The Agency/Communion Dialectic and the Male/Female Dynamic
The Agency/Communion Dialectic and the Male/Female Dynamic
Astrologically, the fundamental nature and relationship of the first and seventh principles, Aries and Libra, could not more convincingly proclaim the complementary nature of the assertive and connective dimensions, the male and female orientations, at primal levels where consciousness is originally spread across 1 and 7. As said, our model maps, from the beginning, both the dimension of the connected self and of the separative and distinctive self as equivalent bi-poles in a dialectical process, gradually unfolding as an increasing dominance of the assertive/separative ego over the connected psyche. Only from a dynamic dialectical bi-polar perspective is it possible to map this developmental interaction without demeaning the connective 'feminine' pole as little more than primal fusion, original unconsciousness, or a tendency for the feminine to remain more connected, not simply with others, but with the primal ground or collective unconscious.
Most significantly, both forms of individuation imply a self/other differentiation. The superordinate principle of the Outward arc is the process of Individuation or Differentiation, while that of the Return arc is the process of Integration. Within the context of this fundamental epistemological and ontological differentiation, there is a profound psycho-social structuring through the interactions between genders due to the inequality of their polarity emphasis. So the Outward arc is a duality, not only of an ego and a larger unconscious not-self, but of the two modes of Individuation—assertion and connection—which structure a particular relation of consciousness and unconsciousness at each level of development. When we look at it in the Mars/Venus or Aries/Libra sense, understanding the first and the seventh principles as symbolizing both gender and the bi-directionality of individual consciousness, the dialectic which drives Stage I is between individuation as self/other separation and individuation as self/other relationship.
The stage-structures of first quadrant self development obviously do not exclusively apply to men since everyone develops a self; consciousness differentiates as a self from the primal unconscious matrix. Actual gender differences cannot be mapped simply by the radical bi-polar division; the first over against the seventh. Rather, in terms of ego development through the Q1/Q3 dialectic, males eventually become the 'leaders'; that is, maleness puts a radical emphasis on the separative Q1 self over against Q3 connection which is the connection with the mother (at first, operating as the Great Mother system). Through such a pronounced emphasis on first quadrant separation, the third quadrant (7th-8th) is rendered unconscious. Masculine consciousness then becomes radically divided between a separate assertive self (Q1) and the now unconscious which contains mother, the feminine, feelings and connections with a consequent misogyny and later patriarchal oppression. In fact, women continue to provide the familial and kin keeping function which is foundationl for any society. Females who also go through the early cognitive and moral stages do so with less of a yang emphasis on the first quadrant viewpoint, and consequently with less radical alienation of the third quadrant. They stay more in touch with third quadrant potentials—feeling, connection, intuition—with a softer dualistic division and a less assertive and defined selfhood. Women are (or rather, have historically been) at a disadvantage of the repressive male who has forcefully devalued half of the psyche—the third quadrant dimension. But women still manifest the meta Either/Or of the Outward arc in that the more 'connection' constellates the ego, the less does 'agency'. But the connective-based ego is not founded on the rejection and suppression of the other pole. In differentiating self and Great/Mother, the male and female struggle out beyond primal fusion; but unlike the male, the female is not seeking to know and define herself independently and exclusively of the mother. Unlike the male, the female's differentiation is not repressive and exclusive, but relational; she is not afraid of losing herself through relationship, only through regressive fusion. Most importantly, we must beware the tendency to conflate relationship/connection with primal fusion. According to the psychoanalyst Ernest Schachtel there is a natural human cognitive/affective mode he calls 'world-openness' which establishes relations to others and to the world which must be distinguished from primary fusion. This unity between self and other, self and world, "can be established not only in a regressive way, by the wish to return to the womb, but also in a new way, on a higher level of development, by loving relatedness to others and to the world"1
Chodorow and Dinnerstein
This continued sense of connection to the third quadrant dimension distinguishes female psychology from male psychology and explains the stage-structures we have seen with Belenky et al. According to the feminist object relations psychoanalyst Nancy Chodorow:
[M]others tend to experience their daughters as more like, and continuous with, themselves. Correspondingly, girls tend to remain part of the dyadic primary mother-child relationship itself. This means that a girl continues to experience herself as involved in issues of merging and separation, and in an attachment characterized by primary identification and the fusion of identification and object choice. By contrast, mothers experience their sons as a male opposite. Boys are more likely to have been pushed out of the preoedipal relationship, and to have had to curtail their primary love and sense of empathic tie with their mother. A boy has engaged, and been required to engage, in a more emphatic individuation and a more defensive firming of experienced ego boundaries. Issues of differentiation have become entwined with sexual issues. This does not mean that women have 'weaker' ego boundaries than men or are more prone to psychosis....The earliest mode of individuation, the primary construction of the ego and its inner object-world, the earliest conflicts and the earliest unconscious definitions of self, the earliest threats to individuation, and the earliest anxieties which call up defenses, all differ for boys and girls because of differences in the character of the early mother-child relationship for each. Girls emerge from this period with a basis for "empathy" built into their primary definition of self in a way that boys do not. Girls emerge with a stronger basis for experiencing another's needs or feelings as one's own (or thinking that one is so experiencing another's needs and feelings). Furthermore, girls do not define themselves in terms of the denial of preoedipal relational modes to the same extent as do boys. Therefore, regression to these modes tends not to feel as much a basic threat to their ego. From very early, then, because they are parented by a person of the same gender (a person who has already internalized a set of unconscious meanings, fantasies, and self images about this gender and brings to her experience her own internalized early relationship to her own mother), girls come to experience themselves as less differentiated than boys, as more continuous with and related to the external object-world and as differently oriented to their inner object-world as well. (pp.166-167):
Further to this, are the resonant words of Carol Gilligan:
[R]elationships, and particularly issues of dependency, are experienced differently by women and men. For boys and men, separation and individuation are critically tied to gender identity since separation from the mother is essential for the development of masculinity. For girls and women, issues of femininity or feminine identity do not depend on the achievement of separation from the mother or on the progress of individuation. Since masculinity is defined through separation while femininity is defined through attachment, male gender identity is threatened by intimacy while female gender identity is threatened by separation. Thus males tend to have difficulty with relationships, while females tend to have problems with individuation. The quality of embeddedness in social interaction and personal relationships that characterizes women's lives in contrast to men's, however, becomes not only a descriptive difference but also a developmental liability when the milestones of childhood and adolescent development in the psychological literature are markers of increasing separation. Women's failure to separate then becomes by definition a failure to develop. (pp.8-9)
As a consequence of the different relationship to the mother, the degree and rate of separation and distinction of the male not only exceeds, but varies in terms of its structures from the more gradual separation of the girl—the girl's separation resulting in more mature modes of relationship at the same level of development as the achievement mode, as we have seen with Wade's Achievement/Affiliation distinction.
The Oedipal Dynamic
Between the formation of the body-ego and the mental-ego, between the infant's differentiation of self and Great Mother and the establishment of the foundation of the dualistic mental-ego lies the Oedipal period, a theory fraught with controversy, specifically around the issue of the distinct meaning of the relational triad of child, mother, and father following the dyad of mother and child. Generally following the analysis of Nancy Chodorow and Dorothy Dinnerstein (and decisively breaking with the classical Freudian sexist account), Washburn maintains that while both boys and girls experience a powerful ambivalence toward the preoedipal mother, the boy's sense of self is based on a stance of dissociation and a more complete repression while the girl remains, however unconsciously, linked "with the realm of pre-oedipal, maternal, experience." (p.79) Washburn (1994) agrees with Dinnerstein that the double standard of adult life derives from the fact that women become the symbols of the repressed preoedipal mother; surrogates for the preoedipal mother even though they themselves are alienated from her. Although both boys and girls resolve the rapprochement crisis and the Oedipus complex by choosing independence over intimacy, repression over spontaneity, the father over the mother, they do so in significantly different ways.
Because boys experience a gender identity with the father, the commitment to the father that resolves the Oedipus complex is at the same time a gender assimilation that admits boys directly to the father's domain. Because girls, on the other hand, experience a gender opposition to the father, the commitment to the father takes the form of an intergender partnership modeled after the mothers relationship with the father, a partnership based not only on commitment to the father but also on difference from him. (p.81)
So the boy can join the father's world just by acting like the father, whereas the girl in striving to be like the father must accept a partnership with the father based on difference and a position of submission. Consequently the girl wins an independence from the mother only to become dependent on the father. More than constituting a sexual aspect, the relationship to the father may be more one of following a role model, for it is, according to Miriam Johnson the oedipal father who responds to the daughter in a gender differentiating way (in Washburn, 1994, 84). The gender differences in the manner of commitment to the father affect how boys and girls relate to the superego as the internal voice of the father. As Washburn (1994) explains:
Speaking in the father's voice, the superego is inherently biased in favor of everything the father represents and against everything the mother represents in the opposition between these two that, in the child's mind, occurs during the oedipal period....the superego is an advocate of ego functions, independence, self-activity, and self-control and a harsh critic of non egoic potentials, fusional and symbiotic experiences, receptive openness, and spontaneity....Boys...submit to the superego as to an authority that represents what the boy senses to be his own nature....For the boy, to conform to the superego is to become like the father the superego represents; it is, for the boy, to become his own mature "masculine" self....girls in committing themselves to the father...submit to the superego as the internal representative of the father. Girls do not, as Freud so infamously speculated, have weaker superegos than boys. The difference, rather, is that girls experience a gender conflict in relation to the superego that boys do not. The superego, in being biased against values associated with the preoedipal mother, is biased against values that, by simple fact of gender identity, are associated with females....This continuing link means that girls are bound to experience more conflict than boys in both the commitment to the father and the submission to his internal voice, the superego....In submitting to the superego, therefore, girls experience ambivalence. They not only feel that they are striving to meet worthy ideals; they also sense that, at some level, they are betraying themselves. (pp. 85,86)
We can see the Oedipal situation as a stage of childhood development which re-enacts or recapitulates the dynamic of the historical patriarchal 'take over' of the collective. For the male, the father represents the principle of integration or stabilization of the dualistic opposites through control and 'power over'—by seizing the Night force. Since being of the same gender, the boy easily identifies with the father. The girl obeys the father and experiences her difference from him. But for the girl, this is the basis of an independent and distinct relation to the 'other'. The father, being a different gender automatically points the girl back to her distinctiveness, her difference, her interior subjectivity (thus to an identification with the second quadrant). The father represents the authority of society, system, and law which defines the self-controlling will, volition establishing the root of the mental-ego. As noospheric symbol (rather than visceral experience) the boy learns what it means to be connected to, and to be the matrix (i.e. the mental-egoic level matrix). It is now that the girl learns what it means to be different, to be separate from this level of matrix though remaining connected to the foundational matrix. The boy's initial identification, and then rivalry, with the father at the adolescent phase does not encourage the development of a mature ego capable of intimacy. The second-quadrant development of the boy's capacity for interior depth and intimacy trails that of the girl just as the girl had trailed the boy through the development of first-quadrant assertive-selfhood.
In terms of gender, the primary polarity is not identifiable as the simple connected self versus the separate self. While conflating connection with fusion, the male's consciousness is constellated around an experienced dualism between separation and connection, affirming the separate self and repressing the connected self. In fact the denied connection and the consequent unconscious craving for connection, is what further fuels the emphatic identification with the same gendered father at the Oedipal stage. The female's consciousness is constellated around an experience of connection, but without a corresponding opposition to assertion. Rather, there is a failure to develop the assertion mode (socially reinforced by patriarchal society)—and this, because the Outward arc archetypally operates as an either/or. When both men and women are able to develop and contain both modes in more or less of a balance, they are already at an advanced post-patriarchal level of late stage-level II and are ready to move into the Return arc. The female for whom differentiation is equated less with separative assertion and more with relationship and connection, is increasingly pushed aside by the male's increasing assertiveness (this involves later sibling and other interpersonal dynamics in 3/9). Because males have conflated fusion and connection (both of which go unconscious) women have, historically, been pushed out of the way, and then being generally more resonant to and expressive of the third quadrant archetype than the male, they have been suppressed, due to an identification of them with the threatening Great Mother.
Since the first-quadrant self develops as the separate and independent self over against the third-quadrant Great Mother, when it reaches a greater degree of separative assertion (instinctual egoity) the self needs to be restrained and contained by the Night force without giving up its independence. It is by means of the Night force at M, that this assertive and separative male self is brought under control. In this way, by experiencing its own shaping limits, self consciousness is awakened as both the assertive will and as the volitional and self-controlling will. An extreme first hemisphere calls for an equally extreme second hemisphere—the balancing of the polar opposites.
In controlling his own first quadrant assertions from the stand of the fourth quadrant, the male comes to partially block any further second quadrant developments, specifically, in terms of integrating certain 'feminine' functions. By identifying with the fourth quadrant, the male remains partly alienated from his own second quadrant depths—except briefly or partially in adolescent rebellion, creative/artistic (right-brained) Romanticism, or normal sexual romanticism. Such functions remaining in unconsciousness are, in male fifth principle fashion, projected onto the female 'love object' who becomes the means for the male's connecting with his own emotional depths. From the second quadrant, the male longs for love, connection and intimacy: normally from the female who has not so decisively lost the original foundational connectedness. In the second quadrant, the female learns about her own depths, intuition, subjective experience; and insofar as she does not take Belenky et al's path of separative knowing, she seeks her own fourth quadrant being by projecting it upon the male who exemplifies quadrant four. I would argue that the development of a mature capacity for intimacy and relationship may be possible only if original connection is not repressively severed as it is by males. Further, intimacy/relationship is a dimension every bit as important for mature moral, affective and psychological development as is the independent ego function. This is a polar difference of central importance which compels us to our particular mapping of the gender dialectic.
From initial 'outside' discipline by the father (H2), followed by the boy's same-gender identification with the father, the boy must come to learn self discipline—to control himself. As he does so, his second quadrant psyche comes to operate more from a stance of the fourth Quadrant (more so than the now marginalized female), with a less conflicted—especially after adolescence—sense of Q2/Q4 duality, reflecting in some way, the female's relative balancing of the first and third quadrants. The severe control by M of the male's first quadrant self leads to a partial arrest of second quadrant self development. Quadrant 2 becomes the foundation for quadrant 4 operations, yet rather than quadrant 2, it is quadrant 4 which is in focus.
For the girl, the significance of the father is less about control and discipline than it is about providing a new matrix, the shape and structure for mental-egoic level relationship, that is, heterosexual relationship grounded on the girl's relatively non-conflicted capacity for intimacy. But the Oedipal relationship to the father is a denial of the girl's further development of assertive distinction which was less forcefully (though not less linguistically and cognitively) developed than the boy's through the first quadrant. The female now tends to develop through the second quadrant, and while not rejecting the fourth quadrant (everyone operates in all quadrants though women have been denied full participation in the worldly fourth quadrant, i.e. 10th & 11th), experiences marginalization from it through patriarchal control, that is, until feminine individual development unfolds through the feminist period of later stage-level II.
Astrological Mapping of Gender
As said, from his separative either/or stance, the male jumps to point M identifying with the father; especially since he shares the father's gender. Now on the basis of gender sameness he can begin, through Stage II, to do something which reflects what the female was able to do initially because of her gender sameness. So now from a focus on the fourth quadrant, the male seeks a closer relationship of the second and fourth quadrants. However, the second and fourth quadrants remain distinct, but the first and second hemispheres are, at this stage, no longer so antagonistic, that is, with the one struggling to develop against the other. But at this point, the female with her gender difference from the father, although on one level continuing the feminine relational mode of Stage I, now experiences an increasing sense of opposition exemplified by Belenky et al's stage of subjectivism.
In stage II, (Q2/Q4) the female experiences a conflictual tension between the second and fourth quadrants largely because of her secondary and excluded status in fourth quadrant society. In terms of access to public office, education, political and social power, she has been marginalized from the fourth quadrant. The female may try the detached instrumental mode (Belenky et al), but due to the fourth quadrant’s male dominated one-sided objectivity, she may feel alienated from her second quadrant self. She therefore develops depths of second quadrant selfhood which are unavailable to the fourth quadrant detached male. (These greater depths may be partly due to subordination itself as claimed by Jean Baker-Miller.) In terms of female adolescent development we may see this second quadrant inwardness as a developmental step despite its deviance from the dominant separative male pattern. According to Gilligan, “Freud attributed the turning inward of girls at puberty to an intensification of primary narcissism, signifying a failure of love or ‘object’ relationships. But if this turning inward is construed against a background of continuing connection, it signals a new responsiveness to the self, an expansion of care rather than a failure of relationship.”(p.39). The second quadrant self is a self capable of depths, intuition, creativity and intimacy pointing beyond, in terms of optimal adult development, toward the next and third quadrant (stage-level III).
The male's second quadrant selfhood is based on the separative first quadrant self plus a shift to fourth quadrant objective detachment. This occurs first through identification with the father, then through an adolescent rebellion which brings both the fourth and second quadrants into play. Rather than symbolized by the oppositional dynamic of the first and second hemispheres (as in stage I), the adolescent male's rebellion against parents and super-ego is mapped by the emergence of stage 5/11 from out of stage 4/10. The eleventh principle rebels against the tenth while the fifth principle 'moves out' of the fourth. But mapped here also is the female's previous subjective and quiet opposition phase (4/10) of Belenky et al prior to Wade’s achievement and affiliation stages (5/11). (Historically, this corresponds to the Reformation, Luther and interiority—see chapter 14).
The adolescent's second quadrant stand is akin to the Romantic embrace of the second quadrant in defiance of the fourth quadrant while hankering back to the lost 'connectiveness' of the third quadrant (see chapter 14). This resonance to historical Romanticism is suggested by Washburn's framing that in adolescence the male experiences a resurgence of ground potentials. We might see this as a partial eruption of the repressed Great Mother and the conflation of mature intimacy and original fusion along with a rebellious affirmation of the second quadrant self—fifth principle subjectivity over objectivity! This process is supported by the eleventh principle rebellious peer group and expressed in limited ways—i.e. grounded in N/M rather than regressing back before that point—especially through sexual and romantic longings.
1 Shachtel, Ernest. Metamorphosis. NY Basic Books. 1959, p182. Quoted in Keller, p118.