The girl in the birdcage: fear and the victim/child/damsel archetype

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There’s a red-headed girl in a cage at the bottom of my psyche. She is the victim-fear-child. She grows and shrinks in age, and yells obscenities at me. Fear always makes her scream or flinch. I can’t fix her, can’t remove her. Her hair reddens at the sound of rain and she dissolves into poetry… face of porcelain… her dress is always white lace and she claws… and she sits with legs with legs crossed. I watch her. When I don’t watch her she reaches up into my life and wreaks havoc. With eyes on her she is confined to the cage.

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Her hair grows and shrinks. She screams at me until I turn away and draw bird cages, gold like her’s, on white canvas paper. I hold up a blank slate for her and she draws cages too. We laugh and I slide my fingers into the cage to find hers… dissolving into me.

I sit in the room and watch her. I cannot fix her of free her. Attempts only makes her violent. I visit her often and when I have extra… I feed her… peas and broth from a ceramic spoon. I reach my arms around the cage to find it dissolving, just a little, but it re-forms when I move away.

“It’s safe outside” I say, but if I remove the cage she only grows it back from the fear inside. It’s part of her. Some traumatised animals never leave the cage, even when the door is open… even when the cage is gone. The cage is inside their minds and the trauma continues in aftershocks. She knows this. She is this.

Awakened, she reaches up through the bars – a pain-body phantom. She claws at my heart and projects the pain into other people’s faces and my own personal failings. If I watch her, sit with her, she has company and sometimes she lets me scratch behind her ears. She responds to warmth… it melts the ice from the fear… melts the cage momentarily.

We watch each-other.

I can’t fix her…

but can I love her?

birdcage

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The girl in the birdcage: fear and the victim/child/damsel archetype

once_upon_a_time_ontwerpduo_2b-thumb-468x625-31805

There’s a red-headed girl in a cage at the bottom of my psyche. She is the victim-fear-child. She grows and shrinks in age, and yells obscenities at me. Fear always makes her scream or flinch. I can’t fix her, can’t remove her. Her hair reddens at the sound of rain and she dissolves into poetry… face of porcelain… her dress is always white lace and she claws… and she sits with legs with legs crossed. I watch her. When I don’t watch her she reaches up into my life and wreaks havoc. With eyes on her she is confined to the cage.

597f53fad7ff6f562ae01e3dfab9a850_6VnCQma1JA3PK39cnkMw893BEXVJ9qW

Her hair grows and shrinks. She screams at me until I turn away and draw bird cages, gold like her’s, on white canvas paper. I hold up a blank slate for her and she draws cages too. We laugh and I slide my fingers into the cage to find hers… dissolving into me.

I sit in the room and watch her. I cannot fix her of free her. Attempts only makes her violent. I visit her often and when I have extra… I feed her… peas and broth from a ceramic spoon. I reach my arms around the cage to find it dissolving, just a little, but it re-forms when I move away.

“It’s safe outside” I say, but if I remove the cage she only grows it back from the fear inside. It’s part of her. Some traumatised animals never leave the cage, even when the door is open… even when the cage is gone. The cage is inside their minds and the trauma continues in aftershocks. She knows this. She is this.

Awakened, she reaches up through the bars – a pain-body phantom. She claws at my heart and projects the pain into other people’s faces and my own personal failings. If I watch her, sit with her, she has company and sometimes she lets me scratch behind her ears. She responds to warmth… it melts the ice from the fear… melts the cage momentarily.

We watch each-other.

I can’t fix her…

but can I love her?

birdcage

The Predator Archetype (part three): Dreams of the Stalker


Last night I had another dream about him…

He is in disguise, this time. We meet in a darkened rain-washed street. We make eye contact and he introduces himself as, not the person I thought, not the one I trust, though equal in size and stature, but a slightly different name. With eyes that flashed cold daggers, and shorter darker hair, he asks me to come with him: “let’s have coffee”. “Another time, maybe”. “No”. He is insistent and pulls at my hand. I can feel the force and make a break – run as fast as I can, away from those cold dead eyes. He is fast and heads me off, behind steel buildings. He grasps me again as I struggle away. But this is public space, out here I scream “LEAVE ME ALONE” I look around and see the young family, the old man, pedestrians on this paved grey dreamscape. “I DON’T KNOW HIM” I yell to them – hoping they will take notice and help. This is not a joke, not a private matter. He is the predator… I am at a party now, with friends. We go out into the night to yell at the predators and scare them away. Behind us, someone turns out the lights in the strange old house. There is danger here, but he is just trying to scare us. It is working. I awaken in fear.

I wrote about the predator archetype before, and again, in relation to his history as the dark magician. He is major archana when it comes to archetypes – that dark force that seeks control, seeks to destroy the light force of the psyche. He is present when we walk dark streets at night. He is the rapist, the murderer, Bluebeard. He is the part of ourselves that seeks our destruction.

Probably, you would have these dreams too, sometimes. Probably, the predator is not entirely unknown to you, in your life experiences, traumas, projections and semi-conscious states. This deadly force invokes chilling scorpionic fear. It is potent, it is transformative, it can be devastating.

I’m not sure why I dreamed of him last night, but I suspect it is part of my recent inner-work, integrating my animus through the shadow, exploring the recessed and deep folds of tattered emotional memories, of abandonment, and anger; psychological abuse and powerlessness. Bringing this into the light is stirring something up.

Is it possible to master this destructive psychic force, to use in a conscious way, to prune the parts of self that are no longer necessary, or is it something that must be watched with a smoldering gaze until he is charred to cinders? Either way. Something is saying: PAY ATTENTION. Watch. Wait. Listen. Be aware… and be safe.

Rescuing the princess, rebuilding the animus and growing healthy relationship archetypes

Recently I have been exploring the common archetype of the princess in the tower, in relation to my life. It is something that crops up from time to time, when I feel helpless or overwhelmed; I feel out of control, like a small child, powerless and desperate; I don’t think I can do things by myself. Whenever this pattern emerges I secretly wish for someone to rescue me, when really I know I always have to rescue myself.

Please excuse the gendered nature of the archetypes presented here – they actually don’t need to a particular gender, that is just the common representation… I do feel, however, that growing up without a healthy father figure/male role-model has stunted and warped the development of my animus, which I have been progressively healing/growing back over the last few years. The animus is commonly known as the ‘male’ or masculine part of the psyche, but is also associated with the warrior or rescuer archetype. If you didn’t have a present or adequate father/male role model, you may well be in the same boat.

Early on, we who need to rescue ourselves tend to fall into the trap of becoming the rescuer – of being attracted to wounded puppies who we think we can save with our love and guidance. This is a massive exercise in projection and gets quite circular. We are seeing our own damaged animus reflected back through damaged people and damaging relationships. Without a healthy animus, we are doomed to repeat this cycle. The good news is that, eventually, we can heal the major inner fractures in ourselves (if we need to). We can piece one together from the aspects of healthy ‘masculinity’ and strength we encounter in our lives. We can make a frankenstein animus and bring it to life – or re-grow an under-developed animus archetype until he reaches maturity – along with culling all the unhealthy/predator/shadow aspects we may have internalized from having painful or exploitative experiences with men.

Even when we have cobbled together a healthy representation of animus inside ourselves, we may find that we still feel tensions and anxieties arising from attachment and relationships – even with healthy significant others who are not wounded puppies. While being attracted to healthy (rather than damaged) people is a sign of significant healing progress, it doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing from here. Our new healthy animus still needs to be socialised. Invite him to sit down for a cup of tea. Build a good relationship with him. If you are projecting anxiety onto an external attachment, transfer this projection, along with your needs and desires to your inner animus and practice relating to this inner ‘other’ in a healthy and loving way. He can be there for you, love you, support you and rescue you in an insecure world. Through this inner transformation, the external world can mirror harmonious relationships back to you.

Meditations on Virgo: complexities of the virgin/whore/analyst archetype

Everyone has a little bit of Virgo, and what better time to contemplate this extraordinarily complex archetype than a Virgo new moon? Some people call Virgo a duel sign, but she is a lot more complex than that; how else could she govern health, sickness, work, cleanliness, criticism and submission? Virgo is one of those signs that can seem boring on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper you might be surprised. Virgo wants to heal you, she wants to analyse you and she wants you to get off your ass and do some work – properly! She also wants to roll around in the dirt and explore the dark recesses of the psyche with a magnifying glass.

As an earth sign, Virgo is grounded, although she does have neurotic tendencies. Like Gemini she is governed by Mercury, the messenger/communicator, although she’s not as childlike, fast or flighty.  She excels at communication as long as she doesn’t get too anxious about it. She loves freshly mown grass and spring blossoms. Her colours are teal and white, greens and browns. She belongs in the sixth house of hard work and, traditionally, slavery.

Virgo is strong.  She cannot be slut-shamed. She is beyond that. She submits on her own terms. She owns her darkness.  The mistress of contradictions, she is the secretary and the cleaner; the innocent maiden and the auditor; the therapist and the patient; the hypochondriac and the doctor; the workaholic and the servant. No astrological archetype better represents the contradictory virgin/whore.  It is her obsessive cleanliness that makes dirt so appealing and, like all control freaks, Virgo is sexually submissive. Holding on so tightly means she has a deep need to let go.  She is tight with money but appreciates quality purchases.  After a while the contradictions begins to make sense: one’s inner prostitute is the guardian of one’s integrity, after all.  It is her job to let you know when you are in danger of trading your self-worth and selling yourself short.

To find out more about your Virgo look at where it sits in your natal chart. Every house represents a different part of your life. Does Virgo govern a house or is it intercepted, (stuck in between two houses) leaving your highly-strung analyst deep inside your psyche, screaming to get out? If you have planets in Virgo, think about how the archetypes of the planets click or clash with the contradictory Virgo vibe.

Yes, Virgo can be anal-retentive with a stationary fetish and a penchant for delicate floral print fabric, especially if you have a natal Venus in Virgo. Venusian Virgo is very particular about what she likes: a total aesthete guru. She loves lists and ticking things off gives her little jolts of pleasure, she also has a habit of analysing her partners half to death, trying to fix them.  She abhors clutter and unhinged garishness. Planets in your 6th house may interfere with Virgo’s master plan to analyse and categorise everything.  Uranus, the chaos magi will electrify her chi all over the place making a stable work-life an unlikely possibility.

A new moon in Virgo is a good time to set fresh intentions and let go of old emotional baggage, especially around your mum.  The maternal moon is often symbolic of the emotional self and the mother (also the nurturing father, or lack there of). Mothering is damn hard and no one does it perfectly.  Every time your parents failed to nurture you, your inner Virgo was probably keeping score, holding on to each painful experience for later analysis. Maybe it’s time to let go of that crap. You don’t need to over-think it, just intend it. You can go one step further and write your mom a letter. Mine goes like this:

Dear Mum. I have been decluttering my life on all different levels, as I explained before, courtesy of the Virgo new moon.  As the moon represents the mother, emotions and nurturing I decided that this is a good time to let go of any emotional baggage and resentments I may be holding onto from my childhood, consciously or subconsciously. I now understand how hard it is to be a parent and how easy it is to fly off the handle. I release you from all old emotional debts and all childhood needs left unmet. Love xoxo

The Predator Archetype (part two)

In my previous post about the predator archetype I didn’t go into the back-story of this universal archetype.  Of course such a dark character must have a story. According to Estes he is a fallen magician. A personification of the psychopathic wounded ego trying to be more than one is. Icarus flew too close to the sun and suffered the consequences and the this damaged part of the psyche over-extended in a similar way and exists in a state of permanent over-compensation.

On a personal level, the predator is a fragment of the shadow: the part of ourselves seeks redemption in all the wrong places. It has lost its own light and plots to steal the light of the psyche. It is our internal psychic vampire, pilfering our creative potential, holding us back with fear. This archetype offers a warning against the reckless pursuit of power.

On a wider social level, this archetype makes easy prey of women who have been trained since infancy to ‘be nice’, it seeps out of advertising. In the West it is disguised as the freedom to choose to be exploited, in more conservative cultures it is the invisible dominating force that women hide from.

Some people seem to unwittingly personify this fallen magician archetype all too well. I have met a few people who have tried to pursue the occult for power, either favoring hierarchical traditions or claiming to be far too unique, too special, too powerful to follow others. There was always something odorous about these people, something of the rodent in their appearance, a dangerous kind of cunning.

Anatomy of the Shadow

It’s the trick of the mind that makes you think there’s someone hiding in the darkness, the monster under your bed, the stranger’s footsteps echoing too close behind in the street at night…

Collectively it’s the enemy, the criminals we want to lock up, the rapists, sadists, murderers. It’s the incest inflictors, child abductors, perpetrators, pedophiles, predators. It’s the tragedies, the atrocities of war, the suicide-bombers, fanatics and shopping-mall shooters. It’s the foreigners, the Other, the people who look different: strange eyes, unusual skin colour, funny accents.  The shadow might be feminism, if you’re threatened by the idea of strong women or of equality. It might be gay people, they might disgust you if you’re afraid of your own queerness, of the queerness of being human.  It might be right-wing politics or bible-bashing gay-hating church groups. It might be drugs if you’re too scared to understand them.  The shadow is in fairy tales: the bad guy, super-villains  the evil step-mother, the dark sorcerer. In Disney he often has darker skin, she is ugly and wears dark clothes, he has a foreign accent. The shadow is always powerful and yet somehow defeated by sheer naive innocence, by love, by faith. If only it were that simple.

The shadow is always on the news, sometimes as a person, a religion, a regime, sometimes as a tornado, an earthquake, a hurricane, a cyclone, a volcano, a flood. It unites us in our shared enemy, reassuring us that we are right, alright, okay. All we need to do is rescue our kind, lock up the bad guys, recover from the trauma. Maybe we can lobby for legislation change: harsher sentences, ban something in case our young are captured by it.  The shadow is in “rape culture”, it is violent culture, and yet we refuse to see the connection between socially acceptable violence and rape. Rape is sexual violence. Violence is abuse of power. How much more obvious does the connection need to be. Those violent video-games and movies are just playing out the same tired dance with the shadow because we are still too afraid to face it.

The shadow is the hardest thing to face, both in society and in ourselves. We don’t want criminals to be human, we don’t want them to be vulnerable, to be victims of circumstance, to have dreams or loving mothers; we want them to be vile, irredeemable, evil. We don’t want the evil step-mother, the warlock or the super-villain to be generous, to be kind, to shed a tear. When they do it’s always too late. They must be sacrificed, presumably at their own sword. We want to believe that evil devours itself in the end so that we don’t have to face it ourselves.  We want things to be simple, not complicated. We don’t want to see their humanity because, more than anything, we don’t want to see them in ourselves.  But really, we are the villains as well as the heroes, we all have the potential to do horrendous things, we have all had moments of frightening ourselves in rage – out of pain, fear, jealousy – of fearing our own potential to inflict harm and of inflicting harm deliberately. Even the monster under the bed is part of us, part of our minds. Unless we face this in ourselves personally and publicly, we will forever be walking faster and faster down the street at night, running from our own shadow.

Personally, my shadow is my guilt – of doing something wrong, having done wrong. It’s my shame of being wrong, not good enough.  In my childhood it was personified by my step-father, and he in-turn (or first) projected his shadow onto me. I was never good enough, spoilt, selfish brat, little shit, stupid, lazy, all the things I was called as a kid, the judgements I fear, naive, foolish, weak, victim, and deeper still: evil, malicious, defective.  It’s everything I’ve ever done ‘wrong’, every nasty urge I’ve ever had., every lie, every deception.  It lurks behind every bath-pearl stolen from a pharmacy when I was twelve, every bill or coin snatched from the purses and wallets of relatives when I was 13, every drop of spirits pinched from mum’s liquor cabinet when I was 15 and every biscuit taken from the kitchen at night when I was 8. I can feel it rotting inside me like the crumbs left in my bed: sneaking, devious, filthy, part of me. It’s every fear, terror, insecurity, being shamed-out, bad, dumb, losing control, being powerless.  It hides in my difference and in my sameness.

My shadow has hindered me, forced me to stick to the safe path, to protect myself, to find my tribe and stick closely to people who understand me, who agree with me, who I can relate to.  It has taught me to avoid situations that make me uncomfortable – like groups of macho men and male dominated spaces; mechanics workshops, some music stores.  It has taught me to moderate my behavior to suit the people I am talking to, so I don’t swing into full feminist critique in front of the bigoted dad of a friend. I can sniff out danger. My mother always taught me to avoid creepy men and I am not at all attracted to predators, but this shadow has made it difficult for me to trust men in general. Some of the most dangerous people I have known have been women and were once close friends.  I have learnt to cut these people out of my life. Some things are too scary to face and impossible to change.  I will keep delving into my shadow, walking through the dark, swimming through unconsciousness because I’m too scared not to. As Carl Jung said, “When an inner situation is not made conscious it appears outside of you as fate.” I don’t wast to take that risk. I don’t know what’s luring in the murky depths, but I’d certainly rather deal with it internally than allow it to manifest externally.