We live in a cultural atmosphere that wants us to think that if we are struggling, then we are failures. But our reality is that if we are not struggling, we are not searching. If we are not struggling, we are not being born into new potentials.
Each struggle can bring us new opportunities for growth, and closer to a state of wholeness. These kinds of struggles put us in the transformative arms of the great feminine principle. Yet, we still fear transformation.
We explain why and what this means in our recent book, Into the Heart of the Feminine in Chapter 5 (p. 74-76) and would like to share these ideas with you:
…We are led into believing, at an unconscious level, that we can or should be able to control life. We also start to develop the illusion that we can be, or it is preferable to be, detached and above life intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. The results of these patriarchal complexes in our cultural and, therefore, personal unconscious cause us to think we can carry out our goals, translate our ideas and designs into actions, and change our attitudes at will.
When we do not succeed in these endeavors, we then label ourselves as being lazy, weak, undisciplined, or inadequate or simply as failures. Not only is this a one-sided, patriarchal approach to life, but it is also a very damaging approach. Jung says clearly in Man and His Symbols (p. 82) that such an orientation requires us to pay a price based on “a remarkable lack of introspection.” He continues by saying that we are blind to the fact that with all of our rationality and efficiency, we are possessed by “powers” that are beyond our control. And the price we pay for our illusions is that these powers keep us “on the run with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an insatiable need for pills, alcohol, tobacco, food-and above all, a large array of neuroses.”
There is a further element to consider. This one-sided approach to life leads us to the mistaken idea that we can rationally choose our goals, single out and change our attitudes, organize and implement our lives efficiently, trusting that these abilities should guide us to healthy self-esteem, success, and a good life. But following this path actually means we would prefer a good life as defined by our patriarchal/marketing society, including our self-help marketing society, and in compensation to our early wounds and complexes. In this way, we set ourselves up to experience continuous cycles of shame simply because we cannot meet the expectations that we have created, because they are based on these illusions.
As analysts, one of the hardest things that we have to do is help people overcome their hidden contempt for the feminine as they begin their inner work. People in our society are easily swallowed up by busyness, productivity, and their crammed schedules. The modern technology that promised easy free time has brought, instead, tension, anxiety, and a compulsion to get more of the same. To escape this cycle, we have to learn to sacrifice some of the values and activities in this driven approach. This entails giving new appreciation and respect to taking time for silence and reflection as well as being receptive to and nurturing our inner lives.
This necessity is as urgent for men as it is for women, and it lies in the heart of the archetypal feminine: relatedness, receptivity, and valuing the non-rational. Until we make this shift in how we value ourselves and life, our ability to respond with intense interest and love to each other and to ideas will be fettered. Our deepest creativity needs a transformed atmosphere in which to flourish.
We need to pause for a moment in order to see how the effects of these negative projections on the feminine are crippling. They are generated by our patriarchal complexes (e.g., we are not really doing anything, we are wasting time, etc.) onto things that are not oriented toward achievement or “doing what has to be done” and also limit our ability to experience our emotions. To be more “efficient,” we are supposed to be detached from our emotions, above them and in control of them. The truth of the matter is that by adopting this perspective, we are beating down what should be handled with care. When we repress our emotions, we create their counterparts in our unconscious, where, without the light of consciousness, they will become dark, explosive, destructive, and increasingly overwhelming in some way.
Our emotions are the only way we can be personally engaged in life. Having the strength to experience our emotions, without being overwhelmed by them, and being able to learn from them are the keys to a psychologically healthy life. On the other hand, if we avoid knowing our psychological and emotional needs, as the projections from our patriarchal complexes compel us to do, we feel isolated. We can easily see that when we have such a hidden contempt for the feminine and when we live lives of over-rationality, over-control of our emotions, efficiency, and productivity, we are feeding the Death Mother complex. When we deny our engagement in life-the warmth of our emotions and even the heat of them-and see them negatively, the Death Mother takes this rejected energy and uses it to invade our world and our deep inner selves with a cold, fierce, corrosive power that kills hope and drains our vitality.
Before we continue our focus on projections, letʼs examine a further point that is inherent in the patriarchy. The patriarchy, and the internalized patriarchal complex in men and women, lives in fear of having the status quo threatened. This, too, is part of the negative projection on the feminineʼs ability to stir up change and transformation. It is also one of the main reasons we dread our emotions: Because if we really perceive and understand our emotions, we may have to face the daunting task of changing our lives.
Collectively and individually, we fear the transformative nature of the feminine. We view challenges to the institutional status quo of society-and, even more important, challenges to the way we have “institutionalized” our lives, feelings, value systems, and expectations-with dismay. Those of us who shun the transformational aspects of the feminine have projected our fears of our feminine nature (which include our fears of confronting our lives, traditions, attitudes, and history) onto the images of women that range from Eve, to witches, to bitches, to gold diggers, to hysterics.
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris