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Cassandra complex: why do so many women suffer from it?

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The Cassandra myth has been used as a metaphor for various social and psychological phenomena, making reference mainly to the silencing or disbelief of aspects traditionally related to the feminine by figures or instances dominant. These invisible feminine elements are, among others, intuition, imagination or creativity..

This overshadowing of qualities considered feminine can be called "Cassandra complex."

Cassandra: The Trojan Princess

The myth, which was immortalized in Homer's Iliad, tells us that Apollo, god of reason, lucidity and moderation, fascinated by Cassandra's beauty, promised her the gift of prophecy in exchange for her becoming his lover. Cassandra, daughter of the kings of Troy, accepted the gift, but she rejected Apollo, who offended curses her making his predictions, although accurate, were not believed or taken into account.

Unable to prevent or transform the events it foresaw, including the fall of Troy and his own death, the gift was she became a continuous source of pain and frustration for Cassandra, being further excluded and stigmatized by her visions.

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The Cassandra myth tells us about the dark aspect of Apollo, that is, when the rationality that characterizes the patriarchy, forgets her matriarchal roots and arrogantly reveals herself through misogyny equating the feminine with the lacking, the weak and what is susceptible to being dominated, exploited and violated.

The myth makes visible the need for linear, logical, analytical, quantitative and penetrating thinking, which provides pragmatic solutions and which is usually related to the masculine, be complement with the so-called thought of the heart, with receptivity, with the qualitative, with creativity, with synthesis and acceptance, traditionally related to what feminine.

The disqualification of the imaginary in modernity

Within the context of scientific materialism, framed in the Newtonian paradigm and Cartesian, different aspects reluctant to subscribe to instrumental and productive logic such as intuition, imagination and the entire realm of the not visible (related traditionally to the feminine) began to be considered as erroneous, obscure, puerile, superstitious and with no legitimacy to provide valid knowledge about the human.

The Myth of Cassandra represents the tragedy and imbalance that the neglect and contempt of the non-rational realm entailssubjective and ineffable of our nature.

Within science itself, quantum physics, whose object of study is the smallest particles of which the universe is composed, that is to say, the infinitely small, the not visible, has invalidated the absolute concretion that was presupposed for matter from materialism scientific, revealing a mysterious, paradoxical and irrational aspect that bears strong similarities and correspondences with the nature of the psyche.

For example, it collapses the claims of objectivity, showing the observer's involvement in what is observed when experimenting with quantum proportions.

The loss of prestige and expulsion of the soul in the contemporary world

Cassandra was confined and expelled from collective life because her words were uncomfortable to the instances of power, to the dominant thought.

The popular expression "it is only psychological" shows the disdain for the emotional and subjective, in clear subordination to what is considered objective and physical.

The discrediting and confinement of the soul alludes to the process of dehumanization and disharmony that is denounced from different instances, generated by the excess of modernization, rationalization and instrumentalization.

It refers to the rigid bureaucracy that instead of facilitating processes puts obstacles, does not accept individual cases or the emergence of novel conditions. Medical practices in which economic interests predominate over the health of the people, and where the subjectivity of patients fades into diagnoses, protocols and statistics. It also refers to the medicalization of sadness and of social nonconformity.

Other expressions of the confinement of the soul are the cult of appearances, packaging, happiness, youth, speed and growth. All the above unilateralities that neglect the complexity, depth, ambivalence and cyclical dynamics of the psyche.

The Cassandra complex and the marginalization of the feminine

The curse on Cassandra consisted of the warnings coming from his visions not being taken into account., that her words were not heard, that her contributions were denied. One of the readings that has been made of the Cassandra myth is regarding the exclusion and invisibility of women in patriarchal societies.

Submission and silence were ideal virtues for female behavior in ancient Greece and these conceptions and practices have been maintained throughout time.

There is multiple evidence that despite having been in inferior conditions in the access to the knowledge, women have historically been present in a relevant way in the political, artistic and scientific. However, her contributions have been made invisible or absorbed by a more legitimate figure within the patriarchal logic, such as her father, brother, husband or lover.

In this same sense, there are also multiple testimonies of how scientific knowledge has not only advanced from rationality and empiricism but from intuitions, imaginative visions and other aspects related to the non-rational field, but as with the woman, these findings are invisible or taken as mere coincidences.

Invisibility towards women also occurs when they are not taken into account in the media or for activities in which they could perform efficiently, because his age, his figure or her appearance does not conform to the expectations of a certain male gaze, disappearing, as well as objects of desire.

The feminine as merchandise and property

Once Troy was defeated, Cassandra was kidnapped and taken as spoils of war. The woman's body has been and still continues to be treated as merchandise, as an object of pleasure, as an advertising showcase.

The logic of the commodification and objectification of the female body is based on forced prostitution, trafficking of people, in the pressure for the slim figure, in the rise of aesthetic operations, in the rapes as a weapon of war.

This logic is implicit in the mind of the abuser that he considers his partner or his ex-partner as his property therefore, with the possibility of making use of it as he pleases.

The woman who belongs to herself and structural disbelief

In some versions of the myth, Cassandra is given the role of priestess or virgin. These aspects, in that context, symbolize the resistance of women to the subordination and dependence of men, as well as to the logic of domination and power that they personify. Cassandra then represents the woman who belongs to herself and not to her father or husband.

In patriarchal societies to belligerent women, those who say what they do not want to hear, those who transgress the canons imposed by men, they have been tried to silence, marginalize or ridicule them as crazy, witches or "Hysterical".

Today many women have to deal with this structural disbelief in various circumstances. For example, when after overcoming multiple obstacles and disadvantages in relation to men they manage to access spaces of power or recognition beyond those traditionally attributed to women (beauty, caring for others, objects of pleasure) and are delegitimized, disqualified or not taken into I laughed.

Disbelief is also present when testimonies of sexual abuse or harassment are presented and are often discredited as fantasies or provocations of the woman herself.

Another expression of disbelief is the case of conditions in which it is not possible to find a visible and quantifiable element in the body, such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia or mood disorders. People have to face being questioned about the veracity or intensity of their suffering, or even put up with being accused of engaging in manipulative behaviors.

Fissure between mind and body: the lost animality

In some versions of the myth, Cassandra's prophetic ability is expressed as the ability to understand the language of animals. In mythology, animals are usually representations of our instincts, of the needs of our body and its rhythms, of our basic drives.

The Cassandra myth refers to how the civilizational process, which has elevated rationality and empiricism as dogmas, has opened a gap with our animality, with our innate capacity for self-regulation, with the inherent wisdom of our nature.

The distancing from our animality, from the wisdom of our body, manifests itself as disorientation and dissociation.

The internalized undervaluation

Women are forced to build their identity in a context where their sources of identification are valued in a pejorative way, giving them connotations of weakness, victimhood, dependence and irrationality. On many occasions, the mother herself becomes the benchmark for what women do not want to become. The masculine associated values, on the contrary, are highly valued considering the man as an entrepreneur, logical, pragmatic, uncomplicated, objective, independent, strong, brave, powerful.

For Maureen Murdock, denigration of the feminine increases the chances that many women will seek approval under patriarchal values, leaving aside or minimizing other fundamental areas of their personality.

Thus, the invisibility, the marginalization, the disregard to which women are exposed, is internalized becoming an internal psychic factor from which negative judgments and evaluations of herself emerge.

The woman then identifies with rationality and the search for external goals, constantly seeking approval from the male gaze. Internalized devaluation is installed as a feeling of insecurity and handicap that can be manifested as compensation through a constant search for demonstrating how efficient and capable one can be, in many cases under criteria of overwhelming exigency that exceeds the requirements of one's own context.

Psychological changes that are generated

The woman can then be possessed by an obsession for perfection and the need to be in control in different areas: work, her own body, relationships, while rejecting or distancing herself from other aspects of herself that have traditionally been related to what feminine.

She then becomes deaf to the signals of her body and of her rhythms; to the possibility of recognizing the excesses or deficiencies that happen to them. It does not give credibility to the inner feeling that can guide her on relationships or attitudes that need to be abandoned; nor to her voice that encourages her to unfold her own vocation, that encourages her to be faithful to her own truth.

The gradual unfolding of the deepest needs of our psyche was called in Jungian psychology as the process of individuation and it is considered that it charges greater relevance of it in the second half of life, when the needs of adaptation to the outside world, vanity and the need for recognition begin to lose relevance, at the same time what the development of our interiority emerges as a priority.

The Cansandras as medial women

Cassandra is named by the choir as the very unhappy and very wise, evoking the traditional relationship of wisdom that emerges from suffering and frustration.

For Newman, the process of the evolution of collective consciousness in Western culture has passed from matriarchal unconsciousness to predominance of the instinct, animism and the collective, to patriarchal skepticism in which rationality and individuality. For Newman, the necessary patriarchal stage is experiencing its decline due to exhaustion.

The spirit of the time corresponds then to the need for a perspective in which they interact in a way harmonious the two principles, which implies an integration of the maligned and repressed feminine in the latter stage.

Jungian analyst Toni Wolf argues that there is a type of women with a special sensitivity that makes them serve as mediators between the internal world and the external world. Medial women, as he calls them, are absorbed and molded by what seeks to become conscious at a certain time, becoming bearers of new principles and values.

The medial women capture and stage in the conflicts of their own lives, in the pains of their own bodies, what finds in the air ”, what the collective conscience does not quite admit: the need to integrate the reviled feminine and repressed.

Through their art, through their sufferings, they give light to the collective drama of erotically linking the aspects masculine and feminine, that as a sacred marriage act as complementary opposites without any type of subordination. They consecrate themselves unconsciously, in the service of a new and covert spirit of the age, as did the first martyrs. His pain becomes a scythe for the superfluous and for the encounter with the most essential and genuine.

The collective conscience cries out for a recognition and integration of the soul, of the feminine, in relationships, in institutions, in the productive model, in instances of power. Participation under equal conditions of what is qualitative, what is not visible, cannot be postponed. That the conquering, warlike and colonialist patriarchal logic is nuanced under the integrating and welcoming gaze of what is feminine that unquestionably highlights the interdependence of all peoples and the brotherhood that binds us as species. May it also return the sacredness and respect that the planet and all the elements of nature deserve.

Bibliographic references:

  • Berman, M. (2013). Body and spirit; the hidden history of the west. Four winds.
  • Espinoza, N.A. "The female silence in the Greek myth of Cassandra." Modern Languages ​​Magazine 19 (2013): 49-73.
  • Wolff, T. (1956). Structural forms of the feminine psyche Hillman, james. 1998. The code of the soul. Barcelona: martínez roca.
  • Jaffé A. The symbolism in the visual arts in The man and the symbols of him. Barcelona: paidós
  • Jung, C. G. (1991). Archetypes and the collective unconscious. Barcelona: paidós publishing house
  • Jung, C. G. (1993) structure and dynamics of the psyche. Editorial paidós, Buenos Aires.
  • Jung, C. G. (2008). Complexes and the unconscious. Madrid, alliance.
  • Murdock, M. 1993. Being a woman: a heroic journey. Madrid: gaia.
  • Murdock, M. 1996. The Hero's Daughter: An exploration of the dark side of parental love based on Jungian mythology, history, and psychology. Madrid, spain: gaia editions.
  • Pascual, P. (2002). Evolution of a mythical character: Cassandra, from the classical texts to the contemporary historical novel '. Epos, 116, 05-124.
  • Pinkola Estés, C. (1998). Women who run with the wolves. Spain: editions b
  • Wolf, C. 2013. Cassandra. Buenos Aires: silver bowl.
  • Schapira, l. L. (1988). The cassandra complex: living with disbelief: a modern perspective on hysteria. Toronto, canada: inner city books.
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