Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Masculine Wound: An Obsession With Winning February 5, 2013

masculinewoundThis blog, Matrignosis, (Mother Knowing) is based on my profound need to understand and empower the wounded feminine in myself and society.  The same theme is explored in my three psychologically-oriented books. Although the most recent one is about creating equal partnership between the healthy masculine and feminine, in this book too I emphasized the feminine side of the equation. That seemed the most pressing need.

But recent dreams and outer events are making strong statements about certain masculine wounds.  Robert Bly, one of our most eloquent voices for healthy masculinity has written, “By the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life.”

Women know this too, but immersion in a culture whose institutions are based on distorted images of masculinity blinds both genders to healthier images. Knowing in our hearts that something is wrong is one thing.  Acting on this knowledge when no one around us appears to see this elephant in the room is quite another.

A boy is filled with excited anticipation about his first hunting trip. If he misses (deliberately) the graceful doe he’s told to kill, he’s taunted and shamed for being “a girl.” If he cries, the adults are disgusted. If he dutifully kills her he earns their respect and praise. They’ve been through this themselves and see it as a rite of passage that will toughen the boy up and prepare him for “real life.”  It may do that, but at what cost? Of what value is a hardened heart that cannot feel its pain or empathize with the pain of those who have no voice?

A young athlete succumbs to the temptation to take illegal performance-enhancing drugs.  When he wins he enjoys his success and ignores the shame of his pricking conscience. Is being victorious over others truly the only valid definition of success? Sure, when human rights are in the balance, only the worst among us would argue that victory over oppression is not a successful outcome. But how about when greedy, fearful masculine-oriented egos conquer conscience, compassion and consciousness? Is this a successful win?

Catholic theologian Richard Rohr says a basic difference between the feminine and masculine psyches is that for the masculine it’s either win or lose. But the feminine, the Mother, can’t choose between winning and losing. All her children have to win! For her, win-win is the only justice.  Psychologically, everyone has a masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) side; but only our masculine side is vulnerable to obsessing over winning at all cost. This happens when he mindlessly aligns his natural love for winning with patriarchy’s five-milliennia-old obsession with subjugating our inner feminine and the outer women who remind us of her! At all cost!

How do we bridge the seemingly irreconcilable divide between our inner masculine and feminine? Our egos must invite the disowned Feminine Spirit Warrior, the Mother, into our awareness. She’s strong enough to feel the shame of our pricking conscience. Brave enough to suffer when we’ve caused others pain. Tough enough to admit our fallibility.  Caring enough to love and serve all our children.  Becoming an undivided Spirit Warrior who lives with compassion and balance while causing the least amount of harm to others is the true meaning of winning.

How might your life have been different if you’d been taught to respect the feminine instead of how to win the respect of a wounded, dysfunctional culture?

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Trees and Disney Princesses Revisited February 28, 2012

Every archetype has a dual nature because the ego automatically sees everything from a dualistic perspective. We divide the spiritual realm into the powerful opposing forces of God (good) and Devil (evil) and label everything else the same way. Last February I wrote that the Tree of Knowledge represents our potential for a great awakening into an enlightened wisdom yet is also associated with humanity’s disobedience and fall from eternal intimacy with God. Similarly, there are myths depicting the Scandinavian ash and shamanism’s birch as Trees of Life, yet Christianity’s savior Jesus loses his life on a tree.

In a post last August I wrote that the Disney Princesses are uniformly young, slender, beautiful, sweetly shy, innocently seductive, charmingly vulnerable, and, for the most part, deferential to males. If we take these stories as literal models for gender behavior, few would disagree that they reinforce very limiting and potentially damaging stereotypes. But a different perspective emerges if we view them as representations of the Maiden phase of the anima archetype. Then they are forces for good, not evil, and the only problem they present is our insistence that the anima, and by association human women, must remain in this phase forever.

Did anyone sign your high school yearbook, “Don’t ever change”? Maybe you wrote it yourself. This is the normal desire of an adolescent ego. What it wants is so simple: to be old enough to drive, get a job, earn a lot of money, become independent, satisfy all its instinctual desires as much as it wants to…and then stay that way forever.

We don’t want to face the reality that we are changing with the seasons and will someday die like my favorite tree, a large hemlock on our North Carolina property that began its life about 400 years ago and grew to 90 feet tall.  Half her trunk at the point where it divided into two main branches crashed to the ground last weekend.  We want to believe we’re smarter than that tree, that if we can keep the same looks, body size, beliefs, personality and life-style we had as late adolescents, we can somehow ward off aging and dying.

My hemlock’s trunk reminded me of a mature woman in a flowing gown. I thought of her needles as hair. She began her life when a cone released a seed one winter long ago. The seed grew into a pretty, pliable Maiden sapling who swayed and danced with the breezes. At age 15 she produced cones and became a Mother. Some hemlocks produce excellent crops of cones for more than 450 years before retiring to enjoy their remaining years as grandmother Crones who continue to bless the birds with safe haven for nests and the land beneath with cool shade.

Did you ever notice that by adolescence the Disney Princesses no longer have loving mothers or grandmothers to protect them?  The only older women who come to mind are evil step-mothers, a ditzy fairy god-mother, and a singing teapot! Why this scarcity of images of healthy, mature women in fantasy land? Might this curious fact be related to Viv’s observation after my last post that, “Anorexia seems to fossilize girls at a pre-pubescent stage, before they become women.”?

The Maiden phase of the anima represents everything about the feminine that is sweet, beautiful, innocent and hopeful. But the flip side of the Disney Princesses is that they perpetuate our unconscious aversion to the natural cycles of life and the mature stages of feminine development.  After all, an adolescent ego can control little girls far easier than Nature and wise men, women and crones!

 

Alice, the Anima, and Anorexia February 21, 2012

I was pondering two questions this morning as we drove to the airport after a long family weekend away: What should I write about for this post? and How should I answer a recent e-mail from an Iranian student? She’s writing a thesis about the anima and animus archetypes in two of Virginia Woolfe’s books and wonders how to approach her task. Should she just look for images represented by the writer or should she study the characters or events as a Jungian analyst would?

When the pilot said we’d reached 10,000 feet, all five grandchildren, plus a few parents and one grandparent, whipped out their “electronic devices.” Having solved the airline magazine’s sudoku on the way up, I whipped out my kindle and settled in to enjoy Adventure in Archetype: Depth Psychology and the Humanities, by Jungian mythologist Mark Greene. And guess what!

You guessed it: Synchronicity was in action once again. Chapter 1 is about how Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be seen as a projection of Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) anima complex. And Greene approaches this topic like a Jungian analyst! This was my answer for Maryam, the student, and now it is the topic for this post. This is especially fitting since my last post was also about the anima, even though I didn’t identify it as such. (Oh, how I love my job!)

For those who need a reminder, anima is Jung’s term for the unconscious feminine and animus is the unconscious masculine. When Jung was developing these theories privileged European men and women were still under enormous pressure to conform to strict gender stereotypes. Thus, Jung thought bringing the anima into conscious awareness was a task for men (because men had long been taught to repress their feeling function which was associated with women) and integrating the animus was for women (taught to repress their thinking function because intellectual matters were for men). But as role stereotypes began to crumble in the West during the 1960’s and both genders acquired more freedom to express the truths of their souls, it became apparent that this rule no longer held. Thus neo-Jungians (of which I am one) operate under the assumption that both genders contain both archetypes which need to be consciously accepted and integrated.

So I’d like to share a few of Greene’s conclusions here and in my next post, and tie them in with my last post about feminism. In Chapter 1 Greene notes that Alice is very uneasy throughout the story and most of her anxieties are connected with changes in her body and the problems she has whenever she wants to eat. Remember the empty jar of marmalade she seizes when falling down the rabbit hole? How she eats things that make her grow too big or too small? Or gets so frustrated at the Mad Hatter’s tea party? Greene suggests that Alice’s problems can be seen to reflect the state of  Dodgson’s undernourished and frustrated anima. Then Greene concludes with this remarkable statement:”His visceral treatment of the act of eating…may also be foreshadowing from the 19th century some of the contemporary angst surrounding the integration of food, in general, and anorexia and other eating disorders among teenage girls, in particular.”

Here are some questions I’m asking myself: What if repressing the anima is, indeed, the underlying reason for the dramatic increases in diabetes, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and stress-related health problems? Could there be a connection with breast cancer? Autism? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be wiser to spend our money educating the general populace to think psychologically than on knee-jerk band-aid solutions? Wouldn’t it be healthier to accept our feminine sides?

 

 
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