Libido is a concept thrown around in our culture quite regularly. We tend to use it in the Freudian sense of sexual energy. I used to think of it that way as well, until recently while working more with the Mary-El Tarot. She references libido a lot, and interpreting it as sexual energy did not often make sense to me, so I went digging for insight into the meaning of libido. Turns out Jung has a quite different definition of libido, and it was one of the areas which factored into his split with Freud.
Jung saw the libido as encompassing all life-driving energy, as opposed to Thanatos or death-driving energy.¹ This meant that libido wasn’t just about sex drive. It also drove basic survival instincts, spirituality, creativity, pleasure seeking, conflict avoidance, and intellectual curiosity.² He described it as “appetite in its natural state.”³ He even viewed this psychic energy as having it’s own directive abilities. Libido was not a force that could be controlled but instead went where it was most needed.¹
This idea brings so much more richness to the concept of libido and to interpreting the Mary-El Tarot. Thank goodness for my libido driving my curiosity to learn and grow as a human being. Have you ever dug deeper for the meaning behind a word or concept and found it greatly added to its relevance?
- “The Concept of Libido,” Collected Works of Carl Jung 5, par. 194