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The Way of the Dream by Marie-Louise von Franz
Liberation of the Heart
In our modem world, we have achieved sexual free dom. Now comes the much bigger problem-liberation of the heart. -Marie-Louise von Franz
Dr. von Franz, let’s talk now about the problems involved in human relationships by first looking at a dream of a successful modem woman .
I dreamt I was in a desolate tourist resort like the beach in the film Death in Venice. I saw a man standing by a wall. And then I saw a woman walking toward him. She approached him and kissed him, and then the two walked away. I was very curious, so I decided to follow them.
Then I was in a house with a shoji screen, a Japanese household. Then I saw the man at the entrance. He was going to enter. Suddenly he stopped and looked suspiciously down at the shadow of the woman on the floor. So I turned around and saw that the woman had changed into a geisha. She was all made up. She didn’t look like a very classical geisha with Oriental eyes. She looked more like a Caucasian woman, but in a geisha outfit. She was very pale. Her eyes were red, and there was blood in the corner of her mouth. I said to the man, “She’s regressed to her past life. ”
As I said that, the geisha knelt down and placed a tray of food on the table. The man was now in the process of changing into a samurai. There was agony in his face, as if he were in a convulsion. I wasn’t sure if the agony was associated with the physical transformation, or whether it was because he was with this woman. That was the end of the dream. -female dreamer
This dreamer has made a successful career for herself and has given all her energies to it. But her love life has been neglected, and therefore, in the dream, the side she has suppressed emerges. She’s not yet rooted in life, she doesn’t know where she belongs, and suddenly the question arises, “What do an ordinary man and a woman do with each other? How do they relate to each other? What’s the meaning of love?”
Well, I was always interested in geishas when I was growing up, because they looked so plastic. The face looks like a mask, and I was always wondering what lay behind this mask. Geishas represent refinement, the ultimate form of Japanese aesthetics. I don’t know if I think they are attractive at all. But there’s a certain sense of sophistication associated with geishas. -dreamer
The dreamer is in a tourist place, which is the opposite of a place where one lives and has one’s roots put down. It’s a temporary place where one is by chance. There she watches a man in the street picking up a woman he’s interested in, and the dreamer follows them to find out what is going on. So we see that the problem of the relationship between man and woman begins to constellate.
She then follows them to a Japanese flat decorated with screens. (Later in the dream, we will see that the Japanese play a special role in her setup, so I’ll not deal with that now. It means simply that the problem is still screened discreetly. She doesn’t yet know what is happening.) And then she sees that the man is staring suspiciously at the silhouette of the woman on the floor, the shadow silhouette, and that the woman is playing the role of a geisha, which is pure acting, a way of not being herself. It is the geisha’s task to fulfill all the wishful fantasies of what men think is ideal femininity. She cannot live her own feminine reality. She has to play-act, and therefore she casts a shadow. Her real femininity remains in the shadow, and in the dream the man is suspicious of the shadow of the woman. “What’s the shadow of a geisha like? What is a geisha like when she is not painted, when she doesn’t play her role? What kind of a woman is she then?” This is the type of question this woman. has in mind.
The geisha’s mouth runs with blood and her eyes are bloodshot, which shows that she’s in some terrible pain or torture, that acting out the wishful fantasies of a man, instead of being a woman in her own right, is a torture to her. This has long been the lot of geishas. For example, the Chinese bound the feet of their upper-class women, so that they were completely crippled. And they couldn’t complain. They had to satisfy the fantasies of men by becoming elegantly unreal, as if they .didn’t touch the floor, as if they hadn’t heavy peasant feet.
When I was growing up in Hong Kong, Japanese films were very popular. The samurais were hero figures to the teenagers. They were physically attractive and had a good sense of right and wrong. All the girls were crazy .about Japanese samurais, compared to the Chinese men. Generally, Chinese men are physically smaller than samurais. -dreamer
Men fear the woman’s earthiness. Her earthiness is her power, her connection with earthy reality, and men fear it because, as Jung realized, women are really the tougher sex. That’s why men are afraid of the earthy side of women. By binding the feet of the upper-class Chinese girls, they transformed them into butterflies, into delicate, unearthly, romantic creatures. But for the women this was a mutilation, and naturally the geishas are completely mutilated. They had to repress all their natural feminine reactions in order to play the geisha role.
Just as the geisha has bloodshot eyes, so the man is also undergoing some torture. His transformation into a samurai seems to cause him tremendous pain. Now, the samurai carries a personal projection for this dreamer. The samurai is the romantic beloved of her teens, and the man in the dream painfully transforms himself into that ideal. Even in the dream, the dreamer recognizes that this is a regression. The woman is regressing to a past life which hints what the dream is really aiming toward.
The dreamer has emigrated to Canada and has concentrated her energies into making a career. Now that she’s at the top of her career, the love problem comes up. It’s the problem of finding a partner, of fulfilling her dreams of love, and here she cannot go to any Western model of relationship between man and woman. Therefore, there is a huge regression to the historical past, to the Far East where the medieval model of relationship between man and woman was a samurai and a geisha. But since the figures who play the samurai and geisha both suffer such great torture, it means that the dreamer cannot go back to that model. It would completely constrain her modern femininity. But since she has no other, she has to go back for the moment to that medieval model, but only to then jump forward again to create or to find in her soul a new model of femininity. The torture in the dream is the birth pangs of searching for and having not yet found her own feminine image or identity.
On a collective level, modem woman’s search for her own feminine identity has led to a rebellion against the patriarchy. But, paradoxically, it’s led many women straight back into geisha-like relationships. They desire companionship and sexuality divorced from personal feeling. How do you account for this?
I think it has two roots. The deeper one is that many North American women are very unhappy because social life in North America is not rooted enough. People move about too much; women have very little chance to establish their roots in the earth, in a garden, in a house, in a community, in a surrounding where they can stay. This constant moving rather pleases men, but is very unfortunate for women. It damages their instincts. Then women want to replace it by sex, because that is their last possibility of having a connection with their own bodies, a confirmation of their own physical existence. But it’s a desperate move which is a surrogate for something quite different. It’s a surrogate for having no feminine life, no feminine rhythm of life.
The whole rhythm of North American life is too hectic for a woman. It damages women more than men. It’s not good for men either, but it damages women even more. And then there is the whole world of advertising, and the social idea of success-girls having to date boys, and inquiring, “Are you dating a boy already?” and so on. The whole relationship between the sexes becomes an affair of success, of social achievement, instead of feeling.
Women can run sex with the head, completely cool, without feeling, as a means to confirm their self-esteem. They think, “I must have a man. I must have an affair in order to prove myself normal. ” But that has nothing to do with the real instinctive feeling of a woman. She runs over those feelings with a theoretical idea of having to have a man and having to have sex with him. The whole thing is a cold power game which leads to nothing.
The sexual instinct is one instinct, but there are many other instincts as well. There is the instinct of self-preservation, and there are social instincts and aggressive instincts. There is a whole host of different instincts. No animal, for instance, ever consists solely of sexual desire. A dog has aggression, the need for food, the need for affection, the need for being with other dogs, and so on and on. If a woman singles out the sexual instinct as the only instinct and runs it with her head, it is a contra-instinctive because it’s out of balance. Nature never chooses one instinct against all the others. Nature keeps a kind of homeostasis, or general equilibrium between the instincts. It turns one instinct on and another off, and so on. If we observe animal life, we see that it is periodical. It has periods for the sexual instincts, situations for the aggressive instinct, situations for the collective herd instinct. Its rhythms are regulated by a totality, by the wholeness of its being. Only the human is stupid enough to isolate one instinct and govern life by it. Naturally, by so doing he goes against the wholeness of the instinctive world and does harm to his own body and to his whole life.
If a woman has not a strong connection to her own instinctive feminine nature, she falls for that kind of nonsense. And then she runs her relationships by trying to conquer men. She puts them in her pocket and then boasts to her girlfriends about it. This, of course, has nothing to do with her real feminine feelings.
But it seems these women fear their real feminine feelings. They want a relationship without emotional commitment. In fact, if personal feelings do become involved, they often end the relationship.
That is because an emotional commitment brings conflict. If one is emotionally committed to another human being, one is easily hurt and risks a lot of misunderstandings. Even the best partner will hurt you from time to time. You are exposed; you are vulnerable; you are dependent. Such women don’t want to get into that. They are afraid of it. They are afraid of the complications of the heart. They prefer to run a relationship like a cold businessman, just have the pleasure of it and say good-bye. “Nothing to do with you personally. ” It is a rejection of the feminine fate, which is to be personally interested in the man and to be, therefore, vulnerable. What about losing your partner? What about your partner going away with another woman? What about your partner traveling for years in foreign countries and not returning to you? That is the eternal pain of women.
Women want a lasting personal relationship, and men, very often do not care about it, or lead a life where they cannot care about it. They have to attend to their own business. That is the tragedy between men and women, and women who don’t want personal commitment want to escape that tragedy. They want to escape suffering, and they naturally get into much worse suffering.
In our modern world, women have achieved their sexual freedom. A woman can now live her sexual life as she likes; that is no longer a problem. Now comes the much bigger problem: the liberation of the heart. That is the program of the next fifty years.
Liberation of the heart?
There are two types of human connection. One is technical: the boss and the employee, the bus conductor and the passenger. It is organized by rules, even nowadays by psychological rules. (There are even training programs for managers on how to manage the employees. ) The other type of human connection is through feeling, the liking and the disliking, and nowadays that doesn’t count for much. A woman would sometimes like to say, “This sounds all very logical, but I have a strong feeling against it. ” Nobody would pay any attention to that nowadays. If she cannot formulate it as a logical deduction, they just ignore it. To say, “My feeling instinct tells me this is no good,” is not enough. Men do the same thing to themselves. They have feelings too, but they ignore them. They may have a funny feeling in their stomachs, but they think, “Oh, that is jet lag or something. ” They rationalize it away. They don’t listen to the reactions of the heart.
That is why so many so-called primitive people, in the so-called underdeveloped countries reproach us, and quite rightly. Whatever their shortcomings, they listen more to their feelings. You could still say to an Australian aborigine, “Today I have a bad feeling. I won’t move out of the camp.” Or you can say, “That fellow seems to be making a very good offer to us, but I somehow don’t like it, and I’ll therefore keep away from him. ” You can still say that to an Australian aborigine, but if you say it to a white American businessman, he’ll just think, “Oh well, women!”
Do you feel we are in danger of building a wall of rationality in our society which feeling can’t penetrate? Are we losing our capacity to love and be loved?
I think that is the number one problem of the Aquarian Age. The only thing which might save us, in the East and the West, from falling into an overly rational, overly organized mass society which suffocates the individual is a reevaluation of the importance of personal feeling. Fortunately, people are waking up to the negative effects of this computerizing of humanity. We have now, for instance, political slogans abhorring too much state and too much organization. This massification of society stems from an overpopulation of the planet, which demands an organization that suffocates the individual. The problem is that there are too many rules, and rules are always impersonal; they are for everybody.
If you study primitive communities or older agricultural communities, everybody knew everybody and related to each other personally. A lot of idiots and mentally sick people didn’t need to be institutionalized, because the community just suffered them. They laughed and said, “Oh well, you know so-and-so. ” I remember on the first day when we moved into the village where I grew up, a man came and said, “My father is a kleptomaniac. He steals everything. So, if things are stolen from you, please don’t go to the police. Just come to me, and I’ll hand them back to you. ” So the poor old kleptomaniac didn’t need to go to an asylum. Everybody knew his little fault and compensated for it. That is personal relationship. He, including his faults, belonged personally to the community. In such a society there are fewer criminals, and fewer people ready for the lunatic asylum. The society carries the individual and stands the individual. It gives him a certain leeway of freedom with a pardoning shrug of the shoulders which says, “Oh well, he is like that, or she is like that.” People are taken for what they are. That’s what we have lost, and that’s what we have to restore again in some new form. ~The Way of the Dream, Page 198-205