Fairy Tale and Myth | No1 2019 • Psychology • Carline Binet | Minerva and Bluebeard
Carlin Binet is a Jungian psychoanalyst, member of the French Psychoanalytic Society, and currently director of the French School of Morphopsychology.
Published in Cahiers jungiens de psychanalyse, 2017/No145. Translation by Elena Revzina
Slowly and methodically, Minerva fights against her husband to prove to him her intellectual superiority, and he rebuffs her, greatly devaluing her. I ask why she is attached to a man who makes her, a brilliant university graduate who followed him into the outback, unhappy. “I wanted to enter his life, save him, find out his secret, understand what was hidden in the depths.”
I suddenly explode: “When you open the secret doors of your spouse, you can find yourself in Bluebeard’s secret room!” This phrase became the starting point for thinking about the fairy tale and its inclusion in the analytical work with Minerva. What is so terrible lies in this forbidden and coveted room? What bloody secrets is her husband hiding there? And what is the unnamed hiding in her own secret room?
Reading numerous Bluebeard tales, a friend's book about Gilles de Rais (M. Le Coz 1989) and another good friend's production of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle at the medieval castle of Sousigneault in Brittany got me thinking about this feminine curiosity. which, according to some fairy tales, for some becomes a starting point in psychological development, and for others a deadly invasion. Bluebeard Bartok (Béla Bartok 1918) screams, having lost hope: “Love me, be silent, don’t ask anything!”
The story that Minerva told me seemed to be rewritten from an old fairy tale. The evil fairy cast a powerful spell on her: “You will fall asleep in a distant outback, submitting to the heavy emptiness of the social obligations of the local bourgeoisie. You will not develop the talents that the good fairies who bent over your cradle bestowed upon you.”
She wanders in a vicious circle, either imitating her mother, a quiet and passive servant of her energetic and powerful husband, or acting as a brilliant intellectual and debater. It will take many years of analytical work, a consistent descent into the rooms of her unconscious castle, for the charming inner prince to return her ability to create.
Characters from fairy tales and films will serve as amplifications that will help her free herself from this difficult fate. The analytical work carried out and its containing frame will allow us to bring into consciousness internal archaic images, as terrible as those that are behind the seventh door of Bluebeard's Castle in Bartok's opera. But for her, that door would be an escape opportunity. We will explore the various stages of the first two years of its analysis, tracing the symbolic descent through the seven doors of this opera.
First door: little fox.
Minerva is a pretty woman in her forties, rather restrained, with angular and aristocratic features that betray her German origin. She is dressed practical and elegant, in dark colors. It can be seen that the clothes are carefully selected. A bob haircut emphasizes the angularity of the face. She wears almost no makeup. Minerva is truthful and open, but she exudes intellectual superiority.
Minerva is the only daughter of her father, a successful businessman who spent all his energy and time developing his business. She says it's a natural strength. “I was supposed to become the heir,” she uses the masculine gender, “of my father. Until I was thirty-five, I constantly helped him. At the same time, at the age of sixteen, I did not want to continue his work. I chose philosophy, the direction closest to what I wanted to do. I was always the best in the class, but I was accompanied by the feeling that I would achieve nothing in life.”
Her mother stayed at home, raising her daughter and serving her husband, who had a “cult of power.” He constantly devalued this fragile woman. The mother suffered from respiratory failure and underwent many operations. “My mother was very protective, affectionate, passive. She looked like a very pretty little porcelain doll. There was barely any life in her. She was timid, deadly submissive, she had no desires. Before her marriage, her mother worked as a secretary for her father. She, like me, was the only child of fairly elderly parents. However, before getting married, she studied and mastered a profession that would allow her to travel, which was quite “cheeky” in the post-war period. In her youth, in photographs she looks like a strong, cheerful and quite healthy girl.”
At seventeen, Minerva had an affair with a man of her own age who died of cancer two years later. “He died very slowly, after many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, all his hair fell out. Life always beat in him, and his death was bright. I carried this death like a Grail. I felt like I knew everything. The veil fell and I lost my memory, which had been excellent before. At nineteen, my first love and first death. I was like a little fox who had a knife stuck under his shoulder blade, but he continues to run. But I was dead and cut off from everything. I came back to life thanks to an old psychiatrist who was very supportive of me.”
Then Minerva brilliantly completed her philosophy course and entered graduate school. She was offered a job in a prestigious company. Minerva refused because she fell in love with her husband, a dentist who was much older than her and came from a respectable provincial family. She abandoned all her intellectual pursuits and followed him to devote herself to housekeeping. Minerva welcomes his many friends, family, even his first wife and son, who live near their home, as if on the outskirts of Bluebeard's castle. She takes great pleasure in gardening and growing vegetables. And everything is done out of a natural desire to be “accepted” by her husband and his society.
Her intellectual life boils down to long conversations with her husband. She is keenly interested in his research, finding it very interesting.
Second door: a cat with a “broken” head.
The very first dream that Minerva told in the first session described most of her problem. We will be able to understand its significance much later. In this dream, she must hold tightly a completely healthy cat while the mother kills the animal by piercing its head three times with a short spear. The weapon is similar to the one used to irritate a bull in a bullfight. Minerva tries to resist her mother's wishes, but to no avail. The cat's death devastates her.
Cats in dreams, like Lovecraft’s “Cats of Ulthar,” will become Minerva’s totem animals. They will enter her dreams. Christian Fonseca (Ch. Fonseca 2008) cites Elie Humbert's statement about the protective animal in shamanic communities: “In our communities, where common sense wanted to take on the task of managing life, there remains only a mention in the form of a very common motif in fairy tales: the hero can accomplish your task only with the help of an animal” (E. Humbert)
Minerva recalls a childhood game. When she and her parents returned from a walk, she ran forward, climbed onto the porch, lay down in front of the door and said: “I am a rejected child, I am cold and hungry, I need to be consoled.” This “game” will also run like a red thread through all our work, and its interpretation will remain unclear to us for a long time. At first I asked myself if this was not an identification with my mother, devalued and, of course, rejected by my father as a desirable woman.
“Soon after I was born, my mother had a miscarriage. She said that she felt the blood flowing down her legs. Then I fell off the changing table.” Minerva tells the whole thing in a detached way, like a normal story. It will take a long time before it is possible to return to this event and reintegrate it into the story of her life.
At the beginning of the analysis, the mother's place was insignificant, uninteresting, even despised. Father or husband persistently climbed to the fore, as in life. I wondered about her femininity, noting the contrast between the masculine in this imposing woman, manifested in intelligence and education, as well as in her bearing and poise, and her daily activities as a “servant.” Why in this dream does she obey her mother, who kills the cat by piercing its head? She quite consciously submitted to her husband, who, like her father, was very dominant. Minerva obeyed him, trying to avoid conflicts, and, as much as she could, imitated her despised mother: “My head follows my father, my behavior follows my mother.”
Minerva is self-destructive. She kills her head the same way her mother kills a cat's head. In an intense sadomasochistic relationship with her husband, she gives up her intellectual life and autonomy. At the same time, I asked myself whether it was out of fear of being “rejected” by the father that the mother who attacks in a dream and is sick in life directs aggression against herself. Minerva, by the way, fought with teeth and claws so as not to become “rejected” by her husband, which he constantly threatened her with. I pointed out to her the contradiction between the description of the mother as a fragile porcelain doll and the woman who kills the cat. When I tried to interpret, she looked at me and quickly changed the subject, but gradually integrated the idea and mentioned it in subsequent sessions, like an exemplary student. Minerva avoids the senses and hides in the intellect.
Later in the dream the question of incest arises. “I am with my parents. Our old cat doesn't recognize us anymore. My father’s mother, very old, looks at us with a wide smile and says about herself: “You have to tell yourself: she lived a very long time.” I sleep on the floor, on the doormat. My father sleeps in my former room, and my mother and paternal grandmother sleep near the kitchen. I am watching a movie on TV. There are people there, they leave the house in a hurry and take bottles of wine [...] They go with guns to the office building where the authorities are located, wanting to intimidate them. But the authorities also have hidden guns. A very handsome soldier takes a gun from the pistil of a flower on a tapestry. He shoots those who threaten him. I say, I hope it doesn't disturb my sleep."
Minerva is surprised by the theme of violence in this dream. The cat and grandma died eleven years ago, is this related to her memory loss? She herself sleeps on the rug by the door, this is reminiscent of her childhood game of being a “rejected” girl.
The second part of the dream makes Minerva remember that her parents bought a TV to distract her from sad thoughts after the death of her fiancé. A handsome soldier is perhaps an animus. He wakes up, takes a gun from the pistil of a flower - what a bright detail, and kills the representations of his father. Is this mass murder an allegory of an eroticized conflict between her and her father? He sleeps in her room, and this recalls the incestuous atmosphere between them, while the devalued female servants are in the kitchen. Undoubtedly, Minerva was able to avoid becoming her father’s successor and resisted him by taking up philosophy. However, she is still very far from "killing" him. I draw a parallel here with the dream of killing the cat, in which Minerva submits to her mother's will. There is something deadly coming from the father and mother, and reminiscent of the deceased groom.
As a child, her grandmother was one of the few examples for her that she could live differently. This domineering, willful and firm woman kept her three sons under a tight rein. She, a Catholic, in the 20s, all alone went to the city to get her tubes tied! “She was an independent, sensible woman who lived alone until she was ninety. At that age, she went to dances with her friend.” Grandmother had much more vitality than mother.
Minerva behaves like an exemplary student, an excellent student, and therefore it is difficult to understand anything about her transference. She is impeccably dressed and fit, always arrives on time. Minerva brings me many dreams, neatly typed on the computer. She carefully reads Jung and easily replenishes her vocabulary. Apparently, Minerva trusts me and, no doubt, projects onto me the role of “one who knows.” She chose this demeanor during her studies, when she was an excellent student. Isn't she doing the same with me? A diligent student who does what she must - like her mother. But I got the impression that we always remain on the surface, that it is not included enough. She was able to do it later.
It was difficult for me to join her at the beginning of our work. The countertransference was careful. I saw a lot of similar things in our stories of foreign women living in France. We both had and still have a need to be integrated and accepted without a hint of distrust, that condescending look at someone who does not belong to the same culture or does not have the appropriate education: “You can’t understand, you’re not French!” At the beginning of our work, social networks did not yet exist. Minerva didn't know about my roots; my accent didn't give me away. Moreover, sometimes she spoke to me as if I were a French woman. She asked me anxiously: “Am I in a foreign country? When I return to my home country, they also mistake me for a foreigner and I don’t feel at home. Who am I then? This exclusion has heightened our shared need to learn and grow. We are also similar in that we are creative in solving personal and intellectual problems. In her excellent cold mind I find my inferior thinking function. Her chatty, often superficial part amuses or irritates me, I see myself as if in a distorting mirror. And the lack of human warmth at the beginning of this work made my tender and accepting sensual function suffer.
Third door: “snot”.
One of the dreams shed light on the problem of Minerva’s ambivalent attitude towards her husband. “Twelve people leave a house, the boss comes up and says that they can’t go to France anymore, it’s too dangerous, and so they go this way. He says that according to the law, travelers must be fed.” Minerva relates this dream to her life experiences. "I'm a foreigner. It seems to me that I am always on the move, my place is insecure, I impose myself on everyone. And I play the same game all the time: I beg for a place.”
Her relationship with her husband is unbearable. Minerva serves him all day long. But then in their conversations she grows into the role of a certified intellectual, and thus asserts her superiority over him. She criticizes, wants to be right and never gives in, and then finds herself defeated and devastated by her husband's devaluation (She is captured by the animus: “[...] a typical animus figure who, so to speak, embodies the masculine side of the female psyche. He represents the archetypal figure, which becomes especially active when the conscious mind refuses to follow the feelings and instincts prompted by the unconscious: instead of love and giving there is a masculine, argumentative, stubborn self-affirmation and an indispensable omnipresent opinion in every possible form (power instead of love).Animus is not a real person at all; this is a somewhat hysterical hero, whose desire to be loved shows through the chinks in his armor." (C.G. Jung 2017) "And all this is embodied in the man who, by a whim of fate, met this infantile woman: he immediately identified with her hero - animus and inexorably established himself as an ideal figure. If he now even tried to hint at his inconsistency with the ideal, he would immediately face severe punishment! " There, steam. 465).
Minerva wants her husband, like the Frenchman in the dream from whom she legally demands food, to feed her self-esteem, which is based on intellect. Then Minerva will understand that she is loved. At the same time, the dream tells her that France is a dangerous place. And Minerva's demand turns into a disaster. Instead of becoming a “benefactor,” the husband sharply pushes her away and suppresses her with his aggressiveness, saying “that she stuck to him like snot.”
And here we see how Minerva’s life drama unfolds. The woman is caught up in a neurotic conflict. It repeats itself regularly and blocks it. The demonic genius of Minerva's arrogant mind fights Cinderella, who repeats her mother's behavior and obeys the rules of the game set by her husband. Minerva has the appearance and demeanor of a determined and demanding Diana the huntress, and at the same time she behaves like a devoted and pleading servant. When I asked if these aggressive encounters were a good way to achieve what she wanted, Minerva replied: “I want to win not by seducing women, but by thinking.”
So, she was seized by the demon of omnipotence. Minerva projected her argumentative animus onto her husband, which made the man an even greater sadist, since his own omnipotence was under attack. Minerva wants him to love and appreciate her, but she, like her mother, only encounters complete devaluation. All that remains is to enter a paranoid-schizoid position, which will lead approximately to the following: “I become gloomy, withdraw into myself and interpret everything that he says and does as aggression.”
In order to tighten the knot of fate that binds her more tightly, Minerva unconsciously entrusts her husband with the realization of her thirst for power. This projection frees her from working on her own autonomy. It's a good defense to focus on Bluebeard's secret room to avoid the work of discovering what's hiding in her own room. Every time Minerva attacks her husband's shortcomings, the mirror returns to her the image of her own shortcomings.
After four months of work, she tells me about plans to finish her dissertation, which she abandoned eleven years ago. Of course, the husband sees this intention as a threat to himself and begins to rudely devalue his wife as soon as she wants to get to work. To prevent Minerva from being on her own, he increases the number of errands and tasks she has to complete. Minerva talks about how he stalks her when she wants to do something for herself. For example, he gave her a hell of a life when she went to practice aikido. Minerva had to give up her hobby, but she became very angry and offended. At the time, I read an expression by Jung that seems to me to be a good description of this condition: “Neurosis contains both a sinking into infantilism and a striving for adaptation” (CGJung 1976). We will be diving into infantilism for a long time through the projections of Minerva and her dreams. We have already talked about her desire for adaptation, about the very great efforts made in order to enter into different communities where she sought to be pleasant in order to become "accepted". The brilliant studies of Minerva were subject to the same desire. And in her transference to me during this period, she strove to do everything well, but this felt false.
The fourth door: fools and the Valkyrie.
And then she dreamed: “They give me a huge plate full of strawberries. I am served first, and it seems indecent to me. I pass this plate to my father-in-law. I get up to help the maid as she moves very slowly. After all, I'm the last one to get a plate with almost nothing on it. I say to myself: well, yes, everything is as always! The host, in his seventies, sits next to a young woman from high society. She shows him her hand, decorated with a huge diamond, round like a flower. My husband makes me a sign that this is too much. Then we go to play backgammon. The owner explains how to play, I don't listen. As a result, I am not invited to the game, and I feel disappointed.”
What does Minerva represent in a beautiful woman from high society and an old man? What wealth can they personify? This is her dream, these are the figures of her unconscious. She thought for a long time before answering: “I have riches that I do not use, such as my ingenuity, creativity. All that remains for me is to serve. A chatty maid, like a lady from high society, are fools. I act like a mediator and servant to compensate for their incompetence.” The women in her dream are either incompetent and vapid, or they have an advantage, an excess libido, symbolized by a huge diamond and a large plate of strawberries, which attract the owner and husband. Minerva wants to be valued as a thinking person and takes an intellectual stance to achieve this. Her ideal self is cold. She judges instead of enjoying abundance or play. Minerva keeps repeating that she never agreed to please, and yet she did herself a lot of harm by forcing herself to side with her husband. But this did not appeal to her. To justify her existence, Minerva diligently played the role of a housewife. By the way, she never earned a living herself, but was always supported by her father, and then by her husband.
“People who have experienced such traumas (in youth or adulthood) are constantly trying to achieve unity with the idealized object, because, due to their inherent specific structural defect (insufficient idealization of the super-ego), the narcissistic balance is maintained in them solely due to interest, response and approval from the outside current (that is, currently active) duplicates of the traumatically lost object of the self” (H. Kohut, 2003). The first dream in which the mother killed the cat, and the child's play when she felt rejected, indicated from the very beginning of our work that the mother was not a reliable object of affection. Perhaps her mother “rejected” her when she allowed her to fall off the changing table. The death of her unborn child and her life-threatening abandonment deprived little Minerva of any trust in her “dead mother,” who became depressed after the miscarriage, as Andre Green explained in his article “Dead Mother.” (A. Green 2005)
“The most specific pathogenic elements in the personality of the parents belong to the realm of their own narcissistic fixations. In particular, we find that, in the early stages, a mother's self-absorption can cause her own moods and tensions to be projected onto the child and, therefore, lack of empathy. (H. Kohut 2003)
Subsequently, little Minerva had no choice but to identify with a completely living father who loved her with narcissistic love, because he wanted to make her his continuation, structured and warm enough, she had something to rely on. Perhaps here is the source of the horror of his anger: if the father takes away his love, then Minerva will have no support in life. However, this identification gave her enough confidence to stand up to her father and choose a different path. Her father allowed Minerva to do so, though reluctantly.
“After the story with my fiance, I lost interest in those who can be called mere mortals. I had the impression that I was cut off from the world, living as if behind safety glass. I didn't feel anything. Then it passed, but when the husband shows particular cruelty, I see how this glass appears again. I am healed, but it comes back again and again.”
The contradiction between these two positions well shows its internal disorder. She must be both a maid and a Valkyrie. The paternal and maternal imago were not differentiated in her unconscious. Two conflict zones come to the fore in her dreams, repeating themselves every now and then. I am trying to discern in them the roles of the respective parental imagoes, but it is difficult because they consist of several layers.
At the beginning of our work, the maternal imago looked weak and insignificant. But the mother bore death secretly. She castrated her daughter, depriving her of intellectual abilities and the ability to separate from her environment. This is the story of a little girl who was deprived of contact with other children or pets so that she could only be the object of her mother’s narcissistic stability, her “ray of light.” The mother's sex life, devalued by her own husband, was, without any doubt, unsatisfactory. Since the mother is stuck in the infantile stage between orality - receiving pleasure from another, and anality - obsessive control of her daughter regarding appearances and housekeeping, it can be assumed that she has conversion hysteria. Her respiratory failure allowed her to be the object of pity and permanent medical manipulation.
The paternal imago was menacing. Minerva told how her father’s anger completely “smeared” her, at the same time, “as if I was losing all my energy, and my knees were buckling.” Undoubtedly, the father's narcissistic rage stemmed from his fear of helplessness, and only at times the phallic attitude of omnipotence with hypercontrol over his objects strengthened him.
As a child, Minerva identified with him as the only interesting person in the house. He was her deity. Later, in order to separate herself, Minerva defeated him with the help of his own weapons and the cult of power. She put a lot of effort into her department, choosing philosophy over her father's business school. Minerva went to live in Paris, continuing to depend on her father financially.
Narcissistic identification with the power of the paternal imago led to intellectual opposition to the husband from a position of protest rivalry. Minerva loved to have the last word in disputes. She told me that she was able to defeat her husband with unbreakable logic. The arguments with my father were just as stormy!
These were serious battles, since Minerva was confident that intellectual victory would bring her the respect and love of her husband. Minerva's marriage revived her introjected conflict with her father.
I asked if Minerva thought that her desire for intellectual superiority (“What is produced in this case can hardly be called a positive therapeutic activation of the grandiose self - it is more about the rapid hypercathexis of the patient’s archaic grandiose self-image, rigidly defended by hostility, coldness, arrogance, sarcasm and silence.” H. Kohut 2003) partly provokes the husband's verbal aggression. Minerva replied, "Can't you be straight?" After thinking about what directness means, Minerva realized that for her - "it is to have the right to say everything that comes to mind to prove my superiority and express anger." Was Minerva's spontaneity synonymous with an exercise in the pursuit of power? I quoted a colleague: “Directness can be amiable murder!” (D. Baumgartner, 2001) Minerva immediately retorted, triumphantly putting an end to it: “Is indirect defense intended to manipulate others? This is no better!
“We have a family myth of strength. After the death of my first love, I was recommended to talk to a psychologist, but I did not want to. Like Nietzsche: "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Minerva continues arrogantly: “Now I understand why philosophy scorns the applied sciences, and especially psychology or psychoanalysis. In philosophy we are dealing with ideas, not with the subject. This comes from Aristotle and Plato, who always preferred the general to the particular.” At the same time, she gradually comes to realize that “the story of power is an isolation, an inner impenetrable fortress that I thought I had to guard. I refused to infuse during my life.”
On the same day, I named her Minerva for myself (Jupiter, worried about the oracle’s prediction that one of his sons would overthrow him from the throne, swallowed his pregnant wife. One day he felt a terrible headache and begged Vulcan to heal him by splitting his skull. From there Minerva appeared with a war cry and fully armed, with an image of the Gorgon on her shield). I might as well call her Radgridr. That was the name of the most power-hungry Valkyrie.
This session was a turning point. Minerva began to realize that fighting spirit was not much of an advantage, since others, and in particular her husband, might perceive him as a threat. In Minerva’s dream, the diamond, the attention of her husband and the owner of the house, as well as the right to play, are possessed by an empty-headed and not the most intelligent woman.
At the beginning of our work, in her transference, Minerva idealized me and put me in the position of an expert. She flooded me with terribly long and detailed dreams. She obeyed the therapeutic frame, just as she adapted to her husband's mores and customs so that she would no longer be a foreigner.
My participation was mainly in attention, in working with her dreams and memories. I suggested amplifications to Minerva based on myths or characters that could serve as a container. Visual representation and active imagination gave mobility to experiences, allowing her to combine representation and affect. I picked up the tragic stories that Minerva told and tried to make her connect with her feelings, remember the experiences that she had then. Little by little, in contact with me, her feeling function warmed up and differentiated, humanized and balanced the function of thought.
The Fifth Door: Minerva and Lauren Bacall.
Sometimes Minerva politely resisted: “We Germans are like that, you French ...”, “Madame Binet, I love it when you speak in patterns!”. She put me in my place. Minerva could act this way because she had complete confidence in me.
Then she dreamed that she met her old teacher: at one conference, he said that it was time for her to finish her dissertation. While Minerva was talking to him, the terrorists were killing her husband in a shootout.
Minerva's associations were curious. “In my dream, my husband must be killed so that I can finish my dissertation. To find my way, I need to protect myself. I have always thought that superiority is contained in masculinity, in intelligence, and inferiority in femininity, hysteria, sensual life. Minerva could not find something that would be feminine and at the same time valuable to her. I asked them to name the heroines of books or films that could embody femininity for her in her youth. She did not remember a single female image that caused admiration. Minerva bowed only to men and their ability to think. “I don’t have a built-in female identity, I never liked dolls, I never could have a pet that I dreamed of. It protected me from dirt and disappointment, as my mother used to say. All I had to do was read."
Then I asked her to imagine how the actress she likes could take an adult position in relation to the hurtful remark of her partner. Minerva imagined Lauren Bacall under Humphrey Bogart's caustic taunts. “She was characterized by a smile and irony, demonstrative femininity, awareness of herself as one who plays with another, desirable and attractive. I can only behave like this if I am happy with a man who treats me well.”
Can seduction be a pleasant game? At present, she did not own either the female game or the Mercurial Mediterranean “mestizo” of Odysseus (the term “mestizo” in a broad sense denotes the cunning attributed to Odysseus). Minerva never backed down, responding to attacks only with male arrogance.
This attempt at active imagination had important consequences. She released and made available to Minerva her female libido.
At another session, Minerva once again told me about her fierce clashes with her husband, and I reminded her of the story of Paris, who had to choose one of three goddesses - Venus, Juno or Minerva, one of three images of the feminine - lover, great mother or warlike thinker. She laughed as she saw the obvious: Paris had chosen the empty Venus. Now Minerva remembered the mother of her young groom, a brilliant and independent woman, as well as the wife of a director, with whom she once lived. The second was for her the ideal of a creative and powerful personality. Working on these images of female identity allowed her to open the path to positive femininity. Associations have become richer. Symbolization became easier.
In the next session, Minerva told me that she felt liberated, as if she had gotten rid of something. “I accept the past, now everything is calm there. I started organizing my dissertation notes. It's easier for me to work when I'm alone, and not under the supervision of my husband. I return to the proverb Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo (Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo or Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re is a Latin expression from the 1600 work of the second founder of the Jesuit Order, Claudio Acquaviva, in which he explains how to not to deviate from the essence (the Christian faith), but to present it as attractive. Industriae ad curandos animae morbos, § 2, 4, reprinted in 2016 by San Paolo, Alba (Cn) and presented by the Pope to all bishops for Christmas. Beautiful synchronicity!) , firm in action, gentle in manner.”
I was very careful in my countertransference, aware that I wanted Minerva to complete her dissertation. I asked myself how she was going to get out of Bluebeard's castle, where she was locked, and what would she do to channel her libido into the service of creativity?
Sixth door: disgusting parasite.
The following month, Minerva dreamed that an old barn was slowly collapsing on top of her. However, she manages to save all her cats. But Minerva left her grandparents’ oval mirror there, fearing her husband’s reproaches that she was only interested in her own affairs. In associations to this dream, Minerva wondered whether it was her marriage that had collapsed or the old structures that were about to fall. She told me about this mirror, into which she looked during intense intellectual work at the age of twenty-five. “I looked into it, and it brought me balance.” The mirror restored her narcissistic stability, which made it possible to work independently. Noting that only animate beings are saved in dreams, Minerva thought that her dissertation should become less dogmatic, she should breathe life into it.
At the end of our first year of work, Minerva had a dream that reflected her current state. She was in my office and was thinking about continuing the analysis. Minerva noted that this dream was very “homoerotic” for an autoerotic one. She told herself that the sessions calmed her down, but it would be desirable if I made a discount for her. “Madame Binet then lies down on the couch under a blanket to rest before her next session with the man who is already waiting for her. Not wanting to disturb her, I begin to write down the dream I wanted to tell her. “I sleep with my mother in an old inn. In the morning I watch the news on TV. They talk about a tavern in which young people lit a fire and celebrated. The roof is gone and the entire frame has burned down. I worry about my mother, I climb the stairs that lead to the roof, at the top you can see a beautiful blue square. I enter my mother's room, she is fine, she knows nothing about what happened. I tell my husband about this dream, to whom I am very attached.” Madame Binet asks me: “Who do you want to charm? His?" I answer: “Yes.” I'm leaving, but my car was stolen from the parking lot. I can't go home. I must stay with Madame Binet.”
This dream raises many questions. He shows ambivalence towards analysis and towards me. Minerva wants to finish the job and continue at the same time. We see homosexual desire in relation to the maternal figure, which in the dream represents both myself and, in fact, the woman’s mother. There is also ambivalence towards money. Minerva wants me to make a discount for her - the devaluation of analysis, the problem of money that does not belong to her. Once Minerva's allies, the young trickster revelers, burn the roof covering what her mother contains, she can see the beautiful blue sky. The connection in the transference is strong. Minerva tries to leave many times, but always comes back to me with questions. After all, she needs her car to be stolen so she has a reason to stay. The frame gives Minerva security and allows her to regress, so that she can process the constantly emerging monstrous chaos in which she unconsciously flounders.
I did not contribute to Minerva's regression, fearing disorganization. After all, we were dealing with very archaic elements. That's why I didn't offer her the couch. Regression immediately brought elements of the anal stage to the surface. Then we reached lower levels.
“At that moment I had many dreams in which I saw animals, dolls, embryos that died without being born. Something in me was petrified, a lot of sadness, grief for my fiancé, my unborn child - I had a miscarriage a few years after marriage.”
Finally, Minerva dreamed that she was flirting with the lawyer-surgeon who would operate on her. Minerva must be escorted into the operating room by her father. She asks to go to the toilet, where she throws up a huge amount of excrement. Minerva is afraid that the toilet will not be able to absorb such a mass, and in addition there are meters of toilet paper she has used.
The vast material she has been accumulating since childhood may finally come to the surface. Everything that had been locked away for years of control and blocking began to come out through the mediation of an eroticized lawyer-surgeon. In this dream, the father helps her emerge from the mother's influence by regressing to the anal stage, the first period when the child can decide to hold or not, and can resist the mother's control of what goes in and out of his body. And we know how long the mother kept her daughter locked up, using her as a soothing toy. We understand the need to throw off the roof of this prison and finally see the blue sky of autonomy. But there is also a “double kisskul effect” (an expression from commercials that has entered everyday language and means “side effect”): after being freed from the mother, the father takes over the baton, wanting to catch the daughter in his net!
In the middle of the same year, Minerva dreamed that she was holding a baby in her arms. Minerva squeezes him, but he is a little tense and does not hold his head, this worries her. Minerva places the baby on the table, he immediately becomes unusually nimble and slides to the ground. “I run after him, it’s impossible to catch him, I rush down and grab the lizard’s tail, which is still moving. I'm scared. At this moment my husband comes in and I exclaim: it’s a lizard!” Associations are centered around this lethargic child. It reminds Minerva of her own body, perceived by her as barely alive, but, like a lizard, capable of regeneration. One part of Minerva seeks relaxation, like this baby, and the other demands regression. She will be reborn through a living and nimble ancient reptile, from which the tail remains, as an image of a shadow containing vital energy.
Then she had a long dream, which I quote in full. “I am sitting in the toilet at our house in front of the garage. A car arrives with a young blonde. She gets out of the car and walks towards me, I drive her away. There are cats, the blonde is chasing the kitten to kill him. I ask why she wants to kill the kittens, she replies that they all need to be exterminated! The blonde doesn't leave. Some kind of infection is coming out of it, tiny parasites that look like fleas. The woman changes and becomes quite small. We put it in our bag. Then we sprinkle it with talcum powder. This immobilizes both her and the fleas. Now she looks like a small sexless and white doll, 30 centimeters in size. We close the lid. It can not be touched, because the infection still exists. My mother is infected and must leave. I see her sitting on the sidewalk in the city, she doesn't move and can't eat. She waits for the exile to end. We lift the lid, there are still insects, and we close it again. Since my father and brother are watching her, they too will be cast out. Later I see them in the city, they wait, do not eat and do not move, like cocoons, butterfly pupae. It is not clear how long this lasts. I wake up anxious."
The woman in the dream is like a very destructive person, as a psychoanalyst would say, whom Minerva knew when she was 20 years old. “She was the mistress of one of my teachers, a hypocrite. She had a large retinue. She bewitched and seduced, and then broke people, destroyed and devoured them. Is it possible to compare her with the Gorgon, who turned people to stone, or with Lilith, devouring children? “She had the evil eye.” This woman attacks her mother, father and brother (the dreamer's double). Could this brother be the imaginary son of the mother's first or second miscarriage? What are these parts of Minerva herself - depowered and subject to exile after the curse? The curse occurs at the moment when she sits on the toilet in front of the garage in front of everyone. We see here her companion, the totem cat, being killed by a deadly maternal figure. As soon as Minerva stepped out from under the protective wall, she was immediately cursed. Its contents, its feces, have been discovered and are in danger: an infestation, a voodoo doll, a larva encased in talcum powder. The curse was associated with secretions and was reminiscent of a dream in which Minerva spewed mountains of excrement. Of course, the mother's curse began with the fall from the changing table, as a prolegomena of abandonment and rejection, but also with Minerva being taken hostage too early as an object of narcissistic stability. The little girl was perfect for this.
I was then able to better understand the first two years of her analysis, during which Minerva was especially heavily inundated by the forces of undifferentiated parental imagoes that prevented her from reaching the incomprehensible archaic bottom. In the beginning she brought her dreams and memories and did little symbolism. The huge number of dreams may have been a defense against their interpretations. The question arises whether Minerva was trying to make me helpless by bringing me so many dreams. We didn't have time to interpret them. She flooded me with her contents, like a lawyer-surgeon's toilet with excrement.
The exceptionally powerful and undifferentiated parental adults were united in the figure of the cannibal represented by Bluebeard. They locked Minerva-Judith (Judith is Bluebeard's wife in Bartok's opera) in an endless and fruitless search for her husband's secrets. From the moment of her fall from the changing table and the onset of her mother's probable depression, they undoubtedly led to a weakening of her psyche. The controlling part functioned well, but the other, very split, damaged and filled with death, drove Minerva into a masochistic position. There was a dissociation of affect and representation, the consequence of which was the defiant superiority of the mental function. Minerva was completely powerless in the face of life, and the death of her fiancé aggravated this condition. “I was like a little fox who keeps running with a knife between his shoulder blades.” Before the analysis began, her world was chaotic and explosive with a non-viable and catastrophically destructive core.
Minerva then began to rely on the transfer and containing frame. The functions of her personality became differentiated. Positive images of female mediators appeared, allowing her to experience undevalued femininity. Minerva did not have to make Paris’s choice; she learned to live the three facets of her femininity without conflict with intellectual creativity.
After dreaming about a rich man and two fools, she realized that a cold and arrogant intellectual attitude isolated her and left her helpless and loveless.
Seventh door: exit from Bluebeard's castle.
As Minerva individuated in relation to the gaze and influence on her of the image of her husband, as the bearer of the projection of the parental imago, her associations became richer. The parental imago was “deflated” in dreams, now the father began to appear in them more positive, humane, sometimes even lost. In another dream, Minerva saw an Italian professor who could be useful for her dissertation. The conversation with him did not obligate anyone, but there was temptation and frivolity in it. Finally! She was no longer a servant bound to her mother's imago.
Resuming work on her dissertation gradually led her to the discovery of introversion and individuation, independent of the wishes of others. Gradually, Minerva freed herself from projections onto her husband. She connected with her creativity and successfully completed a lengthy and exciting piece of work. The dissertation council warmly accepted her work and highly appreciated it, noting the originality of the plot.
Minerva explored the underwater part of the iceberg, the ever-active unconscious, despite the fact that she could only function by relying on her mind and controlling everything. She got to the very essence of the desire for power, both her own and others, which, in principle, is one and the same. Isn't the ability to let go of the situation lies in the fact that you stop wanting to control everything?
The servant Cinderella, who was subordinate to Bluebeard, fled from him after a long analysis. This happened when someone else, like the brothers in Perrault's fairy tale, symbolically killed her husband. Psychological chains were broken. Minerva was able to embark on a path that led to an understanding of otherness, to the acceptance that the other is different, and not at all what she wants him to be.
I quoted Indira Gandhi to Minerva, who said something like this: “Why are Western women so stupid? They are always in conflict with their husbands. As a result, they are unhappy and achieve nothing! Thus, from her words, we understand that the phallic animus of a woman, trying to cope with the humiliation of narcissistic wounds, fights with a man, achieves recognition of her own value, which serves as a proof of love for him. The irony is that a woman in such a situation pays dearly for this struggle, feels rejected and isolated. Indira Gandhi wanted, of course, to talk about feminine power, which is not phallic and does not arouse masculine militancy. Then the woman will be able to control this force through the feminine logos and creativity.
“The feminine logos [...] is the mind by its nature intermediary, since it is closer to people than abstraction. He is in relationship with the sensitive aspects of the world. In a concrete space, this feminine logos is more interested in particular than in general, more in the characteristics of living beings than in their classification according to species and numbers. [...] This logos is the organ of perception of reality through the feminine function of sensation” (M.-L. Colonna 2007). The dictum Minerva taught me: Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo, could also mean that an integrated animus can help a woman make her goals a reality, unfolding the soft and seductive velvet of calm and perfect femininity. And then her new companion, a connoisseur of femininity, will tell her: “You are beauty itself.”
M. Le Coz, Gilles de Raiz ou la confession imaginaire, Paris, Seuil, 1989
Bela Bartók, Bluebeard's Castle, one-act opera 1918, libretto by Bela Balazs in Hungarian
Ch. Fonseca, “L'animal, ombre des dieux et frère de l'homme”, Cahiers jungiens de psychanalyse, No126, 2008, p.16
E. Humbert, “Reflection sur les idées d'archétype et d'inconscient collectif”, Cahiers de psychologie jungienne, No114, p. 28-31.
K.G. Jung, Symbols of transformation, M., 2017, par. 462
There, steam. 465.
CG Jung, La guerison psychologique, Genève, Georg & Cie, 1976, p. 205.
H. Kohut, Analysis of the Self, Moscow, Cogito Center, 2003, p. 74.
A. Green, Dead mother. French Psychoanalytic School, St. Petersburg, Peter, 2005, pp. 333-361.
H. Kohut, Analysis of the Self, Moscow, Cogito Center, 2003, p. 83.
H. Kohut, Analysis of the Self, Moscow, Cogito Center, 2003, p. 83.
D. Baumgartner, L'Inconscient dans ls relation en entreprise, Paris, Dunod/APM, 2001, p. 121.
F. Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols, section Sayings and Arrows”, par. 8.
M.-L. Colonna, L'Aventure du couple aujourd'hui, Paris, Dervy, 2007, p. 96.