At the Brink: What We Fear and Why



In popular culture and in our personal lives we are increasingly terrified by threats of danger and catastrophic destruction. We are entranced by annihilation and dystopian voids. Why do apocalyptic endings in story, film, drama and dreams increasingly command our attention? What is the impact this assault has on each of us and what might we be trying to face in these images of disaster and death? So focused are we on loss, destruction, and chaos, and the end of life as we know it, that we ignore possibilities, the hidden truths waiting to be revealed. The meaning of the word “apocalypse” is “uncovering what has been hidden, revelation of a new truth, rebirth,” bringing a new stage of psychological maturity and development for the whole earth. What might the purpose and meaning be of these fantasies of “end times” and how can we face our fears he ad on, have the courage to imagine life anew, and the courage to face a life we cannot yet imagine. Suggested viewings are the films Melancholia and Beasts of the Southern Wild, with clips from these films shown.


Judith Cooper, Psy.D., is a Jungian psychoanalyst and licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Chicago. She was supervising psychologist and Director of Training of an APA-accredited internship program at a community mental health center in Northwest Indiana. She currently teaches in the Analyst Training Program, the 2-year certificate Clinical Training Program, and the Public Education Program of the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago.

Suzanne Rosenthal, Ph.D.,is a Jungian analyst and Clinical Psychologist in private practice in Evanston and Chicago. She completed her analytic training at the Jung Institute of Chicago in 1996 after earning her doctorate (psychology) and master’s degrees (film studies) from Northwestern University. She is currently a faculty member of the Analyst Training Program and the Clinical Training Program and is a member of the ATP oversight committee. Sue includes in her years of clinical experience teaching and supervising at the graduate level at Loyola University, Northwestern, and the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She chaired the committee that established the original Jungian clinic in Evanston.

Learning Objectives:

  1. describe and explain the archetype of the apocalypse in its prospective meanings of revelation, uncovering hidden truths, and the possibility of rebirth;
  2. articulate these meanings in their personal as well as collective or cultural aspects;
  3. apply these concepts to their clinical work and be able to discuss the clinical relevance of this material.

Suggested Viewing:

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) Directed by Benh Zeitlin.
Melancholia (2011) Directed by Lars von Trier.


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