James Hillman: Because symptoms lead to soul, the cure of symptoms may also cure away soul

Because symptoms lead to soul, the cure of symptoms may also cure away soul, get rid of just what is beginning to show, at first tortured and crying for help, comfort, and love, but which is the soul in the neurosis trying to make itself heard… The right reaction to a symptom may as well be a welcoming rather than laments and demands for remedies, for the symptom is the first herald of an awakening psyche which will not tolerate any more abuse.

– James Hillman

When we have symptoms like depression, anxiety, unease, and so on, it points to something deeper. There is an invitation there to see what it’s about. And that exploration has many layers.


Our symptoms may encourage or invite us to… Clarify our priorities and reorganize our lives to match our more authentic and real priorities. Make changes in our life in terms of where we live, our relationships, our work, and so on. Engage in a deeper healing journey and exploration. Find healing for how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world.

In general, they are an invitation for honesty, receptivity, authenticity, and healing.


There is also a deeper invitation here, and that is to notice our more fundamental nature.

As long as we take ourselves to most fundamentally be something within the content of our experience – this human self, an I, a me, a doer, an observer, and so on – there will be some unease in our experience. Something is off, and somewhere in us is a knowing that something is off.

This is a symptom that can lead us to notice what we more fundamentally are in our own experience. It’s an exploration of oneness and love, living from oneness and love, and allowing our human self and psyche to transform within oneness and love.


Psychological symptoms are an invitation for exploration as a human being in the world. To be more honest with ourselves, sincere, receptive. To find a deeper authenticity. To find healing for how we relate to the world. To find healing for certain issues in us.

And they are also an invitation to look a little closer at what we are in our own first-person experience. As long as we don’t, and even if we live an authentic life and are mostly healed as a human being, there will always be an underlying sense of unease and something being off.


Hillman refers to “cure of symptoms” while knowing there is no cure at the level of symptoms.

We can, of course, TRY to cure symptoms through medications, distractions, superficial changes, and so on. But it doesn’t really work.

If something is off – either in a conventional sense or in our perception of what we most fundamentally are – it will still be off, and there will be symptoms.

If we try to “cure” symptoms and nothing more, they will show up again or in another way.

Life is persistent. Life won’t let us get away with superficial solutions for very long.

That persistence is our nemesis as long as we ignore it or run from it.

And it becomes a blessing to the extent we take it as an opportunity for a more sincere and honest exploration.

Note: Some physical illnesses trigger psychological symptoms, so it’s good to check this possibility as well. When I had lyme disease and confections, I also felt in turmoil emotionally, which is a common symptom. As I see it, the infections trigger something already there and doesn’t really produce it. So I approached it from both angles: trying to cure the infections and working on my relationship with the symptoms.

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