Pathological Idealism

Reflections from Bone:Dying into Life by Marion Woodman

Santa Barbara, CA / Copyrighted photo by D. Bridge

“The pathological idealism of Romanticism continues to murder the feminine that cherishes life. Undermined by the ensuing suicidal death wish, the culture will have to find a way to move from power drive to love, if we are to survive.” (Woodman, 2000, p. 216-217)

“I don’t want to see your chaos because it mirrors mine.” (Woodman, 2000, p. 217)

“is it any wonder our culture is ravaged with bodies that refuse to play host to our souls?” (Woodman, 2000, p. 217)

My Reflections: 

Oh my, that first sentence of the first quote I chose from this section … there is a lot to unpack there! “Pathological idealism” … when do our ideals become pathological? I am thinking perhaps when we hold onto them so tightly that we refuse to see the reality that they hide. Doing a quick Google search re: Romantacism I found that one of the five characteristics of this time (1800’s in Europe) was the idealization of women. A quick look up of a definition of “idealization” gave me this: “the action of regarding or representing something as perfect or better than in reality”. Oh my! Nearly an entire century of idealizing women … and of course, this means the idealization of women by men. We know, now, that what was happening was men were projecting their anima, their soul, onto women and therefore were unable to see them as real beings in their own right. No wonder that Marion characterizes this as “murder[ing] the feminine” … what individual can be expected to hold such a projection without there being some sort of a death of the “real” being?

Marion’s reflections on what is happening in the culture — even nearly 30 years ago when she writes about this — feel to me like profound cautions as to where we are headed particularly in terms of living in societies intent on maintaining patriarchal power. Without the marriage of the feminine and the masculine, there is no possibility of spirit finding its way into matter and for soul to find a home place. I think that we are seeing today the manifestation of that which she gave voice in her writing in her journal that is now this book BONE.

Woodman, M. (2000). Bone: Dying into Life. Penguin Books.

*This reflection was first published in a Facebook Group entitled BodySoul Rhythms – Continuing the Legacy of Marion Woodman

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