The Demon Lover


"The Young Woman and the Death", Henri Levy (1840 - 1904), French

"With feminine consciousness almost nonexistent, the psychological feminine child remains unborn; the masculine consciousness unrelated to its feminine feeling lures her into a fantasy world of perfection totally unrelated to life or to her own body. The incapacity to deal with reality is experienced as helplessness. Raped from within by her own vampire-witch, and from without by that same attitude in the culture, such a woman dare not open herself to life. She tries to hold on as rigidly as she can to whatever frail structure she can manufacture for herself. If that structure is demolished usually through loss of an important relationship she is flooded by repressed unconscious contents. Raped by her demon lover, she yet remains "the still unravished bride." - "Addiction to Perfection", Marion Woodman


The demon lover is an archetype that can be, if analysed, noticed easily in the works of female writers - Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolf and many others. Very often, despite writing beautiful poetry or prose, these women expressed a tremendous amount of grief in their works. It was not any kind of grief either - it was a grief of being trapped and of being unable to relate and engage with life itself. They are locked inside themselves, yet they are foreigners to their own selves, and their own "I" is barely visible to them. It is not rare that this kind of female writers often end their own lives, or die an early death, sometimes caused by a disease.

The opening excerpt is a commentary on a case of a woman, who after a divorce, began chasing other pursuits that would help her "manufacture structures". She has become manic in doing whatever she was whispered she "ought to do" in order to be certain version of herself. Perhaps it was driven by the unconscious collective ideal that a divorced woman ought to suddenly "glow up". To properly, truly mourn a relationship, even if it were a bad one, without turning it into any "power" narrative for a famous magazine, but rather to simply allow and permit the feelings to appear, will not be allowed in a collective dominated by the animus values. The values of efficiency, perfection and objectivity are his values. However, what happened to the woman in this case, was that she began having strong headaches and had eventually developed a paralysing disease. Her pursuit of the things which her own unconscious, yet idealised animus told her to chase, has exhausted and almost killed her. She had a dream, that triggered the psychological shift. The dream is quite graphic, so I shall not share it fully here, but in the dream, a demon, who looked very beautifully and was very eloquent, came, and started stabbing her through her mouth. When she tried to spit the blood onto him, he began laughing; her blood was his food. He then continued to stab her, and then she woke up. She said she never felt as helpless and as lost as after this dream.


The demon lover, the immature and cruel animus who was guiding her towards manic pursuit of external goals, was feeding and taking her life energy. While she was chasing all of those things, she was actually feeding him. Eventually, he showed his face and came to have a laugh at her inability to recognise his tricks.


Almost universally, religions and spiritual traditions speak how demons do not always appear as ugly and fearsome, nor do they appear with knives and guns. Often, they are seductive, eloquent, beautiful, offering everything we think we need. But, it is also well-known what one pays with for any Faustian agreement - the price is life itself and the soul itself.

The Woman Trapped

"The Angel of Death", Evelyn De Morgan (1855 – 1919), English

"Fathers have fantasies, how their daughters should be. Lovers have fantasies, how their brides should be. And if a woman doesn't have a strong feeling of identity, she will be tempted to play up to the stage. And then she becomes what we call an 'anima-woman.' She plays the role men expect from her, and loses her own identity. This is very widespread, and a very dangerous thing for women, which generally leads to disaster. You see it in Greta Garbo. She was the anima of thousands of men; she had that certain something which (allowed) every man to project his anima (onto her). But she obviously, in the middle of her life, got a terrible depression, and realized that she was losing herself, and her own identity, by playing the role of the anima and not being herself. That's why she retired in a depressed and abrupt way, completely from the stage. She must have realized that playing the anima is a dangerous game which makes one lose one's own identity." — Marie-Louise Von Franz


The negative animus can appear in many forms. That will depend on the specific circumstances in which woman lives, but also her own, personal, archetypal pattern. When animus shows up as the demon lover, he usually appears in very specific circumstances. In this situation, a young woman, growing up, is trapped between her mother's immature animus and denied anima, and her father's undeveloped, unconscious, anima and his own immature animus. The women in whom demon lover appears are usually daughters of mothers who are devoted to the animus principle. They are the hard working women who do everything perfectly. They wake up at the right time, their schedules are always perfectly ordered and if guests are to come, everything must look as if it were in a catalogue. There is no space for flexibility or for a slow stroll in a forest, because she always thinks of things that "ought" and "must" be done. The mother herself never does anything to nourish her own being, and therefore cannot nourish the young girl's psyche. Even if she performs things as a "duty", it may do nothing for the psyche of the little girl. There must be a psychic outpouring of the energy from mother towards the daughter for the nourishment to happen fully. Usually, a husband of such a mother is the so called "mother's son". Even if he is successful in the external world, he is psychologically immature, so his inner being demands the presence of a mother. Through this dynamic, the wife steps into the role of a mother, and the husband into that of a son.


But just because he has slipped into the role of a son, he does not cease to have the need for a lover. So when a daughter is born, the inner lover is projected onto the daughter. Trapped between her mother's "witch ego", which demands perfection from the daughter and which will punish for dropped cups and water that has been spilled, and the father's lover projection, the daughter will usually develop the demon lover in her psyche. Woodman explains: "The girl most vulnerable to the demon lover is the one who adores or fears the idealized father. (If he is absent through divorce, alcoholism or death, her adoration may be even more intense.) Having accepted his anima projection from infancy, she has lived to please him, to share his intellectual pursuits and to meet his standards of perfection. In the dynamics of such a relationship, the mother is experienced either as absent or as a rival. While the daughter experiences herself as the beloved of the father, consciously she knows she dare not share his bed, yet instinctively her energies remain incestuous. Thus her love is split off from her sexuality. In fantasy she dreams of her spiritual lover; in reality, she remains unconscious of her sexuality, acts it out without love, or fears it as some explosive power that can destroy her. She tends to"fall helplessly in love" with a man who cannot marry her and around whom she creates an ideal world in which she is either adored or dramatically rejected. In life, she lives without her body; in dreams, she appears behind glass, or in a plastic bag or glass bottle."


A young woman growing in such familial dynamic, remains, "trapped in fantasy"; she lives the fantasy of her mother's negative animus who tells her that she is not worthy of love or care, unless she performs perfectly, and she also lives her father's fantasy of the perfect lover. When she tries to relate to the external world, she relates to it from this fantastical position. But, very often, she notices that she actually cannot relate. She begins to notice that she feels trapped within herself and the many poems of the female authors mentioned above are the result of this feeling. Her emotions, her feelings themselves become a matter of fantasy - she cannot experience the real feeling as she has no "I". She cannot feel the life, yet she yearns for it. The only way she can engage with it is through fantasy. Her need for the juice of life, may eventually lead her to seek relationships which are intense on a psychic level but that have no actual emotional or erotic intensity.


As the demon lover is the internalisation of the father's anima, and as the father himself is the "mother's son", he is quite immature. Her own father's animus is the psychological "puer aeternus" (The Eternal Boy). He is a little boy seeking a mother. He wants to feed so he demands motherliness. He wants to be nourished and that's when he begins taking the life out of a woman, eventually leading her to death. The joint animus voices constantly tell the woman that she is ugly and unlovable, and forever at his mercy.


Such woman may find a marriage or relationship with a man, who, like her father, has an underdeveloped psyche. He may enjoy her submissiveness and her willingness to be nothing more but his mirror, but the problems may occur if the man starts to mature, and then, her lack of individuality may become boring. Even if that does not happen, conflict in relationship may occur when she projects her idealised animus on a man - nobody can sustain the fantasy she has in her head. He cannot reach her as she has no self from which she could relate. She may become enraged or depressed when a man fails to play up to her fantasy, and he may get exhausted by the unrealistic demands of the fantasy animus. As she is divorced from her own humanity, she cannot relate to humanity in anyone else; she can only relate through her fantasy world in which she is trapped. When reality refuses to go along, she falls into an even deeper agony, often withdrawing and becoming even more entrapped by the demon. If she doesn't know how to get out of his hands, he may take her to the death marriage.

The Death Marriage

"Ophelia", Sir John Everett Millais (1829 - 1896), English

"Women can still fall in love with Heathcliff and love him most when he stands with the dead Catherine in his arms rejoicing that now she is his. They do not see that it is a death-marriage (...) The relationship is sado-masochistic; it fascinates because it has within it the elements of violent eroticism. In the dream the consummation is a hideous parody of the loving coniunctio: the head is attacked by a phallic instrument. The over-spiritualized, overintellectualized masculine turns in rage against the feminine and drinks its blood. The life force which was not able to find its proper channel into actual loving relationships is given over to feed the rage which, in turn, viciously stabs at its feminine victim." - "Addiction to Perfection", Marion Woodman "Wuthering Heights" is a classic in which the main hero and the main heroine are kept together by a neurotic bond. It is not love that is between them, it is an occasion in which the loneliness has met the loneliness and, alienation has met the alienation. They both have recognised the infantile, underdeveloped parts of their own psyche in the other. That is why their relationship is so addictive, and that is why they have a hard time being apart from one another. There is always a pull towards each other, then dramatic, often violent break ups, and then the eventual return. This is even more dangerous for a woman, because the woman without a developed "I", becomes the pure anima woman. She is nothing but his mirror and she completely internalises his idealised image of a woman.


The woman runs towards him, because he promises the great fairytale. He promises to take her out of her inner prison, but he does not do that. What he does instead is take her life energy. That's the core of his trick - he is telling her that he will bring her to light, but instead, he is luring her into his hands. He lures her with illusion of light to his dark fortress. And what a disappointment, what "removal of the veil", for the woman involved! She is running towards what she thinks is her liberation, but ends up in even a deeper prison. Finally, the death has the final say.

The Maiden Who Fights the Demon Demon lover is not undefeatable. To think so is to fall into his trick that woman is eternally to be his prisoner. Almost universal defense against the assault of the negative animus is a woman's true and authentic feeling. Not a performance of feeling but a sincere connection to it. In Jungian terms, feeling function corresponds to the values. For a woman trapped in this complex, this may be more challenging than it seems because she has no sense of "I", and she usually does not know what does she value and what does she truly feel. Whole her life, she has spent being a mirror for others to project against. Her whole life, she is acting on nothing but various external demands. But, finding this inner feeling is her most potent sword against the demon. She must go on a journey to explore what she values and what she wants; she must find a part of herself that is more than a mirror. When she does, she can confront the demon. If he appears, she can tell him: "I hear you. Your arguments make logical sense, but they bear no feeling. They are your arguments. They have nothing to do with my essence. I do not care if you will make fun of me. I do not care if you will ridicule me. I will not care if you will tell me that I am unlovable and ugly for choosing to nourish myself today instead of listen to your demands." When a complex like this begins to resurface to the conscious, it should not be ignored. When dreams of demonic lover begin (he does not have to be fearsome in a dream, he can be handsome and charming, as is already said), it is very important to engage the conscious self with the unconscious patterns in order to purify and eventually integrate that part of psyche. If he is avoided, he will just be pushed further into the unconscious and continue doing his thing. When unconscious opens, and begins to communicate through dreams, synchronicities or even somatic symptoms, it is an opportunity for the transformation of the psyche.


Many women, when they are in this process, are helped by labeling the demon as something other than herself. Especially if she labels it as an enemy or an invasive force. It is inside of her, true, but consciously engaging with it as foreign can help. We have all seen films or heard stories in which the demon must be named or baptised in order to be exorcised. One woman, in a book written by Nancy Qualls Corbett, came to the analyst consumed with suicidal thoughts. At one point of the analysis, she started referring to that part of her as "It"; instead of saying "I want to kill myself", she began saying: "It wants to kill me". By labeling the demon as invader, which from a certain perspective he is, as he is a combination of her parent's complexes, she can confront him. By knowing he is not her truest self, she can attack him and defeat him, without feeling she is attacking or defeating herself. That's because her ego has found another soil to ground itself in, and that is her authentic feeling. From there, she can attack the demon, and instead of becoming his dead bride, be the one who cuts his head off.

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