Through a Jungian Lens

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Love’s Shadow

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On the way back to our apartment after a meeting with the head of the English department in a large elementary school where we have agreed to teach one afternoon a week, I came across this particularly colourful butterfly.  It isn’t as beautiful or as exotic as some of the other butterflies I see here in Changzhou, China; but it is beautiful none-the-less.  There is something about butterflies that speaks about love.

Before going to far into this post I want to clarify that I believe in love.  I don’t mean the love of a parent for a child or the love a grandparent has for a grandchild or the love of a child for a parent or grandparent; I mean romantic love.  This is the love that “pulled” me into a relationship that has now seen four decades.  Somehow, what was triggered 40 years ago still is active.  What ever it is, it defies reason, defies the reality of the two of us.  So, what is this “love?”

I guess the first thing to say is that romantic love is messy.  It seems it should be straight forward with a “he” and a “she” somehow finding each other out of billions of possibilities and becoming “we” and giving food for the poets, for songwriters, for love stories and cinema.  The messiness of romantic love is what results when the he and the she are faced with each other and the activated emotion and somehow try to find a way to live in the real world.

There is something called anima and animus lurking in the shadows of the he and the she – archetypes.  Within the man, within myself, exists an image that is hard to contain as it constantly shifts, a contrasexual image of the perfect woman.  This anima is also the container of a man’s soul.  The anima is unique to each man and comes out of personal experience with the feminine in our lives as well as cultural and instinctual tribal memories.  When our eyes catch a fleeting glimpse of anima/animus in another person, we tend to project anima/animus onto that person.  Sometimes the projection is overwhelming as the object receiving the projection, a real person, somehow activates more than just a fleeting glimpse.  It’s as though anima has decided to engage us as consciously as possible.  Falling in love, romantic love, isn’t so much falling in love with the person, but with the projection of that unconscious aspect of self, the contrasexual aspect which we deny within.  What is denied within is lived in our outer life as fate.

I invite you to read “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love.”  Johnson explains so much better than I what romantic love is.

When we are “in love” we feel completed, as though a missing part of ourselves had been returned to us; we feel uplifted, as though we were suddenly raised above the level of the ordinary world. Life has an intensity, a glory, an ecstasy and transcendence . . . (p. 52)


2 Responses

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  1. Somehow I read this one first on my phone before I found the others, but let me say this: I am enjoying this series. It is making me think.

    I think I understand the concept of complex perfectly. I probably don’t but the idea doesn’t scare me at all. In fact, I think it is wonderful that others do not deny, but seek to prove the ideas and to understand why humans are the way we are.

    Thank you for writing about it.


    September 18, 2010 at 10:50 am

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