“Generally speaking, women have a better, more balanced relationship to Eros than men, for they are psychologically more likely to find the ministries of the god in varied venues. Men, having so often the god with success in their endeavors, are devastated by retirement, impotence of any kind, defeat or displacement. Sadly, they are more likely to drift into sadness, depression, substance abuse, suicide, compulsive sexuality, or seek some quick surrogate lover or diverting cause. Accordingly, they handle the death of a marriage or spouse, retirement, or occupational displacement poorly because they have lost contact with their inner soul life.” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p 52)
Hollis’s words have reached deep within me as usual and set me to wondering about how much I have yet to learn. I am blessed with my marriage and know that I would be devastated with the death of the marriage or my spouse. Somehow, I sense that I would survive the devastation because I have regained contact with my inner self, my soul and I have come to terms with aspects of my shadow self as well. I am not so sure if I would have survived it a number of years ago when my soul and life was fully placed in outer life and the people in my outer life.
The will to life is the mark of one’s relationship to Eros. There was a time or two or more in my life when Eros was absent, when the will to engage in life was numbed. I went through the motions as if I was in mourning – and I was in mourning though I didn’t know it – mourning for my own soul. I kept myself busy so as to avoid as much as possible being alone with my self, being alone with the darkness that seemed to crowd out feeling.
As it happens, between writing the first sentence of the last paragraph and the following sentences, I took a time out from writing to eat my evening meal and then do a bit of reading – Fire and Irises, a book by Margaret Nicol. Just a bit of background before I go on – Margaret is from the same area of Canada as I am from, the Ottawa area. Like myself, she has had a career that spanned both education and psychotherapy. We are also close to the same age. I will leave the rest of her story for you discover. The purpose of saying this much is simply to preface the next quote from her book and to say that I could have said the same thing regarding myself:
“From the outside I suppose I looked as though I was fairly ‘together.’ I was a psychologist and held a full-time job, which I did adequately. But that was the cover story. I despaired that I would never be normal and wake up feeling happy like other people.” (Nicol, Fire and Irises, p. 34)
Eros was absent, well almost absent. What I know now is that Eros wasn’t really absent as this god continued to be present though I was unaware of its presence. Teaching and counselling others, coaching, continuing with studies to try and fill the emptiness were signs of Eros’ presence, waiting patiently for me to wake up out of the blackness. Eros showed in the flashes of compassion, the time I spent listening to the fears and anxieties of others. I found the lost ones in my classrooms and let them know that I saw them, that I accepted them just as they were. I just couldn’t do the same for myself.
My dreams started to talk more openly to me about Eros, about a divine spark of life that was still buried within the depths, behind the layers of darkness. Not quite hearing clearly, I wandered through cyberspace connecting with ghosts of people, with the faint whispers of Eros that made its way into my poetry. As I wrote in my dream journal and my poetry, I began to paint the scenes. And then, I saw/heard/felt something beneath the darkness, saw a child that had been abandoned.
Reclaiming that child was a long journey, one that is still in progress if I am to be fully honest. Reclaiming that child meant awakening the darkness within which the child hid. The blackness had protected the child, waiting for the adult to have the tools and courage to peel back the layers of the darkness in order to reclaim the child. In the process I had to be both father and mother to this child hidden in darkness so that the child would believe that it was safe to come out of hiding, that it was safe to again feel. And in the process, Eros began to pulse in the adult. Contact with the inner soul had been made and a journey of transformation was begun.