problem of power is always fear…” (p.68)


The Management of Fear 68

“…fear is projected onto the Other…a legacy… of our powerlessness in the original parent-child relationship.” (p.68)

We try to manage our fear in the following ways, and we are masters at justifying our patterns:

1) “Patterns of submissiveness – rationalisations to justify them: congeniality, concern for the Other, even severe co-dependence.
2) Hostility in our interactions with others – believing that others are caught up in their own self-interested motives… this strategy seeks mastery over the Other. Controlling or passive-aggressive behaviour is an example of this defence mechanism.
3) Avoidance (flight) …or emotionally hiding out even when physically present.

Fritz Riemann identifies the four primal fears that haunt our relationships:

Of nearness (engulfment).
Of distance (abandonment).

Of change (controlling and OCD).

Of permanence (dissociation).

“It is very hard not to see oneself as the by-product of one’s personal history.” (p.71)
Fritz Kunkel identifies four ways in which we try to manage our fear: we can be the one who is dependent on external validation; the “star”. Or the “clinging vine” who has given away their power to the will of the Other. Then there is the “turtle” who will do almost anything for security. And finally there is “Nero” who hides feelings of inferiority with a show of external power.
We are motivated by our fears that drive our false sense of self even deeper into our psyche. The only remedy for this is the “willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the well-being of another.”
“The power of love is found most in its triumph over fear.” (p.73)

To say, I will withdraw my projection (expectation) of you and allow you to be separate from me, and I will not blame you for my discomfort.


Four Principles of Relationship 74

The ‘fall-out” resulting from our Projections is discussed in this section. We cannot be conscious of that of which we are unconscious; “what we do not know about ourselves will be projected onto the Other.” (p.74)
“One can achieve no higher or better relationship with the Other than one has achieved with oneself.” (p.74)

This is the basis of the principles in the book.

1. “Our unconscious (i.e. what we do not know about ourselves or will not face in ourselves (the Shadow) will be projected onto the Other.”
2. “We project: our childhood wounding (personal pathology), our infantile longing (narcissistic agenda), our individuation imperative onto the Other.”
3. “Since the Other cannot and should not bear responsibility for: our wounds, our narcissism, our individuation, the projection gives way to resentment and the problem of power.”
4. “The only way to heal a faltering relationship is to render our ‘going home’ project conscious and take personal responsibility for our individuation.”


1. “the psyche is an historical reality. We carry our entire personal history within us.” (p.75)

“The shadow, this “heavy bear who goes with me,” this “stupid clown of the spirit’s motive,” is always present and enormously resistant to discovery. The ego is threatened by the shadow’s autonomy on the one hand, and the largeness of its threat to one’s self-image on the other.”
“Making the unconscious conscious, owning our own charged material, is an extraordinarily difficult task, no matter how willing we may be. We make the unconscious conscious by examining our patterns, not only in the present but in our whole history of relationships.” (p.76)


2. “We project our childhood wounding and our individuation imperative onto the Other” (p.76)

“We long for nurturance, for safe harbour, for completion.” (p.77) The quote from a movie that goes; “You complete me” sounds familiar to us.
“The twin conditions for growth requires first that we take responsibility for our journey… Secondly, we must also be able to internalise, that is, be able to see that one’s life is generated by choices whose dynamics derive from within.” (p.78)


3. “Projection gives way to resentment and the problem of power” (p.79)

My agenda: “You have to make me feel safe by not confirming (playing into?) my fear that I am not good enough/that I will be abandoned/that I am powerless.” (p.80)

Narcissistic manipulation, passive-aggressive withdrawal, disengagement, violence, aggression) (p.81)
“What a disappointment, how unromantic – the Other was not put on earth to serve or take care of me, protect me from Life! What a profound disappointment… we are alone, and on the road.” (p.82)


4. “The only way to heal relationship is to take full responsibility for one’s own individuation.” (p.82)

“Individuation demands an energy larger and tougher than the narcissism of the Eden project.”” (p.83)

Being there for each other now takes on a whole new meaning, i.e. that in being there for myself, I am able to be there for the Other by allowing them the Individuation process at their own pace.

“The love I speak of here is heroic; it is freeing to both parties, transformative rather than regressive.” (p.84)
“…to give up our deepest longing for homecoming…to grow up, take responsibility, to be an adult instead of a child. We always carry that frightened child within, and the power of the adult we seek to become must be balanced against the demands of the child.” (p.84)
“But when we can comfort our frightened child, stand watch on the ramparts of our own soul, then we may experience transformation.” (p.84-85)
“Transformation is about enlargement, and enlargement generally comes only from suffering.” (p.85) “…for consciousness only comes from the tension of opposites.” (p.85)
Hollis calls this kind of love, “disinterested love”. A way of relating to another person which is transformative. (p.85)



“Just as the tree is bent by wind and time, and the tendril curves toward light, so our life force, our Eros, is sculpted by our experience.” (p.86)
“… and if we have also attained sufficient ego strength to reflect honestly, only then can we see.” (p.86)
The five cases that follow will show how the shaping of eros resulted in lives “which emerge from that primal imprint.” (p.86)

One always has a choice – even if a complex communicates its message to me that I am powerless and that the pain will annihilate me, I still have a choice.


The Boy Who Failed His Mother 86

Gregory’s wounding was wanting to please his mother and he decided that this was all that mattered in life. He tried to do this at all costs as a child, but never succeeded. “Each relationship carried a dual, contradictory dynamic for Gregory. His unconscious agenda was to make himself so valuable to each of these women that they would need him…and yet he refused commitment for therein lay the profound abyss of his childhood fear of being abandoned.” (p.88)
He started healing his childhood wound when he investigated the possibility that he could be unconditionally loved without having to do anything to deserve being worthy of love.

“Accept the fact that you are accepted, despite the fact that you are unacceptable.” (p.89)
“The measure of our possible healing is the extent of our willingness and capacity to face such wounds, our unconscious patterns, our deepest fears and desires” (p.89)


The Dark River God of the Blood 89

“enlarged relationship with Self is necessary, then enlarged relationship with the Other followed (p.89) Stephen was curious about his lack of sexual desire for his wife.

“Without his knowing it, the image of his partner hits the old mother imago which he carries from childhood… activates the incest taboo.” (p.90)
Jung: “Neurosis represents self-estrangement, therefore estrangement from the gods within” (p.91).

Stephen had to acknowledge that fact that the sexual act is an intimate communion in order to integrate his sexuality into his being. “…to depotentiate any complex we need the energy of an imago with greater power.” (p.92)


The Abilene Paradox 92

A case of a couple who were desperately trying to fix each other, and hoping that the therapist would take the responsibility from them for the task. “when couples have a large measure of tacit or explicit agreement but somehow wind up doing the opposite.” (p.93)


Taking Care of the Caretaking Business 94

Becky had to take on the role of healing her narcissistic, unavailable father, and an emotionally stunted mother in the hope of finally receiving the nurturing and care that emotionally healthy parents would give a child. She was attracted to emotionally demanding partners and enacted her role as heroine, yet she was often feeling burnt-out.

She was not able to take a stand as “the conscious clarity of the adult is overrun by the angst…” (p.95).

And “…holding on to consciousness when history floods us is one of the most difficult things we ever do.” (p.95) “Only the sustained effort to remain conscious simultaneously of our own unique journey and the earlier, blocking paradigm, brings the possibility of mature choice.” (p.96)


The Lonely Paladin 96

The case of Nathan who feared making decisions and making a commitment. This resulted in procrastination. He feared being dominated by another, and feared the mundaneness of life. He in a sense wanted to remain the eternal child, free of any pressure and expectation as in the past this had robbed him of his autonomy and freedom.

“Fearing commitment is fearing too much closeness, and one would only have such fear if one had felt overwhelmed before… when one felt powerless to establish boundaries” (p.97) “… he can take a stand where the child could not.” (p.98)


Necessary Questions 99

1. Where do my dependencies show up?
2. What am I asking of my partner to do that I as a mature adult must/can do for myself?
3. How do I continuously restrict myself through my history?
4. Am I taking too much responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of the Other?
5. Am I living my life happy with the consequences of my choices. If not, when? And what is blocking me? (fears, permissions, old behaviours)
6. In what way do I seek to avoid suffering?

“we are required to pursue our own path toward wholeness. We carry forever the original wounding of Eros, but as adults we are responsible for those wounds, responsible for making them conscious, healing them, and thereby freeing ourselves and others from our pathology.” p.100



Hollis here explains how we create a relationship with the Other in the context of community and society. E.g. when energy of Eros is present in these systems. “… learning is infectious.” (p. 104)

“When our energies are directed toward goals consonant with the soul’s intention, we feel a sense of well-being.” (p. 104) however our complexes also manifest when we project onto organisations e.g. “the parental and authority complexes.” (p.105) And so, personal neurosis can present as corporate pathology. When an individual becomes conscious of the dynamic of projection present in their relationship with an organisation, wholeness becomes possible. In the case of Edward who was torn apart by his family (collective) and individual needs, he headed the message in his dreams and restructured his involvement toward Individuation and Wholeness.

“Jung suggested that neurosis is symptomatic of a reduced vision of life, a world-view of insufficient amplitude.” (p.111)
“The treatment of soul is what heals, finally, whether at the individual or the corporate level.” (p.113)



Finding a place for the Absolute Other, i.e. for God, in our search to find ourselves. Freud argued that it is similar to our search and dependence for the parental imago in the Other. “Sky Parent” (p.116). For Jung…

“(it) is neither infantile nor wish fulfilment. He considered our religious longing to be as instinctual as our desire for food…and is most clearly the embodiment of our search for meaning.” (p.117)
“All of us are stirred to project our own wounds and hopes onto this distant (figure)…” (p.118)

The story of Job is an example of how we project our fantasies around magical figures outside of ourselves. We still want to believe that somewhere there is a Magical Other who will show us the way and give meaning to our lives. We would like to ‘see’ our soul expressed.

“Jung asserted that “the term ‘religion’ designates the attitude peculiar to a consciousness which has been changed by experience of the numinosum.” (p.121)
“we desire that expression of wholeness which constitutes our own divinity.” (p.122)
Jung: “Neurosis is generated by the one-sidedness of the personality… If the ego’s prime need is security, then the relationship to the ultimate mystery… is inherently problematic.” (p.122).

We struggle to bear the otherness of the Other, and in the arena of the mysterious Other the same conflict arises. Jung argues that this tension leads us toward wholeness. Just as we find ourness whole in being in relationship to the Other, we are able to find it in relationship with Mystery.


Spirituality and Soul 125

“We are now obliged to exercise primary responsibility for our spirituality.” (p.125)

We can find our relationship to the Mystery, the Cosmic Other through:

Resonance – “Each of us must sort through… and find those images that speak to us, those that are personally resonant.” (p.125)
Depth – “Soul is… omnipresent and contiguous with all experiences of the phenomenal” (p.125).
Numinosity – “those unifying images…were generated by the symbol-making function we all possess…when we encounter the mysterious Other” (p.127)
“These three modalities… are the primary indices of the presence of that autonomous Other which we call soul.” (p.126)

We should also ask ourselves these five questions in the hope of broadening our spiritual perspective:

“…what does the soul ask (is the task of the second life stage)?”
“What is the unlived life that haunts us…”
“Where are we stuck in our developmental process?”
“Where do we lack permission to be ourselves?”
“How do we define, practice, integrate our spirituality? (p.131)

What does this look like in an individual’s life? “We are asked… to risk being what we were intended by the gods to be.” (p.132)


Three Poets Who Walked with the Gods 132

These poets had an ability to grasp, and somehow relay to us the experience of the Mysterious Other.
Wallace Stevens – “one can phenomenologically experience the divinity of this world, but can only express such experience through conscious metaphors.” (p.133)
Hart Crane – “Awe is the proper experience of the other as truly Other.” (p.134)
Rainer Maria Rilke – “his poems testify to the terrible beauty of not knowing.” (p. 135)

“…the radical willingness to let be, rather than control requires great courage and constitutes the ultimate respect for the Mystery” (p.135). “Tremendous courage is required…” (p.137)



On the one hand we naturally gravitate towards having our wounds ‘medicated’ by our partner’s love (as we traditionally assume it should happen). We also want to receive compassion from them. But there is a danger that this objective could result in us giving up our own responsibility toward Wholeness and Individuation. The most loving thing we can do for ourselves, and for our partners is to own our projections; to see projections as ‘messengers of love’, that will transform us.

This message lies in “the unconscious union of the ego with everything that has been projected onto ‘You’.” (p.140). To achieve this transformation: “…the best relationship we can hope to achieve with any other is a function of the relationship we achieve with ourselves…” (p.138)
“the Other shows us where we are wounded” (p.139) Then we can go for therapy with our wounds. “…the ultimate gift to any relationship is the willingness to dialogue with the Other, it is the catalyst for individuation.” (p.140).

Jung says: “the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in You. Wholeness is a combination of I and You.” (p.140)

My projections show up the opposites in myself; show up where I am still fragmented and wounded. The inner dialogue transforms, creates wholeness because as Jung states, it is “contingent on the dialogue of opposites.” (p.141). The core reason to withdraw projection is. I’ll “experience a divine form of connectedness which honours opposites and yet knows transcendence.” (p.141)



Once I accept that the only healing available to me, is through the process of returning to myself, will I be able to take care of myself by taking full responsibility for that which can heal me. I no longer look to my partner for that healing, and in doing so I set them free to be who they are. This kind of love is selfless and brave. (Ref. Ghandi’s quote) p.57

And so is the power that comes with offering myself the same kind of love. Do I have the wherewithal to grow up; to suffer the angst and know that it is a path to Individuation and Wholeness?
Accepting that the other is not Magical, that they will not rescue us, nor heal our wounds, we open to the possibility to do this for ourselves. It certainly sounds like a disappointing message, but the reality is, “the best relationship we can hope to achieve with the intimate Other… is a function of the relationship we achieve with ourselves.” (p.138) At the very least we should have a happier inner experience in achieving this.

This book is available for purchase from Amazon

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  • Wonderful Reply

    What a valuable little treasure this book is. I’ve read it many times and shared it often, each time it is received with thanksgiving and delight.

    Hollis is wonderful here in his application of Jung to the real lives we live. His writing is clear and relatively easy reading, and primed with great quotes and examples.

    And this review is a perfect synopsis to share with people. I’ll relay this link far and wide, but direct people to Inner City Books for direct sales and much more of value through their catalogue.

    December 17, 2018 at 3:13 pm

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