Conversation Psyche

Dismantling the Patriarchy Within

Faranak Mirjalili | My name is Faranak Mirjalili and I’m a Jungian analyst and the founder of the Anima Mundi School, a place of learning and research for the feminine and the world’s soul. For this interview, I sat down with dear friend and mentor, Anne Baring. Anne, is a retired Jungian analyst, a writer and researcher on the history of feminine consciousness, depth psychology and mythology. We sat down to speak about the feminine psyche, both individually and collectively, and we also sat down to discuss the challenges that we are facing in this time. We often hear these days, that the time of patriarchy is over. However, if we are to survive as a human species, and most importantly as a whole earth species, we need to come into a better understanding and balance between the feminine and masculine principles. Both these principles need to be equally honored, respected and lived.

Art | Cameron Grayson

But what does this really mean when patriarchy has reigned for more than 4,000 years. How do we define the feminine? How do we know what our feminine qualities are and what does it even mean to be a woman in a time of global climate catastrophe? Are we doing enough as women to stand up against tyrannical political leaders? Is it enough to stand up in protest and even to say no to that which we no longer accept? Are we doing enough to dismantle patriarchy through our outer actions? From a Jungian perspective, real change happens within and this is true for both individual and collective change. We turn towards the inner figures of our dreams and the messages the unconscious gives us to try to find and locate these old patriarchal patterns that are rooted within us. So that from that place we can dismantle, transfigure, and transform them and rebirth them into a new masculine principle that will protect and serve life.

Now, this is quite difficult and arduous work. If you think of all the thousands of years of patriarchy and the programming and harm this has done to our feminine body, soul, and mind. Jung called the masculine principle within a woman, the animus; for a woman to really encounter her animus and to really work and transform him she first needs to walk through the valley of her own shadow.

Anne Baring | The personal shadow has to do with our individual lives and our individual experience of parents, school, university, jobs, life, et cetera, and our relationships, all our relationships. And the more we can remember our feelings as a child, what we were able to express or allowed to express and what we were not allowed to express and then look at the aspects of ourselves that might have been lost or hidden or buried and that need to be recovered. In my own case, it was writing, I had no idea that I could write and yet what I wanted to do was write. It was a strange thing of wanting to, but not knowing that one could. It’s that kind of thing. Bringing the shadow back into consciousness is about becoming aware of gifts you may not know you have. So many people have dreams of being attacked by a burglar or a murderer and of course they’re terrified of the dream or nightmare. But with understanding, asking the question, ‘what is that murderer?’ Why is he wanting to kill you? Very often they’re trying to get your attention, these attacking figures. They really want to be integrated into the psyche and you need help with that. It’s very difficult to do it on your own.

So what is attacking them would be what they’re most frightened of. But I’ve helped many people who have had that murderer transformed into a helper an invaluable assistant, a companion. I remember a dream early on in my analysis, with a woman analyst called Hella Adler. The dream was that I was sitting in my bed at night with a golden pen in my hand with a piece of paper on my lap. And then I became aware that behind me, there was a murderer with a knife in his hand, creeping up and about to stab me in the back. At which point naturally I woke up and after many long months and years of work transformed that murderer into a very helpful animus figure, who helped me to write my books.

So that was a transformation—the dream I had at the beginning, when I had no idea that I could write and then gradually that murderer or would be murderer, was transformed and the golden pen began to write. The gold is an alchemical image of the supreme value. So that is one example, but there are many, many dreams that women have been attacked and they may take the dream too literally, rather than symbolically. What is murdering me in my own psyche? What is the critical voice, which is saying, “whatever you do is no good, you’re rubbish, don’t pay attention to that because it’s no good, leave all that behind?” Whatever the voice is saying to women and to men,—because it could also be the anima of a man speaking negatively—they need to write down what that voice is saying. That’s terribly important and they’ll be amazed what they write down. Maybe not more than a few sentences, but it may be a sentence that was repeated over and over again, since they were a child: “I’m no good. I’m not as good as him or her. My brother’s better than I am”; whatever it might be—“my father doesn’t love me therefore, I’m no good.” Get the voice down onto paper.

Faranak | According to Jung when we turn towards the inner figure of our dreams, we don’t only encounter material that belongs to us individually on a personal level, but we can actually encounter what he called more collective layers of the psyche. Now this can be anything from family, ancestral, cultural, memories or even the archaic memories of humanity. In the following dream, we will hear an example of where the dreamer encounters the animus, not only on a personal, but also on a collective level.

Speaker 3 | In this dream I’m walking down this fancy carpark towards an empty prison cell. When I opened one of the guard doors, I find all these young, dead men inside there lying on the floor and they’re covered in a little bit of water. I close the door again and when I look back to the carpark, inside all of the cars are dead men now and they’ve turned blue because they’ve been dead for a while. When I look to my left behind the fence, there’s a black man coming towards me and he’s able to get through the gates and I’m absolutely petrified because I know that if he will get to me, he will rape and kill me. So I start to run towards this playground carousel, and he runs after me and we just go round and round this carousel and in my fear, I start to plead with him and I ask him, please stop because if you continue, the abuse will also just continue and as I say this, I can see his story and he’s had exactly the same thing happening to him. And when I see that, I also see that he starts crying, he just bursts out into tears and he collapses on the floor on the other side of the carousel and both of us are slumped down, absolutely devastated and I wake up.

Anne | This dream, I think is very interesting because it really shows the collective situation of men in our culture and men, as they’ve had to live their lives for thousands of years as warriors, they have had no choice. They’re sent to war, really as sacrificial victims at the order of governments who’ve entered into this war and then they act their part, as warriors. Some may be killed and some may not be killed, but they have no real choice. Once they’ve decided to be soldiers, they have no choice. They have to obey orders after that. And they’re enormously brave. One can feel the greatest sympathy for what their fate has been for thousands of years in which they didn’t have a voice. And in a way, this dream is giving them a voice because it’s showing them that they’d been drowned in the waters of the unconscious. They’d been, as it were, buried or forgotten. Their feelings have not been valued. They have not been given the attention that they need.

Then the next part of the dream where the man comes against you and you sense him coming to rape you and murder you that is the natural reaction to a woman by men who’ve been traumatized by having their feelings completely neglected for thousands of years. So woman is the enemy. But woman is the projection of the unconscious feminine aspect of their own nature, their own deepest feelings that have never been or listened to. They couldn’t speak about them to anyone because to speak about them would have shamed them as a warrior. So therefore they come to rape and murder the woman in the dream. But at the last minute something happens. They’re able to experience a feeling for the first time and they burst into tears and then you both burst into tears and there’s no question of rape or murder anymore because you’re embracing each other as brother and sister. That’s incredibly moving, I have tears myself.

Of course, man’s voice has never been listened to any more than a woman’s. Only the voices of those in power have been listened to and this has to change. I think we do influence the field, the whole field of humanity when we’re doing something at this very deep level and when a dream like that comes up and there’s a resolution to it. That resolution goes into the collective field, as a positive input and what science has discovered recently in quantum physics is that we are all connected; the whole universe is connected. So what we do in our individual lives and even in our individual dreams matters because what we’re doing with this work is creating a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious or between the conscious mind and the deepest soul. So this is something infinitely valuable. It’s terribly important. It’s like being able to build a real bridge in the physical world, but we’re building a bridge in the psychic dimension.

Animus was the word that Jung gave to the masculine aspect of a woman’s psyche, just like he gave the feminine aspect of a man’s psyche, the name of the anima, two different Latin words with different endings. But looking back over the whole history of Western civilization or Eastern civilization for that matter, the animus has been the controlling element in woman’s psyche, keeping the feminine value down or keeping it silent and now the whole relationship in a woman’s psyche is changing. The masculine aspect of her nature is changing because she needs that masculine help to get her into the world, to be able to manifest whatever creative gifts she has because he’s a facilitator coming from the unconscious. He’s like a psychopomp guiding her into society, helping her, or this is what he should be doing, helping her express her great gifts and also express her values, which have not been listened to. All the values that she’s developed through being a mother and a woman for thousands and thousands and thousands of years, caring for the life of children and bearing children—those values are the ones which protect and serve life and she is the primary carrier of those values.

It’s very important for a woman to be in a good relationship with her animus and to know that it exists, because there can be a danger of animus possession in women, particularly today. In finding their voice, being educated as men and brought up with the same teaching in schools, they may speak with a male voice rather than a female voice. And they may be so taken over by the need for power that they fall into the grip of the masculine aspect of their nature in a rather unpleasant way, because it then takes over and it speaks as it were through their voice, but in a very didactic and dominant kind of way. Suddenly she’s found her voice and she comes out like a battering ram and men run away from her because they don’t know how to handle this new woman. So both men and women need to know that the new woman is coming up, but it will need quite a few years of practicing how to be a woman and in touch with the male aspect of her psyche without being taken over or possessed by it.

So it just needs to be balanced. I think there’s too much emphasis on the yang aspect of life and too little on the yin aspect, which is the containing one. It’s terribly important that woman realizes is that she is a container of her whole family, Her husband or partner as well as her children. And also in a social sense, that there’s a containing factor in the culture, which can hold the balance between this tremendous masculine drive in both men and women. You see it in the masculine drive in Zuckerberg and Facebook. That whole scenario is driven by the male psyche want to go further and further and taking everything with them without a thought for what they’re leaving behind.

A double whammy! The negative animus is the voice that acts destructively in your life and tells you you’re no good and that you have to do this, that, and the other in order to be acceptable. You have to dress in a certain way. You have to behave in a certain way. You have to speak in a certain way. That can be the voice which is driving women to achieve more and more and only achievement matters. Relationships don’t matter. So if the animus is saying, you’re no good unless you’re top of the rung in banking or politics or unless you’re speaking at the United Nations or whatever might be your goal you’re no good. This would neglect the whole field of relationships. That is one of the characteristics of the negative animus. He is not interested in relationships at all, so if your partner is suffering from your being nasty to him, that won’t matter in relation to achieving your goal.

Women have had to obey for 4,000 years. They’ve had to obey the voice of the church, and now they have to obey whatever the cultural norm is or how the media says they should behave. They’re not really free until they’re really happy to be who they are and have no sense that they have to be more in order to be acceptable. The animus in the inner world who may be very negative to begin with. because of the woman’s formation and programming, can turn into her best friend and ally and her guide to the deeper regions of the unconscious and the deeper regions of her soul.

Return of Persephone

And if you think back into mythology, for instance, in the myth of Demeter and Persephone, how Hermes was the messenger sent by the gods to bring Persephone out of the underworld. And she was able to come out after she’d eaten six seeds of the pomegranate, which meant that she had to spend six months to in the underworld and six months in the upper world.

That’s a wonderful image of Hermes as psychopomp or guide and messenger between this world and the other world or this world and the deeper world of the psyche and woman needs to know about that—that she has this messenger within her. She has this deep guide. The function of the animus is to manifest woman’s creativity, to give her a channel or possibility of manifesting her creative gifts in some way.

Faranak | The instinct and the connection to the animal body and soul is an essential part of feminine power and it is exactly this relationship that patriarchy has severed over the past thousands of years. It is in the instinct that we find our connection to the earth that can not only help heal, nourish and sustain us, but also the larger ecology of which we are part. Through being rooted in her instinctual wisdom women can stand up and say no to that which harms life. They can stand up against the tyranny of the negative animus within, or the patriarchy without for that matter. Through reclaiming and healing. their connection to their instinctual self, women can also reclaim their inherent stewardship and guardianship of the natural world. In the following dream, we will see an example of how this initial severance can be imaged in a dream.

Speaker 4 | It was in the middle of a forest, in an open space. It was very desolate and all of a sudden I got a shock because I saw a tiger on a guillotine. and I knew that it was put there by a human, a male energy. I couldn’t see him, but I felt it was really cruel and ruthless. And I felt compassion for the tiger, I felt sorry for him and I wanted to free the tiger, but I didn’t know how so that’s why I felt so helpless. So in the end of the dream I wanted to flee away because the atmosphere was so haunting but on the other hand, I didn’t want to leave the tiger because I had a strong connection with it and then I woke up.

Anne | It shows what’s been happening to the instinct that, had its head cut off. This could apply to the whole culture, because pretty well, everyone is unconsciously driven by the instinct because we’ve, so to speak, cut off the head at of the instinct. We pay no attention to it. We don’t know anything about it and so it takes possession of us in the form of anger, rage, greed, aggression towards other people, which are acted out in all the conflicts in the world, because the instinct is out of control. It has gone back to its most primitive way of behaving, much worse than the animals. Most importantly, what has that woman allowed to be done to her own instinct? What has she, as it were, decapitated in herself—her creative life impulse? I remember a dream that a woman brought into analysis about a snake being hung on a hook and it was dying and I said to her, what have you killed in yourself? This is the reptilian brain in yourself. What have you done to it? Why is it in this state? And it came out that she’d been in an unhappy marriage for many, many years and she couldn’t stand it anymore. She was dying because she had no will to live because her instinct was crucified.

One has to really look at the whole position of the instinct and how it was treated, right the way through these three patriarchal cultures. The body was despised, cut off, which means that the instincts were cut off. They were looked down upon as inferior, something threatening to the spiritual aspirations of men and therefore they were persecuted. That is reflected in our persecution of animals today. The way we use animals for experiment, for drugs, for developing drugs for our use; the way we don’t think about the suffering of the animals that we sacrifice to our needs; that’s one aspect. Another aspect is the way we treat matter in the whole atomic energy scenario when we split matter in 1945 in order to develop the atomic weapon that now threatens all of us. The matter we have persecuted now threatens us with destruction. This is something terribly important to know and realize that we cannot treat matter the way we do or the body, the way we do or life, the way we do without there being really, really serious consequences, which are coming at us now in the form of climate change and the threat of nuclear attack. That decapitated tiger, which is the most magnificent animal in the jungle and the most powerful, he can’t be powerful anymore. He can no longer walk through his jungle. He is unable to protect himself and that is the fault of our religious beliefs, and our scientific beliefs—that it doesn’t matter what we do to matter. I think that sums it up.

About Anne Baring

Anne Baring b. 1931. MA Oxon. PhD in Wisdom Studies, Ubiquity University 2018. Jungian Analyst, author and co-author of 7 books including, with Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image; with Andrew Harvey, The Mystic Vision and The Divine Feminine; with Dr. Scilla Elworthy, Soul Power: an Agenda for a Conscious Humanity. Her most recent book, The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul (2013, updated and reprinted 2020), was awarded the Scientific and Medical Network Book Prize for 2013. The ground of all her work is a deep interest in the spiritual, mythological, shamanic, and artistic traditions of different cultures. Her website is devoted to the affirmation of a new vision of reality and the issues facing us at this crucial time of choice.

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About Faranak Mirjalili

Faranak Mirjalili is a Jungian Analyst in The Netherlands. She is the founder of the Anima Mundi School where she works with a small collective of women from various fields that bring together depth-psychology, anthropology, the mythic imagination, and the creative arts.

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