Carl Jung: How to Stay Calm in Anxious Times

Life, as Carl Jung told us, is a constant paradox. One minute it can be miserable and the next pure joy. To deal with these ups and downs. we must embrace the inherent chaos that defines our existence. But, how do we do it?
Carl Jung: How to Stay Calm in Anxious Times
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 23 May, 2024

Wolfgang Pauli was one of the pioneers in the study of quantum physics. He won the Nobel Prize for proposing the theory of the exclusion principle and establishing studies on the neutrino. We could say that he was one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century in the field of physics. However, his personal and emotional life was extremely chaotic. For this reason, in 1932, he began therapy with Carl Jung.

That meeting, which began for clinical reasons, gave way to one of the most unique and productive friendships in the world of psychology and science. Arthur I. Miller, in the book Deciphering the Cosmic Number (2009), tells in detail about many of their meetings in Jung’s Gothic mansion on the shores of Lake Zurich.

Carl Jung was renowned for helping people take their inner worlds seriously. He claimed it didn’t matter how brilliant an individual is if they’re ruled by feelings of discouragement. Therefore, his goal was to guide his patients and friends to understand that anyone can escape the darkest of times by following some specific guidelines.

“Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law.”

-Carl Jung-

Carl Jung
Carl Jung claimed that we must accept the chaos of life, but always remember who we are.

How to stay calm in anxious times

The reasons why the Nobel laureate, Wolfgang Pauli asked Carl Jung for help can be found in another book; Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958. This book contains an exchange of letters between both figures. Pauli had been going through a really stressful time that had led him to drink and relinquish many of his relationships. He also suffered from extremely turbulent nightmares.

Carl Jung not only guided him to escape his pit of suffering and anguish. In addition, as a physicist and psychologist, he forged an extremely productive intellectual alliance with him. In fact, their relationship gave shape to some interesting theories. For instance, the concept of synchronicity. This is the study of acausal events and significant coincidences.

However, in this case, we’re interested in learning how the father of analytical psychology guided his patients to remain calm in turbulent periods. Those in which, sometimes, the worst of ourselves emerge. If you want to know how. to do it, follow these guidelines.

1. Accept chaos as part of life

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”

-Carl Jung-

As a human being, some of your greatest difficulties are accepting the elements of adversity and vital stress. Jung himself once remarked that “For many of us, myself included, chaos can be scary at best, paralyzing at worst”. Indeed, it isn’t easy to accept that you don’t always have control over your future or that tomorrow will be as balanced as today.

In fact, the unpredictable and the chaotic are ingredients of existence itself. Resisting these fluctuations only increase stress and anxiety. You have to trust that those worries that suddenly appear along the way are just occasional moments, storm clouds that, sooner or later, will clear up.

What’s more, when you look back and discover everything you’ve overcome, you tend to find meaning in your own existence. In effect, there’s a certain order in the midst of what seems to you, at first glance, to be chaotic and disorderly.

2. Perception

“It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves.”

-Carl Jung-

The book, Selected Letters of C. G. Jung 1909 – 1961, contains the correspondence that the Swiss psychiatrist maintained with his patients. One of them asked him, metaphorically, how to cross the river of life. Jung replied that, in reality, there’s no correct way to live, we just have to live as we can. Each circumstance leads us to our destiny.

To keep calm in anxious times, he recommended paying attention to the way we interpret each experience. However, this is where a problem arises. Because many of us cross the river with unhealed wounds and repressed emotions. If you let yourself be carried away by the inertia of your impulses and your shadows, your life will be filled with greater obstacles. In effect, you’ll drown in the waters of daily life.

Jung said that we need to add light to the shadow if we want to regain confidence in ourselves. Therefore, you need to perceive things as they are and not through the lens of fear.

3. Don’t get carried away

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to be.”

-Carl Jung-

To stay calm in anxious times of endless pressure, you must look within and not so much at what surrounds you. It’s there where all your truths reside, and where your strengths are sleeping. As Jung wrote in one of his letters, “But if you want to go your individual way, it is the way you make for yourself, which is never prescribed, which you do not know in advance, and which simply comes into being by itself when you put one foot in front of the other”. 

Individuation was one of Jung’s key concepts. It defines the ability to build a strong and independent psyche. It means discovering who you are, a creative being. This is another goal that you must keep working on. You’re what you do in your daily life, not what you were in the past.

You must bear in mind that you’re a self-aware being with great potential. Moreover, you must always remember who you are if you want to stay calm in anxious times when everything seems to be going wrong.

tree representing how to keep calm
Active imagination can be exercised through meditation, writing, dancing, music, etc.

4. Active imagination

“The creation of something new is not carried out by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

-Carl Gustav Jung-

Carl Jung pointed out that neurosis would disappear if we developed broader and freer personalities. However, we often become so obsessed with fitting in and looking for acceptance that we often end up getting sick. We need to give our minds oxygen and make them more flexible. This will allow us to take broader perspectives.

Jung coined the term active imagination to describe getting in touch with a more spontaneous, playful, and above all creative self. Activities such as art in all its forms, as well as meditation, are practices that the Swiss psychiatrist recommended. They don’t just reduce stress. They allow you to discover new psychological plots.

Finally, if you’re going through an anxious time, these resources might be useful. After all, Carl Jung’s thinking never goes out of style.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dunne, Claire (2012). Carl Jung. Psiquiatra pionero, artesano del alma. Biografía ilustrada con fragmentos de sus escritos, cartas y pintura. Barcelona: Editorial Blume
  • Hannah, Barbara (2019). Jung. Vida y obra. Una memoria biográfica Barcelona. Editorial Escola de Vida.
  • Jung, Carl (2014) Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958. Princeton University Press.
  • Jung, Carl (2014) Selected Letters of C.G. Jung, 1909-1961 (Bollingen Series, 184) Princeton University Press.
  • Miller, I. Arthur (2009) Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. W. W. Norton & Company
  • Kaswin Bonnefond, Danielle (2006). Carl Gustav Jung. Madrid: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva.
  • Vallejo, B., & Perez, A., (2016). Estrés vital. Variables psicológicas y sociodemográficas predictoras del malestar emocional. Acción psicológica, ISSN 1578-908X, Vol. 13, Nº. 1. págs. 159-178

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.