Relationship Beginnings and Endings, Part Two

Relationship Beginnings and Endings, Part Two

All of us desire to feel loved, wanted and accepted for who we are. Science-based research, ancient spiritual wisdom, and evolutionary psychology teach us that at the root of all suffering—emotional and physical—is a lack of feeling loved and accepted for who we are, both from others and within ourselves. More often than not, people try to love us, but for various reasons, we have created barriers to love which are hidden in the unconscious. Nonetheless, our desire for authentic connection runs deep. As I wrote in ‘Relationship Beginnings and Endings, Part One,’ maintaining authentic love and intimacy in long-term relationship requires differentiation. And the Greek figure that best depicts this is Thanatos, the god of death. Thanatos may appear in your life in different forms. One is the feeling of stagnancy in your relationship. You care about each other but it seems you are both just going through the motions, co-existing as it were. Couples at this stage often say they feel like ‘brother and sister’ (or, in gay relationships ‘sisters’ or ‘brothers’) and there is no intensity. “Is this all there is?” is frequently asked inwardly but not shared with the partner or spouse.

One of the ways Thanatos is most recognizable is during our night-time dreams. For example, a woman may dream about a man or her partner which represents her animus, her inner male aspect, where she is trying to pull away or escape from him. Rather than trying to connect with him as in dreams of Eros, she wants to replace him in the driver’s seat. She may dream of living alone or even wanting to destroy her animus. More literal dreams may appear where she is leaving her partner or expressing anger toward him in a series of dreams. During waking time, she may fantasize of leaving the relationship, moving away, opening herself to meeting someone new, and so forth. As always, feelings are key. Irritation, anger, resentment, confusion, fear—these emotions are pointing the way to what psyche and soul are trying to communicate. Her anger is a symptom of a deeper issue; if she is denying Thanatos and the need for differentiation, her resentment will grow either toward her partner or herself depending upon her ability to access her feelings and express them. Following is an example of a male dreamer dreaming about Thanatos:

I am with an attractive woman and we are in a large outdoor park, like Yellowstone, or a similar environment. We are hiking and it is a gray day and cold. She is standing at the edge of a cliff looking down at the ravine below. I am behind her and have the urge to push her off the cliff. It’s something I have been considering for a while. As I approach her someone yells from behind me and stops me. I awake feeling ashamed and confused.

In waking life, after having been married for eighteen years to the love of his life, this dreamer was struggling. He had cultivated a successful career and desired more time on his own to express his creative side through photography, writing poetry and painting. However, he and his wife were used to spending most of their time together when they were not working. He was worried she would feel neglected if he carved out time for himself, especially because he worked so many hours. So he kept his feelings to himself and his resentment grew. Until they came to counseling, he didn’t know his wife was experiencing similar feelings. Although her desire for alone time was not as strong as his, she had been fantasizing about traveling to new places, without him.  She felt telling him about her needs would cause him to feel insecure or threaten the relationship so she said nothing.

In reality, this couple desired something that was not only healthy but would help take their relationship to the next level: emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and creatively. By giving himself permission to create, the man would feed his soul and develop more of his feeling function thereby enhancing his anima qualities. Likewise, the woman allowing herself to travel to new places—without her husband—would help her strengthen her animus aspects: independence, inner strength, courage, action.

Thanatos does not mean a relationship is dying, quite the opposite. It is a primary opportunity for the soul to be heard and to communicate one’s needs in an honest, loving, respectful manner, and then, to make the necessary changes to accommodate each other’s requests.

The strength of the anima and animus reflects the inner marriage, or hieros gamos, the stabilizing of masculine and feminine aspects, a significant part of our journey toward individuation.

Namaste.

The REAL (and ALCHEMICAL) MEANING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY

sleeping beauty imageSleeping Beautiful was my mother’s favorite fairy tale. She bought me the book when I was seven years old and inscribed it to me. It was a hard cover book and the front was laced with dreamlike hues of blues, greens and shimmering gold. Inside the book were beautiful illustrations of Sleeping Beauty, the prince and Sleeping Beauty’s court. It was the only book I remember my mother inscribing to me and she wrote: “I hope you enjoy this fairytale as much as I always have. Love, Mother.” Well, I did love that story. It was romantic, passionate and taught that all women need to awaken is a sweet and simple kiss from a man who possesses the power to save us.

What was there not to love?

Unfortunately, many women have taken Sleeping Beauty literally. I know my mother did, and, so did my older sister. My mother desperately hoped that my father would be her shining prince, awaken her and fulfill her every need. And as much as I loved my father, he was the family patriarch; religious, fundamental, and ill-tempered. Over the years, I watched as my mother’s own “sleeping beauty” fell into a deeper and deeper sleep as she medicated herself with prescription medications and alcohol. She died at age 57 and my sister died at age 54, both suffering deeply from abusive men, broken hearts and shattered dreams.

The amazing Jungian analyst, Anne Baring, excels in transformational work of the soul which entails the 4,000+ year old practice of “alchemy.” Many of us know the process of turning base metal into gold, but Baring’s teachings encompass the psychology of alchemy and the alchemical transformation we must go through in order to reach our opus and be fully awake, whole beings. In her seminar titled, “What is Soul?” Baring dives deep into the alchemical waters of the ancient fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. She reveals how Sleeping Beauty is the ultimate story for this point in history because it reflects the vital call for balance between our masculine and feminine aspects. Baring writes, “I see this magical story [Sleeping Beauty] as a metaphor for our time and the urgent need for a marriage between our head and our heart, a marriage between our solar thinking and our lunar feeling…From another perspective, I also see it as a metaphor of the reconciliation of spirit and nature or the reunion of the masculine and feminine aspects of spirit which have been progressively sundered during the last four thousand years.”

In Sleeping Beauty, the prince represents the solar principle of consciousness, searching for meaning, wanting to understand the universe but ultimately, seeking reconnection with his feminine aspect—the soul. Sleeping Beauty symbolizes the lunar principle of soul, the Alchemy image to use at beginning of talkfeeling values, Eros. Therefore, this bewitching story has nothing to do with being rescued and everything to do with the alchemical marriage of the masculine (sun) and the feminine (moon). Thus, when the prince (solar/rational mind) connects with Sleeping Beauty (lunar/heart energy), not only does she awaken, but her entire sleeping court awakens. For the past 50 years, we have been witnessing an awakening and deepening of connection to our soul and attaining balance between our head and heart. More and more women I encounter who are on the path of growth have shared the increased amount of animus dreams. Our animus shows up during dream time in male form, sometimes a familiar man and other times a stranger. These dreams present us with an immense opportunity to explore our beliefs and attitudes about our relationship with men and our relationship with ourselves. Dream work is a significant part of alchemy. May we remember the transformational power they possess and take time to attend to them.

The Greater Coniunctio: A Higher Love
When one is journeying through the alchemical process, there are several stages of transformation we must experience. The stages are: calcinatio, solutio, coagulatio, sublimatio, mortificatio and separatio. They lead to coniunctio which resides at the heart of alchemy. Coniunctio is the joining of the alchemical King and Queen, Sol and Luna. The process of transformation begins when these opposites meet, but they are not conjoined until the process is completed. We travel in and out of these stages throughout our life, depending on what is happening in our relationships, career, health and all of the life changes we encounter.
Sol and Luna Image
Viewing the tale of Sleeping Beauty from a higher and alchemical position reveals something antithetical to what we were taught as children. No one is meant to save us, particularly not a special soulmate who kisses our forehead and brings us out of our sleep. The deeper meaning of this story is the recognition and conjoining of our feminine and masculine aspects. Alchemy uses a series of unique images that illustrate this process. The King and Queen start out fully clothed (separate and concealed) then immerse themselves in an alchemical bath where the transformation begins. The lovers, who were once opposites are now connected into inseparable wholeness. Alchemical love has attained its exultant zenith. The opposite energies of the prince/Sleeping Beauty, the King/Queen, and the Solar/Lunar, become transmuted through the alchemical process which is can only be done solo and can be very painful. It’s an “undoing” of all that we have learned and at times, we may feel as though we are being turned inside out. Sometimes we pass through the alchemical stages at varying times, and, sometimes we move through two or more simultaneously.

Yet the pinnacle remains the same, to fully realize genuine love and union. Edward Edinger, who wrote Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy states, “That which goes by the name of love is fundamental to the phenomenology of the coniunctio. Love is both cause and effect…objective love, a love purged of personal desirousness, not one side of a pair of opposites, but rather beyond the opposites”. Sleeping Beauty is a mythical story of a higher love. It encompasses self-less love and the feeling of oneness that we each desire on the deepest level. It cannot be attained by wanting to be rescued, saved, or kissed, but only as we awaken to the strength, courage, and love that resides deep within.

I believe if my mother were still alive and read this very different interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, she would not be disappointed, she would be relieved.

Namaste,

Laurasig