Descriptions of lectures on myth, art, and psychology

There are nine entries: scroll down to see them


How Hinauri Found her second Husband: Inner Relationship and the Power of the Feminine

wooden sculpture of Hinauri and her lover decorated with tribal carvings. jungian therapy Maori greenstone patu, traditional weapon and symbol of chieftainship. jungian therapy
Upper: Ancestral figures supporting central pillar of traditional house on shore of Lake Taupo. Otago Museum; photo Michael de Hamel. Illustrated encyclopedia of Maori myth and legend, Margaret Orbell.
Lower: Mere Pounamu. Copyright National Army Museum, Waiouru collection, New Zealand.

Through the Polynesian legend of Hinauri, we will use Jungian lens to understand how romantic attraction can spur development, how creativity results from a lively inner relationship with oneself, and how strength and assertion help to ward off envy. While Jung showed that many fairy tales describe the psychological growth of a hero who is male, this tale tells the story fully from a woman’s perspective.

A woman escapes from her familial psychology and journeys through the ocean to claim a new husband. Thus empowered, she liberates the artistic creativity of her people.

This stone-age tale speaks to contemporary women about relationship, both to lovers and to their own internal vitality. It illustrates how they might grow through their own unique experience of Jungian therapy. The tale also speaks to men about the power of their feminine side. Our culture has too few images of woman’s development. By sharing the story of Hinauri, we connect more consciously to the active potential of the feminine. Audience participation will be welcome throughout.


The Power of the Great Mother

sculpture of Black Venus seated. jungian therapy analysis Photo: source unknown. 

This archaic African tale is about the Great Mother who nurtures her daughter, loses her to envy, and then regenerates her again.

We will relate this fascinating fairy tale both to Jungian psychological issues and to events in our lives. It illuminates, for example, the stresses of the mother-daughter bond as the daughter matures, the way in which envy tries to cut short our growth and the strength needed to withstand envy. The tale also tells how the feminine develops separately from the masculine, according to its own internal cycle. At the same time, the tale shows how the masculine may trigger new developments in the feminine.

Our discussion will help both men and women to understand their own feminine potential, and to learn about Jung’s contribution to therapy. We will tell the story together, analyzing its rich symbolism. Audience participation will be welcome throughout.


How Tahaki Lost his Golden Skin: A Polynesian legend of envy.

wood sculture.jungian psychoanalysis
Male Figure. Mangareva, French Polynesia, Wood. 18th-early 19th century.
Copyright © 2000–2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tahaki’s lover rejects him when he loses his beauty, then, when he regains his beauty, wants him back again. Meanwhile, Tahaki’s less beautiful cousin tricks the fish and devours them. This rollicking tale has echoes of Psyche’s jealous sisters and of Job’s answer to God. It shows that we must be conscious of envy and that, ultimately, envy spurs individuation.


Transforming Pathological Narcissism: The Legend of Rona Long-Teeth

Wood carving of angry female with furrowed brow and flared nostrils. jungian therapy
Photo: source unknown. 

It is easy to see pathological narcissism in other people: their excessive self-absorption and sensitive self-esteem. But it is much harder for us to see it in ourselves. The thoughts and the feelings linked to injuries to narcissism are threatening and difficult to understand: they escape our awareness.

The Polynesian legend of Rona Long-Teeth describes pathological narcissism in such vivid and personal detail that it helps us to become conscious of these thoughts and feelings. We will read the legend together and analyze its symbolism. We will talk together about pathological narcissism and how it may affect us, for example in sabotaging our intimate relationships. I will relate two examples of how narcissism was transformed in therapy.

From this lecture you can expect to become more aware of the dangers of narcissism and of how it can be tackled. Audience participation will be welcome throughout.


Narcissism and its Discontents

Copyright 2009 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

We discuss the symptoms of pathological narcissim, in particular how it may secretly affect relationships.

We read an excerpt from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf in which she vividly describes pathological narcissism. Heinz Kohut provides a depth psychological explanation. I describe my analytic approach to narcissitic injury, which is based on Kohut’s understanding.

Our discussion will help both therapist and laypeople to understand better their own experience of narcissism. Audience participation will be welcome throughout.


What Ancient Myths Can Teach Us about Modern Psyches: The Archetypal Wisdom of “Demeter and Persephone”

Stone bust of Persephone. jungian therapy analysis

Myths represent attempts to face the unknowable and explain life’s mysteries. As reflections of deep psychological processes, they can inform, organize and give meaning to our conscious experience. The powerful ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, variants of which are found worldwide from Polynesia to Africa and Siberia, illuminates issues such as sexuality, letting go of one’s children, accepting life’s dark side and finding one’s creativity. At the deepest level it is a story of death and rebirth. This evening, through the lens of analytical psychology, we will explore the potent archetypes in this ancient story and how they relate to our own psychological growth and relationships..


Listening to Dreams

lion nuzzles sleeper.jungian psychoanalysis

Sleeping Gypsy, Henri Rousseau, 1897. Photo copyright: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Dreams seem to come from a source which sees us more clearly than we see ourselves. If you think too much of your daughter-in-law, your dream may show her weakness. If you think too little of her, it may show her strength. Your dream is even more a guide to your own internal depths, a guide which can help you to heal. We’ll talk about dream interpretation: Why do it? How is it done? Then we’ll interpret together one or two dreams from the audience.


Anima and Animus: Invisible Partners


When a woman has a crush on a man she is partly fascinated by her own unconscious masculine potential (animus). Portrait of anima and animus, lined with primoridal elements. jungian therapyIn the same way a man is fascinated by his own unconscious feminine potential (anima). This fascination may draw you into a relationship with another person but the animus and anima tend to remain unconscious. As long as each is unconscious, each tends to be destructive.

We will read together two myths, one polynesian and one european, which suggest how, with a struggle, you can become more conscious of your own animus or anima. Consciousness leads to an inner relationship (with the animus or anima) which is the source of creativity. That inner relationship also makes it easier to have relationships in the outer world.

You can expect to learn more about the unconscious forces which sabotage your relationships, and more about gaining access to your own creativity. Audience participation will be welcome throughout.


Structure in Great Painting and Sculpture: A Visual Model of Individuation


As we explore the unconscious our personality may widen and deepen. Jung called this process individuation. Jung argued that the hero’s journey (for example, the journeys of Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Beowulf, and Dante) represents an individuation journey into the depths of the unconscious and a return bearing gifts.

If great works of literature symbolize individuation, then so too may great works of visual art. Portrait of Spanish clergyman in red cape by El Greco. jungian therapy analysisBut this could not be through their subject matter because, in some of the greatest paintings, the subject matter is mundane. Individuation would have to be embodied in the art’s structure.

Braque described structure in painting:

“Cézanne and, after him, Picasso and myself … convey[ed] a full experience of space … bringing … the objects in a picture … within reach, as a painting should … [In] cubism we were out to attack space which the impressionists had neglected.”

Braque was describing the pictorial space which is present in many great paintings.

In this lecture Dr. McDowell uses reproductions to analyze the structure which creates pictorial space. He shows that this structure in art closely parallels structure in the individuating personality. He argues that great works of visual art move us in part because of this parallel, because they represent the mystery of individuation. Since the parallel exists in paleolithic sculpture, humankind must have experienced some version of individuation 30,000 years ago.

You can expect to gain both a new understanding of individuation and a new way of looking at painting and sculpture. Audience participation will be welcome throughout.