Uroboros and Personal Transformation

“The lockdown happening sent me into a tailspin.  I had been working hard to get my café off the ground, healthy fresh food at affordable prices.  There was nothing like it in my local town.  We were starting to go somewhere, and then the Coronavirus came and stopped us in our tracks.  At first, I thought I could get through it.  But I didn’t.  My business partner has pulled out now.  It’s finished now.  I feel lost, I don’t know what I am going to do.  I can’t see the point of trying anymore.  I’m not sure if there is any point talking about this.”


What would you do if your dreams fell apart?

Some people might be able to focus on a new goal and go after it without looking back.  That might work for them, but what if it doesn’t work for you?  What do you tend to do?

  • Do you look backwards? 
  • Do you think about where you have come from? 
  • Or do you just try to keep moving forward?
  • Where will you find your energy from?

Although our needs tend to relate to where we are now and what we need next, I think it is helpful to start answering this question by understanding how we developed to this point. 

  • How did you get here?
  • How did you become the person you are now?
  • Where do you get your energy and motivation from?

Jungian Psychotherapy and the Uroboros

Analytical psychology, Carl Jung’s school of psychotherapy, brings a useful perspective to ideas about how our individual psychology develops.  In the views put forward by Michael Fordham, a key British Jungian analyst, right from the point of our conception, we come into the world with our own singular rhythm of energy, creativity, and potential. When we are able to reconnect with this we feel energised. We develop.

When we give ourselves the chance to reconnect and remember where we have come from, it isn’t just a nostalgic distraction.  It’s reconnecting us with times in our life when we had energy and purpose.

If one view of how to find a way to restart your life after a period of adversity, be it

  • the end of a love affair
  • a bereavement
  • the collapse of a business
  • failing an important career exam

is to try to select another goal.  Another is to trace your steps back to the point at which you had energy and motivation.  Life may have stalled now, but being prepared to look more closely at what happened may become a route into both: knowing more about what went wrong, and into reconnecting yourself with older and more personally authentic forms of life, energy, potential, and creativity.

Erich Neumann and the Uroboros

Erich Neumann, a brilliant student of Carl Jung’s wrote about these themes in The Origins of Consciousness (1949).  In his book, the first chapter ‘The uroboros’, explains the place from which all creativity comes.  Neumann explains the origins of the uroboros symbol in ancient cultures as a symbol of wholeness, of potential.

The uroboros is represented as a serpent-god, the original portal of endless potential, it represents our capacity to transform, to be reborn.  The uroboros is an ancient symbol, the image of the serpent eating its own tail.  In ancient traditions, the world, all creation, was contained within the uroboros.  Everything in our world grew out of it and within it. It is an ancient symbol of eternal renewal.

You could call it a kind of navel-gazing, but only in the sense that you are reconnecting with the point that originally fed you.  The place you originally grew from.  Symbolically to reconnect with it brings life and energy. In Greek mythology, it links to the omphalos, the navel of the world.

Psychotherapy, the art of Personal Transformation

In analytical psychotherapy, you don’t try to master the universe and force goals upon yourself. You might instead find that it is possible to settle into yourself, to reconnect with your own unique potential.

So if, like the person above, we come to a point where all of our plans fail, what do we do? 

  • Do we try to create new plans, give ourselves new goals to go after? 
  • Is there an alternative? 

Yes, there is. We need to look after ourselves, our physical needs, and so on.  But instead of trying to force ourselves upon things, we might start by finding a way to engage more directly with what energises us.

So how do we reconnect with that power now?

We might look to see what happens in myths, legends, and fairy tales. There are reasons for why we find those stories so irresistible and enduring.  A hero finds themselves stopped in their tracks.  It appears there is no way forward.  Instead, some task has to be performed which once complete allows the journey to continue.  Joseph Campbell, in his work on myth and the heroes’ journey, used the term monomyth which he took from James Joyce’s Finnegans’ Wake, to describe the key patterns of the heroes’ journey. Campbell identified this in diverse stories ranging from Jesus Christ to Luke Skywalker.

In psychotherapy, we can try to follow our own versions of this.  We don’t have to be Luke Skywalker or Jane Eyre, but we might find inspiration in their stories. We can borrow from the examples in myths and descend into the depths of our own problems and conundrums.  Instead of being obstacles, we can use them as gateways that return us to our original sense of energy and potential. 

Contact me to discuss further

If you feel stuck or that you cannot find the energy to get through the challenges you are facing now, then it might be helpful to talk about it.

I have been working with people on issues like this for twenty years.  My work is built around helping people to develop greater confidence in themselves, in developing a better understanding of why you feel the way you do, and of helping you to develop confidence that you can manage these experiences without feeling out of control.

Contact me to arrange a free 15 minute conversation to discuss how my work might be useful to you.

I have a lot of experience of using telephone and online platforms, and I would be pleased to hear from you.

Telephone: 01494 521311
Mobile: 07980 750376
Email: toby@tobyingham.com