How Do I Love Thee?

What are soul mates? In his Symposium Plato gave a very fascinating answer: a soul originally was a perfect sphere, which was cut in two halves. One half of the soul went to your body, while the other found abode in your soulmate’s body. Since then, we keep searching that missing part for our entire life and if we are lucky enough to find it: BANG! It is like two magnets ‘attraction: strong, irreversible.  For Plato any other relationship different from the bond which arouse from that natural attraction could not work, just because it was not meant to be. In fact, if you reverse the polarity of one magnet,  they repel. Despite your efforts there is no way to keep together those repelling  magnets for long : it is not in the laws of nature. At that point  you may choose whether to live hopefully  a satisfactory but empty life with the wrong partner or to keep searching for that special kind of connection, which you can experience only with your soul mate.

Of course the paths of love are the most unexpected.  Elizabeth Barret Browning’s path was poetry. Dominated by her possessive father, Elizabeth spent most of her time alone. She found consolation writing poems. This how her missing half, poet Robert Browning, found her. He had come across her writings and felt that power, that connection of the souls and wrote asking to meet her. They eventually fell in love and the intensity of their feelings can be felt in any line of the letters they exchanged before eloping to Italy, like in the following excerpt:

“For I have none in the world who will hold me to make me live in it, except only you – I have come back for you alone…at your voice…and because you have use for me! I have come back to live a little for you. I love you – I bless God for you – you are too good for me, always I knew.

In her famous sonnet “How do I love thee?” she means to define her intense feelings and the ways in which the love for her husband can be expressed. But how can love be explained when it stretches over the limits of reason?

“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.”

In fact, Elizabeth Browning  finds insufficient to measure it by means of a rational language – “depth”, “breadth”,” height”-  and chooses to express the immensity of their soul connection through words  such as  “soul”, “being” and “grace”. A spiritual, but passionate love at the same time which goes beyond the limits of death itself.

Also young Juliet knew well how the connection of two souls worked. Once she meets her  half in Romeo she finds herself in a whirl of emotions which transcends space and time:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

(Romeo and Juliet. Act II, Scene II)

The meeting of the two magnets lights up the sparkle of love , which darts Romeo and Juliet in a new overwhelming dimension , where they are no longer bodies , where time and the disputes of their families can’t affect them, where there is no fear; there they become infinite in Plato’s unique perfect wholeness again.

But, what happens  if  the two soul mates cannot enjoy their love despite the force of  their magnetic attraction, for any reason? In Wuthering Heights , Catherine finds her soul mate in Heathcliff. She is well aware of that, in fact, she refers to him saying :“I am Heathcliff” or even more: “He is more myself than I am”. Rules of society forbids a connection to somebody so below to her station, hence, she yields to those rules, marrying the best catch the marriage market offered, Edgar Linton, who is even a good sort of man, but he is not her half. The comparison between the two men is merciless: Catherine compares the intensity of  her feelings for Edgar to images like “moonbeam” and “frost” while her love for Heathcliff takes the form of “lightening” and “fire”. Marrying Edgar, the tension between the two halves Catherine and Heathcliff, who remain close but cannot complete each other, becomes toxic and will inevitably lead to a tragic outcome.

A soul marriage doesn’t provoke any such tragedies. It cannot fear anything according to Donne, even a long separation. It is steadfast love. In his poem “Valediction : Forbidding Mourning”, which was written for his wife Anne before he left on a trip to Europe, Donne tells his wife that theirs is not a real separation , because their love is spiritual and transcendent, they are soul mates, and soul mates are always connected: a connection of minds rather than bodies. So there is no need to cry. Those who believe that love corresponds to physical attraction, those “dull sublunary lovers” cannot admit absence, because they love the body. Hence, if the body has to leave they cannot any longer have love, so let them cry.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

But his leaving cannot alter their love, because as she loves his mind, his mind cannot go away. It is ever present. Then he introduces one of the most convincing metaphor to describe how beautifully connected they are:  a compass. One leg of the compass  must be grounded to allow the other one to spread and go out to make a circle. So, the poet  says to his wife that to make a perfect circle he has to leave  and that the only way he can make that trip and come back is that she stays where she is. Because she grounds him.

And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home
.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.

Theorem

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There is a song here in Italy that somehow is considered the bible on the nature of love. It dates back to the early nineties of last century, and since then, generations of Italian lovers of every age can’t help but muse on those lines of wisdom, particularly when a love affair bitterly comes to an end. “What did that Marco Ferradini say?” ” Take a woman, treat her badly………ahhh, I should have followed his advice!” I know that from these few  words you might jump to the conclusion that this song is a plea for the macho cause, but it is not. The subject is: women. What do women want? What can a man do to make a woman love him? The main narrating voice, who very likely, has been recently dumped, tells his friend his ideas on love and women, a theorem, in fact:

Take a woman,tell her you love her
Write her love songs,send her roses and poems
Give her heart juices too
Make her feel important
Give her the best of the best you’ve got
Try to be a tender lover
Be always near her
Get her out of troubles

And be sure she will leave you
Who is too much loved will not give love in return
And be sure she will leave you
Who loves less is always the strongest one, everyone knows.

Take a woman,treat her badly
Make her wait you for hours
Don’t show up and when you call her
Act as if you were doing her a favor
Make her feel less important
Balance well  love and cruelty
Try to be a tender lover
But out of the bed show no mercy

And then you’ll see, she will love you
Who loves less, more love gets in return
And then you’ll see, she will love you
Who loves less is the strongest one, everyone knows.

marco3These assertions are so bewildering, that nobody ever remembers the words his friend uses to soothe his sorrow. It is a weak conclusion, in fact.  More or less he says: you speak like this, because you are embittered, you don’t need to change to find a woman who loves you, after all, what is a man without love and so on. I had to check the lyrics on google,actually, I had even forgotten there was this final part. However, is there any truth in these words or is it only a male point of view? After years and years of feminist battles, in the secrecy of our heart do we keep craving for unattainable, unreliable, selfish, but irresistibly charming men?

We do. We have to admit it. This truth is not only in the lines of Marco Ferradini’s song, but above all, you may read it clearly in the immortal pages of all those novels we have read and loved. A gallery of irresistible, fascinating rascals that has made us throb and dream: Mr Lovelace, Mr Wickham,John Willoughby, Heathcliff, Mr Rochester only to mention some of the most popular ones and I’m sure that in the past of every woman there is at least one of those fellows, before deciding to marry somebody more trustworthy and even-tempered sort of man like Mr Edgar Linton.

marco2In a famous passage of Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean and Catherine Earnshaws discuss about the nature of love. Catherine has already accepted to marry the rich, sober, composed Edgar Linton and she wants to know from her whether it was the right choice. Their dialogue looks very much like a session at a psychologist, as Nelly only asks questions in order to make her reach that degree of awareness that will make her openly confess her true love for somebody else, Heatchcliff : ” He is more myself than I am” , Cathy will eventually acknowledge and adds: “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.’ These words confirm Marco Ferradini’s theorem. Women want “lightning” even if it is destructive and “fire” even if you may get burnt, hence even if Cathy resolves upon marrying his “moonbeam” Mr Linton, the fire of her impossible passion for Heathclill will inevitably destroy her.

 

 

Wuthering Minds

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The characters of Wuthering Heights are of a complex multi-layered kind. Especially those who originate from Wuthering Heights manifest various degrees of restlessness and emotional instability, thus making them appear sort of psychopaths or even sociopaths at the eye of a detached reader. Psychologists of any school couldn’t resist the temptation of analyzing the destructive dynamics that bind the characters together giving their solid contribute to interpretations.

Freudian analysis

The dynamics that bind Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar together are those of the relationship of Freud’s id, ego, and superego. Heathcliff,  the id,  represents the most primitive drives (like sex), constantly wants its pleasure to be fulfilled; the id does not change in time and remains secluded in the unconscious. Catherine, the ego, relates to other people and society, tests the impulses of the id against the real world, and tries to control its energy. Edgar, the superego, represents the rules of proper behaviour and morality inculcated by teachers, family, and society; he is civilized and cultured. He is the moral conscience which compels Catherine to choose between Heathcliff and himself.

In Freud’s analysis, however, the ego must be male to deal successfully with the world, therefore a female ego would have to live through males if she wants to survive. That is why Catherine has to identify herself with Heathcliff and Edgar: to pull through. Catherine rejects Heathcliff, as she is attracted by the material and social advantages of marrying Edgar, thus avoiding the degradation of yielding to her unconscious self. However, she expects Edgar to accept Heathliff in their life, thus integrating  the different parts of her personality–id, ego, and superego–into one unified self. When she realizes the hopelessness of this psychological integration and torn by her fragmentation, she dies.

Jungian analysis

The relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff is considered as aspects of one person for Jungian readers as well: those aspects may be the archetype of the shadow and the individual

In the personal unconscious, the shadow consists of those desires, feelings, etc. which are unacceptable, for both emotional or moral reasons : it is the dark side of human nature. The shadow is emotional, uncontrollable, and hence can become obsessive or possessive. That’s why Heathcliff  can be seen as Catherine’s shadow: he represents the darkest side of her, with his rancour, his wildness, and his detachment from social connections.

When Catherine marries Edgar, she tries to reject that secret part of her,  that’s why Heathcliff mysteriously disappears. But Heathcliff, as the shadow, refuses to be suppressed permanently, in fact, he comes back out of the blue after two years .  Jung explains that:” even if self-knowledge or insight enables the individual to integrate the shadow, the shadow still resists moral control and can rarely be changed“. Therefore Cathy’s efforts to integrate Heathcliff into her life with Edgar are destined to fail. She tries somehow to impose herself and affect Heathcliff’s behaviour, but he defiantly ignores her prohibitions(an example is when Catherine forbids Heathcliff to court Isabella). Once back, Heathcliff obsessively seeks possession of Catherine to insure his own survival.

Monomaniac

For Graeme Tytler Heathcliff suffered of monomania, a nineteenth-century psychological theory, which refers to “the disease of going to extremes, of singularization, of one-sidedness,” in short, an obsessive behaviour. Monomania can be caused by “ thwarted love,  fear, vanity, wounded self-love, or disappointed ambition“.” Heathcliff shows a predisposition to monomania soon after Catherine’s death for his resolute determination to be connected to her after her death. However, it’s only eighteen years after Catherine’s death that he shows the first signs of insanity. He suffers from hallucinations, insomnia; he talks to himself or to Catherine’s ghost and he seems to be continuously haunted by Catherine’s image.

Only death will set them all free from obsessions and……. psychologists.