In my first Jungian analysis with David L Hart in Swarthmore, PA, I was introduced to the idea of the emotional red thread. The archetypal motif of the red thread begins with the story of Ariadne, in Greek mythology the daughter of King Minos of Crete. Minos had Daedalus build a labyrinth, a house of winding passages. Minos put the Minotaur, a bull-man, the product of his wife’s intercourse with a bull, at the center of the labyrinth. Minos sacrificed young men and women from Athens to the Minotaur. The Athenian Theseus volunteered to deliver his country from this awful tribute to Minos. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and provided him with a thread that he unwound on his way through the labyrinth so that he was able to find his way out again after he killed the Minotaur.
During my analytical training in Zurich, this motif was amplified with clinical and analytical material. While Frau Jaffe taught me how to follow the red thread in dream interpretation, Mario Jacoby, another of my training analysts, demonstrated how to follow the emotional red thread in the analytical relationship, both real and transferential. Working with Frau Jaffe on Wednesday afternoons and Mario Jacoby on Saturday mornings served to provide me with different yet complementary ways of following the emotional red thread. My analytical work with both of them was deepened further with the didactic work of lectures and seminars and control analysis, a very rich experience for which I am deeply grateful.
I chose to work with four control analysts, two men and two women: Paul Brutsche, Verena Kast, Kathrin Asper, and Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig. Each analyst had his or her own unique way of following the emotional red thread. What I learned from these experiences is that there is no single way of following the emotional red thread. Rather, in doing depth psychological work it is important to find your own authentic way of following the emotional red thread.
In Zen, there is a related idea about the red thread, but it seems to be more erotic than emotional. Ikkyu, One Pause, (1394 – 1481), practiced a form of Zen that he called Red Thread Zen. But, that is a story for another day.