Even though ‘Eternal Girls’ are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or even older,they retain the emotional and psychological characteristic of young girls. These women are wounded by our patriarchal society, which has defined what women can and cannot do. The worth of women has traditionally been devalued in our culture by reducing women into filling a very limited number of roles. Patriarchy’s lust for power and lust for beauty has split the feminine into obedience and beauty, i.e. the dutiful wife or the beautiful mistress. Eternal girls accept identities others project on them, either in passive adaptation or unconscious self-destructive rebellion. They live out an identity that is not their own.
A frequent nighttime dream motif of ‘Eternal Girls’ is loss of their purses, pocket books, luggage etc. which contains their identity cards or money. Losing one’s identity always occurs when roles imposed by others are accepted. Not being in the ‘driver’s seat’ is another theme in dreams. Not driving one’s own car often implies losing direction over one’s life. Finally, ‘Eternal Girls’ frequently dream of being threatened and chased by a dark or evil man. This dream tells us that the woman is out of touch with her own assertiveness and masculine energy. Once a woman begins to do the inner work and gets stronger, more positive men show up in her dreams. When a woman hears internal voices like “You’re no good…You’ll fail for sure… You are not worthy of love or You’ll never accomplish anything…” it mostly comes from her own inner masculine critic…i.e. the same sadistic brute who chases her in her dreams. The ‘Eternal Girl’ gives power away to men externally and internally- eventually she has to develop a warrior within and not become a victim to her own internal critical judge.
Linda Schierse Leonard came up with life patterns Eternal Girls can fall into:
(1) The ‘Darling Doll’ becomes what her husband or lover wants her to be, she adapts to his fantasies of the feminine. She is pretending and posing, wearing a mask, because she is cut off from who she really is. Outwardly she might appear successful and be envied by other women, but inwardly she is very insecure and fragile. When she finds herself abandoned or in a divorce she’s lost,with few internal resources. There is danger she might get stuck in bitterness, revenge and blame which forever locks her into the role of victim. Her innocence and seduction is often a cover up for hidden aggression and hostility. Behind the compliant wife is covert manipulation. Secretly she puts men down because they’re so easily seduced and manipulated by feminine charms. Just as she is a ‘doll’ to men, men are impersonal and ‘dolls’ to her as well.
(2) The “Girl of Glass” is unable to face reality and lives in a fantasy world. Her father is often irresponsible and her mother wants her to live out her own unconscious unfullfillments like being the ‘belle of the ball.’ She’s fearful and retiring and unable to act often hiding in books, t.v, computers, or movies. She too allows herself to become an object, is passive and plays out parts others want her to be. When her fantasy world breaks down, she often starts therapy.
(3) The ‘High-Flyer’ lives out her imagination in the world- she’s out there. She lives by impulse seeking thrills and danger and flies uncommitedly from man to man, refusing to accept any limits. She seems to be leading a free and wild life, but has a poor relationship to boundaries, practicality and time. She eventually becomes inflated and remains basically weak as she only plays with possibilities, but never actualizes them via commitment. Living in possibilities only fosters weakness, therefore accomplishments are rare. Her shadow includes manipulation of men.
How does the ‘Eternal Girl’ begin to transform? Usually through an outer or inner crisis i.e. loss of relationship, or being found out in one’s weakness. Other times a dream, a fateful event, or a strong emotion like rage, in which she feels her inner strength for the first time, can bring on change. First of all, the ‘Eternal Girl’ has to become conscious and recognize her mask and lifelong patterns. There is something bigger going on in the universe than her ego impulses, which is revealed in dreams. Secondly, when she finds out she’s not who she thought she was, suffering sets in and this pain needs to be tolerated and understood as it has meaning and hope. Thirdly, she needs to do the Shadow work and no longer see herself as just a victim; along with her innocence comes nasty manipulation. Indulgence in weakness is a defiance in accepting strength. She needs to own her rage underneath the pleasant persona. Veiled rage loses it’s transformative power as well as leading to physical symptoms, depression, and passive-aggressiveness. Rage needs to be recognized and consciously integrated, otherwise she unconsciously attacks her partner. Behind rage are tears and vulnerability as well as the possibility for tenderness and intimacy. The healthy expression of anger opens up sexuality and leads to fuller love, both physically and emotionally. Of course the rage has to be differentiated, sorting out rage belonging to our childhood from rage in the present. Ultimately, the ‘Eternal Girl’ has to give up her childlike dependence and hold onto her strength, rather than fleeing, withdrawing, adapting or rebelling. This takes patience.
One for all and all for one.
Peter Milhado © 2013