One of the myths from India that I found particularly touching and profound is the story of Sita, Shreedaman, and Nanda, an unlikely trio. It is not a happy story, but it is a deeply moving one, concerning desire, human folly, relatedness, and purpose in life. It is called “The Transposed Heads.” I am indebted to Thomas Mann for his retelling of this Hindu gem.
From the outset it is important o keep in mind that this is an interior story. Of course, it has exterior repercussions, but our story relates to the double animus in a woman(or the double anima in a man). Animus and anima, feminine and masculine forms of soul, were used by Dr. Jung to describe the personification of the masculine in a woman’s unconsciousness and the personification of the feminine in a man’s unconsciousness. All of us carry within us an internal soul image, an image that pulls us toward the Golden World. The problem is that in the West so many people have lost their connection to the divine world that they project this holy image exclusively upon another human being who cannot bear its weight. We call this romantic love.
What is this double soul image that is so deeply etched into the expectations of every man and every woman? Every woman has built into her a double expectation or set of ideals of what a man should be. Similarly, every man carries within himself a set of images of what the ideal woman should be. Our story concerns these expectations within a woman, but a similar process takes place in every man. When a young girl is sixteen it may be the local football star who will set off her inner soul image—a big, strong guy who is Saturday afternoon hero. Slowly, throughout a young woman’s life, the animus may migrate through other stages and end up with a cultural hero, a lofty masculine ideal. But no woman—and no man—escapes being torn between ideals and expectations of the opposite sex, as our story will clearly demonstrate.
The less conscious this inner expectation is, the more totally it may come to dominate us, creating all kinds of havoc and suffering. Many people in Western culture get into a pattern of trying to marry one of these soul images, since we hunger so greatly to possess it. Inevitably, we become disillusioned, as over time it becomes clear that our human companion reflects only partial aspects of what is so deeply desired. People then have an affair or get divorced and marry someone else who constellates other aspects of their ideal. Eventually that projection, too, begins to wear thin. This is a terribly painful pattern, leaving much wreckage in its wake. The worst of this projection of a divine image on another human being is that it obscures a true human love, which, though less compelling, is far more stable and valuable than any projection could possibly be. It is my hope that the more we know of these dynamics, the more we can be free of them.”