When we hear the word inflation most of us think of economics, especially today as the invasion of Ukraine and other factors are driving up inflation to unprecedented levels.
However, there is a psychological meaning to the term inflation, developed by the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung.
For Jung, psychological inflation denotes an unsavory condition that can occur during a lifelong process of self-realization called the individuation process.
Inflation in the Jungian sense refers to a person’s ego-consciousness uncritically and zealously identifying with archetypal contents. This results in a loss of sensible discrimination and regression into archetypal unconsciousness. It is also “characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, often compensated by feelings of inferiority.”¹
One could argue that Jungian inflation applies to people like Putin and other deceived individuals who think they are on some grand, privileged ‘mission’ that ultimately hurts and even kills innocent people.
Although some popular writers combine the ideas of inflation and conscious self-aggrandizement, for Jung the two are different mechanisms with different psychosocial outcomes.
Concerning religious leaders, teachers, and prophets, whether such figures are psychologically inflated (and trying to spread that unhealthy condition to others) or genuine holy persons remains a matter of debate.
Some say “The antidote to inflation is humility, service, and love.”² To that, I would add that healthy-minded suffering and practical hardships might also help bring someone back to their senses, as we see with the apostle Paul and the “thorn in his flesh.”
Paul asked God to remove his suffering but God left it as is, probably because Paul would become too full of himself if not brought low from time to time.
In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.³
Leon Schlamm’s excellent entry on inflation in the Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, Volume 2, is freely available online for preview: http://bit.ly/qV25Um.
¹ Source: https://www.psychceu.com/jung/sharplexicon.html
² See https://thisjungianlife.com/episode-146-inflation-the-challenge-of-archetypal-possession/
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