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Freudians are sexy; Jungians are not ( at least not this last weekend)

I spent Friday night with Jung and Saturday morning with Freud. That sounds kind of bad. It sounds like I get around, at lease theoretically speaking. Doesn’t it? And the truth is, I do. I am a bit of a psycho-dynamic polyamorist, meaning I love Freud and Jung and Lacan and Winnicott andFairbairn and Bion and… But I am not writing today about my theoretical polyamory. Today I am talking about sexy. Sexy isn’t something you think a lot about when you think about psychology but it was something I have been thinking a lot about.

Friday night I attended a documentary about Sabina Speirlein and the audience was heavily weighted with Jungians. And the look of the attendees was decidedly “not sexy”. Most of the attendees were over-50 woman who rejected hair color with the same vehemence they might reject a prescription for Prozac or a cognitive intervention. The room was so gray that I felt like I was attending an AARP convention in the midst of hippy-dippy-granola-town-goat’s-milk, USA. Then there was the matter of their clothing: again with the gray. And with the gray there were the ubiquitous shawls and the ethnic inspired jewelry, a’la Chico’s, and the VERY comfortable shoes. I have never seen so many comfortable shoes in one place—there was not a single pair of platforms in the entire pavilion. The lady in gray who sat next to me during the screening was so comfortable in her Mephistos that she took them off. She sat next to me in a public place in her bare feet. I was aghast at her barefooted boldness. I sat there in my red J Crew suede pointed-toe penny loafers and silently judged her for exposing her feet in a public place( yes, I have some naked feet issues and these issues are amplified if the naked foot in question has never been pedicured) and scanned my mind for the appropriate DSM-IV diagnosis that would fit such shocking lack of public decency.

Beyond the drab clothes, gray hair and comfortable shoes there was just a general vibe of croniness(The crone is the archetype of the the old wise woman), haginess and witchypoo-ness to the event. These Jungian women seemed to actively embrace these archetypes and I don’t think they would in any way bristle at me describing them as a crone or a hag.  As I am a gal who loves her chemically assisted hair colour, Botox, fashionable attire and heels high enough to enter the realm of Icarus, I felt very out of place and, to tell you the truth, in such crone-filled environments I often feel more than a little unwelcome. I sometimes get the feeling that if you look like you make too much effort on your appearance that the Jungian crone women will decide that you are lacking in depth. That may not be the case but I can tell you that it certainly feels that way.

When I was working on my graduate thesis “The genesis of shame: The fig leaf of fashion and its place in psychotherapy” and I would tell women analysts in the Jungian community in which I trained that I was writing on the topic of clothing I received some pretty harsh judgements.  Clothing was looked at as immaterial to the field of psychology and judged as a surface interest and not one that should be given serious academic consideration. It’s interesting to note that five years after completing my thesis that the very same institute offered the course, “Clothes in the Analytic Relationship: Not For Women Only”. It was bittersweet to see that the topic was finally being considered. I attended the nearly sold out event and was somewhat pleased to see that the women who did the presentation had not approached the topic with the depth of analysis that I had. I was also amused and somewhat irritated by the participants cooing question to the presenters, “This is such a rich therapeutic topic. Why hasn’t anyone written on it before?” Grrr!!!!

Okay, sorry for the tangent, back to sexy. So Friday night was extremely un-sexy. That’s not entirely true. The documentary on Sabina Spielrein was kind of sexy in that she was an amazing women who contributed much the the field of psychoanalysis and she slept with Jung and she had the balls to call him out on his bad behavior and then spilled the beans to Freud and went onto become a psychoanalyst. Sabina was sexy. Jung not so much and the attendees of the documentary were definitely not sexy.

Saturday morning I attended a lecture on the Greek Philosophical Roots of Psychoanalysis. I was expecting for the class to be fascinating and insightful and it was. What I had not expected was that the teacher was going to be so sexy. She really was. She had long hair that she tossed back away from her face to great effect. She wore an amazing and figure flattering dress that I would have loved to have. She gesticulated passionately with her long and manicured talons. Peep toe platform pumps revealed red pedicured toes. She was undeniably sexy and super smart. As I sat in the audience discovering how Freud had likely been influenced by Aristotle, I found my mind reviewing some of the female Freudian and Post-Freudian professors I’ve had and how most of them looked extremely embodied, sensual and as if they probably had a pretty amazing sex life( that could just be my projection however there has been a kind of wildness to their hair, some serious heels and a leather skirt or two that all seem to say that their knowledge of sex is more than just clinical).

As Dr. Sexy Freudian lectured I found myself comparing and contrasting the differing representations of femininity that I experienced at both events and I felt MUCH more at home at the second. As I contemplated the differences I imagined that the gray/drab/Mephisto wearing women were a kind of asensual-intellectual that rejected sexuality and embodiment in favor of the world of the mind. and that the wild-haired and skirt and heel wearing Freudian’s clearly had a life in which they managed to be embodied, sexy and smart(Dr. Sexy has a PhD and a PsyD and is a psychoanalyst and an artist and she speaks Latin and she has crazy-sexy style and she is funny).

When the lecture was over I went up and thanked Dr. Sexy for her lecture. What I didn’t thank her for was her willingness to be feminine and sexy and smart(not choosing one at the expense of the other) nor did I tell her how personally meaningful it was to discover such a well-dressed role model.  I really wished I had thanked her for being who she is as witnessing her being herself was even more awesome than anything I learned about Aristotle ( and I did learn some good stuff about Mr. Golden Mean).  I am sure she over the years she has received some guff for being so glamorous but she didn’t let the guff stop her.  She could quote Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle with ease, all while looking like a Russian Jaquelyn Bissett and that is seriously impressive. And no woman, no matter how high her IQ, wouldn’t like to hear that she inspires and looks great while doing it—at least no woman I know of.

28 Responses to “Freudians are sexy; Jungians are not ( at least not this last weekend)”

  • This post made me giggle out loud! Two weeks ago I had a dream that I had a prominent Hollywood celeb as my bff. She was talking about high-heeled shoes and I informed her that there was a psychological basis for fashion. Fast forward to last weekend when I espied with my hazel eyes that Jungian James Hollis was wearing velcro shoes. True story.

  • ::::sigh:::: I’ll keep my silver-haired, shawl wearing, Birkenstock shod self in the back of the room so as not to dim the luster of Aphrodite.

  • Hilarious! Having spent a LOT of my life in Ann Arbor, MI, I know what you mean about the gray, old sandals, minimal grooming thing. It seems to have been a generational choice.

    I need to up my game. Just because I’m not in a great work fit, and the environment and work makes me a bit sad (as poor fits will do) does not mean that I must spend so much time in black and comfy shoes. Though my plantar fascia wants the comfy shoes and not limping and listing to one side like a peg-legged pirate is a good thing…OK, maybe I’ll just get the cherry patent leather clogs for bad fascia days…

  • I was raised to ignore anything relating to sensuality or personal style, and now work in a place where loose clothing and comfortable shoes are the norm. (To be fair, comfy shoes are usually necessary and I wear them, too.)

    But I’m very grateful for a well-dressed role model that I knew in my teen years, a very elegant woman who also happened to be powerful and smart. By observing her, I learned early on that intellectuals don’t have to dress a certain way in order to be respected.

    I’ve spent the last few years exploring and revamping my personal style, and I find that I’m returning to a more dressed-up, less “natural” appearance. Sometimes I feel very out of place among my intellectual colleagues, and also when I’m with family.

    I think we all need people who make us feel o.k. about what we like and who we are. And that means we probably need many different types of dressers as role models in our daily environments.

    • I have always been drawn to role-models who manage smart and sexy at the same time. My BF points out to me that I have many items in my wardrobe that are a bit on the “naughty librarian” side and I am okay with that. If I am going to look sexy I want to look like I have read a book or two-thousand.;-)

      And comfy can be sensual and beautiful.Don’t you think? It’s too bad that aesthetics are often sacrificed in the name of the comfortable. We can have it all—-at least I hope we can.;-)

  • Big smile on my face reading this one… “general croniness.” (chuckling)

    What’s not to love about Freudians who are unabashed in their ability to bare their “slips?” What’s sexier than Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 and that clingy, sultry undergarment?

    I’ll take a sexy Freudian (and appropriate demeanor and garb) over the Jungian Shadow any day.

    Among other things, I get lost in the playbook of who’s doing what and much prefer a snappier wardrobe!

    Seriously though?

    Having lived and worked in New England for many years, I never “fit” because of the drab attire that was the norm. The minute I found myself in a more female friendly (attire) culture – other regions of the country or Paris – I felt better, in tip-top form professionally, and comfortable in my more feminine but still appropriate clothes.

  • So, is this statement true:

    For those interested in fashion, clothes are about signals and pleasure.

    Or maybe that is true for everyone? Subconscious signals and subconscious pleasure? What does that mean for those who like slightly-uncomfortable clothing? Discomfort can indeed provide pleasure (speaking of psychology).

  • I, too, am shunned for being interested in clothing and appearance here in Berkeley. However, I know for a fact that I’m the smartest woman on the playground. So when the mean moms in their fleece and comfortable sandals with socks are judging me, I just smile sweetly and wave.

  • Aside from the gray hair (that will come around in about 15 years or so…and I won’t dye it) I would have fit RIGHT in with the drab scene. It took a while to find a style of dress that “fit” me, as I adapted to the norms for a young woman in high school. I actually feel a bit in drag when I dress up! Just feels really unnatural…for me. (for example, I live in a yurt in the woods of Michigan, and my knees get weak when I don a grey hoody with a lovely sheepskin-like lining.) That said, my dress isn’t at all a reflection of my sexuality…I feel quite comfortable when it comes to embodying my sexuality!

    Yes, I can just imagine when I’m out there attending Jungian seminars, I’ll blend right in…and I will be sure to appreciate any woman there who comes in put together as you were. I will introduce myself…and I promise to keep my shoes on…

    A Woodrat :)

  • Best scroll-down ever. Luckily I was not drinking wine at the time. I love reading about all the new changes in your life and hope to see you soon!


  • The good thing about being a frumpy Jungian (whether male or female) is that we typically get to be married to someone like you.

    Ironically, Jung’s work on the Types would validate your assertion of your extroverted values.

    I guess the world needs variation to be able to make us all happy.

  • Like Ms. M, since taking up my own personal style quest, I’ve experience feeling “out of place” and it can be a little disconcerting. I dress up or put a nice casual outfit together anyway.

  • Has fashion among Jungian women changed? I thought beige was the no color of choice but I may be mistaken.

  • Good thing you are getting more and more comfortable standing out in the crowd.

    John wrote:

    “Ironically, Jung’s work on the Types would validate your assertion of your extroverted values.’

    Hmmmmm…new post topic for you?

    [And if you're into requests, could you delve into your bare-feet-anti-fetish? I don't really share it, but it seems pretty common and I'd love the patented LBR take on it.]

    Re the compare and contrast: IMO (ok, and past “-E” in the “black and baggy” sphere) when it comes to sensuality you really can’t judge the proverbial book etc etc. Some of those drab dressers may fail to invest in different types of clothing because they spend a good proportion of their downtime in no-attire-required “adult” romps!

    However, judging CHARISMA is another thing entirely and it sounds like Dr SF wore hers well. [It seems to be a lot harder to radiate magnetic power when shrouded in blah, and I'd say that holds true for both genders.]

    Me, I’m not too proud to admit that these days I find it easier to let my clothing choices do of the work vs starting from scratch!

  • Is your thesis available online? I would love to dive into it (although I’d probably hardly understand it…).

    I respect women who are beautiful and stylish and smart more than women who are not stylish and are probably smart (I kind have to admit I kind of shut down when a woman is dumpy and get distracted and don’t listen like I should). My best friend is an Art History PhD candidate at the U of Chicago and one of the things that is fascinating about her (among many, many things) is her style!

  • Also, if we’re talking about smart and sexy v smart and dumpy, perhaps you could weigh in someday on the fear of being noticed/stylish/sexy that many have. Why do many smart women dress to recede into the walls? You seem to have always been stylish, though the New You more joyously so – I’m sure that Jung/Freud et al have something to say on this as well. Is it only fear of sexuality or more than that?

  • This Jungian loved your article! We’re not all crones; some of us are young, male, run and workout, look and enjoy taking out lovely women who write about the psychology of fashion.

  • A good comment by Ron. I couldn’t agree more, I must admit it is such a pleasure to discuss a varity of topics including fashion with someone so smart. Not only on her blog but at home with her to..

  • My daughters would laugh their heads off at this.

  • There are many pathways to wholeness, all of them involve some dark explorations. Some of us dress for the exploration in much earthier manners than others. You look great in the 4″ heels, I am sure, and you are welcome to them. I choose to explore in clothing more suited to the terrain…Going to an art theater to watch this movie didn’t call for my skinny leather skirt, size 12. It is cold up here in the north, and only an airhead would leave their shawl at home. Having said that, I wish I looked more like you and this sexy speaker you mention. I would very much enjoy a nice pedicure and think red polish would be stunning even on these crone feet!

  • This is a pretty late comment but I have to admit that your post really got me to thinking (thanks for that!) My conclusions are:

    1) Freudians *may* be more sexy than Jungians because for Freud, everything is about sex, even religion while for Jung everything is about religion, even sex.

    2) Freudians *may* be more sexy than Jungians because they’re more interested in “first half of life” stuff (which generally includes sexual attractiveness and successful mating) while Jungianism is more concerned with “second half of life” stuff (which generally doesn’t.)

    However, that being said, what it comes down to is that we all have to deal with whatever issue has been put before us. If someone can’t understand that and gives you guff for following your daimon, then they can go take a long walk off a short pier!

  • Great post!!
    I am LOL. I know I am not shallow and I care how I look : ) I got for the subtle sexiness since I am 62, and I think I succeed. I wear comfortable shoes but no Birks; Cole Haan is my current favorite.
    I wrote a research article on the psychology of clothing as an undergraduate at Fordham which was a very sexy psychoanalytic environment. I enjoy your blog. Jane

  • BTW Feet are discussed in Freudian theory. Feet are considered very sexual. They are usually hidden, they have a smell, they are somewhat taboo to show in public. There is often hair on the toes all of these characteristics can be compared to intimate parts of the body. Toe cleavage in flat shoes can often by nice : )

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About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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