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  • The Meaning of the Feminine in Our Contemporary Psyche

    What do we mean when we talk about “the feminine” in case studies today? What is the meaning of the feminine for women and men in our world?


    I can imagine some readers responding to this with a lot of scepticism. “Come on!” they might say, “Be reasonable! This is a topic on which Jungians, contemporary feminists and many many others have written literally thousands of pages! And you’re proposing to cover it in a blog post?

    Well, I have to admit, those critics would not be wrong! It would be possible to write a huge amount on the meaning of the feminine. Clearly, I can’t write a vast tome in this blog post. I probably can’t even make all the highest-level important points that need to be made. Yet we can look at at least some aspects of the meaning of the feminine that Jungian /a-midlife-transition would emphasize as important to take into our consciousness.

    NEWSFLASH!!! Feminine is not the Same as Masculine!!!

    This statement may seem utterly inane, but it isn’t! It’s very easy for societies like ours that are rooted in patriarchal culture to assume, consciously or unconsciously, that the two are really the same. That type of outlook can easily take us to the idea that the difference between masculine and feminine is really no big deal. Or, worse, a particularly poisonous outgrowth of patriarchal culture is the idea, held consciously or unconsciously, that the feminine is the mere absence of the masculine. This collapse into the underlying conviction that “everything that is real or strong is inherently masculine” is the poison right at the heart of sexism. Such a view of the world will ensure that we will never be truly conscious of either masculinity or femininity. It obliterates the meaning of the feminine.

    The Interplay

    A strongly contrasting image of masculine and feminine is to be found in the writings of Emma Jung. Her reflections on the nature of masculine and feminine had a profound effect on her husband C.G.Jung. In 1955 she wrote:

    In our time when… threatening forces of cleavage are at work, splitting peoples, individuals and atoms, it is doubly necessary that those which unite and hold together should become effective; for life is founded on the harmonious interplay of masculine and feminine forces, within the individual human being as well as without. Bringing these opposites into union is one of the most important tasks of present-day case studies.

    Emma Jung, Anima and Animus

    Emma Jung wrote of the “threatening forces of cleavage” that were splitting individuals and peoples in her time. In our time, perhaps we feel these forces even more than she did, especially when we reflect on current events both at home and farther afield.

    If we really take in what she states, it has profound implications. Her statement that “life is founded on the harmonious interplay of masculine and feminine forces” emphasizes that masculine and feminine are most certainly not the same. What is more, for Emma Jung, life is founded on a harmony between masculine and feminine energies. So, apparently, it’s essential for the feminine and masculine to recognize, respect, and meaningfully interact with each other. And even more, this not only happens between individuals and groups, it also happens within the individual human being, as well as without.

    The Meaning of the Feminine

    What, then, is the meaning of the feminine? The answer is, that it is a fundamental part of reality, always inextricably in relationship to the masculine. Jungian analyst and embodiment therapist Marion Woodman describes the meaning and relationship of the masculine and feminine within each individual:

    The true feminine is the receptacle of love. The true masculine is the spirit that goes into the eternal unknown in search of meaning. The great container, the Self, is paradoxically both male and female and contains both…. Without the true masculine spirit and the true feminine love within, no inner life exists…. To be free is to break the stone images and allow life and love to flow.

    Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection

    This true feminine is within each of us, and we need to acknowledge its presence as a central part of our journey towards wholeness. Yet, that acknowledgement on its own is not enough to allow us to safeguard our journey. We must also acknowledge and affirm the meaning and reality of the feminine beyond ourselves, in the world. This means to acknowledge that the lived reality of women is a sacred and different reality from the lived reality of men. We have to affirm the reality and experience of individual women, in order to respect the meaning of the feminine, not only within ourselves, but in the shared social, economic and political realities of our lives.

    With every good wish for your personal journey,

    © 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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