As Jung showed, dream interpretation and the interpretation of fairy tales both require symbolic thinking: by working with fairy tales we can better understand dreams.
This tale is the second in a series. You may also want to read the first tale: A daughter goes underground but her mother rescues her.
This, the second tale is from Tahiti, a Polynesian island in the south pacific. I grew up in New Zealand, which is also part of Polynesia.
The Polynesians were cannibals. In their culture there was no shame around sex and obscenity was not about sex; obscenity was about cannibalism. To call someone ‘cooked food’, or to mock warriors in a war canoe by calling the canoe a ‘foodbowl’, these were insults which might lead to war.
Maori female, right arm with three fingers hooked in mouth, left arm hooked under left leg. Darren Palmer, Lake Taupo, 1975-1993.
Photo: British Museum.
This is a strange story; it seems like a map which would lead to hidden treasure if we could decipher it.
Jung and von Franz showed that we can interpret fairytales at the subjective level: that is, we can understand this story as an account of different forces within the personality: how they conflict, possible resolutions, possible progressions.
When I interpret the story at this level, then it ‘clicks’, as though I had suddenly understood the enigmatic symbols on the treasure map. Then everything falls into place and the story speaks with authority. Of course the interpretation you are about to hear is not the only one possible. You must judge whether this interpretation rings true for you.
In order to interpret the tale we have to explore the symbolic meaning of each image. This means that we first examine an image on its own terms, then ask what it may mean psychologically. This is a creative process, as Jung showed, that requires both logic and intuition. You’ll see what I mean as we go along.
But first we have to understand the overall structure of the story. In the beginning there was an imbalance, a mother and daughter, but no husband and no other men. But then three men appeared in sequence: they are Monoi, then No’a, then Tahiki. At the end there was more balance: Tahaki was an aristocrat who acted correctly and was admired by the women. So the male figure seems to evolve. This structure will provide the framework for our interpretation.
Our ancestor Tahaki of the red Skin was a great chief. Tahiki was descended from that female man-eater known as Rona niho niho roroa, therefore when we tell the story of Tahaki we begin with that woman, Rona long-teeth.
She had good looks and was of high rank in the land, but because of her teeth and what she used them for her husband did not remain with her; he went away from that woman. She remained in their house, and after the man was gone she gave birth to her daughter, and named her Hina.
Hina was brought up properly by that mother. Rona washed her well when she was born, she rubbed her body every day with oil of sandalwood, and pressed her head to make it of handsome shape; she bit Hina’s eye-lashes to make them grow long, and she rolled the tips of her lingers with her thumb to make them tapering and slender. She saw that she was fed with all good things; she fished the reef herself to catch the tenderest of crabs for Hina. That girl grew well, she became a beautiful young woman with chiefly manners, and she did not know what food it was her mother ate.
Rona’s hiding place was in that hole through the cliff at Taharaa, the path which people use at low tide to avoid the climb. She waited there and caught men as they passed, and ate them. Therefore people became scarce in that district; there were houses without people, and there were bones in Rona’s Cave.
Cave. Cave Beach, Jervis Bay, A.C.T., Australia
Photo: Ely_Mountains, 2007
The story begins with the feminine side. Before we go any further we must ask, what does the feminine represent? I might forget to ask that question. I think I already know. But then my interpretation is incomplete, just words: ‘The feminine does this, the feminine does that’. I tend to stay with the jargon and to resist spelling out the meaning.
Reading a myth is like reading the diagnostic manual for mental disease. If I am not too defended, then I recognize that I have all the symptoms, hopefully in mild form! No-one is fully formed: we are all formed in some areas and unformed in others. If I am open to the story of Rona, then it makes me unpleasantly aware of the areas that are still unformed. So I defend against that with jargon.
The feminine represents what Chinese philosophy calls ‘yin’. Yin is the natural, unconscious cycle of life. It is devouring, and death, and darkness, but it is also holding, gestating, and indiscriminate creative abundance. (like the earth, or a cave, or the womb )
And yin is also whatever entangles things and connects them together (like sexuality, and emotion, and intuition).
Rona is an archaic manifestation of yin, akin to what Neuman called the ‘Uroboric Mother’, who contains the germ of everything that will later evolve.
Rona caught men and ate them. She is not yin in relationship to an opposing agency, But archaic yin whose unbridled power consumes everyone else. So Rona symbolizes the unconscious, which both nurtures consciousness and threatens it, seeking to swallow it up again. I’ll say more about this later.
Though Rona had no husband, she had a daughter. This suggests that the principle of yin was beginning to differentiate: I talked about the symbolism of the daughter in the previous tale. Here I will only say that Rona’s daughter represents the Aphrodite aspect of yin, its potential for connecting and entangling us with others. That is, she represents yin which has the potential to be in relationship with an opposite (and equal) force.
Entrance of semi-subterranean storehouse. Wooden figure. legs hooked over arms, genitals with bulging shape, rauponga spirals on buttocks, legs. Taranaki, New Zealand, 1850s?
Photo: British Museum
One young man escaped that woman’s teeth., Monoihere was his name, and he desired her daughter. He was handsome, and Hina desired him also, therefore they used to meet at Orofara, in a shady place near where the spring flows into Hina’s Pool. That cave in the rock-face there was only known to them. For others it was quite closed up in former times, hut it opened and closed as they-two wished, and hid Monoi.
Monoi was of the opposite sex. Just as Rona and Hina represent yin, Monoi represents the principle of yang.
In Chinese philosophy yang is: assertion, movement, and stimulus; whatever penetrates; whatever separates things and discriminates them. At the mental level discrimination includes logic, and objectivity, and the law.
So yang is light and consciousness, whereas yin is darkness and the unconscious. The meeting of Hina and Monoi represents the meeting of opposite principles and the story shows how the personality develops as a result of that meeting.
The time for their being together was when Rona had gone out on the reef for crabs. She was expert at this and was often to be seen far out off Matavai, bending over the reef to collect food for her daughter. Then it was safe for Hina and Monoi. Then Hina took a basket of food and went up to Orofara and she said these words:
Monoihere is the man,
Hina is the woman.
Come out from there!
and from inside the rock the man replied:
Where is your mother with the long teeth?
Where is Rona?
and Hina answered him:
She is on the long reef,
She is on the short reef,
She is catching food for us,
O my lover!
Then Hina said:
Break you open!
These words split the rock and let Monoi out and they-two had their custom in that shady place. Then Hina returned to her home and left Monoi closed up in the rock.
Shaded pool, cave
If we look carefully at the image of Monoi, we see that he was a bit peculiar. He existed closed up inside a rock and was only let out when Hina or Rona called for him. A rock is part of the earth, and the earth belongs to the Great Mother. And in the end Monoi was eaten by Rona. What does this suggest?
It suggests that Monoi had not yet emerged from the belly of the Mother, just as Hina had not fully emerged from Rona’s belly. (This is confirmed when Rona called Hina ‘My food’ – we see that Hina was being fattened up for slaughter.)
Remember that Rona had long teeth. Teeth are phallic, so Rona had a mouthful of phalluses. So Monoi symbolizes a primitive form of yang which is not differentiated from the original Mother. She used it to feed herself.
The story is subtly inconsistent about Monoi. First it seems that he and Hina simply used the cave as a meeting place. Then it seems that Monoi was imprisoned inside the cave (or was it inside the rock?), and was only released when Hina or Rona recited the magic chant. The inconsistency shows the unconscious at work; the story-teller didn’t notice that the unconscious was modifying a realistic image in order to better express a symbolic meaning.
For yang to be contained within archaic yin is commonplace. We see it in a mother who belittles her husband and is the sole power in the household. Her husband and her children do not thrive because yin and yang are all mixed up in her unconscious. Although she may be an attentive mother, she is secretly gobbling up her family. She uses her food and her house (like Rona’s cave) to dominate.
What I have just said illustrates something that is central to analytic work: The yang of such a mother tends to be destructive because it is unconscious. If she became more conscious of her yang, then it would be more constructive. The same is true for any psychological potential.
Here ‘destructive’ is that which thwarts the personality, while ‘constructive’ is that which helps it to unfold, to progress through its life cycle.
Its easy to say the words ‘become more conscious of yang’, but to become conscious is not easy. I have to know yang with all my faculties, not just with my intellect, but also with my senses, and my imagination, and my feeling. And I have to behave differently in the world. I have to live yang consciously in my outer life. And so I have also to analyze the complexes which prevent me from doing all that.
Let us look at another example of yang contained within archaic yin. A man has a succession of wives but remains devoted to his mother. He is connected to yang, because he keeps on being a lover. But he begins to feel towards his wife as though she were his mother, so he loses his attraction for his current wife, and goes off after the next one. This can go on indefinitely, but the man is not growing psychologically.
This is mostly how it is for people. When I am passive and unassertive then I’m caught by the mother. When I use alcohol, or any drug. Or when I overeat, or diet compulsively, or watch TV, or play computer games.
When I am caught up in materialism (from the Latin ‘mater’ which means mother), that’s the mother too. To be obsessed with the stock-market, is to be caught in the mother.
When I am caught up in power struggles, whether it be international real-politic like Kissinger, or power struggles with individuals, then I am caught in the unconscious.
When I am macho, like Ernest Hemingway or Norman Mailer, or John Wayne, or Rambo, I am secretly immersed in the mother. A clue to this is the compulsive drinking, or womanizing, or compulsive proving of strength which is associated with macho. So much for James Bond!
As for physical macho, so for intellectual macho. The phallic power of the mind is also unconscious when it is one-sided. When I live too much in the mind I am caught by the mother.
This means that science, though it may be objectively factual, is psychologically distorted when it denies its human meaning. Science is preoccupied with material explanations and matter belongs to the mother. This is consistent with the destructive effect of science (via technology and commerce), which is so great that the planet’s ecosystem is being destroyed.
Licorne shot. July 3, 1970, French Polynesia
Photo: French military
This danger is hinted at in the fairytale: Rona distorted the ecology of her island with her unbalanced appetite.
So much of what passes for strength and assertion in our culture is actually phallic power trapped in the unconscious. Rona long-teeth is everywhere, threatening to gobble up everyone, and it is helpful to have a vivid image of her. This myth is both a diagnostic manual and a treatment for the disease.
What I have just said about Monoi shows why we must look closely at the image on its own terms; we must see how it works objectively. This guards against the danger of projecting preconceived ideas. I might have missed Monoi’s peculiarity. I might have seen only that he represents phallic energy. When I project onto an image I don’t learn anything from it. It is like using jargon: my projection tends to be defensive.
After a certain time Rona noticed that the food she caught was quickly gone. ‘This daughter of mine eats much,’ that mother said. One day therefore, when she had cooked the usual quantity for keeping, she said that she felt unwell, and lay down on her sleeping-mat, and snored.
And Hina, believing that her mother was asleep, took out some food and crept away; and Rona followed her. When she saw where Nina was going that woman took a short cut by enchantments, and she concealed herself at Orofara in a pua tree.
And Rona saw what happened in that place. She heard the words that Hina spoke, and she watched her daughter with the man: and she desired his flesh, that vahine kaitangata. Therefore she returned to her house, and snored on her mat when Hina came.
On the next day that eater-of-men said to Hina, “Tonight I go fishing by torchlight, so I will go now to collect dry leaves. Stay here, for I shall not he long.”
But Rona went inland to Orofara; by enchantment she made the distance short and soon she stood before the rock, and she pretended to be Hina, saying:
Monoihere te tane,
O Hina te vahine.
A puta mai i vaho.
But Monoi knew the voice of that vahine kaitangata and he answered:
You are not Hina, you are Rona.
You are Rona of the Long Teeth.
She therefore knew that he was in that place and she said the words that are for splitting rock:
Te tumu o te papa e, vahia!
She ate the best parts first, she ate his fingertips and toes; she scooped his brains and ate them, she swallowed his liver, and she found out his kidneys and ate them also. She also ate his cock and the two that hang; but Monoi’s heart that woman could not find. His heart concealed itself, it remained still beating in the mess of guts, and therefore Rona did not eat Monoi’s heart.
Kali standing on Parvati and Shiva. Miniature painting on paper. Kailsh Raj, Kangra School.
Photo: Exotic India
The scene is well illustrated by this traditional Indian image. The Polynesians may have brought a version of Rona with them when they first migrated from south east Asia.
When she had finished her meal she closed the cave behind her. Then she gathered up dry fronds to make her torches, and went home to Hina.
So soon as the moon came up that woman got her crab spear, and taking a young person to carry her torches, she went out wading on the reef. Then Hina filled a basket, and went inland to have enjoyment with Monoi. She stood before that rock and softly called:
Monoihere te tane,
O Hina te vahine.
A puta mai vaho.
But the rock was silent. Therefore Hina said the rest; she said:
Te tumu o te papa e, vahia!
and the rock split open, and she saw her lover’s bones and guts. She spoke no word, that girl who loved, but straightway took her lover’s heart, it was beating yet, and placed it by her own. Then she returned to her home to act.
Sad Hina cut the man-long stem of one banana tree, and laid it on her sleeping-mat, and she covered it with her sheet of soft white tapa. Then at the head she placed a drinking-nut; and she hurried from that place.
Well guided by her lover’s heart, she ran to Uporu, to the house of that hairy chief whose name was No’a huruhuru. No’a received her with kindness, and she remained at his house.
Now in the middle of that night when all her torches had been burnt, that woman Rona came home with her catch, and she called to her daughter in the house:
But the house remained silent. And Rona cried:
If you don’t answer, you will be eaten by me!
But there came no answer from the house. Therefore Rona rushed to where her daughter was sleeping, she seized her body in the sheet and sliced it with a single bite.
And when she saw how she was tricked she was enraged, and cried out: “Aue! My food has escaped!” All through that night she was enraged.
When Rona ate Monoi and tried to eat Hina, she did not relate to them as people, but as objects for her use. I’ll come back to this later.
Ancient silver coin. Depicts seed of abortifacient herb, silphium, main export of Cyrene, ancient Greek colony in present-day Libya: 630 BC – 365 AD.
But Monoi’s heart hid itself from Rona. The heart represents feeling, in particular love, and the context confirms that it is love that is meant here. Monoi and Hina were lovers, and then sad Hina, ‘that girl who loved’, held Monoi’s beating heart close to her own. So Hina and Monoi’s love for each other is contrasted with Rona’s objectification.
The story portrays two distinct phases in Hina’s love. At first Hina and Monoi loved each other in unconscious bliss. In this state a couple is enclosed in mutual projection. The connection is arousing deep feelings in each but it is a collective state, not an individual one. I don’t know the person that I love. What I most want to know is that the other’s feelings are the same as mine! I am ‘blinded by love’ or ‘a fool for love’.
And here Rona’s role is paradoxical. She tried to hold Monoi and Hina captive but, in spite of herself, she drove them forward. It was Rona’s long teeth which discriminated Monoi, eliminating his penis and the rest of his body and leaving only his heart.
Like Monoi himself, Monoi’s heart represents yang, here as feeling that discriminated. It loved Hina specially, distinguishing her from other women. Then it distinguished her path to escape. So feeling led her out of unconscious possession.
In analysis it is often feelings which lead the way. When a patient learned to discriminate his feelings, to recognize, for example, that his sleepiness was really anger, then an unconscious possession was broken and the work could progress.
Feeling leads to relatedness, both with the other and with oneself. If I am sensitive to the nuances of the other’s feelings then I must also understand my own feelings better. If I am discriminating with the other, sometimes agreeing, sometimes opposing, then I must also be discriminating with myself.
You see this in marriage. At first a marriage rests on mutual projection. Later, if it is to survive, a marriage demands feeling relatedness.
The biblical version of this myth is the story of Adam and Eve.
Eve and the Apple. Hugo van der Goes, 1436-1482.
Vienna Diptych, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Here it was not the heart but the apple (the knowledge of good and evil) which broke the spell and led Adam and Eve out of the unconscious. But we discriminate good from evil through feeling. (We ask ourselves, ‘does it feel right?’). So the underlying idea is the same. Feeling leads the way.
The serpent in the garden was phallic, like Rona’s teeth. The serpent was the Great Mother’s yang which began the action.
Rona and No’a
So soon as the cocks were crowing in the valley and the first men were astir, Rona rushed out to look for Hina. She asked for her at every house and they told her which way that girl had gone.
That woman therefore hurried to the house of No’a huruhuru, and when she saw her daughter there she became all teeth. There were teeth on Rona’s chin, teeth on her elbows, teeth on her belly.
Giant Red Sea Urchin. Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, photographed 50 feet deep in southern British Columbia. Derek Holzapfel.
But No’a huruhuru raised his spear, he cried out in a loud strong voice:
This spear, Tane te rau aitu,
has dealt with Te Ahua and Hine te aku tama!
Then he thrust that spear down Rona’s throat, right down through all her teeth, She writhed and died.
The clever chief
The chief, No’a huruhuru, was described as “kind” and “hairy” (see above). What does this mean symbolically?
Kindness suggests feeling relatedness which reinforces our interpretation of Monoi’s heart: feeling relatedness liberated Hina.
Hair is mostly on the head, so it is what comes out of the mind, that is, knowledge and ideas. No’a seemed to be clever. This is confirmed by his illustrious spear and by his chant, both of which are cultural products, things honed by the mind. No’a represents the head phallus as opposed to the the body phallus represented by Monoi. Like feeling, No’a’s cleverness discriminated, so it is part of yang.
When Rona saw her daughter in No’a’s house she became all teeth. There were teeth on her chin, her elbows, and her belly. What does that suggest?
There are echos here of other stories: Rona is like the cyclops who devoured men. No’a, the clever warrior, is like Odysseus whom Homer called the strategist or the crafty one. Odysseus speared the cyclops through his one eye which was like a mouth.
Odysseus spears cyclops’ eye. Greek vase painting. Orientalizing period: began 7th century BCE.
There are also echos of Beowulf who killed devouring Grendle, then killed Grendle’s devouring mother, and then killed the devouring dragon.
Sigurd (Beowulf) slays the dragon. Carved doorway, Hylestad Church, ca. 1175.
So No’a and Rona represent a universal image, the skilled hero and the dragon. As I said earlier, though the need to slay the dragon is universal, it is not universally faced. The normal state is for the dragon to be in charge, that is, for unconsciousness to prevail.
So far we have understood Rona as devouring unconsciousness, or yin, in a broad sense. But the details of her image add something more. Her all-over-the-body teeth suggest narcissistic rage, the all-devouring rage an infant may feel if it is frustrated. We also call it oral rage, so Rona’s teeth are apt.
The story of Rona describes something outrageous and obscene in Polynesian culture – that is, devouring narcissistic rage.
When Hina didn’t answer Rona, Rona tried to bite her in half. Rona did not respect the other’s integrity, that the other was a person in their own right. Instead she made the other a component of her own body, a part-object for her use. She violated the other’s boundaries. She accepted no limits to her hunger.
So Rona represents a narcissistic phase of development. This phase may be normal in infancy: an infant may feel that he or she is the center of everything, that everyone else is just an extension of the infant’s being. In the narcissistic phase, the infant still lives in the belly of the mother.
Narcissistic rage is global, it extends everywhere: Not only feelings, but also perceptions, are all-or-nothing. (If you frustrate me, then you are my enemy and I want to destroy you.)
Up to this point, Rona had been good to Hina. But only while she saw Hina as a gratifying extension of herself. A narcissistic parent does best when the child is very young. The gratifying bubble tends to break when the child rebels.
Rona’s rage is the more frightening because, though it was infantile, it was wielded by an adult with adult powers. In its most overt form, pathological narcissism can make an adult person into a serial killer, like Rona. If a narcissistic adult is law-abiding, then he or she tries to obliterate the other with power plays, or with words, or with affect.
It is pathological narcissism that allows a president to see his job as a photo-opportunity (written when Bush junior was president). He lives inside a bubble of self-regard and does not fully understand that his actions affect other people. Narcissists are often charming.
But we all have narcissistically injured parts to our personality. It is only a question of degree. We should try to be conscious of our own narcissistic injury so that we are less compelled to inflict it on others.
The toothed vagina
No’a’s spear penetrated Rona’s throat through all her teeth. There is a terrible symmetry here: No’a penetrated Rona with his spear just as Monoi penetrated Rona’s daughter with his penis. Remember that Rona had teeth all over her body. Symbolically it was Rona’s vagina dentata which No’a conquers. What does this mean?
In the tale it was because No’a conquered Rona’s toothed vagina that Hina could be fruitful. It as though any vagina could potentially have teeth and No’a had to separate the teeth out.
Intercourse is not itself relationship, but intercourse symbolizes relationship. Two people become intimate but do not violate each other’s boundaries. Each remains intact, separate and whole.
But, to the extent that I am narcissistically injured, I violate relationship by violating boundaries. I am caught up in unconscious power games. I try to injure the other’s wholeness. These power games are the teeth in the vagina.
No’a’s spear discriminated the unconscious confusion. Then yang no longer compulsively violates boundaries. Instead it functions consciously in the service of integrity: thus relationship becomes possible.
But No’a should not be taken too literally as an image of therapy. Therapy succeeds mostly through understanding and support which promotes self-awareness which, in turn, enables the patient to grow. Discrimination needs to be gentle and subtle.
At a another level, the parallel images of Monoi and Hina and of No’a and Rona represent the transformative effect of human intercourse. When people encounter each other, perhaps in a marriage, or in analysis, or in group therapy, with empathy that is both emotionally and intellectually penetrating, then each person is changed by the encounter.
We should not be surprised that Polynesians used a disturbing image to represent psychological change since our dreams do the same. Likewise the Crucifixion suggests our own psychological suffering when archetypal potential is transformed into feet-on-the-ground reality.
Crucifixion. Andrea Mantegna. Detail of large altar piece, painted between 1457 and 1459
San Zeno, Verona, Italy
Crucifixion and Last Judgement. Jan van Eyck. Detail. Probably a late work, early 1430s, finished after his death.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Culture and conscious yang
What enabled No’a to stand firm against Rona? No’a drew upon a phallic tradition. He had a spear and he made a traditional speech in which he recalled past feats with that spear.
The Polynesians prize oratory. A leader is someone who can recount the history of the tribe, someone whose speech embodies dignity and power. Yang is expressed both in the orator’s physical vigor and in his or her linguistic vigor.
Te Aho O Te Rangi Wharepu. 1850s-1905. With moko and patu, photographed circa 1900.
I encountered this once when I taught high-school in New Zealand. I was new to teaching and my classroom discipline was not good. A thirteen-year-old boy from a chief’s family came and spoke to me after class. His name was Lenny Kai. He advised me that I had to be stronger, pacing back and forth as he spoke, making his points with rhythmic emphasis and with great dignity.
So No’a’s oral tradition enabled him to identify with his potent ancestors. I’ve tried to convey a little of this oral vigor through the Polynesian phrases in the story.
This is one reason why children need strong parents, and why they like to play sports. This is the value of Superman and of cowboy movies. If children don’t have adequate models for yang, then they will be swallowed up by yin: their strength, independence and creativity will be compromised.
As an analyst, I have to help my patient to cultivate yang. I have to model it in my own behavior, and I have to analyze his or her difficulties with yang.
The story concludes …
Thus perished Rona niho niho roroa, the vahine kaitangata of Taharaa, the ancestor of Tahaki of the red skin. Her daughter Hina was the grandmother of that red chief.
[Tahiki was well known to a Polynesian audience. It is told that he made the island of Tahiti by cutting the sinews of a fish. And that Lightening came out his armpits. He achieved much while doing everything correctly, as a Polynesian aristocrat should. He was handsome to perfection. Everyone admired him, especially the women.]
How yang develops
Notice how, in the course of the story, yang developed.
It began as teeth, which suggest the instinctual hunger to take what is needed. Without that assertive hunger we cannot feed ourselves and we cannot live.
Then it became penis, or the drive to connect and to penetrate the other.
Then it appeared as heart which means feeling discrimination.
Then yang became mental discrimination and mental creation.
Paradoxically, it was Rona who caused this development. What does this mean? When a complex threatens to swallow me up and I must face it, then my power of discrimination becomes more conscious. On the extraverted side I must learn to counter another’s manipulations, or bullying, or blurring of boundaries. On the introverted side I must learn to counter my own compulsions and self destruction. Thus my yang develops.
The story ends with Tahiki of the red skin. Tahiki made the island of Tahiti, so he created a firm stand-point. He created lightening which is piercing light. Both these images show that Tahiki created consciousness.
Remember that Tahiki achieved much while doing everything correctly, as a Polynesian aristocrat should. So Tahiki wss an ego ideal. He was sensitive to the customs of his tribe.
Maori man. Topknot with feathers and a bone comb, full facial moko, a greenstone earring, a tiki and a flax cloak. Sketched 1769 by Sydney Parkinson (1745-1771), artist on Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand.
Photo: Parkinson, Sydney. A journal of a voyage to the South Seas. London, 1784.
Tahaki demonstrates that yang becomes related when it is differentiated from yin. That he was handsome and admired by women confirms that yang and yin were now in right relationship.
In sum, the story of Rona shows the development, out of narcissism, of a new level of consciousness, consciousness which encompasses yang.
More on narcissistic injury
Because we are afraid of narcissistic rage we tend to avert our eyes from it, to placate it unconsciously rather than confront it. In analyses and in analytic training it may go un-confronted. If unconsciously narcissistic people control an analytic training program, then the program will become sterile and no one may be able to confront the problem.
We can cheerfully admit to being neurotic but we are not comfortable admitting that we are narcissistically injured. To admit our own narcissistic rage is frightening and humiliating. So the story of Rona provides a wonderful image of that which is hard to face.
When we treat narcissistic injury, we must use confrontation very sparingly. A narcissistically-injured patient may treat us with devaluing contempt. If the patient’s contempt triggers our own unconscious narcissistic injuries then we may seek revenge by confronting the patient’s insults. Such a response is natural enough but it does not lead to healing. Most of the healing comes from empathy. If we can understand why the patient is devaluing us, then we can avoid being offended; our empathic response, over time, may allow the patient to let go of his or her narcissistic defense, to become conscious of the injured self-esteem which lies beneath the defense. With empathy the patient may learn to see his or her grandiose fantasies with humor. There is another Polynesian myth about Tahaki which shows unambiguously that narcissistic injury needs to be treated with empathy. I analyse this myth on my website.
But sometimes, when the time is right, a grandiose defense needs to be confronted. Power games need to be discriminated. Then the story of Rona and No’a can give us courage.
The story of Rona also illustrates how Jung’s concept of the maternal collective unconscious intersects with Kohut’s concept of narcissistic injury. Daniel Stern showed that an infant begins, soon after birth, to engage the mother in eye-contact and that such eye contact stimulates further play between mother and infant which draws them both deeper into a two-person world of relationship. Thus it is not true to say, as Freud did, that the infant begins life in a normal narcissistic phase.
To the extent, however, that the mother-infant bond is incomplete or unsatisfactory or is too abruptly interrupted, then the infant may withdraw part of his- or herself from relationship. Then part of the child, and of the subsequent adult, may remain in a less related state, more immersed in the collective unconscious, perhaps more invested in archaic grandiose fantasies which compensate for an archaic sense of worthlessness. Jung showed that later in life it may be a person’s task to journey back into the collective unconscious to claim potentials which were left behind, potentials which were not developed in relationship as the infant matured.