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Zoja, L. (1983). Working Against Dorian Gray: Analysis and the Old. J. Anal. Psychol., 28(1):51-64.

(1983). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 28(1):51-64

Working Against Dorian Gray: Analysis and the Old

Luigi Zoja

‘Youth! Youth! There is absolutely

nothing in the world but youth!’

(The Picture of Dorian Gray, O. Wilde)


Analytical Therapy began officially with Freud and, as we all know, treatment was soon restricted to young patients. ‘Never trust any patient over 30’ could then have been—and now often is—the slogan of many orthodox Freudians, analogous to the slogan of the student revolt in the Sixties and not in my opinion a coincidence, because we can now see that the Freudian point of view anticipated and paved the way for many radical changes in society, the most obvious among which being the emphasis on sex. But I want to deal here with the youth-centred vision so apparent in our culture today and the accompanying repression of most of the archetypes surrounding old age, and to dare raise the question of the extent of the contribution of Freudian thought to contemporary geronto-phobia. I do not pretend to have the answer, but I suggest that if in fact the Freudian Weltanschauung has exerted this influence, it has probably done so indirectly by centring psychic life on and around sexuality, which in its turn is biologically and archetypally linked with youth.

Jungians, on the other hand, seem to me to be better equipped theoretically to work with the old than are Freudians: we are linked more to the archetypes and less to the Zeitgeist, and are therefore less influenced by the ‘juvenilistic’ culture of this century. Jungians have often included the elderly among their patients, though generally perhaps this is due more to an absence of negative prejudices than to any specific rules about therapy. Nevertheless, none of us to my knowledge has undertaken any systematic study of the problems of analysis with the old; so, without any claim at being exhaustive, I would like to try to relate our therapeutic practice to a very simple framework and to examine its roots.


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