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A Turning Point; it’s time for the soft animal to rise

Last night at Seeing Red at the Movies, Jungian Analyst Marilyn Matthews, MD, brought us back in time to revisit the 1977 film The Turning Point, starring Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. She walked us through the key moments of conflict — youthful awakenings to one’s talent and romance, loss of innocence in career and love, humbling mid-life decisions, and acceptance of choices made — and showed us how they relate to deeper archetypal energies and patterns.

Marilyn illustrated how the themes of this 43 year old film are still relevant today - both to women and to our culture.

In speaking of the power of psychological projection, Marilyn shared Marie-Louise von Franz’s observation that we often speak of projection from the point of view of the sender, but rarely from the point of view of the receiver.

Then Marilyn described another kind of power — the power of a void, of emptiness — and illustrated how it can become a target for, and even attract projection.

And floating these two powers together, Marilyn reminded us of how easy it is, even today, for women to become targets of projection if their egos have suffered oppression or repression.

Holding this idea — of the non-generative masculine projecting onto the oppressed feminine as a means of amplifying its own power — I can’t help but feel this culturally, right now, during this global pandemic. And I feel it most particularly here in America.

From my point of view, the White House is projecting its self-serving campaign of magical thinking and greed-driven leadership right into the cultural wounds of the archetypal feminine.

The feminine qualities of empathy, compassion, and integrity in both word and action; as well as connection to/respect for the very ground we walk on — are all being threatened to the point that we can no longer be passive, compliant or silent receivers.

To further clarify the swift speed with which a destructive power can fill a void, Matthews offered this concept from Carl Jung in his Seminar on Nietzsche. Paraphrased like this, “If you hate and despise yourself… then there are hungry animals in your constitution ... There is no radiation, no real warmth; there is hunger and secret stealing.” We become complicit in our own oppression. The hungry animal inside each of us opens the door for the hungry animal of our culture.

From this orientation to animal hunger, I felt the call of its opposite, and I immediately heard in my head a line from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

And I hold the images of these two very different animals as two aspects of human nature that are in conflict in our culture as well as in our individual psyches. Culturally, I see ‘the hungry animal that steals’ as our political leadership, and ‘the soft animal of our body’ as the feminine aspects of leadership that are rooted in love.

And now, with a pandemic raging and an election looming, we find ourselves at a crux where the soft animal of our body needs to claim its power. We’re at a turning point and it's time for the oppressed feminine energies in both men and women to rise and say No More to the insatiable hunger of oppressors.

Many thanks again to Marilyn Matthews for offering us her valuable perspective.

- Shaler McClure Wright

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