an old ship sailing into a full moon

A story from C. G. Jung's The Red Book

“Captain, this boy is worried and very agitated by the quarantine that has been imposed upon us in this port.”

“What worries you, boy? Don't you have enough food? Don't you sleep enough”?

“It's not that, my Captain. I can't endure not being able to go ashore and not being able to embrace my family.”

“And if you could go ashore and you were infected, could you bear the guilt of infecting someone who couldn't resist the disease?”

“I would never forgive myself. For me, though, this plague is an invention.”

“It could be. But what if it isn't?”

“I understand what you mean, Captain, but I feel deprived of freedom. I have been deprived of something.”

“And you are depriving yourself of something else.”

“Are you pulling my leg?”

“Absolutely not. If you are deprived and do not respond appropriately, you have lost.”

“According to you then, if I am deprived of something, in order to win I must deprive myself of something else?”

“Exactly. It's what I did during the quarantine seven years ago.”

“And what did you deprive yourself of?”

“I had to stay on the boat for more than twenty days. For months I had been waiting to arrive in port in order to enjoy springtime on land. But there was an epidemic and they wouldn't let us disembark in Port April. The first days were hard. I felt the same as you feel now. But then I began to respond to those impositions without following the dictates of logic. I knew that after twenty-one days of a certain comportment a habit is formed. And, instead of feeling sorry for myself and creating dismal habits, I began to act differently from all the others. Before, I had begun to reflect upon the many privations which this miserable life brings me daily. But then I entered the right dynamic and decided to win.

"I started with food. I forced myself to east half of what I normally ate. Then I selected the most digestible foods in order to not overload my body. And I began to eat food which traditionally had been proven to be good for health. The next step was adding to this a purification of thoughts, eliminating the morbid ones and cultivating the elevated and noble ones. I urged myself to read at least one page a day about a subject that I didn't know. I forced myself to do exercises on the boat's bridge.

"Years before, an old Indian had told me that the body is strengthened by holding the breath. Every morning I practiced deep breathing. I think that my lungs had never before attained such capacity and force. Afternoon was the time for prayers; the time to give thanks to some entity because destiny had not brought me serious privations in life. The Indian also advised me to acquire the habit of imagining light entering me and making me stronger. This could also work for my loved ones who were far away. I also integrated this practice to my daily routine on the boat. Instead of thinking about all I could not do, I thought about all I would do once on land. I visualized the scenes every day, lived them intensely and enjoyed waiting.

"Everything we can obtain immediately is never interesting. Waiting serves to sublimate the desire and make it more potent. I had deprived myself of delicious foods, bottles of rum, delicacies and snacks. I deprived myself of playing cards, of oversleeping, of loafing and of only thinking of what I had been deprived of.”

“And how did it all end, Captain?”

“I acquired all those new habits. I was able to disembark after a much longer time than foreseen.”

“Then you were deprived of the spring?”

“Yes, that year I was deprived of the spring, and of many more things. But at the same time I flourished. I had brought spring within, and nobody has ever been able to deprive me of it.

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