Mythology can help us understand our human nature. Both Freud and Jung used the myths to help formulate symbols and meanings from dreams. In this new series, we explore the different myths and the symbols that influence our life. Learn how the myths can teach us about your evolution and growth.
In this episode we talk about how to transform anger by understanding the different symbols in the Myth of Medusa. We will discuss:
- What spiritual tools did Perseus have to help him on his hero’s journey?
- How Medusa symbolizes the negative Mother complex;
- The emergence of Pegasus and what that means for our life;
- How to work with the energy of anger to transform it into passion.
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Debra Maldonado 00:08
Hello, everyone, welcome back to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind.
Robert Maldonado 00:13
That’s right. It’s a new year and we’re starting a new series.
Debra Maldonado 00:18
New series and a new season, season five. We renewed ourselves. Let’s talk about what is the new series about, the next couple sessions.
Robert Maldonado 00:32
We left off talking about emotions and the power of emotions and a little bit of how to work with them. This is a unique part of our approach in work with Jungian theory, we get to use mythology, because myths essentially are speaking the same language as dreams. Dreams are essentially the messages that are coming from the unconscious mind. When we look at mythology, we’re looking at important psychological elements of psyche, according to Jung and a lot of people, of course, a lot of thinkers.
Debra Maldonado 01:16
Mythology, if we think from ancient Greek mythology, Roman mythology, but also religious mythology, and then our modern mythology, the stories of today, movies, books, these wonderful series that you watch on Netflix and are caught up in, it’s all based on mythology.
Robert Maldonado 01:45
Hopefully it will give you an idea of how relevant myths and mythology in general can be to your everyday life, your work with your own mind, with emotions.
Debra Maldonado 02:01
Watching movies with you, it’s more than just watching entertainment. It’s really a learning experience, because we discuss what archetypes are showing up in the movie. It’s really interesting, that’s an important part of our life as human beings, we live through story. The stories of the myths across different cultures seem to be very similar. So there must be something beyond just our conscious awareness that is driving these myths. That’s what Jung called the collective unconscious.
Robert Maldonado 02:38
Let’s go back to Freud and Jung. This is 1900, the turn of the century, Freud publishes his interpretation of dreams, which blew Jung’s mind because here was somebody actually bringing up this ancient art in a scientific — the science of that time, at least — in a psychological paradigm, a bonafide way of talking about these important pieces of psyche that had been around since the beginning of time, human beings always paid attention to dreams. But after the enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, people lost track of that, they lost interest in it, they lost the art. Freud did us a great favor by publishing that book around 1900 and reviving the whole idea of this is an important piece of human psychology, let’s study it. Then Jung, of course, jumps on board and becomes the head of psychoanalytic society for a while, he’s running the show, and Freud is ready to give him the crown and make him the prince heir to his throne. But at that time, around 1908, Jung starts to get disillusioned with Freud’s hold on psychoanalysis and his insistence on the sexual theory and other things. Jung really wanted to take it to another level, you mentioned the collective unconscious, that was the birth of his idea. He wanted to look at history, at anthropology. Of course, Freud had done some of that, but Jung wanted to take it to the next level and start to think about what’s going on collectively. If these myths and symbols and archetypes are showing up all around the world in very different contexts but essentially the same themes over and over, Jung came up with this idea of collective unconscious.
Debra Maldonado 05:18
There’s something that ties us all together as human humans and this experience that we have, we’re not as separate as we think we are, we have this joint experience, common fears, common aspirations, common challenges.
Robert Maldonado 05:37
There is still debate as to how scientific it is, and where should we fit that Jung’s model. It does fit, of course, into literature, into philosophy, then scientific psychology. But it’s still such an important part of human nature that we don’t want to throw it away. We want to value it and give it its due. Now there is even scientific evidence that there is something going on there, this transmission of emotions and experiences through what’s called epigenetics.
Debra Maldonado 06:23
Like encoding, our memory is encoded in our DNA and passed down, generational memory. That makes a lot of sense because for survival purposes, wouldn’t it be good to prepare the offspring for the dangers that the parent learned to adapt to? Culture and society passed down through the next generation, so they don’t repeat the same patterns or they can protect themselves from danger. That’s how evolution works initially. There’s adaptation from a physical standpoint. But now that we don’t need that as much we have that psychological adaptation, how do we fit in socially. Our survival as a modern human is how we survive socially.
Robert Maldonado 07:16
Mythology, Jung saw it as the language of the unconscious mind. Why myths, because it’s like collective dreams. As individuals, we have dreams that speak, that’s that symbolic language, he would say that as societies, as cultures, we have these myths that are equal to dreams to the individual.
Debra Maldonado 07:48
We have evidence of that personally, because both of us have worked with thousands of people who’ve gone through our trainings or courses, and we see the same dream show up in different people from all over the world. There’s that dream of the snake, or there’s a dream of the house falling down, that dream of going into the unknown, into the cave, or going down into the basement, flying dreams. Where is that information kept? Jung said “Collective unconscious.” A lot of times our clients will dream of something, a myth that they never even read about. But they’ll have a dream that’s pointing to the myth. They didn’t have a personal experience of it, so there must be a collective mind that that person is connected to. That’s really what we love about Jung’s work because it takes us into the spiritual realm, into the non-physical, not just the physical body, we’re going into not only the personal mind, but the transpersonal mind, which is very cool. This episode is about the myth of Medusa, which is my favorite myth. One of the first myths you aligned and showed me how it impacted my life. It’s about how to transform anger. So very mythical, but also practical.
Robert Maldonado 09:13
We wanted to give you an example of how strange mythology is because it is strange. We know the language of the unconscious, the symbolic language is very weird to our rational mind, especially to modern humans. The language of dreams appears bizarre, same as mythologies. If you look at any mythologies from any culture, they’re strange. They’re not following logical rules.
Debra Maldonado 09:49
Even writers writing fiction books are using their imagination and they come up with the structure of a story but it matches myths. Sometimes they borrow the myth. But other times it falls into some sort of organization, some sort of pattern. That’s what archetypes are.
Robert Maldonado 10:12
Very much like dreams, myths are not created in a conscious way. There is, of course, people that compile the stories and write them down. But the myths essentially are born spontaneously from the unconscious mind, just like when you fall asleep, you have a dream, you don’t plan it out, it essentially happens in your psyche. The same happens with the stories that reappear all over the planet, different times, but the same themes. Now one important element in understanding mythology is that the blood, for example, or violence in a myth does not mean what it means in our rational way of thinking. Just like dreams. It’s a symbolic language.
Debra Maldonado 11:09
We see a lot of people have dreams of murdering and hiding the body. They’re like “I really don’t like that. What happened in that dream?” But we point out that it’s not literal, you can’t take that literally. You can’t take myths literally. That’s the important part is that people look at myths and say “That’s what happened back in ancient Greece.” No, that was a myth. If you notice, the Romans have similar gods, and in different religions, there are similar myths that show up all the time. Even the myths of India.
Robert Maldonado 11:47
All myths essentially speak the symbolic language of the unconscious mind, just like dreams. Keep that in mind as we talk about Medusa, because the imagery, if we try to read it literally, simply reads as this violent story of a hero’s journey, soldier fighting this monster and beheading her. It makes for an interesting movie perhaps, but it’s not the meaning of the story. We wanted to talk about three main characters associated with the Medusa story. Of course, Medusa herself, who is a Gorgon, and is one of the daughters of Poseidon, who is this monstrous feminine figure, very much associated with the snake because all of these women had wings and had snakes for hair. The serpent power is a symbol that comes up all over the planet. It is associated with a Kundalini, with a spiritual power, magic, higher knowledge. So now you’re starting to get a sense of what Medusa is representing.
Debra Maldonado 13:25
She’s not just an angry monster woman. But there’s an aspect of that.
Robert Maldonado 13:32
We’ll talk about how it psychologically relates to aspects of individuation, or the hero’s inner journey as we go through the individuation process. There’s Medusa, who is a guardian of the underworld, then, of course, the hero, Perseus, or Percy, is on a journey, like most heroes are, he goes around gathering magical weapons and protecting gear from the gods.
Debra Maldonado 14:11
He’s half god, half human, the son of Zeus.
Robert Maldonado 14:16
That’s a typical hero image as well, the hero is not only a human being, but also associated with the divine element, the gods. Perseus gets the magical shield from Athena. He gets a sword from her. He gets an invisibility cap, and the winged sandals of Hermes who is a trickster figure, he is considered a trickster and a messenger of the gods. Already we see that the myth is talking about transformation that the individual has to go through in facing these deeper challenges of the unconscious mind represented by the Medusa. He needs the powers, the blessings, the protection of the divine element.
Debra Maldonado 15:37
There’s Perseus, there’s Medusa, and then the third character?
Robert Maldonado 15:45
The third character is Pegasus.
Debra Maldonado 15:50
My favorite. When I was a kid, I loved the winged horse. I love horses. But I didn’t realize all the mythology around it.
Robert Maldonado 15:58
In the story, when Perseus, through his use of these magical weapons is able to slay Medusa and behead her, from her neck, from her blood in her neck, arises Pegasus. In other words, Pegasus is the power of imagination. Poetic imagination in humans is only born after the hero is able to conquer his fear and his anger. In Jungian terms, when we look at the story, we have the story of Perseus.
Debra Maldonado 16:54
His job was to slay Medusa. One of the things about Medusa too, that you left out is that when she looked at you directly, she turned you to stone. All these previous warriors went there to slay her. Then she looked at them, and they would freeze and turn to stone. That’s also very important part of our psychological analysis.
Robert Maldonado 17:20
The basic story is that Perseus is on his hero’s journey. He’s out to save the city as all heroes are on this quest in this journey. Part of his challenge of course is to slay Medusa. If you gaze at her directly, you turn to stone, you freeze, and that will come in handy as we examine it from a Jungian perspective. He uses the shield that he got from Athena and instead of looking directly at her, he looks at the reflection on the shield. He guides himself with that and is able then to behead her. The head becomes a weapon for him because he’s able then to use it against his enemy, against the image he has to slay. And as he slays her, Pegasus is born, the winged horse. Let’s look at those three elements, three characters. What would Jung say? How would we interpret that myth from a Jungian perspective? What does it mean for our individual life today?
Debra Maldonado 18:55
When we first met, you and I, I came home one day — you may have heard the story before, those of you who listen to our podcast, it’s also in my book. This woman was very mad at me, I was very hurt. I came home and I just felt this powerlessness, kind of victimy, this woman is so mad at me, I don’t know what to do to fix it, I didn’t do anything wrong. I felt very helpless. I was so triggered by it. You showed me how two people in the unconscious reflect off each other. You told me the story of Medusa and said “That’s your own anger.” I said “I’m not angry. She’s the angry one.” You said Perseus needed the shield to reflect, that’s what the people out in our world do, they reflect parts of our mind, so we can see it directly. Because if we look at it directly, we would turn to stone, we freeze if we think we’re bad or terrible. So we have to project it out there. That’s the power of the shadow. When you told me that and said it was my anger, I was like “I’m not angry.” But when I started sitting with that feeling I realized it was all about my pleasing. There’s suppression of anger when you’re pleasing. Most women that want to fit in and be liked end up repressing our anger. I love that the shield is the people that irritate us the most are showing us our own mind. That’s where I see the shield part as part of Jungian philosophy. This idea that this shadow can only be seen, because it’s unconscious, in the people that annoy us and make us unhappy. It feels like it’s out there, but we’re really having an experience of our own mind.
Robert Maldonado 21:04
The myth really captures this challenge for us, because in the individuation process we have to become our own hero. The challenge for us as individuals, or if we want to become individuals, fully mature, making our own decisions in life, grown up, not tied symbolically to the conditioning of our mother, we have to face the dark aspect of the mother that is in the unconscious mind.
Debra Maldonado 21:51
This is another aspect of the story, Medusa represents the negative mother archetype, the Dark Mother.
Robert Maldonado 21:59
Her association with the serpent places her in the realm of the Dark Mother, Jung would call that a negative mother complex. It doesn’t mean that there’s evil in the mother, it simply means that part of us is aware and conscious, we live in the conscious world. The other part is unconscious, it’s inaccessible to us, we cannot see the unconscious mind. Going into that realm, into the realm of the Dark Mother signifies or symbolically means we’re going into the unconscious mind. That’s the hero’s journey. We have to go into ourselves, into the psyche, into the forbidden parts of the psyche and conquer our anger, our fear, just like a warrior has to have fear and anger under control and be able to use the weapons, it is very much a disciplined way of doing it, if he or she wants to reach adulthood, or individuation as Jung would call it. They have to undergo this trial by fire of facing the dark aspects of the mother archetype. In the Perseus story we see that playing out, if you want the imagination, the power of creative imagination, which is represented by Pegasus—
Debra Maldonado 23:52
But also the mother is creative energy as well. She is the reason why we’re here, we all have a mother. She’s a creative force.
Robert Maldonado 24:02
Yes, she gives birth. Symbolically you see Pegasus coming from the body of the Dark Mother.
Debra Maldonado 24:12
If you don’t face the negative mother and don’t free the imagination, you’re basically living on the surface, you’re living on the conscious level, you’re conditioned. You may not even be conscious of the impact your mother has on you on a personal level. You’re just living out, basically responding to that experience of the mother-child. Whether your mother was nurturing or whether your mother was critical, you’re still impacted by her. If you don’t make that conscious, see both sides of her, all of her, which is all of you, you’re going to just live out the old pattern. For most people, it’s scary too. Because our life is basically mediocre, it’s just enough. It’s a risk to go and we fear that things will just fall apart, the ego fears that. That’s why we need the warrior energy to face that part of ourselves.
Robert Maldonado 25:17
In Medusa, you also see that she represents the animal nature. If you think where our bodies come from, where did we evolve from? We were talking about earlier, what was our evolution, we evolved from the animal world. Part of our journey as human beings is to be able to transcend those genes, those predispositions, those animalistic survival strategies in us. Medusa represents that challenge.
Debra Maldonado 25:58
If you look at our modern world, we say we’re cultured, we live in houses, we’re not eating, rummaging, shooting and killing each other on the streets. But there’s a subliminal anger and aggression. If you look at wars in the world, famine, selfishness, if we’re not conscious, if we’re not individuated, we’re almost living at an animal level. We have nice clothes on and makeup on, and we hide it, but deep within us, there’s still those urges. The force of that is imagination, the information from the world and all the history of the world that we can access. That’s why the indigenous people had all the rituals, they were so close to nature. We think we’re more evolved because we have houses, we can go on the computer, but they were closer to the earth and all magic that we lost.
Robert Maldonado 27:04
It’s always a question of balance. I don’t think Jung would advocate that we get rid of technology and go back. It is the lopsidedness that we’ve placed too much emphasis on the conscious rational mind and ignore the power of the unconscious mind. What happens is it builds up that shadow. That’s essentially the building up of the shadow. Anything we ignore and repress as our nature, we’re giving it energy. It’s going to come out then in an unconscious way, as aggression, as violence.
Debra Maldonado 27:48
Or acting out sexually.
Robert Maldonado 27:51
As war, un-caring for the earth.
Debra Maldonado 27:55
Shaming people on social media, getting into the tribal, hoard mentality of “Let’s all get together and hate this person or hate this idea.”
Robert Maldonado 28:09
The function of dreams was or is precisely that, to allow some of that shadow pressure to come out in a creative way in human societies. You see the Aztecs undergoing ritual human sacrifice. From our perspective it looks like a barbaric practice. But essentially, they were practicing this idea that the gods require their due, they require their acknowledgement and given their place in a mythological, poetic sense. That was part of the ritual to bring about this mythology into life.
Debra Maldonado 28:59
Wouldn’t you say that a lot of times when we have these dreams, it doesn’t all have to happen on a conscious level? When we’re dreaming and interacting with the dreams and paying attention to them, it’s an integration in a way because we’re giving reverence to the dream and honoring the dream, we’re understanding it and integrating it into our life. Our understanding is a way of shifting our psyche.
Robert Maldonado 29:26
Absolutely. If you think in terms of rational and irrational, the rational part of our psyche is our ability to do things and to build things in the waking world. The irrational mind is expressed through dreams and mythology where it doesn’t follow the rules of rationality, it’s symbolic, it’s emotional, it’s chaotic sometimes, but the union of the two is incredible because you have logic and passion working together.
Debra Maldonado 30:02
A lot of times the sword could represent the logic and the masculine energy. Because Perseus was a man obviously, most heroes were that day, because it was run by men. But that’s another story.
Robert Maldonado 30:15
But the goddess is Athena. It’s not political, it is a great balance.
Debra Maldonado 30:25
But the idea that he had to slay the feminine, the dark feminine is really his way of coming to that balance within himself. As Jung would call it, the Anima is really the acting out. But logic is the sword cutting through and freeing the imagination, the combination.
Robert Maldonado 30:50
It is the balancing of the two and the reconnecting, as Jung would say, the conscious and the unconscious mind, the integration of those two elements. That’s what brings about a true maturity in the hero’s journey, in the individuation process. If we don’t connect with our unconscious mind, that irrational part of us, that mythology, then our life has no passion. It’s simply logical. It’s reasonable. It is persona, as Jung would say, it’s adaptive to society. But it’s still tied to the mother culture, what we were taught as children and what we were taught to be, to behave this certain way. Not really free.
Debra Maldonado 31:43
It’s like we’re walking around, turned to stone.
Robert Maldonado 31:47
In a way. We are still in an elemental state, rigid and heavy.
Debra Maldonado 31:57
When people say that they feel they’ve lost their passion in life, they want to do something with their life, a lot of our clients are right on the cusp of individuation, they’re ready for it, they’re in stagnation. They feel this heaviness “I don’t know what to do next.” After a while you can’t just live your life the way you did the early part of life, it’s just gonna get tighter and tighter. Individuation is really the key to open up, soften those rigid edges, help you become more flexible in the world. The ego loves the rigidity, the rules, the judgment. Bringing in that beautiful balance to our lives and express these deeper transpersonal passions that we’re here to create.
Robert Maldonado 32:55
At a psychological level, we’re talking about very instinctual emotions we inherited from our evolution, from animal life. Aggression, anger, drive for life, looking out for ourselves and making sure we survive. There’s nothing wrong with it but if we want to also access the higher elements of the psyche, our ability to imagine, to philosophize, to express compassion and transcend our ego state, we have to come to terms with those parts of our psyche. That’s what the myth of Medusa is talking about, the coming to terms with that powerful anger that’s at the core of our biological beingness. Then we can use our higher imagination, our spiritual power.
Debra Maldonado 34:01
I have a really good example for everyone. If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s really that the anger can be on one extreme hyper aggressive, then the lack of anger, or the rejection of anger, is a wimpy energy. It’s wimpy, poor me, the world is terrible, I gotta be careful. You’re not even using any of your power. Men and women both, but I’ve experienced it myself. I don’t like anger, so it’s like you’re comfortable being powerless, you don’t know why you can’t speak up in a situation or defend yourself. You don’t have that capacity. You maybe avoid a situation, you don’t like confrontation. It’s this wimpy energy, we all felt it in some way or another. Usually someone who projects onto the authority, if that person’s the authority, you submit. Having a healthy relationship with anger and passion helps balance that out. You are not in the extreme of aggression, where you’re just beaten down so much that you finally break free. But if you look at bullies, they are unconsciously that wimpy little boy or little girl, they come across as these aggressive personas because they haven’t balanced to that either. They’re using anger but in a very ego way, versus the anger, the energy of being passion, of being power of expression. I think that’s really what we want, we want to own our power, instead of feeling like a little pea in the world that is going to get stepped on and squashed. That’s how I experienced it. It’s being willing to work with it, not just say anger is bad and I don’t want anything to do with it.
Robert Maldonado 36:03
It is being able to transform the energy of anger, because emotions are just emotional energy, we are the ones that label them as bad or good. There are no bad emotions there. There’s simply ways of feeling and sensing the world.
Debra Maldonado 36:26
I find that the people that create anger in your life, trigger you, piss you off, they’re really giving you an opportunity, it kicks it up from unconscious, it’s ready for you to work with. What we tend to do is want to either get back at them, or gossip about them, or passive aggressively post on social media about them, but not really go directly and use that power. We want to be able to use it. The situation we started out with, the woman that was mad at me, at first when you said it was my anger, I really got to the point where I was like, that pressure of needing to please everyone. Then I really got into the anger. That’s when it transformed because I started looking at it not just person A did this to person B and this is what happened. It was what’s going on underneath in my psyche. What’s the cause in these patterns from early in life? How can I use that power to channel into something creative? That’s what happened. I felt so much love after I sat with it. We talk about what transforms anger, love transforms anger. It sounds so simple, love your enemy. But it’s more like an unconditional love, unconditional compassion, not to be a doormat, but to love the lesson that person taught you. It doesn’t mean they don’t have their own issues and keep boundaries. But it’s about how can I take this altercation and make it something creative. I found that was such a freeing opportunity, it would have never came up if not that person. It would have never came up, it would have been sitting there under the surface, I’d have still been pleasing for another 40 years. It doesn’t mean it gets over immediately. When you’re working with emotions, it takes time, we’re so ingrained in our patterns that it takes time to really be free.
Robert Maldonado 38:49
These are cycles, I would say that the hero’s journey, once we re-emerge from the darkness of the psyche, we’re ready to go back again but at a higher level, to work at higher levels.
Debra Maldonado 39:09
You may have worked on this, and then you have a shift. Then you’re ready to go to the next level. Say, you’re getting into a new relationship, or you’re getting into a new career, or a new level in your career, or more money you’re making, or new babies being born, or whatever life change happens. The old stuff is trying to surface again to get you from evolving. That’s just the ego’s way, “That anger stopped her before, let me try it again.” I find that for me, those cycles I have to revisit and I think “I thought I worked on this already.” There’s still just another layer. I think of it as a mandala. The center’s the self but all those little decorations around it, there’s little subtleties of working and seeing it from different angles. It’s just more depth to your understanding of it.
Robert Maldonado 40:15
We continue our series on mythology, it is going to continue next week with the creation myth.
Debra Maldonado 40:27
Adam and Eve, we’re going to go back to the garden and eat the apple of knowledge, the fruit of good and evil, the knowledge of good and evil from the tree of knowledge. A very interesting topic. Don’t forget to subscribe to us if you’re watching us on YouTube. There’s a button right here in the corner to subscribe so you can make sure you get every episode. Follow us on iTunes, Spotify and anywhere you listen to us, Apple podcasts. We’ll see you next week.
Robert Maldonado 40:59
Thanks for watching.
Debra Maldonado 41:00
Take care. Happy New Year.