Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shadowplay: The Elusive Origins of a 'Jungian' Quip, Part I

You may have heard or read this quip, widely attributed to Carl Jung:

"What you resist, persists." Or, alternately, "What you resist persists."

This could have to do with procrastination: when you have a toothache and put off going to the dentist, the toothache will not go away.  You have to deal with it sooner or later.  

Among other things, Jung discussed the need to understand oneself, to integrate different dimensions of the personality, including submerged or "shadow" aspects. Those that are ignored (resisted), will continue to pose a challenge to one's conscious being until explored and absorbed. More or less.

I'm fascinated by the origins of quips and quotes (or quotations, if you prefer) and interested in Jung's ideas. Hence my question: did Carl Jung really write or say "what you resist, persists?"

Searching Google Books and general internet search engines, one can see this Jungian quip fairly well spread around in texts and via the internet through the past ten to twenty years, a sort of meme. In the massive global best-seller, for instance, Rhonda Byrne's The Secret (Atria Books, 2006) -- based on Byrne's documentary film of the same name -- we can find on page 142:

"'What you resist persists.'  Carl Jung (1875-1961)."

However, here and elsewhere, no more specific citation is given. Perhaps the attribution to Jung is made up out of thin air?

I kept digging, going as far back in time as I could easily search. The earliest usage of the quip that I have been able to locate so far is from this unlikely sounding source: As Others See Us: Scots of the Seaway Valley (Ontario: Beamsville Express, 1959).  

I've only been able to pull this pertinent scrap from a digitized preview, without specific context, but here it is, rendered as:

"What you resist, Persists" - followed by a couple of other intriguing lines that led me to additional findings. Meanwhile, if anyone knows more about any of this, please add to the comments section.  All comments are welcomed, of course -- not resisted.

Part II will continue this thread through the shadowplay -- in search of their origins.

Today's Rune: Flow.  Illustration at top from Thought-forms by Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater (London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1905). 



Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard it. Not sure in what writing of his it first appeared.

jodi said...

Erik-Sometimes the thought of doing something is much worse than the actual action. I try not to procrastinate!