A comment: the appropriation of Athena as a “cartoon figure” in contemporary feminist fantasies is not what interests me.
Ivory carving; Richard Cockle Lucas, 1847
The Unreachable Beloved; How can Athena remain as the prime emotion?
Seyed Eissa Hashemia *, Maryam Tahmasebi a a Center for Peace & Environment, Tehran Iran
Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 30 (2011) 1091 – 1095
Available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com
This article presents a conceptual discourse based on archetypal Jungian psychology and discusses the emotional features of Athena archetype. Since the Athena type has been defined as one lacking emotions and as a perfectionist, the main issue about this archetype is how could emotions and failures be illustrated and explained in the Athena life span? In order to answer this question, this paper uses several practical counselling experiences and the author’s sessions with volunteer cases. While providing a quick review of the principles and characteristics of Athena types, this paper will investigate the emotional stages in Athena’s life. Finally, this review will study the shadow aspects of this archetype and discuss the apparent facets of the Athena type. In this work we clearly demonstrate what is considered to be analytical psychology rather than a critical judgment or lavish naming. (Thank-you!) In other words, the Athena type has a golden balance in life and this paper does not consider the conscious and best behavior of this type, but in fact, we discuss the shadow features and unconscious behavior of this archetype.
This analytical paper is based on Jungian psychology as part of deep psychology. In other words, the concepts provided are based upon classical Greek mythology and the collective unconscious as described by C. G. Jung (Jung, 1971). “Jean Shinoda Bolen” is one of the renowned Jungians who provided a profound description of the meaning of deep psychology. She introduced Gods and Goddesses as psychological patterns and symbolic figures, a powerful concept that could strike a spiritual chord in many observers. Women and men who were drawn to particular mythological God(s) and Goddess (es) found that this archetype affected their dream life or waking imagination. Gods and Goddesses sometimes appeared in these dreams as numinous or awesome and mysterious figures. It allowed both women and men to invest and portray personal symbols and sacred objects with archetypal meaning and beauty (Bolen, 1984). This paper aims to discuss certain personality aspects of a Goddess named Athena. Athena was the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Crafts, known to the Romans as Minerva. Like her sister Artemis (another Greek Goddess), Athena appeared as a virgin Goddess, committed to chastity and celibacy. She was the majestic, beautiful warrior Goddess, protector of her preferred heroes. She was the only Olympian Goddess portrayed wearing armour, the visor of her helmet pushed back to reveal her beauty, a shield over her arm, and a spear in her hand (Hamilton, 1942). (In my view, the “virgin goddess” in mythology is misunderstood as “man-hating”, but this is a seriously flawed interpretation by modern social humans. Virgin goddesses are outside male domination – complete personalities and sentient beings as proper to the place of the female in nature; her character and independence are valued. In modern social environments, females are defined by the dominant male hierarchy as “suppliers” of male needs; sex, reproduction, household labor.)
As Goddess of Wisdom, Athena was known for her captivating and practical solutions. As an archetype, Athena is the pattern followed by logical women, who are ruled by their minds rather than their hearts. When a woman recognizes the keen way her mind works as a feminine quality related to Athena, she can develop a positive image of herself, instead of fearing that she is manly. (Every psychologist who claims that Asperger women have ‘male brains’ ought to accept the truth; it’s just not true – this conceit is a slander on all females. ) She was most noted for her skills as a weaver, in which hands and mind must work in harmony. As the archetype of ―the father’s daughter, Athena represents the woman who has a quite natural tendency toward powerful men who have authority, responsibility, and powerful men who fit the archetype of the patriarchal father (Bolen, 2004). (A bit overstated; “logical women” may find self-confident males attractive, regardless of social status in the patriarchy)
In a woman who has a strongly activated Athena archetype, there is a natural tendency to do everything in moderation, to live within ―the Golden Mean, which was the Athenian ideal. Extremes are usually the result of intense feelings or needs, or of a fervent, virtuous, fearful, or greedy nature all of which are antithetical to rational Athena. The Golden Mean is also supported by the Athenian tendency to monitor events, note effects, and change a course of action as soon as it appears fruitless (Bolen, 2004).
After defining the Athena archetype and a description about Athena’s characteristics as portrayed in the human psyches, it is necessary to define two important views of each archetype, which can be denoted as an archetype’s rationality. The actions of each archetype could be defined either as an intrinsic act which can be called the ―mature Athena, or it could be termed the ―mask of Athena, in which the acts may be completely identical to intrinsic ones; however the intention may be totally different. That exemplifies what, in Jungian psychology, is termed as the divisions between Ego and Persona (Jung, 1952). In this paper we will focus on emotional reactions of Athena in ego (intrinsic) levels and persona (mask) ones. Since these facets of Athena focus on emotional behaviours, we are going to answer what would enable Athena to become ―The Unreachable Beloved. In the following, initially we will discuss certain characteristics of Athena in emotional behaviors, in two separate sections. One section will deal with being unreachable and the other being beloved. Moreover, we will focus on ego and persona roles. Finally, we will conclude with some solutions and suggestions.
2. The unpredictable variable; What is Athena’s reaction in emotional facets?
Athena is a feminine archetype: she shows that thinking well, keeping one’s head in the heat of an emotional situation, and developing good tactics for conflict resolution in the midst of conflict, are natural traits for some women. Such a woman is being like Athena, not acting ―like a man (Thank-you!) Her masculine aspect, or animus, is not doing the thinking for her—she is thinking clearly and well for herself (Bolen, 1984). That is, Athena always has a plan for everything. She manages all the programs and presents the best solutions for any practical problem. As a result, we would understand that Athena should have an independent personality (The Virgin Goddess) and in this type of life of which all variables are definable, predictable and controllable, the worst nightmare is an unpredicted variable which could suddenly change every facet of life. x
For instance, imagine a student who needs Athena to help her to prosper in the attainment of knowledge. She allocates her time comprehensively to her education. She has no time for anything out of her studies. All variables of life are under her control, even her health and her recreational times. Suddenly, she meets her ideal man and she feels she is falling in love. In this critical time, in which the golden future is waiting for her, something is going to change her life. The best example of such variables is love and emotions. Indeed, at the first sight, love and emotional feelings act like a giant hurricane approaching our beautiful, calm and reliable castle. In the mentioned example, the castle is her study phase of life and the hurricane is meeting with the ideal man. For Athena, entering the land of emotions is an unforgivable and intolerable fault. In order to prevent such mistakes, Athena will define strict and rigid borders around her castle, demonstrating her unawareness. That is what we term inflexibility and rigidity in emotions. As a result, in this type of behaviour, Athena remains unreachable.
2.1. Fear of dependency or common sense borders; What are differences among ego and persona?
One important reason why Athena remains unreachable lies on the degree of awareness concerning each archetype. If the Athena type appears in a high level of awareness and acts intrinsically in certain situations, the result would be the Golden Mean; the best decisions at the best time. In other words, she will settle confident borders between feelings and practical situations. Besides, she will refrain to make impulsive reactions and will focus on the consequence of each condition. However, Athena and none of the symbolic archetypes could ever be completely realized in human beings. Consequently, people will unconsciously choose mostly Athena as a persona for their life. This is the basis of a concept which is termed the ―Shadow Effect. The question thus arises that why do some people choose Athena as their mask, while they are getting close to emotions? In order to answer this question we should find the shadow archetype of Athena in the Greek Gods. Poseidon, the God of Waters and Emotions could help us in this regard. One of the most important consequences of falling in love is dependency. When you are dependant, every moment of your life relies on the existence of someone else. (Horrors!) You will always have the fear of losing your beloved, all days and nights. (I would add a different consequence; the other person as an obstacle to action: to timing of action; a restriction on intuitive action, out of caring for the other person) As a result, life will be difficult, due to anxiety and fear of losing someone else. Based on counselling experiences of Yalom (2000) for some people, in order to remain independent and keep everything under their control, it becomes necessary to avoid getting close to emotions. That is termed ―Fear of Dependency in the shadow process. Consequently, the best archetype for answering such needs is Athena with her rigid reactions in feelings (Yalom, 2002).
2.2 Seeking for Greener Gardens; Will Athena ever find the ideal Green Garden?
Another reason why Athena remains unreachable is her tendency to anticipate and await the perfect Green Garden, which is the embodiment of ideal conditions or happiness. (You betcha!) The irrational Athena whose persona may appear in the role of Athena, can never stop anticipating and expecting the perfect gardens. One reason might be that she does not know what to do when she ultimately finds the green garden. We can imagine this condition, since in certain circumstances when we have other priorities; we consistently delay our entrance to the Green Garden. For instance, imagine a person, who has dedicated her time for work, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We could describe her as a workaholic. Obviously, it may be rational to allocate ones time in order to gain experience, prosperity and financial gains. However, the important point for some people in this situation is that they equate the leisure of life and spending time without any particular thing to do, with being lazy, sluggish and useless. (Not my problem; I’m the opposite, having sacrificed “social goals” of career and status to my “garden quest” and to maximizing free time as “the best” time.) Consequently, these people will never make time for enjoying their life or they will never have free time, because if they do so, they may judge themselves as lazy, sluggish, irresponsible and useless persons.
In fact, this could happen in emotional aspects too. In such people’s minds, emotional persons are judged and labelled to be weak, sissy and cowardly; hence they will attempt to distance themselves from their emotions. In addition, before getting angry (an example for emotional anxiety) they will make a logical analysis and completely repress their anger. (Not necessarily: it’s taken a lifetime of work to pre-empt instantaneous expressions of anger-frustration) Moreover, in some cases, in romantic relations, the irrational Athena may lacerate the lover’s emotions by her symbolic spear. (Bolen, 1988) This is what is known as ―closing your heart on emotions. That was another reason why the unaware Athena becomes unreachable. On the contrary, the rational Athena can delineate and distinguish between her brain and heart. She could make a decision to listen either to her heart or mind. (Or both, and to chose action that reflects these variables) This is what is called the Golden Mean. It is necessary to mention that being rude or making the lover disappointed is not bad for Athena, since she needs to protect her ―castle. In this discourse we are focusing on the redundancy of rudeness and hurting people. (Asperger types are judged to be rude…honesty, and consideration for the eventual cost of dishonesty, is considered to be socially inconsiderate.)
3. A companion or a lover, which one will Athena choose to live with?
The Athena woman gravitates toward successful men. She is attracted to power, either seeking it herself, often with the help of a successful older male mentor (this is an obvious strategy in a male-dominated system) or more traditionally, as a companion, wife, executive secretary, or ally. For Athena women (as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger noted), ―power is the best aphrodisiac. (Bolen, 2004) This is one side of the story. What is seen on the other side is the masculine view of Athena. The question is what would men see in a relationship with Athena? (Too often, a competitor rather than a partner) A perfectionist woman, a collector of golden medals, a strategist warrior and the best of bests, is usually what men will see from Athena. (So unrealistic! The “perfect statue” expectation is ridiculous, confining and destructive to relationships) Regardless of the intentions behind their tendencies, whether being the need to have Athena for projecting their personal deficiencies, or the need for romantic and sexual relationships, Athena types are mostly in the centre of attention and attraction for certain types of men. That is why we named her ―The Unreachable Beloved.
3.1. The powerful man or the wanderer; who would be attracted to Athena?
Before approaching the conclusion, it is necessary to answer to the following question: Which type of men will be attracted to Athena? In order to answer this question we should take a closer look at the attractive characteristics of Athena. When we fall in love, we will find what we did not have in our pocket (Johnson, 2008). The armoured Goddess who conceals her beauty under the shield, the strategist who can think, analyze and decide
like a man is perfect for those men who have decision making problems; whether they are empowered, like the boss man or powerless. Therefore, men who are seeking for independent and responsible women will be attracted to Athena. Moreover, the perfect woman, the ―Father’s Daughter, the wise craft woman, will be expected by most men, to have strong feelings and be emotional. However, in practice they might find a completely different story (Bolen, 1988).
The conclusion section contains two parts: three revisiting points and some suggestions for Athena possessed types. The important concept of Jungian psychology is that when one realizes ones ―personal journey and the significant archetypes in ego and persona levels, one should not necessarily regulate and get rid of the strong archetype. Quite the reverse, one might need to devote time to improve the weak archetypes. Deliberately, this is the concept of the ―Golden Mean which is the significant attribute of the ―aware Athena. Athena, as it can be understood, concentrates mostly on “Doing” patterns of life rather than “Being” ones. ―Doing acts are similar to the “Extravert” personality; as ―Being acts are close to the “Introvert”. Based on the intention involved, “Doing” patterns are those actions which are done in order to attain a specific result, While, “Being” patterns are those actions in which being in the moments of that action is much important than attaining results. For instance, eating could be a ―Doing pattern when the intention is consuming some carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins and maintaining ones health. Instead, it can be a “Being” pattern when the eating is joyful for the person. Consequently, the unaware Athena fully concentrates on “Doing” patterns in order to achieve the ―Green Garden. While, in reality, what the unaware Athena needs is concentration on “Being” patterns and maintaining a “Golden Mean” between “Doings” and “Beings”. (Or another possibility exists: the person is aware that the Golden Mean is an ongoing struggle / negotiation that supplies a type of energy-curiosity to daily life.)
The final point is that in dealing with different personalities we do not need to question and criticize all likely persons who display the same backgrounds and same endings like Athena types. Indeed, the best and deepest part of Jungian Psychology is to refrain from quick judgments or sensational reactions. In this article, we have endeavoured to explain some of the challenges and disorders of these archetypes with a neutral perspective so as not to offend other personality traits. We have refrained from any judgemental approach in this work. We have also endeavoured to shed light on some of the more obscure aspects of this personality. It is however evident that our work has been limited to certain aspects of the Athena archetype and this area of research requires more study and investigation. (Yes!)
Acknowledgements The authors wish to thank the supporters and participants of workshops convened in the Life and Culture Institute in Tehran , and those who stimulated our thoughts to initiate the basic concepts of this paper.