Embracing the Hag

Here is an interesting frame offered in the discussion following the story of Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell: What Do Woman Really Want.

“Embracing the hag’ initially entails coming to terms with what is dark and frightening in oneself so that one can release the partner from the burden of carrying one’s resentment, frustration and despair. Each person needs to recognize and sort through resistance and fear of change, her or his own repressions, and the dominance of particular aspects of one’s own self.

The problem of confronting and embracing the disappointments and frustrations in oneself can be conceptualized as a process of differentiation between the concerns of attachment and those of dominance within the couple relationship. When a distressed couple enters therapy (usually through the wife’s insistence or because a child has “brought” the couple to therapy by acting out), the partners are usually operating out of a “dominance-submission” posture rather than an “attachment-separation” one. The basic mode of intimate relationship is the instinctual pattern of attachment and separation. When this pattern, with its expressive gestures, symbolic meanings and recurring actions, is abandoned in favor of a dominance pattern or “power struggle,” each person feels threatened and depressed on a day-to-day basis. Instead of the two people relating emotionally as interdependent individuals with the ability to see and satisfy each other’s needs, they relate as a symbiotic or fused unit in which one person is “on top” and the other is “underneath”; there is a constant power struggle on every issue.

Although the two people may recognize the non-rational nature of their struggle (e.g. they may say, “It’s ridiculous, but we just can’t stop fighting over petty matters”), they feel it is impossible to stop struggling. Until both people face the meaning of dominance and submission in their relationship, which almost always involves the devaluing of the feminine, they cannot shift their concerns to attachment. Confrontation with the potential loss in their situation, through the therapists’ backing and elaborating the voice of the hag, often moves people out of the power struggle that had been so prominently in the center. This is just the first step in working through the dominance and submission concerns, however.” (p.21)

(My italics)

Young-Eisendrath, Polly, Hags and Heroes: A Feminist Approach to Jungian Psychotherapy with Couples, 1984

Explore posts in the same categories: Complexes and More, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Transference and Countertransference

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