Heidekolb's Blog

Bluebeard ~ A Killer to reckon with: How to Survive the Soul’s Predator

September 18, 2010
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If you think the human psyche is home to nothing but goodness and beauty, then please step aside. Because if you continue reading, you might get upset. For we shall dive into a reality that is hard to grasp by nature. It is elusive, slippery, and does not want to be seen. It feels counter-intuitive and anti-life. It is indeed both.

There is an innate predator and killer in psyche. A psychic force that cannot be “rehabilitated”. A psychic force that does not transform. The challenge with all archetypal energies is to learn how to relate to them without being overtaken. For the feminine psyche, which always wants to connect and relate,  this anti-life force is probably the most difficult one to come to terms with. It is too much for an individual psyche to digest.

This is the realm of Freud’s Thanatos and Jung’s dark side of the Self. These are the closest psychological images  for psyche’s experience of something “evil”.  Like all creatures, the human creature must also learn that there are predators, out there and within us.

The mythical imagination has always produced images and stories of this psychic reality.The tale of Bluebeard is one of them.Fairy tales are simple and pure expressions of the collective unconscious and offer a clear understanding of universal patterns in the human psyche. The Bluebeard story in short goes as follows ~ Three sisters were courted by a noble man who had an unusual blue beard. Two of them were frightened of this blue beard, but the third one fell for his charm and married him. She may do whatever she wants in his absence, open every door in his huge castle, except one. But curiosity wins out. Encouraged by her sisters, she opens the forbidden door and sees the blood and dismembered corpses of Bluebeard’s previous wives. She understands what is in store for her. Once Bluebeard found out that she has seen the hidden chamber, he comes after her. “Please, allow me to compose myself and prepare for my death” she pleads and was granted a quarter of an hour. She has no intention of going quietly into her slaughter. She posts her sisters on the castle ramparts and shouts “Sisters, sisters, do you see our brothers coming?” And the brothers do show up, just in the nick of time, and kill Bluebeard “leaving for the buzzards his blood and gristle”.

Just like a dream, a fairytale is not to be taken literally. It depicts the dance and the dynamics between the two grand archetypal forces, the masculine and the feminine, as they manifest in the collective as well as in the individual psyche. Both, dreams and fairy tales can be a kind of roadmap to discern an attitude that will allow, in fairy tale terms, for the princess to get her prince, and in Jungian language, for the union of opposites and the sacred marriage of  the masculine and the feminine within ones soul.

Bluebeard is well and alive in the outer manifest world. In his densest form, a person, usually but not always, a male, becomes identified with Bluebeard’s energy and is then encountered, in the serial killer (yes, they do exist), the rapist, the human trafficker. Many of his victims won’t live to tell the story.

Even more prevalent is the sadistic, wife-beating husband. But Bluebeard also manifests through the man who is emotionally abusive. There is a violence that can be inflicted on a woman’s (AND the perpetrator’s) soul, which draws blood not from the physical but from the subtle body. This injury can be even more devastating than its physical counterpart. Sadly, it is ignored or played down by society.

The emotionally abusive man is often a pathological narcissist, unwilling/unable to genuinely feel for anyone (including his own feeling self), although he can be sentimental and whiny when it comes to his own needs. Because he is disconnected from a nourishing center in psyche, he always needs to put himself, his ego, into the center of his own lonely universe. His alienation from the source forces the pathological narcissist to more and more drastic measures. He violently seeks to pierce through to a reality that will finally support him. That often leaves a trail of blood and corpses, sometimes symbolically, sometimes unfortunately literally. Horrifying in both instances.

But our naive heroine, who fell for the deadly charmer, survives and Bluebeard is dismembered and dead. But if a fairy tale is a map, what do we learn about the right kind of attitude to escape Bluebeard? A few things stand out for me. Naive the young woman may be, but not submissive and obedient. She wants to know. Only her disobedience allows her to survive. She becomes a warrioress for life  and lies to the lier. Like is cured by like. When she opened the door to the torture chamber, she truly sees. She does not escape into fantasies, as so many women in abusive relationships do, “It won’t happen to me, he really loves me, he will change”… and so on. Nor is she plagued by feelings of paralyzing shame for having been so terribly betrayed, (an irrational, but all-to-common response to abuse). When she sees, she knows, there is no more turning back.

Her willingness and strength to face the truth is activating positive masculine energies in her, which manifest in her ability to sever the ties of Bluebeard’s seductive charm. Bluebeard’s power is fading. His dismemberment has begun. Her own inner masculinity is gaining muscle, which the fairytale depicts in the sudden appearance of brothers who put an end to Bluebeard. As an archetypal force he will not disappear, but in the life of this woman Bluebeard has no more hold over her.

Addendum: The synopsis of the fairytale is based on the version printed in “Women who run with the Wolves” by the ever wonderful curandera, master storyteller and Jungian Analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her discussion of Bluebeard is illuminating and the entire book is a  must read for any woman negotiating her own path.

For those interested in the psychological and mythological meaning of fairy-tales, I would like to point to the work of Marie-Luise von Franz, one of the most brilliant first generation Jungian Analysts who was a close collaborator with C.G.Jung himself. I particularly recommend “The Interpretation of Fairy Tales” and “Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales”

The French director Catherine Breillart created a film version of “Bluebeard” in 2009, exploring the dark erotic bond characteristic of this particular dynamic, which might be of further interest.


Honor thy Devil and Trust thy Body ~ C.G.Jung~The Red Book Reflections

June 27, 2010
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Trust is a big word. It is also a tremendous psychic force. It is an instinctual capacity of the newly born. The baby trusts her environment, she trusts the hands of her caretakers as she begins her life’s journey in the world of manifestations and matter.

It is pretty much down hill from there on. Some of the disappointments and betrayal are archetypal and in the service of evolution. The soul has fallen out of the cosmic womb and she needs to begin her journey home to the realm of non-duality and the One consciousness there is.

However all too often the cruel awakening into lived life creates a psychic trauma almost beyond repair. Clinicians working with childhood abuse or neglect know the dynamics. The child cannot help herself but love her caretakers. The horror that she may be experiencing must be split off and pushed far, far away into the deepest recesses of the unconscious. But the body remembers.

The betrayal of trust goes beyond the nuclear family. In our culture, the Judeo-Christian Western culture, our instinctual desire to trust is reinforced when we are taught right from the beginning to believe in authorities. Church authorities, government authorities, educational authorities, any self-styled person or group who claims to be an authority. Anyone is in the know, especially if there is a little media back-up. Women in particular suffered, as the masculine, embodied by the male, was imbued with authority. Too many men gladly accepted the projection. The taste of power is seductive,who can resist? And it turned many into domineering and deceiving despots who could not relate to the feminine in the outer world, nor to the realm of feeling and relatedness in the inner world.

Look out into the world and who is holding the power. The world is run and owned, literally, by psychopaths. We find the psychopath on the far end of the narcissistic continuum. Nothing and no one exists outside himself. An innate or cultivated inability to feel for and into others. A mind-boggling capacity to perpetuate and live with lies, although they may be subjectively believed to be self-righteous truths. The psychopath is the center of his own universe and everything in it is there to serve him.

The dilemma for us is that if we maintain the notion of an interconnected world and the idea that a unified field ties the universe and the world together, as Jung did, than what is represented by that terrible otherness of the psychopath that we feel we are no part of?

Jung, contemplating the dominant Christian worldview,  writes in CW 6, quoted in the Red Book (RB), “The form in which Christ presented the content of his unconscious to the world became accepted and valid for all. Therefore all individual fantasies became otiose and worthless, and were persecuted as heretical, as the fate of the Gnostic movement and of all later heresies testifies.

I do not wish to delve too deeply into Christian thought, but what Jung is saying here is that Christ was a human being who accessed and expressed the Divine through his unconscious and thereby led the way for us to follow suit. Not by turning him into the “authority”, the later church fathers wanted us to believe, but by showing the way. It is we who must walk the bittersweet road of life and find an authority within us that is truly deserving of our trust.

Jung never wanted to be the authority so many turned him into in his later years. But he showed us a way. And the way leads into the invisible world of the unconscious. Jung tells us of his meeting with the Red One, an imaginal figure in one of his fantasies. Imaginal but equally real as the ego world, he is to be met with respect and openness. Inner figures have a way of responding the way they are being met. Jung writes in the RB : “I know just as little who you are, as you know who I am”…..Surely this Red One was the devil, but my devil…I earnestly confronted my devil and behaved with him as with a real person. This I have learned in the Mysterium to take seriously every unknown wanderer who personally inhabits the inner world, since they are real because they are effectual.”

Disregarding, ignoring or pathologizing inner figures prevents the development of an authentic center of authority within us. Our inner knowing gets pushed further into the dark forest of the unconscious. It moves outside the grasp of psyche, but may settle deep within the cells & structures of our body and if we are lucky, yes, if we are lucky, the body develops symptoms. Every symptom has a story to tell and its meaning needs to be understood. We may have our moods, our little episodes of madness, a particular sensitive day with erratic behaviors. For centuries, women in particular have been pathologized as “hysterical”, nowadays as “borderline” or just as “hypersensitive” or “fragile”.

Your body can be your closest friend. It is always truthful even in its sickness and its symptomology. It responds when the soul has been betrayed, its trust abused. An outer authority or trusted partner may not be what they appear to be, maybe even pretend to be. A child does not yet have the strength to contain the abysmal betrayal. Her body must hold the bitter secret until her psyche strengthens. As women we can. Because there is a warrioress in each one of us. We must and can claim our inner authority. Civilizations may not prevail, partnerships may not last, but psychic truth will. Let us walk the road, together with all the men who are willing to join us.


On Image and Duality – C.G.Jung – The Red Book Reflections

January 11, 2010
7 Comments

In 1925, in the midst of working on the Red Book (RB) Jung wrote “It seemed to me I was living in an insane asylum of my own making. I went about with all these fantastic creatures: centaurs, nymphs, satyrs, gods and goddesses as though they were patients and I was analyzing them”. S. Shamdasani, the editor of the RB, noted that Jung found mythological work both exciting and intoxicating. Jung understood mythological images as symbols of the universal life force (libido) depicting the movements and dynamics of the autonomous, archetypal psyche.

Jung writes about one of his earlier visions: “On the night when I considered the essence of the God, I became aware of an image.” In this vision he dialogues with Elijah and his daughter Salome. Two thoughts strike me immediately as relevant for an understanding of Jung’s approach. One is his use of the word image.

An image is not to be confused with outer reality. Physicists provide explanations for the nature of matter and outer reality, but one thing is certain, our experience creates an inner image that is not the same as outer reality. The image is a subjective experience in the individual mind. It can be visual, but the experience of a sound or a physical sensation will also bring forth an image. A thought is an image.  No question, there is an outer world and also an objective psychic reality, but it is only through the subjective capacity of cultivated self-reflection that one can – with some luck and grace – gain access and insight into the larger, transpersonal realities. An image is like a symbol. It is not to be taken literally or the door becomes a trap holding you prisoner in a concrete and narrow reality. An image is a doorway  into another reality.  A paradoxical situation, the image is you and is not you. You are the observer and the observed. A necessary duality has been created. Necessary because all creation depends on this duality and the forever shifting dance between the two opposing forces. A oneness has been torn asunder. It is in the liminal space in-between that new life can be born. In the context of self-reflection the new life can be a new insight, the possibility of a new pattern of experience.

In the context of a necessary duality, it is interesting that Jung when contemplating the essence  of “the God”, encountered a male AND a female figure. The transpersonal may be a field of oneness, but the human intellect can only approximate the  divine mystery of creation as two intertwined forces. As above so below. Think DNA. These two opposing forces are often referred to as masculine and feminine, but one must drop all preconceived notions about gender or sexuality. Each individual psyche, male or female,  is made up of these energy strands, as is the objective, archetypal psyche. Yang and Yin are more neutral descriptions. Jung elicited the principles of Logos (yang, masculine, foresight, legislation, ordering, willful) and Eros (yin, feminine, receptive, related, moving, dissolving) out of his visionary meeting with Elijah and Salome. Jung writes: The way of life writhes like a serpent from right to left, from thinking to pleasure and from pleasure to thinking. Collectively and individually we are suffering an imbalance in this eternal dance that has favored the masculine principle. Where Logos rules order and persistence  prevail, where Logos rules at the expense of Eros, it degenerates into dominance and abuse of power. In the individual this tendency can be associated to the sickness of the soul, known as the narcissistic personality. The problem of narcissism has been thought of as a characteristic of a dying culture. I can see this trajectory, unless psyche is irrigated by the flow of eros and balance is restored one more time again.

I am less interested in why Jung’s psyche chose Elijah and Salome as personifications of his unconscious thoughts. These are uniquely his images. It seems of much greater significance how he engaged these images. A method that later became known as Active Imagination. A technique that strongly emphasizes the duality principle. In other words, the ego, the “I” as I know it does not disappear in the face of the visionary figure. One must hold ones ground vis-a-vis an imaginative figure. They are to be met with respect, but not revered as gods, because they are not. Nor are imaginative figures spirits who have all the answers and will tell one what to do. They also don’t foretell the future. Our psychic images are real, but the essence of their reality is behind the surface of the mental image.

It is in this dialogue with Elijah and Salome, in that sacred, liminal space between them that  Jung realizes: “If forethinking and pleasure unite in me, a third arises from them, the divine son, who is the supreme meaning, the symbol, the passing over into a new creation. I do not myself become the supreme meaning or the symbol, but the symbol  becomes in me such that it has its substance, and I mine.”

Not one, not two. The paradox, nonduality requires duality.


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