Note: I wrote the text below to be listened to as a podcast, which is the most fun way to engage with this material. Here are the links to those three episodes, and their transcripts:
How has the self who has got over someone we’ve lost, someone we didn’t want to lose, but have, how is that self different to the self who hasn’t got over, who hasn’t recovered from whatever relational or existential blow that’s paining them, from whatever it was that severed the once interdependent, interconnected self from its beloved? Does that self, that self who has got over, walk in their new unattached (detached?) state, in a way that is different to how this self moves, this somewhat heavy and ponderous self that pushes its boulder of loss, like Sisyphus “in heavy boots, heading uphill”.
“This man Sisyphus,” writes Alice Oswald in her poem in tribute to the “spirit of repetition” (whether in ascendancy or fall) ”he, has to push!”
But push what, you might ask, and why? Why can’t he just chill? Chill, Sisyphus, chill. Detachment is chilly, attachment warm, but boy does detachment feel good when we are chilled right to the core of us. Numb. Indifferent. Desensitized.
Not this for the Sisyphus who has to push, asserts Alice Oswald, his “dense unthinkable rock /through bogs woods crops glittering / optical rivers and / hoof-sucked holes, / as high as starlight as low as granite, / and every inch of it he feels…”
What does he feel though, Sisyphus’s therapist, might ask were he to submit to that enquiry:
Again from Oswald:
There is not a soft or feeling part to this loss,
the rock’s heart is only another bone of the loss.
Now he knows he will not get back home,
his whole outlook becomes this black rock;
like a foetus, undistractedly listening,
to the clashing and whistling and tapping of another world
a world before the loss, before this having to push.
Oh chill, Sisyphus, chill! Why can’t you just chill!
But he has to endure his object [Oswald reveals]
he has to oppose his patience to his perceptions,
and there is neither mouth
nor eye to the loss, there is not anything
so closed, so abstract as this loss
[play: in the middle of the road there was a stone]
except innumerable other forms of undoing
that lie down under the shady trees
or chafe slowly in the seas.
“You remember too much, / my mother said to me recently. // Why hold onto all that?”
This is the poet Anne Carson’s mother who is berating her daughter from within Carson’s poem (The Glass Essay) about not getting over someone from the inside out, or the outside in, about getting too Sisyphean you might say with regard to her loss.
“That psychotherapy’s not doing you much good is it? / You aren’t getting over him.”
“Black open water comes / curdling up like anger.”
“You remember too much, / my mother said to me recently. // Why hold onto all that?”
“Why hold onto all that? And I said, / Where can I put it down? / She shifted to a question about airports.”
Airports are places where we take our selves to be released. They deliver “take off” options for bored, breakout, and sometimes bereaved selves, perhaps as another way of getting over someone or something, a way of getting higher than this earthbound animal being with its yearning for attachment, for finding a home, a secure base in another. The take-off, the journey and subsequent arrival at somewhere or someone distant and new is what we dream of from the place where we are bereft and bogged down in loss, particularly when we feel some loss in our lives curdling and choking out joy, cadaverous dark matter in an already sombre system.
This is why we might decide to actually work quite hard on getting over someone, once our seven days of sitting shiva have been observed (little grooming or washing, the body grounded as much as possible, to the floor or a low stool). From this state we face head-on, head-down the unwieldy rock, that physically tangible void which only reminds us, when we engage with it at a psychic level or a representational one, that we are now addressing ghosts and ghostly memories of some dear departed once was or could have been. For they will not hear these words.
“Why hold onto all that? And I said, / Where can I put it down?
But let’s say there is a way to put our loss “down” for a while, to get over someone in the manner we might wish for ourselves, the selves that need to continue living with and through our ongoing privations. What might this process look like? Or sound like? And where, as well as why, would a Tarot card come into play, especially the one I draw again and again in my sitting-shiva state: a card showing two lovers (but they could also be siblings or friends) exchanging oversized golden cups in some sort of bucolic setting. What has this got to do with getting over someone, getting over the loss of another?
[I wrote the above about a month ago, but even now, it is already sounding hugely overblown and overdone and somewhat melodramatic forward slash anima-suffused. Might the gaucheness of this earlier expression compared to how I’d write it now signal at least some getting over-ness for me? Perhaps. Anyway, continue with the lugubrious narration please, me of a month ago.]
Well, thank you, ever-so-slightly more chilled future-self.
So loss, and how to get over it. Well, Instead of the usual Ted/TedX bish bash bosh approach (although Antonio Pascual-Leone’s 3-step How To Get Over The End of A Relationship is really worth checking out on that front) what if the getting-over process were to be imagined as a kind of diatonic scale [Play diatonic scale of C ]. You may recognise that one as the diatonic on C, also known as the scale of C-Major: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.
I don’t think though that this is what getting over someone sounds like. Or at least not in the felt experience of it, in the day-to-day, hour-to-hour living with our losing. Maybe as a sort of there-there though, the scale through which others sometimes try to console us.
But surely getting over someone is less of a major, more of a minor-scale affair?
So here’s C-minor: C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭, C. That’s better. Plenty of flat notes in that one (B♭A♭E♭).
Oh what now?
We’re no more?
What to do?
To which C-minor goes:
This is going to hurt I’m afraid.
Missing someone every day.
WIshing we had found a way to stay [together].
I don’t hear much hope in C-minor though, and when we are getting, or not getting, over someone we need hope, and faith, and all of those other minor but harmony-supporting factors.
So let’s try and do this process in the key of C-harmonic minor which sounds like this: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C.
Can you hear that little lift on the B-note, the one just before the top-C. In C-minor the B is flat. In C harmonic minor, the B, the note of being you might say, still finds a way to sing, to shine, clean, pure, and hopeful-ish.
Yes its shit but you’ll get through it.
Show me how to get over you.
Here are a few things you can do.
OK, so if that’s the case, let’s do it. I offer you, my fellow lovelorn creatures, 3 spells channeling the Magician Archetype (shazam!) for getting over someone.
⚡ SPELL ONE: A Spell for Connection & Centering ⚡
So let’s start with the first note of recovery, a C-note spell, this is the spell of C, this is the spell of C, this is the spell of C [Farewell OK, riff from Elvis Costello]
COSTELLO QUOTE: “What better than to open with a song that says farewell ok. Or farewell…ok?
Loss by its very nature is profoundly de-centering.
We come into existence as interdependent, even codependent creatures (although this is an idea or term that is often stigmatised these days). Perhaps a less loaded way to refer to this is through a word I’ve picked up from the novelist Ruth Ozeki, which is that we are inter-being creatures. Maybe that’s a less loaded way to refer to what parents are to their children, but equally the inter-being of friends, romantic partners, colleagues, and also therapists and their clients. The way my consciousness is and responds to the world, is inextricably bound up with yours, yes yours (hello) and everyone else’s. This is inter-being. You and me are not separate entities from an inter-perspective, we shape each other’s being, and are crucial to the lives we interact with.
Two forces of being create something we call a relationship and this relationship, if we are lucky, is able to centre and hold and ground us in the constant, ever-changing flux of existence.
After the FO however, the farewell ok – which is perhaps a nicer way of saying that other FO expression that gets shot like a poison arrow into the backs of the retreating troops- we stumble and fall, as if our beloved’s departing words truly consist of something ruinous and deadly for the psyche. Which perhaps they do, provoking a kind of magnificent….hurt.
ELVIS COSTELLO QUOTE – see/hear audio.
After the hurt of a breakup or some other loss, we fall once more back into that amorphous sea of existence, a decentred place which maybe had been kept at bay for a while, as relationships often help to structure and fortify ourselves against the dark sea of existential unease, aging, sickness, death etc.
At this moment we need practices that help centre us as much as possible so that our lives don’t become a litany of curses against the self who couldn’t hold onto or keep a relationship going in the way it needed to kept going, or against the other who didn’t want us in the ways we wanted to be wanted, wanted or accepted or tolerated, or whatever our needs might have been.
In The Glass Essay, Anne Carson centres her self by going to visit her mother who “lives on a moor in the north… Alone.” She also centres herself in writing and reading through “the collected Works of Emily Brontë / this is my favourite author…“
Another important aspect of centring is to find a practice that also feeds us with some of the love and affection that has been withdrawn from our relational table. In the classic Stephen Stills song, Love the One You’re With he counsels us to to not “be angry or sad”, or at least not become engulfed with that inevitable anger and sadness of being dropped, “don’t start crying over the good times you’ve had, there’s a girl… “
I read hear the spell that Sills is trying to cast in different ways. One of them is a rebound spell.
Get back on the swipe left swipe right horse, the Hinge horse the bumble horse the plenty of fish in the seahorse and find your next love who like you now “is just waiting for something to do“.
This may work for Stephen with a p, but it doesn’t seem to work for Steven with a v. Flirtation and novelty don’t necessarily furnish us with that relational energy we need, nor the love we hope will one day fill that void of loss. Perhaps all it does is cover up the magnificent Sisyphean hurt which we push around in our heads all day, and especially at night. Instead, maybe the spell is that of continuing to love those other beings who make up our world, who are still with us, to love them with with a fierce passion, as fierce as anything we ever brought to that space of interbeing which is now no longer accessible in the way it was before, the interbeing now a fortress with some Leave Me Alone mote encircling it, heavily guarded.
For me, centering myself in the love of those i’m with, means reconnecting as well as continuing to connect in some deep human animal to animal human way with for example this creature I call Max, who shares my life consistently, an inter-being entity who lives and breathes the same air that I do, who I sometimes take for granted. We forget when lovelorn about all the other creatures out there who we can love with focused tenderness. Just placing my hand on Max’s furry back or drinking in deeply of the love that shines from his eyes works as a magical balm. It is a very pure love, the love that shines from Max’s eyes, a Love with a capital L, that often leads me to confuse dog with god. I am happy to be confused in this way. The love of a creature like Max is a form of profound centering. Maybe because it brings us back to some core relationship, to that life-affirming love within ourselves if you like, a stablising, settling force in the sometimes vast and empty seas of undoing and abandonment.
Talking is a deeply centering practice for me too. Talking to my friend Charlie, my brother, my mother and one of my fathers (the one who engages in those kinds of conversations), but even more my clients center me on a daily basis in our inter-being, in sharing and hopefully halving the burden of their magnificent hurts.
As is connecting with this, with you, my primary higher power, this love (I have no other word for it) that I have always channelled into creative projects in order to both understand and be understood: projects that are often foolishly magical, or magically foolish, therapeutic creativity as opposed to creative therapy.
Indeed any practice that brings us back from our wide-eyed, aghast, despairing selves is helpful, that centers us away or within the thoughts that circle around the carrion of loss like buzzards waiting to sweep down on the corpse and pick at the remaining flesh, attempting to denude the tender beautiful and bountiful specificity of what was, the living flesh of our relationship that once was, in order to reveal the archetypal anima/animus bones we often picked with each other, or that were picked out of us, in that magical interbeing of a loving relationship that once held two weird and wonderful human animals together for a while.
I took up the practice of meditation.
Each morning I sat on the floor in front of my sofa
and chanted bits of old Latin prayers.
De profundis clamavi ad te Domine.
Each morning a vision came to me.
Gradually I understood that these were naked glimpses of my soul.
I called them Nudes.
Nude #1. Woman alone on a hill.
She stands into the wind.
It is a hard wind slanting from the north.
Long flaps and shreds of flesh rip off the woman’s body and lift
and blow away on the wind, leaving
an exposed column of nerve and blood and muscle
calling mutely through lipless mouth.
It pains me to record this,
I am not a melodramatic person.
But soul is “hewn in a wild workshop”
as Charlotte Brontë says of Wuthering Heights.
This is true. Soul is hewn in a wild workshop. To put this in a Jungian frame we might say that we step into the wild workshop of a relationship in the hope (although we may not frame it in this way in the early stages of our union) of making contact with our own relational soul, our own inner anima or animus, to guide us through further transitions and growth. Jung often refers to these archetypal forces as our “soul images,“ but also as the “not-I“, which is to say: the stranger, the human animal you take a punt on, swipe right on on a dating app for example. Hence this complimentary but also at times oppositional quality of Eros.
The Jungs, both Emma and Carl, I am reading Emma’s book called Anima and Animus at the moment, believed that the various conflicts which occur within a relationship can be likened to a kind of possession, as if by a demon. The demon in this case is an image, an Imago of a part of our own psyche or soul which we may have pushed down into the depths of us, until it resurfaces in the lake of interbeing as a shark or killer whale. Moby Dick, eat your briny heart out. For Jungians, these anima-animus conflicts can only be worked through and find their full realisation and integration within the partnership itself, within the watery realms of our interbeing.
This is perhaps borne out in Carsons exchanges with her psychotherapist HAW (HAW as opposed to WHORE) throughout the Glass Essay which sound a bit like this:
I began telling Dr. Haw
about the Nudes. She said,
When you see these horrible images why do you stay with them?
Why keep watching? Why not
go away? I was amazed.
Go away where? I said.
This still seems to me a good question..
I love the fact that the psychotherapist in this poem is called Haw (HAW, not WHORE) which rhymes with LAW (LAW, not LORE) the name of the Carson’s former beloved.
At 4 A.M. I wake. Thinking
of the man who
left in September.
His name was Law.
My face in the bathroom mirror
has white streaks down it.
I rinse the face and return to bed.
Sometimes we need to centre ourselves with a HAW (HAW etc.) after the loss of a LAW. The centering, guiding, stabilising law of love. Psychotherapists can sometimes return us to ourselves by getting together for a 50 minute “date” once or twice a week, and caring for us, as we were cared for before. And so in some way keeping going that law of love which states, you are lovable even now, don’t forget that. Haw centres the lost soul, from the decentering after-effects of Law expressed though another’s wants and wishes. Carson wrote a whole book about the weird laws of love called Eros: The Bittersweet, which amongst other things is a riff on that famous epigram from Catullus:
Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior
(Forgive my pronunciation, as pretentious as I sometimes sound, I never studied Latin]
I hate and I love. Why? you might ask. I don’t know. But I feel it happening and I hurt.
In Eros: The Bittersweet Carson writes of this dialectic of Magnificent Hurt that we often refer to when we think of Love as a process:
“A simultaneity of pleasure and pain is at issue….Love and hate construct between them the machinery of human contact. Does it make sense to locate both poles of this affect within the single emotional event of eros? Presumably, yes, if friend [the beloved who we miss] and enemy [that hurtful part of the beloved we don’t miss] converge in the being who is its occasion.”
I think that’s worth hearing again: “A simultaneity of pleasure and pain is at issue….Love and hate construct between them the machinery of human contact. Does it make sense to locate both poles of this affect within the single emotional event of eros? Presumably, yes, if friend [the beloved who we miss] and enemy [that hurtful part of the beloved we don’t miss] converge in the being who is its occasion.”
When anima/Animus possession occurs, according to the Jungs, this machinery of human contact grinds to a halt. Both parties are desperate to get some attention for their magnificent hurt, but not really willing to give attention to the other’s Magnificent Hurt, perhaps even viewing the other hurt as self-serving or inconsistent in some way.
One soul in the lake of interbeing we call a relationship (the anima, in this case) tries to get attention by melancholically philosophising about the conflict that has arisen as if trying out for an Arthur Schopenhauer biopic or the lead role in a television adaptation of The Sorrows of Young Werther. Whilst the soul (the animus) manifests oppositionally to the one who is trying to get their attention.
The animus gets attention by downplaying, and if possible, not giving attention to a perceived form of neediness expressed between the lines of a WhatsApp message from their Schopenhauerian lover. As you can see, this becomes a very tight existential knot, because naturally this animus-infused FO factor often just incites the anima driven mansplaining and boo-hooing even further. An anima possession, according to Emma and Carl Jung, shows itself through the female soul image in the male psyche, which in conflict becomes plaintive and gloomy, and maybe even downright melodramatic (this man Sisyphus he has to push!) whilst the male soul image in the female psyche, shows up to the party as Judge, Emperor, and Battle-Scarred Warrior: ready to call out each neurosis in her beloved as a tragic character flaw, which indeed it may very well be.
I use the words female and male here as the Jungs did, but this phenomenon is not at all gendered. We might equally call these not-I soul images yin and yang, or too-much, too-soft and gloopy (that would be the anima) versus too little and too hard (animus). And yet, even here, the machinery of human contact continues. Anima becomes the moany, sappy struggling sisyphus, and Animus the rock.
I have called this an existential knot, but it is also, I realise in relating it to you an almighty getting of our interbeing knickers in a twist: the twist of destabilising, unconscious complexes without giving anyone any time off for the flex and fun of reconnecting and relating to each other.
The idea of anima and animus possession, is for me right now the best description of how conflict and decentring occurs in any romantic relationships, which is why we try to center ourselves once more, in the emptiness that feels as hard as rock to embrace or push forwards in our lives. Whatever form of centering we choose needs to feel completely antithetical to that Farewell OK. Instead like Chubby Checker’s jovial chug-a-lug of a song, the spell we require in these moments needs to be 100% welcoming and embracing, like a sort of loving broom which might in time sweep away all that relationship-upsetting anima and animus knackering, knicker-twisting hoo-ha, so that it might in time once more dissolve into the fleeting, precious wave-like emptiness of consciousness itself.
“Emptiness really refers to reality as it is. That everything in the world is empty of a fixed permanent abiding self. In other words everything is impermanent. Everything changes. And at the same time, everything is also completely interconnected. And coexist with everything else. And cannot exist without everything else. And so, it’s just simply describing the nature of things to materialise, to constellated, to come into being, to come into form, and then to fall apart again. One metaphor that I tend to like is the metaphor of a wave,. So if you imagine the ocean has this vast expanse of emptiness. Just as fast still ocean. And then the planet shift, and the tide pool, and the moon waxes and wanes, and suddenly from this emptiness, a wave starts to form.”
And it begins to poke it little head up from the ocean, and it looks around, and it’s sort of like, wow look at me I’m a wave!
I’m pretty great, I’m really something! And then of course the planet continues to turn, the tides continue to pull, and then the wave starts to recede, and it’s like, oh no help!
And it disappears back into the ocean again. So this is kind of the relationship I see between form and emptiness. Do you know the wave is this temporary form that pops up, and thinks it’s really something, just like us, but then time works on us, and the form which we’re in now, starts to recede again, and the wave becomes part of the ocean, and we become part of the planet, and it’s this constant flux, this ebon flow, which is completely about impermanence, and it’s also completely about interbeing, or in Buddhism we call it dependent co-arising that we are entirely dependent on our context, and within the context, we arise and then we fall.
So it’s this notion of interbeing, I think which is really at the heart of the word emptiness.”
⚡ SPELL TWO: A Spell for Connection & Centering ⚡
When we are trying to get over someone we are often open to advice. Do this, do that. Try not to fall into this trap, or that one. Don’t even think about doing that! Etcetera. All of it offered to the brokenhearted as a panacea, as well as a kind of spell, an exorcism if you like, to hurry the anima/animus possession of Eros from our hearts so that we can get back on track with our single lives again. [Audio pep up song]
Sometimes advice comes from unexpected directions, like an Internet Pal from across the ocean who WhatsApps me their 11 year old daughter outlining her advice for my Recovery Plan[audio: Try A New Food]
I can see how trying some new food on a daily basis might work well as a pick me up spell, but having put on some weight in the settling down stage of my relationship (about 350 g of take-it-easy, Shared Oral Gratification for each month we were together) I worry that trying new food might continue this trajectory. Now that I am single again, I need to be slim and single in order to be more desirable/lovable for whoever next picks me off the carefully planogramed Hinge or Bumble shelves.
But I like this Try-A-New Thing Idea, and for me that turns out to be a new dance, or rather finding a new place to dance, and making myself move in the way on a daily basis, no matter how leaden I feel in the run up to the practice. In order to do this, for the first month after our separation, I take myself off between the hours of three and five with Max and we go some place where we might create together a kind of silent disco, ideally somewhere where we won’t be spotted: in the basketball courts at the local park after nightfall, or in a small clearing of trees on Stanmore Common. Although dancing is always a tonic, this practice cuts in different ways, as this is the kind of thing the three of us would often do. Somewhere in the wilds of our being and the natural world. Which makes me realise that the dancing has to be combined with another kind of exercising, or exorcising with an O rather than an E.
What is it I want to exorcise? I guess I want to drive out in some way all the attribution and castigation and animadversion, all the admonishing and finger-pointing blame and fault-finding within me. At the end of the relationship, we are often filled with a kind of impeachment mindset which does us no good whatsoever. Blame fueled by the anima of a male-identified creature, often centres on misattunement and neglect by our beloved, whist the animus residing in the heart of a female-identified creatures, calls into question the very cohesion and coherence of the other’s being, pointing out character flaws and defects which, like a car with dents and bumps and slightly worn out braking pads, might be issued with an order to take itself off to a mechanic so as to be “fixed” or revamped in some way. The mechanics who offer this kind of reinvention or renewal are now predominantly, for our culture, psychotherapists and life coaches, the HAWs (HAW) of this world. So it is no surprise, that a psychotherapist in training (my beloved) would turn to another psychotherapist no longer in training (me) and sing to him a few lines from that brilliantly funny Loudon Wainwright song Therapy: “I think you’re just a little crazy, you need some therapy that’s all.”
Wainwright’s song was written in the 80s, but has become more and more of a cri-de-coeur for the Gen Y’s and Gen Zs of our time. For is not therapy our new secular religion? Considered to be the answer, perhaps the only answer, for everything, and everyone.
For me as a therapist, this is good for business, but for me as a flawed human being I struggle with the therapy-will-fix-the-things-I-don’t-like-about-you fantasty, perhaps because I have already had plenty of therapy (hundreds and hundreds of hours of the stuff) with the notion that this might be a relational magic bullet that releases us for evermore from anima or animus possession, but I don’t think it works like that. Or if it does, it can only work with both parties taking responsibility for their anima/animus constellations and unfortunately that’s not how it panned out for us.
I’m full of fear and paranoia (that would be the animus)
You are hysterical and sad (anima)
Let’s do it, babe, you know I love you (really?)
It costs so much, it can’t be bad.
I don’t know why you love me, baby
I hardly love myself at all
I think we’re both a little crazy
We need some therapy that’s all.
“There are no simple solutions to love problems in life,” writes the analytical psychologist John E. Sanford in his book on anima/animus entanglement The Invisible Partners, “and every love relationship requires a price from us, as well as a special kind of creative response to our conflicts” he concludes.
Emma Jung was often deranged by Carl’s Anima. Carl admits as much in his Two Essays on Analytical Psychology where he writes: “I recognize that there is some psychic factor (the anima) active in me which eludes my conscious will in the most incredible manner. It can put extraordinary ideas into my head, induce in me unwanted and unwelcome moods and emotions, lead me to astonishing actions for which I can accept no responsibility, and upsets my relations with other people in a very irritating way, etc. [I wonder what that etc. is about!]”
He continues with the hand-wringing about his own Anima: “I feel powerless against my Anima and, what is worse, I am in love with it, so that all I can do is marvel.”
Emma, in a talk to the Psychological society in 1934 which became the basis for her short book Anima and Animus, refers to her struggles with Carl’s Anima in the following passage:
“We become aware, to our great confusion and disappointment, that the man who seemed to embody our image of the Animus does not correspond to it in the least, but continually behaves quite differently from the way we think he should. At first, perhaps, we try to deceive ourselves about this and often succeed relatively easily, thanks to an aptitude for effacing differences, which we owe to blurred powers of discrimination. Often we try with real cunning to make the man be what we think he ought to represent. Not only do we consciously exert force or pressure; far more frequently we quite unconsciously force our partner, by our behavior, into archetypal or anima reactions. Naturally, the same holds good for the man in his attitude toward the woman. He, too, would like to see in her the image that floats before him, and by this wish, which works like a suggestion, he may bring it about that she does not live her real self but becomes an anima figure. This, and the fact that the anima and animus mutually constellate each other (since an anima manifestation calls forth the animus, and vice versa, producing a vicious circle very difficult to break), forms one of the worst complications in the relations between men and women.”
““Everyone in the audience at the Psychological Club must have known whose animus and anima Emma was talking about,” writes Catrine Clay in her book about Emma Jung and her marriage to Carl, which is called Labyrinths (a wonderful book, I’d recommend it).
But what is the answer to this viscous circle of anima-animus possession that Emma refers to in her talk. Is it really just that: “You need some more therapy that’s all.” Emma suggests that we need to withdraw blame and law-making injunctions as much as possible, and instead reconnect outside the realm of Anima and Animus to other parts of our selves as well as each other. This exorcism is not that of erasing or eliminating the other person from consciousness, but rather in neutralising to some extent our connection to the part of us that resides and also torments our minds, from within the other’s psyche. For me, this exorcism requires me to stop sending I-miss-you emails written from the Anima, which predominantly receive terse Animus response: “Farewell OK, Steve. Yours Sincerely, Animus”
The word animosity, which is now a synonym for hostility wends its way through our language via the 15th century meaning of the word denoting vigour and bravery, (from the old French animosité referring to boldness of spirit). This boldness gets its powe from the Latin animus (of the non-hostile kind) meaning life or breath. I find it interesting that this word starts from a place denoting openness, or at least some kind of inhale/exhale balance and lands up as we human animals often do, in the offensive, in the boxing ring of animosity, which perhaps is really just an overdose of that boldness and vigour through which love, the connective (not too much, not too little, just enough) version and vision of interbeing, takes wing.
Exorcism of these oppressive, overstated versions of anima and animus, require more than words to rid us of them. As with other types of exorcism, an embodied response is usually more effective than an email or a WhatsApp message. What we need is a smile or a look of sympathy delivered from one human animal face to another; an embrace, a swim, dancing or a walk together are worth a million terse exchanges. At some core level, I think this is what the HAWs of this world (HAW) give their clients or patients, reconnecting them back to the sweet interbeing of human care and attention. But if this embodied togetherness is not accessible or affordable to us, we can at least dance, and stretch, and walk, and sing, and draw, and paint, and garden our way back to some kind of inner-integration which perhaps also leads us to my next and final spell.
⚡ SPELL THREE: A Spell for Beholding, Beholding, Beholding ⚡
This is a B spell where the B stands for BEHOLD. BEHOLD is the spell we cast for our selves every time we draw a tarot card in response to a burning question, or chat to a psychotherapist or someone who focuses on us in a caring way. Sometimes, when that card is drawn again and again, we might be able to behold and acknowledge aspects of ourselves and that other participant in the relationship that we hadn’t acknowledged before.
Which is how it is for me and the Two of Cups, a card that has steadfastly accompanied my Anima through its getting overness, a card I keep on drawing in relation to the koan of relationship, and maybe, perhaps so that I can behold, once, twice, thrice (for three is the magic number, right) something that is core to all relationships?
What is it we behold when we first meet the Two of Cups? If you don’t know the card, have a quick Google of it online as you listen. The Two of Cups shows us a fool, maybe even that Archetypal fool who we find at the start of the Tarot pack: gaily traipsing off some unseen ledge with his faithful doggy daemon prancing by his side. It certainly looks like the same character who I recently devoted some early episodes to on this podcast. He is wearing the same clothes as that Archetypal Fool, the same flowery tunic and yellow stockings. His beloved is dressed in flowing robes the colour of sky and snow, clothing that we associate with the High Priestess of the Major Arcana. If they are lovers, we might ask: how are they so, and why? A Fool with a High Priestess? Surely that can’t work! But maybe it can? High Priestesses sometimes have a soft spot for Foolish Magicians or Magical Fools: especially those Fools who have something in them that yearns intensely for the numinous. The Holy Fool, we sometimes call this creature. So these two might look or sound like an odd couple, but on this card, the Two of Cups, they make sense in some way, balancing each other out.
The Two of Cups echoes the sixth card in the major arcana, that of the Lovers who stand somewhat gormlessly waiting for an angel with its hair on fire to weld Anima to Animus. The angel’s hairdo reminds us of that burning bush which once spoke it’s “I Am What I Am” revelatory message to one of my forefathers, Moses. On the lover’s card, the card of Eros, it is this fiery angel that is supposedly going to unite the often-aligned, but also sometimes misaligned energies, of Adam and Eve as they reiterate themselves through time. The tree of life stands behind the Archetypal Adam; the tree of knowledge entwined with the serpent of unconscious wisdom can be seen behind Eve.
The man looks at the women as if to say here I am, I am yours if you want me! I offer my focus, my devotion, my life-force including some of its lava-like, Anima outpourings (there is a volcano in the background). I offer this as a complement to your leafy and fructifying knowledge of birth and death, beginnings and endings. And maybe if we both work at it, we shall in time be brought into the sanctified embrace of that Higher Power we call Love (brief glance to the Angel of Eros with its hair on fire).
The two trees on the Lovers’ card also map onto the Anima and Animus polarities of our intertwined souls. The Anima, in its life giving state, is all about Love, Sacrifice, and Emotion with a capital (but also sometimes melodramatic) L E S. Which is lovely when delivered in the quantities we like, but sometimes it is delivered in quantities we don’t particularly want or need, and then we become Too Much. My Anima is often Too-Much in the realm of Eros. Like Carl, I feel powerless against my Anima and, what is worse, I too am in love with it, so that all I can do at times is marvel but also mope at its fuck-uppery energies. The Animus, as you may have understood by now, doesn’t have this sloppy emotionality to it in the slightest. For it is about Logos, about shaping experience and relationships, as well as other people.
This is why the High Priestess, when possessed by her Animus, can sometimes manifest in the guise of a Manager, even Emperor, or a sort of Chairman of The Board, Logan Roy eat your heart out, who suffers no fools and takes no shit. Communications sent through the Animus are often very formal and clipped, terse and businesslike. “If the anima is the Master of Moods as well as moodiness in the male-identified psyche,” writes John Sanford, “the Animus is Master of Opinion, Conjecture, and Presumption”. To counter the Anima’s characteristic neuroticism, the Animus typically expresses itself in judgements, generalisations, critical statements and apodictic assertions.”
I had to look up that word “apodictic” which means something like “clearly established, and beyond dispute”. As in: is what it is, dude, take it or leave it! When an Animus communicates a problem as it sees it, any alternative framing is viewed as childish, or foolish nonsense. Shut up Anima, shut up Anima, shut up Anima.
But of course the Anima is just as blind and wilful and pigheaded as its Animus counterpart. When emotions are running high, it bombards the Chairman of The Board with its elaborate, labyrinthine ideas and fears which unsurprisingly the Animus finds beyond its paygrade to even acknowledge for the most part. The histrionic Anima (this is how the Animus often views Anima expression) will often be subjected to a form of gaslighting, and ordered to get itself rectified or fixed by third party, such as a shrink or some other moral authority. There is no space or time in the relationship for passions running high. The only way to express disagreement is through muted deliberation and consultation.
Unlike the Lovers Card, the two of cups shows us a post-honeymoon couple, negotiating remittances and recompense in order to vouchsafe the continuance of their love-bond. Sex and the excitement of that once shiny new relationship, represented by the phallic mountain in the background of the Lovers’ card, is no longer sufficient reward for staying together. Instead of the Tree of Life and Knowledge, the shared goal is more domestic, a shared abode in the countryside, which see in the distance on the Two of Cups card. No longer does a wish fulfilling Angel with its hair on fire hover over the lovers’ heads but rather a winged lion who brings to this negotiation a caduceus, which is to say a short, blunt staff entwined by serpents which has existed in our culture for anything up to 6000 years.
The caduceus is often carried by the Greek God Hermes the Messenger God, protector of travellers, thieves, merchants, and orators. Hermes moves quickly and freely between the world of mortal, conditional love, represented here by the Cups, proffered when each beloved contractually delivers, and withheld when they don’t.
In Roman mythology, Hermes is known as Mercury the name derived from the Latin merx, connected to merchants, merchandise, and commerce. In this Two of Cups relationship, the exchange becomes a list of desires to be met, and love turns into a logistical arbitration or transaction: I will continue to pour care and concern from my cup into yours but only if certain key criteria are met. If not, farewell OK.
“The key word in coming to terms with the anima and the animus is relationship”, writes John Sarno. “Anima and animus are archetypal figures, which means they do not simply go away and disappear from one’s life, but act like permanent partners with whom we must find some way of relating no matter how difficult they may be. But relationship makes all the difference. When a figure of the unconscious is denied, rejected, or ignored, it turns against us and shows its negative side. When it is accepted, understood, and related to, its positive side tends to appear.”
That’s right, in time we can come to not only tolerate, but even love our lover’s anima or animus. But only if we make space for these parts of ourselves in the relationship, rather than exiling them from our interbeing.
The second time I draw the card, I see things slightly differently. This time the Fool is not only holding onto his precious cup but also reaching for the cup of his beloved. This is the anima-led, emotionally greedy fool, the fool as addict who can never get enough of his favourite drug. We all, I believe, become somewhat addicted or dependent on our partners, no matter how boundaried we start out. Managing this dependency is of course one of the skills of a good relationship. My Anima, as is often the case, is sometimes a very needy creature, which unfortunately, particularly if you identify as a man in our culture, is considered a terribly unattractive trait.
The Two of Cups I now behold as an indictment of my sometimes over-needy neediness. And yet, as Jung admitted over a hundred years ago, about his over-needy and annoying neediness, I am also drawn to it, as I am drawn to the neediness of my Anima as she manifests in the not-I, in the You of my beloved. I love to be needed, and I’d like in turn, to be able to need. I also like (to some extent) my anima’s wholly un-macho vulnerability, excitability, earnestness, sentimentality and unadulterated shmaltz. And like Jung, I can sometimes only marvel at the extent of it bullshit and blarney which it often spouts in pursuit of insight. Oh for fucksake, Anima, chill, why can’t you chill. Well, at times, it can’t. Even now, can’t you hear it? What is a podcast I ask you, if not an anima-driven project?
The third time I draw the card, I behold once more a very different picture to my early dealings with this card: the fool, once again, is just about to grasp for the cup of the High Priestess, but seeing the resistance in her eyes, that apodictic resolution in her bearing, withdraws his hand, and steps back. There is no requirement now for us to share anymore the contents of our cup, why should there be, and she is not willing to let him see into the vulnerable depths of her being either. A kind of self individuation, which can sometimes get confused with an impenetrable self-validation has now occurred. The interbeing of the relationship that was is now sundered.
There is a kind of hapless magic to this moment too. One large, foam ball of Unity is pushed into the clenched fist of a magician, and when the hand unclenches, palm up, two smaller but wholly single foam balls roll out of it, and disperse in separate directions. As they were before they met, unknown to each other, strangers once more, they will soon be swallowed up by the emptiness of time and distance.
It is at this point I guess that we might truly declare the spell to have worked. We might at this moment, even believe ourselves to have finally got over the other person who we once thought or hoped we would never get over, wanting to both live and die in their embrace. We see the trick, if that is what it is, that has been played on us by Eros, this sad and strange game of lovers leapfrog, choreographed by a god that doesn’t know our names, nor cares one bit for our enduring contentment, congeniality or composure.