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Eros and the Meaning of Valentine’s Day: Connection

February 13th, 2018 · No Comments · meaning of valentine's day

If you ask people about the “meaning of Valentine’s Day”,  you might get some pretty cynical responses!

meaning of valentine's day

Some might tell you that it’s a holiday made up to sell more greeting cards, which is, of course, largely true.  An individual therapist might well hear from a client that it’s a sentimental celebration of romantic love, that is sickly-sweet to an even greater degree than many of the confections sold this time of year.  Yet, could it possible be that, under all the froth, there is something of real substance?

Valentine’s Day is a Manufactured Holiday–But…

…the reality to which it refers is a key part of the human experience.

Very often on Valentine’s cards, or boxes of chocolates, you can see a picture of a chubby little childlike sprite with wings — we know him as Cupid.  He is actually the sentimentalized version of the Greek deity Eros.

meaning of valentines day

Who Is Eros?

Eros is the Greek god of sexual love and passion, but really he is a representation of much more than that.  As Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp tells us, Eros is,

[i]n Greek mythology, the personification of love, a cosmogonic force of nature; psychologically, the function of relationship.

So, in Greek mythology, Eros, “love” has a key role in bringing the universe into being. What is more, he is a personification of the entirety of the human desire to be related to others — in any way whatsoever.  As Andrew Samuels puts is, he is symbolically

“The Principle of Psychic Relatedness”

Eros is really the principal of connection.  He represents all the ways in which we connect to, and are aware of, and bond with others, in any way, shape or form.  However that happens in our lives, it’s fundamentally important to our identity.

meaning of valentine's day

Jung stressed the fact that we need to individuate, to become the unique individual that contain the potential to be.  Some people have interpreted that as a call to individualism, a sort of John Wayne-Clint Eastwood-Marlboro Man stance of “me versus the world”.  However, Jung didn’t mean that .  He stressed that there is no way for us to become the unique people that we’re meant to be, or to move towards that goal, unless we are in some way shape or form involved in a serious and important relationship contact with others.

That doesn’t mean that we have to be “in a relationship”, as our culture puts it — meaning “in a romantic relationship”.  But it does mean that we have to be involved in significant ways with others: open to them, connected to them, with empathy towards them, listening to them.  This is especially important at midlife and beyond.

The Need for Connection

Psychotherapists, and especially depth psychotherapists, know that it’s essential for us to be connected to others, for health, well-being and growth.  We now know from attachment theory, developmental psychology and neuroscience that we can’t even become human without human connection.  We certainly can’t individuate, in Jung’s use of the term.

It’s essential for all of us to be connected to others.  In my opinion, that’s the true meaning of Valentine’s Day — or Eros Day, as I would rename it if I could!

Relationship and Psychotherapy

Humans fundamentally need relationship, and often,  an important part of, yes, individual psychotherapy can be enabling the person to find closer connection with others.  The fundamental work of individuation in psychotherapy comes in part because Jungian psychotherapy is a healing relationship.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, OntaWIthout rio (near Mississauga)


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