In this Greek myth, the winged god Eros, the son of Aphrodite, marries the beautiful mortal woman, Psyche. Aphrodite ordered him to shoot Psyche with his arrows so that she would suffer ‘being in love with an undesirable man’ - to punish her for her much-admired beauty. Nobody was allowed to be more beautiful than Aphrodite! But Aphrodite’s plans went awry when Eros ignored her wishes. This important choice denotes a son separating from his mother with whom he was enmeshed – a mother complex – and initiating a relationship with his own inner feminine or Anima, represented by Psyche.
During the initial stages of their marriage, Eros forbade Psyche to look at him. Erich Neumann (1956) sees this as the couple being in an unconscious relationship, not really seeing each other. We tend to project our own inner polar opposite onto our partners who consequently fail to live up to our expectations! Psyche stole a look at Eros while he slept and realized whom she married… a god, not a monster as she initially feared. She then accidently pricked herself on his arrows making her fall in love with him, while also spilling oil on him and waking him. These events led to their distressing separation and an eventual reunion between the lovers, denoting a shift from attraction (based on projection) to a genuine love. Neumann states: "… there appears a new love principle, in which the encounter between feminine and masculine is revealed as the basis of individuation" (Amor and Psyche, 1956, p. 90).
The story of Eros and Psyche also represents an awakening to our divine Self and inner power. Psyche’s arduous heroine’s journey (including to the underworld) can be seen as the mythical portrait of the difficult process of individuation – an internal development process which transformed Psyche as she earned her own wings - initiating a new relationship with her inner masculine (or Animus). According to Jean Shinoda-Bolin, "… Psyche's story is about the growth of the soul that began with her decision to face the truth, and led her to being on her own, challenged to complete tasks that were initially beyond her ability to perform. In the myth, her unseen bridegroom would come to her in the dark of the night and be gone by morning. Metaphorically, she was in an unconscious relationship.”
This is a rich myth with complex symbolic meanings. If you would like to read more, see the 3-part exploration at https://symbolreader.net/2013/11/05/eros-and-psyche-1/
Image credit: blackeri1
A social media post I wrote for @jungsouthernafrica
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