Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Individual Therapy, Women, Men & Marilyn Monroe

March 7th, 2010 · Anima, feminine, individual, individual therapy, masculine, therapy

 It’s very striking how the figure of Marilyn Monroe sometimes comes up in individual therapy.

Individual therapy

Few people have gripped the imagination of popular culture as she has.  An iconic and fateful figure for both women and men.  A figure combining elements of both the erotic goddess and the cautionary tale.  Her story is disturbing.  In some important sense, she will not leave us alone.

A recent book, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli sheds light on the last period before her death at age 36 in 1962.  However, a CBC network television program, The Passionate Eye last fall aired an even more informative documentary, Marilyn: The Last Sessions , which described the last sessions that Monroe had with her psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson.  This psychiatrist allegedly engaged in a wide range of boundary-violating behaviour, including seeing Marilyn twice a day, and involving her in his family life.  I wonder whether Greenson did not himself fall under the spell of the archetypal child-woman symbology that our culture had already imbued on Monroe. 

Even today, Marilyn Monroe is an unbelievably powerful symbolic figure — for both men and women, and on all kinds of levels.  In her persona and public image, Marilyn represents a female figure who is essentially conformed to the will of men.  In her whole bearing, in her breathy-voiced, man-pleasing manner, she represents a very powerful manifestation of the “anima woman”, a woman who is so permeated on the unconscious level by her need to conform herself to the inner image of woman in male fantasy that it takes over her entire outer presentation.  A woman who lives out her entire life in this mode is very often headed for a tragic outcome.  Such seems to have been the fate of Marilyn, the fatherless girl who so deeply yearned for male approval and love.

Marilyn is clearly a powerful image of male-dominated womanhood, and is a tragic figure for women.  What is not so often seen is how destructive a figure she can represent for a man, if she embodies a man’s “anima”, which is to say that receptive dimension of a man that enables him to relate to women and the feminine.  How could a man dominated by such an image really have anything but contempt for his own receptive, feeling “feminine” dimension?  Or anything but pity or contempt for the real women who occupy his life — if he sees them through the image of Marilyn, the child-woman?

Is the Marilyn Monroe type of feminity the only way in which our society or individuals in it can access the feminine?  If it is through “Marilyn lenses” that we view the world, how can we have any feeling connection to the feminine parts of reality — nature, the earth, our own feeling and relational dimensions, even those parts of ourselves that are receptive, gentle and creative?  If feminity can only be imaged as an absence of the masculine and its strength, then we are doomed to perceive only half of the world.  

Our culture is desperately yearning for the healing that the feminine can bring, but that healing is nowhere to be found in the tragic symbology of the female pushed into a mold created by the male.  In his 1975 film based on the “rock opera” Tommy by The Who, avant-garde film director Ken Russell captured our dilemma with a certain bizarre eloquence…”You talk about your woman…”

Tommy – “Eyesight to the Blind”

I’d gratefully welcome comments and reflections on Marilyn Monroe specifically, and, more generally on the place of femininity in our culture.  How has the way our culture treats the feminine impacted you?  I think that this is a very important matter, and I’d very much like to share with you about your views.

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca

PHOTO CREDIT: © Konstantin32 |Dreamstime.com

FILM CREDIT: “Tommy”, Directed by Ken Russell, © Columbia Pictures, 1975 

© 2010 Brian Collinson

 


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Mother, Father, Family

September 13th, 2009 · archetypal experience, complexes, father archetype, feminine, masculinity, mother archetype

Here’s a quote from Jung on the key importance of the mother, father and family archetypes:

Other Father Family for Vibrant Jung Thing BlogHow is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife , father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all, whose ceaseless activity is everywhere apparent even in a rationalistic age like ours…. The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience–so rich in emotional imagery of father, mother, child, husband and wife… has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles of religious and political life, in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic powers.

Clearly, Jung thought that coming to terms with the mother, the father, and the family was very important psychologically. How does our experience of father and mother impact us? What is its particular significance?

As with most things in the realm of the psyche, the answer to that question varies immensely from individual to individual. However, we can be sure that a person’s individual experience of parents and siblings–their family–is going to have an immense impact on how the individual feels about her- or himself, the world, and his or her place in it. That experience is going to have a profound effect on everything from very mundane, ordinary, every day events right up to and including a person’s deepest and most expansive religious and philosophical convictions. Because, among other things, it is going to have an immense bearing on what the psychologist Erikson referred to as basic trust.

It can require a very major effort in a person’s psychotherapy to understand the impact of that person’s father and mother on their psychic development, in all its complexity and dimensions, positive and negative. We can’t open all that up in one blog post. But here are a few questions to be thinking about:

The Mother and Father Archetypes in the Psyche

  • The bond with the mother is the earliest bond, and the one with the greatest impact on a child. It has a great deal to do with the feeling of belonging in the world, and feeling good about oneself, about one’s own being. How has your experience of your mother left you feeling about your life, your value, and how welcome you felt in your family — and in the world?
  • The bond with the father is deep, but has a rather different character than the bond with the mother.  At its most fundamental, it has to do with how we feel about ourselves, also, but it has an aspect to it of how we feel about our ability to be effective and capable people who can get what we want and need from our lives.  How has your experience of your father left you feeling about yourself as an agent in the world?  How has it left you feeling about your own power and ability?
  • If I am a woman, how did my relationship with my mother make me feel about myself as a woman? If I’m a man, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about women?
  • If I am a man, how did my relationship with my father make me feel about myself as a man? If I’m a woman, how did my relationship with my mother tend to make me feel about men?
  • Was I able to be myself in my family?  Or did I learn I had to be someone else, someone more acceptable, perhaps?  Someone tougher, or more capable?  Or “less emotional”?  Someone invisible, or someone “who doesn’t have needs”?  Or more “masculine”?  Or more “feminine”?  Or did I get the message that I could just relax and be myself?

 

These are very emotional questions for people. Not without reason did Jung call these “the mightiest archetypes of all”. Exploring the painful territory around this part of one’s life has led to many a journey to healing in therapy. I know that to be true of many of my clients, and I know it to be true in my own life.

I’d be interested in your comments about the impact of the parental archetypes in your life. How did you internalize your parents and your family?

My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson

Website for Brian’s Oakville & Mississauga Practice:  www.briancollinson.ca

Email: brian@briancollinson.ca

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PHOTO CREDITS: © Gary Woodard| Dreamstime.com

© 2009 Brian Collinson

 

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