“Bring me a rose in the winter time, when it’s hard to find.”
“Well, dear Father,” she said, “as you insist upon it, I
beg that you will bring me a rose. I have not seen one
since we came here, and I love them so much.”
Beauty and the Beast: De Villeneuve
It’s snowing in the Pacific Northwest. Just a light dusting actually, enough to evoke the nostalgia of childhood when all seemed well with the world. I would like to be there again, but the post-election reality of a world turned upside down, fear and despair nipping at the heels of holiday preparations won’t let me go down memory lane. At least not in childhood memories. More is needed to nurture a response that is not contaminated by fear, a hope that is not based on clichés. We need to dig deeper into the archetypal world, the world of imagery that can offer us a radical -to the roots- reality of how to transform individually and collectively. So, give me rose in the wintertime.
I love the song by Ernie Sheldon and found myself humming it this weekend as I struggled to stay positive about the future of our country and our world. I participated in a colloquium with colleagues from around the world on Stillpointspaces, an international platform for analysts, therapists and counselors. We spoke of the loss of the container, the loss of certainty and vision that is sweeping the world. Brexit, Italy’s refusal of reforms, the collapsing of the distance between the far left and the far right. Trump. The revelation that the split between the conscious and the unconscious can no longer be ignored. So, yes, I hummed give me hope when it is hard to find, give me peace when it is hard to find, remind me that something can emerge from these dark times. Austria rejects the right-wing candidate, the Dakota pipeline will not go through tribal lands. Yes, give me a rose in the wintertime!
For two years, five women from the Assisi Institute community met to discuss to the foundational fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, based on Marie Louise van Franz’s Interpretation of Fairy Tales. A curse is put on someone. Why? We don’t know. A father loses everything twice and allows his daughter to take his place when he steals a rose from the Beast’s garden. There is no mother. A daughter is willing to enter the lair of the Beast to save her father. Love conquers all in the end, Beauty, finally sees the human behind the cursed Beast and chooses him over the demands of her family. The holy coniuintio is achieved. In Cocteau’s 1947 movie, the resplendent Beauty and the Beast ascend to a heavenly realm - prince and princess live happily ever after.
In our group though, we saw this fairy tale as more than a ‘coming of age’ story more than a template for human development, anima and animus both. We wanted to know who put the thought of asking for a rose into Beauty’s head? What deep knowing and wisdom knew that the asking for the impossible and miraculous, would be the catalyst for the story? While Beauty does not know that her innocent request will take her father to the Beast’s castle in a winter storm, something deep in the Psyche did. We heard the voice of the Feminine whisper to her: hold out for the impossible, see beyond the temporal to the eternal, ask for the rose.
She says: Hold out for the possibility of life emerging when it ‘ought’ not, when the conditions are harsh, the ground cold and unyielding, the sun low and unwarm. She says: ask for the impossible, and then follow the story as you confront your fears, your inner voices, the way good girls ought to be. Be brave, see clearly, hold on to the tension between the opposites, winter – rose. And then choose. Choice is the active expression of an ego who knows the costs of consciousness and is willing to pay the price. It is the one who engages in the fight against the forces that would keep it in thrall to the collective values and give in, give up. She says: Ask for the rose and then go to the castle.
We do not go into the castle as naïve young women, regardless of our ages. We go into the castle to see beyond the surface of things into the reality of this world and our part of it. We will do what is in front of us to do and what is inside of us to transform. We will meet one another at Seeing Red, where the ground may be softened, where we bring warmth, and hold on to the vision of a rose emerging from the snow. As Stephen Mitchell writes in Parables and Portraits about the camel who dove through the eye of the needle: “It is not just that such things are possible,” the camel thinks, smiling. “But that such things are possible for me.” Give me rose in the wintertime. Every time.
posted on Seeing Red
We must love one another or die.
W H Auden from Another Time.
In September 1939, on the eve of a terrible war, WH Auden wrote that when the world is full of despair, we must love one another or die. These words came back to me on a gray and rainy December of 2016. Colleagues from Stillpointspaces met on video to discuss the implications of the results of the US elections. As an international community of analysts, psychologists, therapists, and counselors, we wanted to understand how the elections were affecting our clients/patients and, of course, ourselves. I was prepared to analyze the political, sociological and psychological effects of the election results. What I was not prepared for was the depth of grief expressed and viscerally felt during our call. This grief was beyond the constructs of the many isms that have contributed to a shaking of the foundations of our world.
We discussed the decline of socialism, the rise of discontent, consumerism run amok, the alienation of labor, the poison of envy, the decline of the middle class, the disenfranchisement of the young, and on and on, the litany at the wailing wall of a global phenomenon. For make no mistake, this is not about the US only. One by one, we spoke about the littleness in countries that used to be expansive, the collapsing of the far right and the far left into one another that left out the voices of the center. Brexit, Scandinavia, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria. Egypt. Refugees. The closing of ranks around social, cultural and ancient identities to keep out the ‘other’.
As we spoke, I felt the waves of grief rise and subside. I couldn’t get a hold of the reason, as though if we named the one thing, we could understand it, and in so doing, change it. And finally, for me, the grief I had been feeling crystallized in Edward Edinger’s assertion that we need a new myth, the myth of consciousness rooted in withness, in radical relatedness to others and to Psyche. He says: “the breakdown of a central myth is like the shattering of a vessel containing a precious essence; the fluid is spilled away…Meaning is lost. In its place, primitive and atavistic contents are reactivated, as Yeats said: the things fall apart, the center cannot hold (p. 9-10)
The center did not hold for all those on the edges of despair, those whose cries were not heard, who were left behind, whose dreams and hopes were eclipsed. This is true for both sides of the idealogical divide. We cannot other the other nor can we give in to despair. Like Jung said, we have to hold the tension between the opposites until something new appears. And that is hard to do when faced with the loss of foundational dreams.
As we spoke, I began to feel hope. Because in naming the myths that no longer held true, the American Dream, the vision of a progressive and upwardly mobile consciousness, we were naming a truth that could no longer be denied. What was revealed was the split between conscious and unconscious forces. Yes, the old container was shattered, the illusions gone, we are indeed living in a new world. It is a world not to our liking, but a new world nonetheless and no one was denying its reality nor denying the hard work of what we are being called to continue to do. To become more aware. To increase consciousness. To be related, deeply and radically to one another. To refuse to other someone. To return love. This is not an easy hope. It does, however, remind me that against all odds, something new may emerge from the harsh ground, the unwarm sky. I felt that in our conversation, raw, honest, real, seen, held and yes, I will say it, loved. And I understood better why we need these conversations. We become, as Auden implores at the end of his poem, ironic points of light, that despite the darkness and the despair, show an affirming flame.
posted on Stillpoinspaces.com
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor