Sacrifice and depth psychology

And what might castration mean for the field of depth psychology? How can psychology facilitate a transformation of masculine gender ideas? We can begin by sacrificing some of our most cherished tenets, and the need for this is inevitable because we cannot ultimately “close the eyes” to the “revenge of the repressed.”

The first tenet to sacrifice is the concept of matricide. The field of depth psychology must come into a full recognition of the maternal and realize the psychically violent and traumatic nature of the separation expectations of the male from his mother. Jung and Freud’s “act of matricide” and the need to fit into heroism is fertile ground for the profound distortions of reality that result in evil and a denial of shame. It creates a miscarriage of the development of self in which a man has no life in which to be true to himself.

Secondly, we must recognize the primacy of the maternal feminine in the deepest levels of psychic reality. Depth psychology can facilitate a return of the maternal feminine and alternatives to masculinity by breaking the cycle of power, conquest and domination through the realization that masculine autonomy is, in fact, an illusion, and facilitates destruction rather than creation. This needs to occur without committing patricide, for that would only create a situation for the son to end up in an Oedipal marriage with the mother. Indeed, we must not forget that Freud and Jung were right: if the father is killed an unconscious return to the mother and infantilism, satiety and self-destruction is precipitated in the false paradise of maternal source. This constitutes a loss of self through an identification with the maternal, archeyptal world - masculinity falling into the unconscious. This results in the same dynamics as matricide; compensatory eruptions and explosions of narcissistic masculinity.

Our notions about masculinity and femininity are not so much the contents of knowledge that come to us through history and science as the structures of consciousness that come to us from myth. This is why, for example, the particulars of myths were changed to manipulate the image of the witch as Abusch (2002) identified through ancient Babylonian texts. This is where maternal images of dependency for the necessities of life, the woman who lies at the heart of human and humane existence, need to be discovered and differentiated in order to properly serve the feminine archetypes. Deep impulses in the collective unconscious must be allowed to enter our contemporary thought - cavernous shame whose avoidance is built into humankind’s societal and psychological foundation. To effect the psychic transformation of gender ideas, we need to turn towards myth, not science. And since patriarchy is notoriously resistant to change, the myths should not lull us back into illusion, but in their boldness be truly generative (see Epilogue).

And last but not least, depth psychology must sacrifice the scientific position adopted by both Freud and Jung. The transformation of masculine shame requires a unification of the scientific and spiritual perspectives. In other words, the scientific perspective of the human condition coincides with a religious understanding of human nature. In thinking it was just as good in addressing the needs of humanity, psychoanalysis sought to replace religion, and so became an intricate symbolic system that is covertly spiritual. Depth psychology, however, will never replace religion, and the spiritual will never be reduced to the psychological. Both may seek self-knowledge and liberation of the self (soul), but in a deep process of self-confrontation that entails vision of one’s shame, one inevitably arrives at faith, the ultimate fulcrum for creative, psychic change. Kierkegaard/Lowrie describes faith this way: “not that [faith] annihilates dread, but remaining ever young, it is continually developing itself out of the death throes of dread” (1844/1957: 140). Faith naturally emerges as a way of finding coherence, meaning and purpose in the darkness of chaotic, maternal forces.

Due to an individual as well as a collective need to face our shame, the time is ripe for a synthesis that covers the best in both depth psychology and religion. Consider the words of Hogart Mauer, past President of the American Psychological Association and secular thinker who committed suicide several years ago:

For several decades we psychologists have looked upon the whole problem of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and we have acclaimed our liberation from sin epic making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is to be sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost. In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of self hood and identity, and with neurotics now find ourselves asking, who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living really mean.

(Zacharias, 1999)

Shame and the human evil that results from its denial need to be understood in conjunction with spirituality. At the edge of shame, one transcends the world into some spiritual dimension which contains tremendously purposeful, creative energy. When a man feels his shame in his utter dependence and vulnerability, and hands over his life to its meaning and value, he submits to forces beyond his control and is led to faith. How could this not be the case when a man realizes that he cannot omnipotently make the world into something that it cannot be - free of pain, suffering, and most of all, shame.

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