Eros as Medicine; A Solution for Our Collective Healing
“Eros reflects our capacity to love life, ourselves, and each other, and it values our ability to love. It provides the foundation that allows us to know and understand each other, to care about each other, and to experience compassion. The Jungian concept of Eros denotes personal relatedness, a keen interest in relationships, and a prevailing attitude that works for conciliation and reconciliation. Eros evokes self-integration, subjectivity, and the concern for individuals, and it is rooted in the material universe and the earthly feminine qualities, such as accepting, yielding, experiencing, and being receptive”. ~Massimilla and Bud Harris
After returning home to the U.S. after my two-week visit to India, I find myself still struggling with re-entry. A part of me is resisting my return here because I know I will have to adapt once again to the Patriarchal principle that infuses our society, where relatedness, compassion, yielding and openness are not commonly felt. Being a person who has always followed the thread of the Feminine principle, where only creativity and relatedness provide comfort, even I must adapt to survive in the patriarchal culture of which I am a part. I am struck by how deeply connected I felt to the greater community while in India, even though it is not my current home. There, my past and current suffering, my feelings, and my wounding all felt embraced and held by the collective. I felt this in the very air and dust around me. My feelings of loneliness and aloneness, the daily companions which haunt me back home in the U.S., simply vanished. I felt like my life was a part of a bigger container, shared by others in time and space. It felt that what I said and felt was received and I always felt like I mattered. For the two weeks, I was there, I felt safer in my surroundings than I have in years, and more grounded in myself. I was startled by the experience of belonging despite being in that culture, surrounded by people I did not know. I realize now, that I was in the presence of Eros, alive in India, where relatedness and receptivity is a core value that permeates everything.
Many countries in Europe share this energy, though not as deeply. Cultures that are rooted in community and have historically been through collective suffering are more aligned with the Feminine Principle or Eros as defined by Jung. India, however, has an added spiritual depth and a mystical and transcendent way of being. Many of the conversations I had in India with strangers were authentic, infused with a numinosity I rarely feel back home. The radiance of Eros permeated my experience while relating to others. India is one of the oldest cultures in the world, infused with a love of community, life, food, color, beauty, and relatedness – all qualities of the Feminine principle and by extension, Eros. Throughout her tumultuous and often brutal history, Eros has never been sacrificed.
As a Sensitive, I feel the energy of the environment I am in. As I reflect on the stark contrast between a culture rooted in relatedness versus one that is not, I am struck by how I feel when I am there versus here. My sad conclusion is that Eros is absent in the cultural fabric of America today. As we have adapted to the Patriarchal paradigm that pervades our society, consumerism and individuality have taken center stage at the cost of relatedness. We are currently experiencing a separation from each other like never before. The symptoms of this are expressed in the unprecedented level of anxiety, depression, and addiction among millions in our country.
I personally have noticed in my medical practice that relatedness among people has changed over the past few decades. My patients tell me they struggle alone in their grief and suffering. People who suffer deep losses find they are supported only briefly by people they consider dear, are expected to get over how they feel and get on with their lives. As a result, they feel unsafe to share their feelings. If they are Sensitives, they are expected to shut down their feelings as no one is present to support them. Aside from a paid therapist, they have few if any people to hold space for their suffering. Grief has been a shared and sacred process since the beginning of time. It is impossible to move through it alone. When people suffer, they feel disoriented if they live in a society where feeling function and relatedness is not valued. Often at the end of their rope, they arrive in the medical system searching for these qualities. Here, their normal suffering is taken out of context and diagnosed as a ‘depressive disorder’. Their grief, when amplified by their aloneness is not a pathology to be diagnosed, but rather a symptom of a collective illness that must be recognized and healed.
The majority of my patients are Sensitives. They, like me, are sensory tuning forks and feel the energy of the environment they are a part of. In fact, they absorb it. If their environment is not heart-centered, if Eros is missing, they do not feel safe. Their lack of safety may manifest first as anxiety and if not understood, can morph into depression. I can relate to how they feel. The energy of relatedness, love, and compassion is vital for me to feel safe in my world. Maybe this is why I feel safe when I am in a country where Eros is alive.
Sensitives often feel that there is something wrong with them when they are not able to adapt to belong. Since they are not able to adapt to a lack of relatedness prevalent in Patriarchy, dominated by power, they feel alone and isolated. Sensitives are frequently not understood by people who do not feel as they do. In fact, they are commonly pathologized by the medical system when they express their deep feelings, and experience symptoms of anxiety and depression resulting from feeling alone and isolated.
In patriarchal societies where the Power principle dominates, the axis around which people organize their behavior is fear. Carl Jung said, “Where love rules, there is no will to power; where power predominates, love is lacking.” Power evokes fear, not love. Power is the pervading principle in our society today. It infuses our corporations, including our medical system, and is associated with what we value. In fact, it is glorified. Power is often projected on money and if a person has a lot of it, they are allotted more power. In fact, they are glorified. Consumerism, a symptom of this projection and its offspring, technoscience has removed us even further from our humanity. At its root, this is used to further perpetuate consumerism, which becomes the means to achieve more money, and thus, more power. This becomes the goal that drives our adaptations in society, creating an endless loop, eroding our sense of self, and isolating us even further. When this permeates the fabric of a culture, it is often normalized. When patriarchy is present, Eros is banished. When Eros is banished, we are separated from our true nature, our authentic selves. This lies at the root of our personal and collective symptoms.
Fear is ever-present in Medicine today. Many fear going to their doctor. They fear their symptoms, they fear their prognoses. They fear their treatments and fear recurrences. They feel victimized by fear and in this state, they delegate their power to expertise. This does not lessen their fear. In fact, it is amplified. Now they have no control over their health or healing. It is delegated to another, to prescription drugs and invasive procedures. These are not designed to heal, but to cover symptoms and cut out disease. We have normalized this paradigm with which Medicine treats, feeling small relative to the large and ‘powerful’ system which grinds forward, boosting profits at our expense. Fear at the core of today’s medicine permeates our experience and sabotages our power to heal. Where once the physician was considered a teacher and healer, in today’s medical system she is no longer allowed to honor her sacred mission. Healing and relatedness take more time than that allotted by administrators. Their drive for money has replaced the mission of medicine. Fear has now replaced love. This way of being is not only toxic for patients, but also for physicians who work within these systems. Caroline Casey states, “Eros is how the Universe communicates with itself.” Without it, we are merely living on the surface, cut off from feeling function and going through the motions, adapting to fear. This is no different in corporate Medicine. Eros is what is missing in Medicine today as it is in society at large.
If we live in a society such as ours, where Eros is banished, we adapt to the Power principle without even realizing it. Adapted, like Pavlov’s dogs, we compromise our true nature for approval. After decades of living this way, we lose sight of who we really are. As we age we must connect with the authentic ground of our Being. Those crossing the threshold of midlife feel a deeper, more authentic part of their being begin to rise to claim its place in their lives. Jung called this the (authentic) Self. In fact, in midlife, the tension between the authentic and adapted/false self can become so intense it is difficult for the body to contain it. Anxiety, as well as physical symptoms, are not uncommon as this tension grows. If our culture had a context for transformation to align with Self, we could age with consciousness and live more authentically. A culture that lacks Eros, lacks a context to transform.
I have come to realize through tremendous personal loss and suffering that the very ground of my being is and always has been rooted in Eros. I believe this is true for all Sensitives. As a Sensitive, I rarely felt truly witnessed or validated by people around me. I was rewarded for my performance, not my intrinsic value. Because I was aligned with Eros, I was ignored and dismissed. I experience this even today. Many Sensitives share my feelings. As we cross our midlife threshold we must sacrifice our sense of worth, falsely erected through adaptation, to uncover our intrinsic worth and sacrifice our need for approval for internal alignment.
As a country, from the top down, we are currently experiencing this on a larger scale. As Sensitives, we can feel the amplified tension between the Power principle, where narcissism and disrespect are running amok, and the Feminine principle, where relatedness and collaboration are holding the line. We are at a place in history, where what Jung called ‘third thing’ or the Transcendent Function has the potential to emerge from the tension of these opposites. My hope is that this third thing will birth a society with both healthy Masculine and Feminine qualities and bring Eros back to life. What this alchemical process will entail is anybody’s guess.
Till then, Sensitives will continue to feel the lack of Eros and hence a lack of safety; yet we must not mistake this as pathology or dis-order within us. We are the tuning forks of society and as we hold the tension of the opposites, we must honor our sensitivity and our longing for the Feminine principle to prevail and embody our power to transform our current reality.
©Nov2018 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of 2nd Edition – Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife 2014, Medial Press. Dr. Kumar is happy to accept new patients; call 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.