Bluebeard, the Secret Hell.

The reason that we arrange to be led by folk we know don’t care about us is that there is an X in the equation which swings things away from what you might think was a more desirable outcome.

We acceed to authoritarian management because there is a covert pay-off. No-one has to do the difficult work of self-realisation.

‘It seems good to Us not to burden you with too many requirements.’ Acts 15;28

It’s okay, you don’t have to find your own way or fulfil any driving ambition. Its alright to be curtailed and told what to do…

because the part of us that minds it has a cunning plan…

to take refuge in the strong arm of he who’d beat you and so, in a very real sense, not be at home when he comes calling. The great thing about abdication is that you get to hold the torch when the castle is burned to the ground.

Alice Miller calls it ‘Identification with the Aggressor’, a process by which a child or subjugated person defends against the precarity of their situation by disocciating from it and forming a psychological alliance with the source of their suffering.

It was named ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ after bank raiders in Sweden took hostages that then became their fervent supporters, even writing to the Prime Minister asking to go with their captors. Hieress Patty Hearst became a gang member of the group that kidnapped her. Natascha Kampuch wept at the death of her jailer and rapist Wolfgang Priklopil, moved into his house and ran his car…

Levy-Bruhl called it participation-mystique, a process of  merging with another, initially observed..

‘in so-called primitive cultures where certain objects treated as holy artifacts were seen as filled with the spirit of their owners or worshipers.’ Gifford

 Without such meaningful totemic relationships that allow a person to be in the presence of their own mystery without being contaminated by it, we in the West do the same with pop stars and celebrity, reality TV and the cult of personality, which despite the high of being one with your hero..
‘can influence a person or group of persons into acting against their own best interest’. (ibid)
Identification with the Great Leader makes all kinds of heroic feats possible though you may not survive them. It wipes out all your troubles back home and replaces them with a fizzing riteousness so potent it can transcend the fear of death and calmly walk wave upon wave of unfaltering youth to the grave.
Sometimes the battlefield’s turf is the quietly carpeted drawing rooms
of gentility rather than the crack and thump of conquest at any price, but still….
‘a person caught up in this spell would rather die or injure him or herself than consider new information that might upend their thinking.’ ibid

Most people know the story of Bluebeard. He murdered his wives one after another and kept them in a secret locked room. He forbids his most recent bride from entering the room on pain of … well, a lot of pain, but she is unbearably curious and sneaks in while he is away…

just a peek…

Too late!

The room is a charnel house of former wives. She drops the key to the floor in horror where it becomes stained with blood that will not wash off no matter how she tries…

Bluebeard finds her out, and sets out to do just what he said he would do…  though she is saved in the last moment by her brothers who show up in the nick of time…

an’ cut ‘Ol Bluey down…

The traditional meaning is that of a cautionary tale,

‘Oh curiosity thou mortal bane, spite of my charms thou causest oft pain and sore regret..’ Charles Perrault

followed swiftly by reassurances that men are not so bad..

‘This a story is of time long pass’d; No husbands now such panic terrors cast; Nor weakly, with a vain despotic hand, Imperious, what’s impossible, command:’ (ibid)

More recently its been given socio-political attention with BB in the role of Patriarch enforcing gender roles with violence, or more psychologically with BB in the role of pathological narcissist. Clarrisa Pinkola Estes calls him,

‘the predator of the Psyche, wanting to sever intuition, a malignant force at odds with the instincts of the natural self.”

Von Franz amplifies this theme, BB is the destructive, murderous animus which must be encountered in order to grow..

”If a woman hasn’t gone through the experience of being trapped by a demon animus she only has unconscious thoughts.”

All well and good but there is a curious detail in the story that snags my attention.. Most of the interpretations are based on later versions of the tale in which the youngest of three sisters falls for his charms because she is naive, or she marries him against his will. But in the original by Perrault there’s neither foolishness nor abduction…

Bluebeard goes to one of his neighbours…

‘a lady of quality, whose two daughters were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her the choice which of the two she would bestow upon him….

‘I want one of your children, it doesn’t matter which…’

None of this phases anyone. There is no outrage, no injunctions never to darken her door again. Mother colludes and passes of her kid like a mail-order bride who gradually identifies with BB rather than face how she has been betrayed.

There was nothing then to be seen but parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth and feasting. Every thing succeeded so well, that the youngest daughter began to think the master of the house not to have a beard so very blue, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman…

A six year old child, having been persuaded onto her parent’s lap rather than explore the nearby swings and play area, is trying to extricate herself in an ungainly way whilst mother chides her softly like Nursy from Blackadder..

‘Oh you.. banana-brain…’

child’s inaudible muttering…

What are you?… a banana-brain.

more muttering..

‘banana-brain, that’s what you are.’

And you could say its just harmless fun and the mother is ‘joking’ in an extroverted and jovial way. ‘Its just people being what they are,’ you say, but actually its the worst kind of cruelty.. making a child feel stupid for wanting a go on the swings, feeling like a banana-brain in adult life for wanting to explore, embittered and muttering in old age for the life that’s been denied her.

Such throw away lines are how lives are poisoned. Often repeated they become the kernel around which identity is built because our survival compells us to adapt to expectation. So even when she’s free she stumbles, can’t get co-ordinated, making a hash of her liberty, just like… a banana-brain.

Her inner life is destroyed, not by showdowns, punishments or overt rejection but by one thing parodying  another, by the wicked cleverness that can say you are stupid and I hate you with a smile. What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?

Life is what you make it but more importantly its what you believe it to be. Life will faithfully offer us up our expectations of it, rising to manifest and mirror back to us all our prejudices, secret fears and covert assumptions.

‘We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” Torah

That which we cannot face on the inside comes at us from the outside. Having had her inner life attacked by her social-climbing mother, our heroine learns to attack herself, killing off her sponteneity, deadening her sexuality, stringing up her feelings and hobbling the discriminating function that feelings are there to serve.

When she intrudes upon BB’s inner chamber she is bound to find there some expression of this violation. She is going to find her worst nightmares in the little room because she has entered into this arrangement in terrible bad faith, having sold out her integrity and the possibility of true love for the sake of a life of easy luxury.

BB is certainly a villain, but never pretending to be more or less than he is. There is no deception. ‘I want one of your daughters, I don’t care which.” The poor bride masks over the awful injury this constitutes by following suit, pretending that people and privacy don’t matter, but has to kill off her aliveness and subjugate herself to the tyranny of life’s baubles which will extract their pound of flesh from her one way or another. Her inner world will be attacked on a regular basis.

Life presents us with the face we show it and mirrors back to us inner states normally occluded from veiw.

I once comforted a woman whose husband had just had a heart attack and was at death’s door in hospital… but I withdrew my hand from her shoulder as if bitten by a snake when she wailed, ‘who will help me now?” Her thoughts were not of him, nor her tears about him, but about the burden of her middle-class chores.

Through her tears she then told me a dream that wild dogs had gotten into her lovely white Mercedes convertible and torn all the upholstery to pieces. Her inner life had been ripped out by her paltry material concerns and the utter failure to transcend her own petty troubles.

”We thought it was the outer event that had happened to us, but now see that it is we who have happened to ourselves.’ F. Wickes.

Its curious how much sympathy the heroine evokes, how villainous BB seems to be, polarised utterly with the Soldiers of Light, the brothers who finally do him in. Yahweh fairs much better in the popularity stakes when he puts Eve to the same test. Her curiosity gets her eternal damnation wheras Mrs BB just inherits everything and comes up smelling of roses.

There is no transformation. The dead wives are as much a part of her world as BB himself and killing him off still leaves her with the problem of life denied and the damage done to her personal destiny by the spell which compells her to identify with toxic values rather than her own gut feeling…

which says that people come before stuff.

 

 

The Sweet Wound.

 The greatest obstacle to healing depression is to see it as the enemy. We talk about fighting, combating, struggling with depression. Even ‘having depression’ suggests it intrusively came to you from somewhere else.
In the early days of my training I went to see an analyst and was reeling off my woes and complaints about life.
”At least I’m not depressed,”I said.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘you haven’t got there yet.’
I was shocked.
Depression could be a goal.
The fact is there are lots of things in life to be depressed about. And if we then try and combat it rather than enquiring into its purpose, it entrenches itself.
”What we resist, persists.” CG Jung
Depression is a sign that I has stopped talking with Me. The path between their houses has overgrown. The feeling of social isolation that comes with depression is mirrored on the inside as self estrangement.
Much depression has to do with the issue of authenticity, with whether we are being who we are. If a gap begins to grow between who we really are and who we wish we were then depression will fill that gap.
If we pretend to be what we are not for others in the fruitless and misguided quest to be loved by them, then depression will call our attention to the dissonance between what is actually going on and the new improved version of ourselves we’re trying to sell.
Depression hits particular kinds of people.
Did you notice the aggressive metaphor I just used?
…that I typed, myself, without noticing it until it was sat licking its paws on the screen in front of me.
We’re conditioned to have this combative relationship with depression. Centuries of being great white hunters.
Depression mostly unfolds in particular kinds of people. It’s the underbelly of perfectionism, people pleasing and ‘positive thinking’.
The perfectionists are at war with their shadows, their inadequacies and unevolved aspects.
The people pleasers are at war with their own destinies, so readily derailed by other’s baggage and expectation.
The positive thinkers are at war with anything that isn’t rosy and bright.
Whether its with yourself, your path, or life’s mourning and pain, the insistance on things being other than they are gives rise to depression.
”Our suffering is as much created by our struggling against the circumstances at hand as the circumstances themselves.” M Israel.
If we are living someone else’s life, or someone else’s vision of who we ‘ought’ to be, then depression will ensue. And if we are not living up to our potential on account of its cost to us, it will be all the worse.
”There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.”  RD Laing
Its big. The US spends an incredible $350 billion a year on medication and therapy for depression. This amount is currently increasing at a rate of 20%.
http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic.
.
The figures are scary and again its tempting to whip out you sword forgetting that depression has a purpose and failing to notice that it is pointing at something we subscribe to that doesn’t actually feed us or represent us.
Something has to give.
and not this or that but the paradigm itself.
We have a collectively narcissistic vision of ourselves as highly evolved when in fact we are really the creature that has only one of its senses working and thinks itself so grand in the absense of all the others.
This is the characteristic response, the strategy, of the unmothered child, and indeed we’ve had no Queen of Heaven for quite a few millenia now. When Mother is lost the child does not grow, or in only one of its aspects.
The rest of it shuts down and regresses.
So here we are, trashing our play pens.
We fail to grasp the proverbial reality that as we selfishly destroy nature “our outer world”, consequently we destroy “our inner world”, and ourselves as a species. The psychological consequence of this disconnection from nature amputates our soul connection with Mother Earth.
http://www.michaelgeorge.com/app/uploads/2015/03/Civilizations-Disconnect-from-Nature-and-Psyche.pdf
And its a question of more than mere deprivation.
A seven year old proudly announces to mother that he’s made money! Mother asks how and the child explains with great delight that he got it out of mother’s purse but then swopped it for the same amount he’d persuaded his mate Billy to take from his mother’s purse…. so it wasn’t stealing….’
And this is the logic of the economic market in the Western paradigm culminating in banks printing their own money and lending what they don’t have . We call it free enterprise but actually its a way of becoming magic in the absense of magic, the magic of belonging and feeling held by the Universe. A strategy that involves a hiest.
We deal with what feels like abandonment by attributing ourselves with  whatever specialness it takes to gain some additional illicit toe hold on the world. Our deep hungering then justifies whatever follows next, generally an envious attack on the worth and value of others..
This envy creates depression. Its part of the fallout of being so pious and better than everyone else. In order to really buy the shining version of ourselves we have to attribute others with the very fragments of  self most needed to be whole.
We cannot take command of our great battlements without corresponding feelings of having been robbed.

The paradigm itself creates depression.

The monotheistic notion that life always has to be cheerful (could) be instructed by melancholy. We could learn from its qualities and follow its lead, becoming more patient in its presence, lowering our excited expectations, taking a watchful attitude as this soul deals with its fate..” T Moore

The loss of the Principle of Relatedness in our culture means both a loss of the internal cohesion of I and Me and of the bond between ourselves and the external world. This is generally experienced as disconnection, lack of trust and not belonging that then reinforces internal divisions and the feeling of alienation.
The thing is that the creative life also has its gloomy vales.

”Creative people who can’t help but explore other mental territories are at greater risk, just as someone who climbs a mountain is more at risk than someone who just walks along a village lane.” RD Laing

So sometimes it can feel like a choice between the aggravation of refusing to be what we are or the further aggravation of  grasping life’s nettle. It doesn’t seem fair and its not.

”a warring peace, a sweet wound, a mild evil.” R Owen.

If the feelings of being depressed can be honoured as a form of longing then so can the feelings of riding your push bike down Middenmarsh hill with a mouthful of blackberries and chocolate.

based on an extract from my new book, ‘Abundant Delicious’, http://andywhiteblog.com/2016/06/11/abundant-delicio…ot-off-the-press/