Archive for the ‘feminine’ tag
And I will begin today’s post with some words from David Tacey:
“The problem with surface-level intellectual discourse is that it fails to see the extent to which the archetypes of ‘slow-moving planets’ influence our lived experience. Much sociology of masculinity and gender theory strikes me as hopelessly inadequate; it calls for change and demands instantaneous release from stereotypes without even beginning to reckon with the powerful archetypes that regulate our lives, all the more powerful for not being seen by the intellectuals. … <snip> … It is astonishing how often we are told that masculinity is merely a construct of society, one that can be exploded simply if we stop believing it.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, pp 9-10]
Of course, it is hard to understand what one can’t see, that is, archetypes. Sociology and most psychologies don’t have any room for more than is on the surface, that is the experiences from conception to adulthood, in their attempts to understand the masculine. For a while [and still for too many] there was the belief that if we treated baby boys as gender neutral, then the issue of negative masculinity would simply disappear.
Perhaps even better, have male infants never exposed to toys that are male-oriented, such as toy guns, cars, etc. Add to that the play experiences which instil gentle cooperation in place of competition. We have been trying this as a society for several decades with little, if any, improvement in the issue of masculinity, or the erosion of patriarchy. Rather, we have created more business for counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Now, more than ever, men find themselves disoriented in the world and at a loss to understand who they are as men.
The need to go into depth is vital if we are to construct a societal approach to helping young males become psychologically healthy men. For, it is only through becoming psychologically healthy that we will ever be able to move away from the unconscious participation in patriarchy. The archetypes, that is, the energies that lie buried in the collective psyche of humans that contain the codes for understanding how we relate to both the masculine and the feminine.
Awareness of the archetypes and their place in the psyche allows a person to begin to know themselves, a beginning that is expanded upon when one realises that the movements of the archetypes within the psyche are found in their projections onto others. How does one react to authority figures? How does one react to passive men, passive women? What type of person is one: introvert, extrovert. How and does one have one’s energies (anger, joy, fear, etc.) activated? These are vital questions that will guide one to awareness of the archetypes that are at work. Armed with this knowledge, it them becomes possible to change one’s personal relationship dynamics. And through the change of the personal by enough people, the collective dynamic shits.
I am going to try something different today, a different approach to evoking a sense of consciousness and the unconscious. As I was meditating this morning, images emerged and vague presences that might be called words or thoughts. The first image that appeared was that of a mother nursing her child – I was the child looking up into the eyes of this Magical Other person who was my key to life. And in being there as child and as observer, being nursed, I saw the origin of a Mother-complex, a complex that was neither good nor bad, but simply was. I could feel the love of the mother who was nursing me, nursing all the children of the world who were fortunate enough to be nursed. But I also could feel the unconscious shadows that hovered over that mother, that distracted her, that at times saddened her and caused her fear. At times, I could even sense her anger, her own darkness. And, I knew the source and origin of the Dark Mother.
And then the image shifted to darkness, the time before birth into the world, the time of the womb. Though the Mother knew I was there, she was fully unconscious of how I was developing, how I was growing, what was happening within me that was preparing me for the birth of my personal consciousness. All this was taking place in darkness, within the womb, unconsciously. The image shifted again, even further back in time to the instance before conception. Whatever it is that was potentially I was in two parts, the seed of the feminine and the fertilizing material of the masculine. Separated there was no life. Yet in that darkness where life didn’t exist, the two parts drew together and out of the darkness within the Mother, the spark of life was created.
Another shift, this time a different scene appeared. Appeared is a poor word for there was no light any where. All was darkness. I knew I had been taken back even further and was now floating in the space before creation, when the universe was only darkness, where light didn’t exist. I knew in an instant that I was in yet a different womb, the womb of the universe before there was life or light. Yet, though there was nothing to be seen, nothing to be felt, tasted, smelled, sensed, intuited, there was a pregnant possibility that was unconsciously just waiting for a shift in the emptiness and darkness. That time of pregnant pause before light and life would appear signifying the event of creation was nothing but chaos. Within the womb of the universe that was to be born, energies swirled without conscious intention. It was as if the universe yet to be was holding its breath, waiting for that magical moment when something would be born – consciousness, life, light.
And I was there, waiting, waiting for the essence of whatever was to be, a masculine essence, swam blindly in the darkness on a journey that was fully unconscious, not yet instinctual either. And I knew that I was in the womb of the All, the One. I knew then that the creator of light and light was the unconscious feminine, the Great Mother. With another breath, I rose from the depths of my morning meditation and came here.
“Jungians view the psyche not as a monarchy, as the ego would have it, ore even as a central intelligence agency, bur rather as an entity that is polyfaceted, polymorphous, polysemous, polytheistic. So there are many voices, many intimations, many directives, some heard, some not, but all persuasive. Which voice is mine? ego asks. All of them, Self insists. . . .
So we bring ourselves to relationship. With scant knowledge of ourselves, we seek our identity in the mirror of the Other, as we once did in Mom and Dad. With all the wounds of this perilous condition we seek a safe harbor in that Other who, alas, is seeking the same in us.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 32]
As I am a man, I am no different from other humans who seek to be in a relationship with a significant Other. Like most men, I found that significant Other, a woman. It isn’t necessary for this significant Other to be a woman, nor is significant other limited to one other person. If I go back to what Hollis is saying, this significant Other holds the mirror in which we “seek our identity.” That said, this yearning for “Other” in whom we find the needed mirror in which to find ourselves is rooted in eros – the desire for connection. And like other men, I filled this significant Other with my projections, all unconsciously, and saw in this woman my soulmate, my Magical Other.
I fell in love with this woman whom I had never seen before. It was love at first sight. What did I see in this stranger who had captured my heart and soul only moments after we had met? What did she see in me to have the same life-altering tumble into love? That was a question never asked then nor for so many years to follow. Both of us fell in love, became entranced, almost bewitched with the power of Eros. We both knew in an instant that this Other was the One who would answer our unknown and unasked questions. She became my Magical Other.
“The other great false idea that drives humankind is the fantasy of the Magical Other, the notion that there is someone out there who is right for us, will make our lives work, a soul-mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history, one who will be there for us, who will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs; a good parent who will protect us from suffering and, if we are lucky, spare us the perilous journey of individuation.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 327]
Of course, when it happens to you, you don’t take time to think it over. Remember, it is an unconscious response rooted deep in our personal histories, our complexes, our woundings, and our unconscious needs. So, now that I have finally recognized what happened more than forty years ago, what next?
“Complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to their own laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in an unconscious way. In a word, complexes behave like independent beings. [Jung, CW 8, par. 253]
So what has me thinking about complexes today? I guess the short answer is that for whatever reason, they found a way to make their presence felt here in a Mexican paradise. I catch myself having emotional reactions to the bits and pieces of life that normally don’t stir up any emotional response. I find myself feeling defensive without any cause. A simple dialogue that has no ulterior motive somehow becomes a very subtle assault on my identity, my worthiness as a person. Sometimes it doesn’t even need words; a glance can trigger the same result. And most confusing is the fact that these glances and scatterings of words are people specific. The same glance by a stranger would ruffle nothing. The same words uttered by a different person wouldn’t even register.
I have learned long ago that I am not unique in this regard. Pretty well everyone that is breathing and thinking is complexed. Being complexed isn’t all about negative affect, but since having overt positive emotional reactions feels good, there isn’t the same need to look more closely at the affect. As Daryl Sharp would say, “There’s no motivation to analyze it.” It is only when the emotional affect digs into your gut, makes you feel as if you are caught in a storm when we find the motivation to want to figure out “what the hell is going on.”
As I get older, I get wiser – at least that is what I tell myself. As I sense the presence of emotional affect that is negative, I pull back from participation as much as I can, in the drama around the activation of a complex. It hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t so long ago that as soon as the complex would be activated I would throw my whole being in ranting and railing and battling. It was like a no-holds barred wrestling match that left myself and others around me shell shocked and battered when the energy of the complex stole away. I didn’t “really” understand that it was my complex and perhaps the complex of another wreaking disaster. For both of us, it was about you or I.
But sometimes now, enough times, I don’t bite and take the bait and so avoid escalation. Sensing the presence of the complex lurking, I back off and wait until the complex leaves. I know that it will be back, and perhaps next time I will again be able to resist falling into its vortex. And then, my rights itself and it’s not so topsy-turvy.
I have written earlier that patriarchy is destructive of both men and women. It is important to remember this. It is also important to understand that in spite of many modern men becoming sensitive and heart-based, patriarchy is still thriving. Men might be abdicating their authority to their wives, to their mothers, but this abdication does nothing to dismantle the negative power of patriarchy. All one has to do is to take a good hard look at our corporations, our assemblies, our religions – any of our social and economic enterprises – and see that men are still in charge.
So what is a man to do? Jung suggests:
“. . . if the connection between the personal problem and the larger contemporary events is discerned and understood, it brings release from the loneliness of the purely personal, and the subjective problem is magnified into a general question of our society. In this way, the personal problem acquires a dignity it lacked hitherto. [jung, CW 6, par. 119]
These are powerful words for modern men to hear. The work of becoming more conscious of oneself has done a lot to bring a sense of balance between the power of the mind and the power of the heart. Being stuck in one or the other leaves us disconnected from a larger life. If we are truly interested in acquiring balance then we must see that the society within which we live is a part of us. Patriarchy is a part of who we are. We have to own it rather than see it as an enemy somewhere out there, a collective shadow that needs to be attacked and destroyed.
We need clear eyes, head and heart if we are to find a way through the darkness that is patriarchy. Patriarchy is our shadow, our collective unconscious. We need to listen to the gods and goddesses of mythology, we need to listen to our dreams, we need to listen to our children and our women; we need t listen to their pain, their arguments, their logic and heart. We need to also listen to the spiritual voices without getting caught in their webs of timelessness, a web that would have us wait with calm and abiding patience. And, we need to listen to our bodies.
It seems a task almost beyond what I am capable of doing. But it is a task that I must do, that each of us must do. Joseph Campbell has helped show the way with his book, Hero of a Thousand faces. We are each heroes bent on crossing through the darkness of patriarchy; are collectively one larger hero. Our future as men and women depend on crossing through the darkness if we are to deconstruct patriarchy before patriarchy deconstructs our very home, the planet earth.
I know that it is Thursday and I had intended to write about Tibetan Buddhism, but things change. I have to admit that I ran into a wall, bruising my ego in the process with the attempt. So, it is time to step back and perhaps go “lite” for a change.
As most of my readers are now aware, I am on a break from the snow and cold of winter in Mexico. Each day I am lucky enough to wake up to birds just outside my little studio. There are a few regulars who like to join me in my morning coffee routine as they put in an appearance on a near by tree or shrub, regulars such as this Oriole. His cap is darker than his body, more orange than yellow. He is a beautiful bird.
Of course, that got me thinking, do birds think they are beautiful? It’s a silly question, I know. Birds don’t have the same level of consciousness as does a human. It is extremely unlikely that there is the same issue of body image that we find in humans. They simply instinctively pose for potential mates and nature takes care of the rest. If anything, birds assume that they are beautiful in terms of being able to attract a mate.
Humans somehow become obsessed with how others see them. The general belief is that, especially if one is a male, one is not beautiful. Of course, the same can be said about females. The fashion industry and body image industry are constantly assaulting us with all sorts of messages that we are not beautiful unless we buy their product or service.
Humans seem to blithely overlook the obvious – in spite of our self-beliefs, we find mates. And, we wonder “What do the see in me?” Beauty is not on the surface. What attracts us is not the perfect shape or weight or fashion, but the unconscious reflections of our denied self. We fall in love with character and potential and our projected self. So much for worrying about body image. Being human is about being beautiful just as we are.
She knows I am taking her photo and she knows that she is loved regardless of reason. Reason doesn’t seem to enter into this at all. If anything, reason interferes with any hope of understanding. I married this woman 42 years ago. The journey of a marriage, of my marriage, is a curious journey that teaches so much about self and about other. As I mentioned earlier, this series will turn often to James Hollis’ book, The Eden Project. I bring his words here:
“A marriage vow is a guarantee of nothing certain, but it purports to be an expression of intentionality which is serious. long term and in depth. One of the implicit demands of marriage is that issues are to be faced and worked through, rather than evaded.” [p. 13]
This sounds rather straight forward and filled with common sense. But unsaid in the statement is the fact that much of what needs to be faced is not even recognised by either party. So much of what takes place and causes disruption and disconnect lays beneath the surface in the unconscious contents of both individuals as well as the dialogue of unconscious between the two. This makes the task much, much more difficult. Hollis goes on to say:
“the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves. Since much of our relationship to ourselves operates at an unconscious level, most of the drama and dynamics of our relationships to others and the transcendent is expressive or our own personal psychology. The best thing we can do for our relationships with others, and with the transcendent, then, is to render our relationship with ourselves more conscious.” [p. 13]
And this is where it gets most difficult, especially for me. It takes a lot of rearrangement of my thinking to accept that to do right for my marriage, I must devote a lot of energy to understanding myself. My patterns and habits have always focused on devoting time and energy to understanding my partner (not a great lot of success there since she still is a mystery woman to me) and to using every trick in the book to figure out what is needed and wanted (often contradictory). I function best as a caretaker, as a giver. Spending time on my own needs has been difficult, though necessary during the past few years as I am always feeling guilty about stealing time and energy from my partner, from the marriage.
I know that I am not alone in responding like this; many of us are tired of all the “me, me, me” that we have heard from other mouths. Most of that “me, me, me” has not been about doing the work of “I” or “self;” rather it is all about trying to satisfy needs and wants for which we don’t have the foggiest notion. Trying to feed the “me” is a losing proposition for we mistakenly take the desires and instincts at face value. The extra food, that more expensive car, the next husband or wife is not really about what had been there before being wrong or insufficient. All this wanting is a desperate act of trying to fill an emptiness within ourselves, an emptiness that we download onto others and for which we blame others. So, I have to re-think this business of getting to know the ins and outs of who I am, my psychology if I am to escape that forever repeating cycle of failure.
I look again at the photo of my wife and smile. The work behind and ahead is worth all of it.
In looking for a new way to be masculine in our modern world, I guess one would have to first ask the question: “Is it necessary?” Men effectively rule the world, but so far that isn’t playing out well for most men, almost all women and their children. It isn’t playing out well for the planet either. Men continue to demonstrate that they have no qualms about raping the planet, women, other men, and yes, even children. Of course not all men are rapists. The fact is most men are as much a victim of the patriarchal power juggernaut. Many men have opened their eyes, that is have become conscious of the negative effects of unconscious male behaviours, the immature and instinctual behaviours that continue to blindfold many who hold the reins of power. These men are ashamed of what has been done in the name of men and the masculine.
I watch my son and my two sons-in-law acting conscientiously to be good fathers, good husbands and good caretakers of the world. I see them wrestling and trying to balance the “world of men” within which they work and the alter world of family. At times they become too guided by their female partners, seeking to be gentler in atonement for their gender.
It is as if the only way to be sensitive enough of their world and the people within it is through denying their masculinity, or at least disguising it so that it isn’t so “in your face.” There is no guide map on how to leave behind the destructive patriarchal model and move into a new relationship with the world and the feminine. David Tacey says it well in his book, Remaking Men:
“We must unpack and disassemble patriarchy, while at the same time, developing new meanings and metaphors for masculinity, which must never be constructed as the ‘enemy’ of men or women. I believe that we need to find a ‘third way,’ or a ‘middle path’ between the extremes of patriarchal nostalgia (Iron John) and matriarchal identification (Oedipus). The zeitgeist urges us to defend the feminine, but the development of masculinity forces us to differentiate ourselves from the mother. The answer to this dilemma can be found, I think, in the masculine commitment to the feminine soul, or anima.” (p. 7)
The middle way, a middle path. That sounds about right and it fits with my following a middle path in terms of spirituality. The middle way where one doesn’t fall into the mind trap of macho or effeminate, the path of Iron John or Oedipus.
Strolling the beach on the Mayan Riviera reveals so much about the human condition. Yes, there are people of all sizes and shapes wearing all manner of clothing and bathing suits [or none at all]. But, it is the faces that tell the biggest stories, the authentic stories. The Mayan Riviera is one of those romantic get-away locations for many in North America.
There is an allure that is pregnant with expectation, even for singles who hear the stories of love found, love and lust, and “what goes on in Mexico, stays in Mexico.” So many, if not most of us, head to the tropics for a few weeks of love, romance and the promise of “Eros.”
Yet, all is not well for many not long into these romantic get-aways. It comes down to expectations. For, as Aldo Carotenuto notes in his book, Eros and Pathos: “When expectations do not coincide with reality one is struck by panic, by a suffering that is almost physical.”
There is somehow a belief that by changing setting, to immerse oneself into a romantic tropical setting, the problems that have arisen between to, even unspoken problems, will somehow be banished with a renewed commitment to the depths of romantic love. However, when one arrives in paradise, one finds that they have not escaped conscious and unconscious issues that have been nagging in the background. If anything, the expectation of paradise results in so many people walking along the beach with sad and strained faces, even as they walk with their chosen other.
It feels like the ultimate betrayal of love. “How could you not be a better person? I thought that at least here you wouldn’t do [fill in the blank] and embarrass me. If you truly loved me, you would [fill in the blank].” And so it doesn’t take long for paradise to become an emotional hell.
We are so quick to blame the other, to see the other as breaking the promise of love forever after. We don’t realise that it is not the other that has betrayed us, but our own inner image of the magical other that has both ravished and ravaged us. The image found in the face of our beloved is a reflection of our inner self, an image that triggers Eros making us think we have found a soul mate. We are unconscious of the drama and find ourselves on emotional roller coasters in relationship.
Yet, the person chosen as significant other was no accident. For, the person we have unconsciously chosen to hold our projection of soul mate has been unconsciously chosen because of the hooks embedded in their psyche, ready to catch those very projections. It remains the responsibility for each within the couple to become conscious of themselves so that they can consciously appreciate the real gold in the other with whom the fates have drawn together.
The decision to take time with one’s significant other in a different setting can open the portal for both to see each other, completely free of the trappings of work, commitment, community. Stripped naked and facing each other, there is a golden opportunity to finally see the beautiful truth of the other and in their eyes, one’s own beauty. It becomes vital not to take time for things to emerge without being forced. One needs to sit still with one’s sense of brokenness in order to move from narcissism into a fuller sense of love.
As I sat and thought about today’s post I realised that I wasn’t really talking about men or women, I was talking about love - Romantic Love. It is the relationship that is magical. Robert A. Johnson has clearly defined this in the introduction of his book, WE:
“Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy. . . . Romantic love is not just a form of “love,” it is a whole psychological package – a combination of beliefs, ideals, attitudes, and expectations.” (p. xi)
For the most part, this is what I believed, after all, like almost everyone else, I fell in love and that became my life, the centre of my life, my foundation.
“When we fall “in love” we believe we have found the ultimate meaning of life, revealed in the form of another human being. We feel we are finally completed, that we have found the missing parts of ourselves. Life suddenly seems to have a wholeness . . . ” (p. xii)
It was amazing for me. I had met a young woman only one year younger than myself who was beautiful and had that magical quality that gripped me, possessed me. By some grace of the gods and goddesses, I became a magical other for this young woman. Three hours after we met I proposed to her and she accepted. The emptiness and meaningless of life disappeared, was sent to some far corner of the universe and bound up with chains and locks, tucked into a dark closet from which escape seemed impossible. There was no questioning of what had just happened. We believed and that was all that mattered. Then life happened.
I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me. Two strangers from different cultures, even different parts of the country, were held captive by the magic of Eros, that god who represents desire, that yearning for someone that evokes life energy. Two strangers met and joined. We thought we knew each other; not the surface knowing, but a deeper knowledge. ”When we abandon ourselves to the power of Eros, all previous points of reference are impaired or swept away.” Aldo Carotenuto tells it like it was for both of us in his book, Eros and Pathos. For both of us, all our guards and protections had fallen away leaving us stunned with the power of Eros that coursed through our veins.
And so began, for both of us, the journey of a man and a woman who had discovered in the eyes of the other, a magical other.