The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology
Robert A. Johnson
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It is very dangerous when a wound is so common in a culture that hardly anyone knows there is a problem. Such is the case right now with our wounded feeling function- our inability to find joy, worth, and meaning in life. Robert A. Johnson, the celebrated author of 'He, She', and 'We', revisits two medieval tales and illuminates how this feeling function has become a casualty of our modern times.
Johnson tells the story of the Wounded Fisher King from the Grail Myth to illustrate the anxiety and loneliness that plague men. From the folktale of the Handless Maiden, he explains the very different frustrations of women and describes how these disparities in the way we suffer account for much of the tension and miscommunication between men and women. His insightful analysis shows that these two stories, created centuries ago, are even more relevant today.
Robert A. Johnson, a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst, is also the author of 'He, She, We, Inner Work, Ecstasy, Transformation', and 'Owning Your Own Shadow'.
life, one is experiencing the mother archetype. The issues at stake in this differentiation are the specific feminine values of regression or valuing. Women are much wiser than men in this regard; few women make so clumsy and devastating a choice as the miller. But our masculine-dominated society has made many such choices and we have a huge legacy of mechanical advantages that are being paid for by a loss of feeling. To bring a bargain home from the marketplace is not wrong. I love a good
character of the silver hands. One hears of a gilded cage—which is still a cage no matter how golden it might be. This is another example of domination, which is sterling silver—but nonetheless an artificial existence for the woman. It is the artificiality that is the terrible note in this part of our story. Almost without exception, a handless maiden has recourse to artificial femininity to replace the loss of her natural femininity. She learns the manners, customs, and gracefulness of acquired
reverting to a simpler realm and gaining a new chance at a failed mission. We surround ourselves with the salt ocean from which we originally sprang and are refreshed by that salty world. The queen weeps her salt tears and cannot be consoled by all the compliments and servants and well-wishers that surround her. Silver hands will never provide relationship, and every woman knows this from her deep feminine instinct. Whole kingdoms may thrive on the artificiality of silver hands, but no real
errantry, as is the duty of every youth, when he stumbles onto a camp in the woods with no one about. A fire burns under the grate and a salmon lies roasting on the spit. The prince is young, hungry, and impulsive, and the salmon smells so good that he reaches out to take some of it to assuage his hunger. The salmon is very hot and burns his fingers, causing him to drop it. When he puts his fingers into his mouth to ease the burn, he gets a bit of the salmon into his mouth. This wounds him so
and fails the one essential question which would end the alienation of his life? Yes; this is the psychological history of virtually every modern man. He is offered a vision of the meaning of his life in his mid-teens but cannot find the strength of consciousness to accept it. The first meeting fails, inevitably. Who can stand the first—or the hundredth—vision of beauty that he has seen? But later a mature meeting after one has done his work in the world brings the consciousness—the question—that