When the Fog Rolls In: A Symbolic Outlook

If you live in the San Francisco or Monterey Bay area, you know the fog very well. It is a constant part of life here, and you find different camps of people in respect to their relationship to the fog. You can find those who tolerate it, maybe even like it, and those who don’t like it and maybe even hate it. Perhaps there is also another group; those who tolerate it and have found a way to escape it by driving inland in search of the sun.

Fog bank waiting over the Pacific

Love it or hate it, the coastal fog is fascinating if you view it objectively and through the viewpoint of Jungian psychology. At times, if you watch the fog very closely, it even seems “alive” like a meandering river. It can look and feel alive and meandering like the movement in the psyche. On many days in the Monterey Bay area, especially during the summer months, the fog lurks out over the bay like a watchful guardian waiting. As weather has a tendency to do, the fog can change the mood of an outing in an instant. It can turn a warm, sunny and bright day into a thick, gray, pea-soup day in a matter of minutes. I know when I say minutes, it may sound like I’m exaggerating, but it’s true. All it takes is a slight change in wind direction, and the fog bank moves toward shore. You can watch it roll in like a river. Or sometimes it comes in like a winter storm all at once. Someone once said that the Inuit have a hundred words for snow, and even though this saying appears to have been a misconception, fog could be categorized equally as descriptive.

From the perspective of Jungian psychology, a person’s path at times is both nebulous and ambiguous, like fog. It is shrouded in mystery. Becoming accepting and even comfortable while “sitting” in this mystery can be a way through the fog. Tolerating this ambiguity is not easy, but it is necessary for this phase of your psychological process.

There are many unique events in life that can feel like one is shrouded in fog. The natural phenomenon of fog has crept into our language to be used as a metaphor for a particular feeling state. Mild depression is commonly described by clients as if they are feeling “in a fog.” Other life events like having a serious medical illness while awaiting the outcome, the ambiguities present at times in a significant relationship, or the more general, common place feeling that life is “passing us by,” can all illicit the feeling of being “in a fog.”

Like the weather, there is no escaping the fog for those of us living in the greater Bay area. Even if we drive inland for part of the day, we inevitably must return home to the potential fog. It is much better to accept the fog when it rolls in. Acceptance can even be comforting. By being open to fog in both our outer and inner worlds, it will give us practice in learning how to live with life’s mysteries and uncertainties. Learning to develop this accepting attitude to life’s mystery can help us to live more fully and to be more present in the moment. The fog always recedes for a time. It will be pulled back into the vast ocean sooner or later. The sun will come out again and life moves on. We carry on. You can learn to accept the “fog” in your own life, and to tolerate your life’s uncertainties. There are lessons waiting here and the mysterious fog teaches.

© 2011, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.

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8 Responses to When the Fog Rolls In: A Symbolic Outlook

  1. chas lyng says:

    An interesting story,logical…San Francisco sounds nice….hope to visit someday…thanks for the enlightening article.

    • Dr. Howlin says:

      Yes, the greater Bay area is quite nice. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article about the many facets of the fog.

      Jeff Howlin

      • Sawen says:

        I ejnyoed this, Jeff. I’ve used the same metaphor to describe my unconsciousness during the first half of my life. I couldn’t see it then, but after years of inner work I can sure see it now! And of course, there are still some foggy areas; the unconscious will always be with us, I expect.

        • Dr. Howlin says:

          Thank you Sawen for stopping by my blog to read this post. I can’t help but reflect on the fog since we have so much of it by the Monterey Bay. I think people can use the metaphor of the fog in many different ways, and it can be approached in a manner like any other mystery. I agree that the unconscious “will always be with us.”


  2. Jean Raffa says:

    I enjoyed this, Jeff. I’ve used the same metaphor to describe my unconsciousness during the first half of my life. I couldn’t see it then, but after years of inner work I can sure see it now! And of course, there are still some foggy areas; the unconscious will always be with us, I expect.

    • Dr. Howlin says:


      It’s hard not to develop a relationship to the fog living by the Pacific. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.


  3. Jeff…here’s something you might enjoy…my take on the fog:
    Pt. Lobos

    Evening comes fog-shawled on
    the cool shoulders of the bay
    The late light lingers in the pine spars as evening slips
    From gold, to blue and day-ending gray.
    Shadows race shoreward on silver ships.
    Curlews alphabet the sand.
    The sea grows still.

    From Lobos’ ragged edge I hear the end
    Of day ring out from monastery bells,
    and in response the restless sea
    sends its timeless litany of swells
    to break against these ageless rocks,
    ringing the hours of eternity.

    Eastward, on the high rock ridge, the last light dies.
    Owl stirs and calls down night across the hills.
    Toward Big Sur, Mal Paso and Pico Blanco
    stand beneath the stars to draw
    the fog-cloth up their stony sides and sleep.

    • Dr. Howlin says:

      Beautiful. Through this poem, you so aptly describe the mystery of fog by the Monterey Bay, our lovely, small piece of the world. Thanks for sharing Timothy!

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