For quite some time I have been teaching my Expressive Arts Therapy program at AEON, the Athens Drama Therapy Center in Greece. The young man on this poster has looked at me for many years, hanging beside Stelios’s impressive library. Why did my unconscious eventually draw my attention to this picture? And why did I finally ask Marily, a devoted student of mine, to translate the text for me? It reads, “I, Odysseus, alone in silence.”
Before the text had been translated for me, I used my diagnostic talents and instincts to come up with the following thoughts. The tender face of the young fellow hints at a “thinking type.” His cap seems like a pot lid suggesting a head full of wisdom. A lot of attention was invested in the features of his face. His big, wide, bright eyes and asymmetric curls add joyfulness and contrast with the thin beard. The neck is too long and hints towards distance between the mind (head) and the emotions (heart). The tender but distinct horizontal line on the chest also denotes a clear border between the head and the rest of the body.
There must have been an unconscious decision not expose the hero’s torso, but rather to include a red (bleeding?) kite held by another small masculine figure. This perhaps transmits the message that while you are stuck with Calypso on an isolated island, don’t forget your potential freedom. Look how the kite is turning freely in the air, even as it is held tight by your rational, ethical masculinity. Now, how does all this relate to Jungian coaching?
I quote from Anouska Cowen’s Endure O Heart!: Odyssey 20, Lines 10-21;
I have chosen this passage from the Odyssey, as it is one that I have found can be comforting, especially during times of uncertainty. More often than not we have the capacity to adapt, and it is often helpful to refer back to this idea, particularly when the outcome of a situation may seem unclear or unpredictable. This passage serves as a reminder that there are some things that aren’t worth fixating on, and not to stress unnecessarily over the little details; trust that you are stronger and more resilient than you think, and believe that anxieties will eventually pass.
This text resonates with me a lot these days. The author continues,
However, despite the fact that objectively this passage, standing alone, depicts a message of hope and resilience, when considered as a part of its wider context – Odysseus has realised that the slave-girls in his household are leaving to spend the night with the suitors – it takes on a far more horrific meaning. Once he has arrived in his household, he eventually murders all the suitors, as well as slave-girls, mercilessly, regardless of how they behaved individually. This juxtaposition between a quote full of wisdom regarding patience and acceptance, and Odysseus’ ruthless actions later on (as is typical of his character) illustrates well the ways in which Odysseus represents the fickle, complex, and darker side of humanity; his ability to switch so seamlessly between both rational and inspirational to heartlessly cruel is a part of what makes his character so fascinating.
The author speaks about the inevitable shadow that exists in each personality. He refers to times of crisis when we are expected to use our resilient resourcefulness to cope with reality. Odysseus can be gentle and loving but can be cruel and heartless as well. Being “alone in my silence” is a necessary and crucial condition to become a hero. The picture denies Odysseus’ bipolar hero personality. It shows the restrained, gentle, tender anima aspect of the Greek hero’s personality but hides its horrifying shadow that is very much in need for the Spartan commando warrior.