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Suvivor of childhood sexual abuse is offended by Br's offering of the Pesephone myth

27 Oct
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse is offended by BR’s offering the Persephone myth as a useful parallel for PTSD, and questions what on earth BR was thinking…
Hello,

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, and a writer myself, and I feel the need to tell you that I don’t think you should use the Greek myth of Persephone in your book on imagery and trauma*. I feel many survivors will be offended, as I am, that you could even try to draw the slightest comparison to the two. That Persephone becomes fond of her abductor and later becomes a "powerful Goddess-Queen" as you say, because of her experience, is insulting and in many ways celebrates her abduction experience. By making the comparison, you are revictimizing the victim. A girl who has been sexually traumatized feels anything but a goddess and does not open to her femininity as a result. Nor does she ever "co-rule" anything with her perpetrator. There is NO respect, equality, etc. in such a relationship.

Often narcissisim is involved on the part of the perpetrator, creating a power-over versus a power-with relationship. These women (and myself included) spend years dissociated from their bodies, struggling with their sexuality, distrusting others and battling depression and addictions.

When there is healing and emergence from the "dark tunnel" as you say, it is in spite of her experience and solely made possible through her own strength, courage and tenacity.

Also, mothers of children who have experienced trauma/sexual abuse ALLOW the abuse to happen and in many ways are co-conspirators with the perpetrator. They keep silent in an effort to protect the perpetrator, bringing even more shame to the victim through lies, secrecy and denial.

So Demeter searching frantically for her daughter and trying to rescue her does not ring true either, and in fact, to imply that this is often the case, only adds salt to an already gaping wound.

Sincerely,
Eleanor B.



Dear Eleanor,

Thanks for the feedback and taking the time to let me know your reaction to my version of the myth. I certainly understand how you could take offense at the literal story. (This storytelling style is how I got my kids to enjoy Bible stories and other lessons that they would otherwise tune out.). And believe me, as a therapist of 33 years, I am painfully aware of the amount of un-Demeter-like complicity that often happens in incestuous families.

But please keep in mind that, as an archetypal story, this is not meant to be taken literally. In Jungian terms it''s about the protagonist maiden accepting her own "shadow side" (i.e., ingesting a piece of the underworld) and thus becoming a fully fleshed out, multi-layered, full grown and powerful woman, who owns and takes responsibility for her own dark side. It is a journey all of us must take to become true adults. Demeter represents the feminine principle, not a specific mom. Hades is the masculine principle, out of balance and run amok. Persephone loses her innocence and it is a terribly painful journey, but one that ultimately makes her strong and triumphant.

Especially after writing this book, with personal stories from over 80 trauma survivors, many of whom are past victims of incest and even satanic cult abuse in their families, i know that this is ultimately where healing from trauma - even of the most horrific types - takes the survivor.

One of the things so many of these generous survivors reminded me of, is the importance of leaning into the paradox of humor on the path of healing. Don''t lose your sense of humor! Without it, the magnificence of the human spirit wilts and dies. Humor saves us. And that’s not the same thing as taking anyone’s pain, including our own, lightly.

All best and thanks again for your honest remarks,
Belleruth



*Here is the Persephone myth as presented in a recent enews:

The Persephone story is great myth, loaded with multo layers of tasty, archetypal meaning, not to mention a near-perfect allegory for healing trauma and rescue by the Feminine Principle (guided imagery). Knocks my socks off, really. If you don’t already know the myth, it goes like this:

One day, the babelicious young goddess-maiden, Persephone, daughter of Zeus (Uber-God, King of the whole bunch of testosterone-soaked, badboy hotheads up there on Mt. Olympus) and Demeter (Goddess of earth, harvest, fertility, hearth, grain - in other words, the ultimate Earth-Momma) is frolicking in the fields, picking flowers with her girlfriends. She is spotted by Hades, (God of the Underworld,), who is instantly besotted by her beauty and charisma, and decides he’s got to have her. With tacit, Boys-Will-Be-Boys permission from Zeus, he abducts her, has his way with her and ultimately makes her his Queen of the Underworld. Indeed, there may have been a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome going on there, because Persephone eventually becomes fond of her miscreant perp of a spouse.

Meanwhile, back on the Earth plain, Demeter is beside herself with grief and anguish, wandering the earth, looking for her lost daughter. But alas, there is a conspiracy of silence. All the gods and goddesses just shrug and say they haven’t a clue where she is. Zeus acts all dumb and innocent too. Finally the distraught Demeter learns from Helios (God of the Sun, who sees everything) that Persephone was snatched by Hades. She goes to Zeus and says, Okay, Pops, do something; bring our daughter back! Zeus makes out like it’s out of his hands and gives her the age-old, send-me-a-memo, bureaucratic shrug.

At this point, Demeter goes into a stone-cold fury and initiates a full-blown strike-o-rama. OK, fella, have it your way, she decides. I’ll just turn this beautiful, green, fertile, generous earth into a frozen tundra, where everything dies and nothing can grow, and let’s just see how that plays in Peoria, you turkey.

The earth turns cold and dead, and suddenly there is major interest in rescuing Persephone. But the love-sick Hades is loathe to give her up. Zeus sends his wiley messenger-god, Hermes, to negotiate a deal, and finally he manages to bring her back - in a fabulously upscale chariot, no less. The earth once again blooms and thrives. There is celebration and relief all through the land.

But as a parting gesture, Hades has given his lovely queen a pomegranate (symbol of fertility) to remember him by, and when Persephone takes a little, teeny bite and swallows a seed on her way out, she becomes bound to him, and is compelled to return and co-rule the Underworld for 3-4 months of the year. (This is why we have Winter everywhere but for Los Angeles.)

So Persephone, an innocent maiden when she was kidnapped, is rescued by The Feminine Principle in all its unmasked power, and comes back a complex, multifaceted, woman-goddess, who fully understands the mysteries of life and death, and is venerated in both worlds. In addition, her experiences in the Underworld have endowed her with the gifts of divination, intuition and healing. She is no longer just a cute Momma’s Girl, but a full-blown, powerful Rock Star Goddess-Queen in her own right.

How’s that for an allegory about emerging triumphant from the dark tunnel of trauma?

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award