Fantasies of magical romance and violence: how we breed disturbed love attachments.


Jungian analyst James Hollis proposes that romantic fantasy, the search for the magical other, has “replaced institutional religion as the greatest motive, power and influence in our lives.”

Hollis says that “no partner, no matter how worthy, can compete with that fantasy,” an illusion, that when it fails, often leads to the “myth of never being good enough.”

In the fairy tale of romantic love, a woman is “prey to false notions of fulfillment,” writes Maureen Murdock.

She searches for a

“father/lover/savior,”

hero or magical other,

who she believes will

“solve all of her problems.”

One can see this fairy-tale promise demonstrated in our culture's extremely limited father-daughter rituals, such as the purity ball and quinceañera (I write about these rituals at length in my doctoral dissertation), but the process begins long before the age of fifteen, in the stories children are told, and in the toys they receive.

In searching the toy collection of Toys “R” Us, David Newman describes toy categories for boys as “Horror,” “Battle Action & Role Play,” “Sports,” and “Robotics,” whereas toy categories for girls include “Dolls,” “Doll Accessories,” “Dollhouses,” “Princess & Fairy Dolls,” and “Horse & Pony Dolls.” Barbie, for example, continues to take in $1 billion in annual sales.

“Girls’ toys” still revolve around themes of domesticity, fashion, and motherhood. They encourage creativity, nurturing, and physical attractiveness. “Boys’ toys” emphasize action and adventure and encourage exploration, competition, and aggression. Gender-specific toys foster different traits and skills in children and thereby further separate boys and girls into different patterns of social development.

In general, the cultural expectation seems to be that sons grow into men (heroic men with swords) that fight wars and rescue women (the mythical damsels and princesses in distress). When men comply with these societal roles, and promise to protect women, “they perpetuate the belief that she need not undertake a heroic journey. . . . They will slay the dragon for her” (Pearson & Pope, 1981, p. 66; Murdock, 1990, p. 57).

Although it can be argued that much has changed in our society, it can be persuasively argued that these mythical storylines still play out in our culture, and still influence men and women, although certainly not all men and women, and perhaps not consciously.

On the other end of this spectrum is a different sort of fairy tale, one that entails violence towards women who are portrayed as not worth protecting at all—an example of “enantiodromia” (Huskinson, 2004, p. 83; Jung, 1971/1976, pp. 425-426; Nietzsche, 1967, pp. 35, 57).

Enantiodromia is a phenomenon introduced by C. G. Jung that explains how the superabundance of any force inescapably generates its opposite. So if we are a culture that doggedly prescribes the princess/hero fairy tale, inevitably when things get too extreme, they manifest into the opposite form. Magical purity shifts into violence and sexual degradation.

Sadly, regardless of whether the protagonist is princess or prostitute, a girl will learn “to view herself as others see her” (Murdock, 1994, p. 108).

Newman discusses this other view of women, as he finds demonstrated in the toy industry. He writes, "Video games have become a particularly lucrative product in recent years. Most video games are designed by males for other males. Female characters in these games are often provocatively sexual, scantily clad, and voluptuous. Many games portray female characters as prostitutes and strippers, who are frequent targets of violence at the hands of psychopathic male characters. In Grand Theft Auto 3, players can beat prostitutes to death with baseball bats after having sex with them. Duke Nukem Forever allows players to slap semi-naked women if they don’t cooperate" (2012, p. 151).

So you can see that if we are training young girls to yearn for magical love, young girls who desperately desire a hero who will never let them fall, and we are simultaneously breeding boys who inherently fight and kill, how does this play out in stories we see today? What kind of love do we witness on a daily basis, not just personally but politically and collectively? Has the old mythical storyline changed very much?

The epidemic we have right now, in our society, is that the feminine ultimately gets sacrificed, and not just at the hands of men. When we raise daughters and sons in a culture so thickly embedded in this kind of control-or-be-controlled mindset, women end up seeking it out themselves. This shows up in situations where women constantly choose "the bad boy" even though they know he is not good for them. It shows up in women opting for the "sexy" Halloween costume. It shows up in our enormous plastic surgery industry, our high divorce rates and instances of abuse, and it shows up in women's callous mistreatment of one another. At some point this kind of misogynistic outlook, which often starts at home as a young child, becomes a natural state in the life of grown women and men.

© 2017, Karina McGovern Chace, with excerpts from "Fathers in the Sand: The Transformative Emergence of Archetypal Images through Sandplay.


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