Aphrodite’s story begins with a violent birth with absent parents and a castrated father. We can conjecture that her violent birth contributed to her cruelty and vindictiveness in which she used her beauty as a channel for her aggression. In her compulsive search to transcend the pain of her aloneness, she seeks pleasure and beauty through a sensory driven reality devoid of morality. We could say that Aphrodite, like all of us, was expelled from the paradisical harmony of the womb/ocean and into a world where she is left to face the difficult and frightening realization of her aloneness. Because she is ‘orphaned’ she has been deprived of an early primary bond. Such an absence is the great hidden crippler of the soul.

Like Aphrodite, through birth, each individual is expelled from the paradisical harmony of the womb into a world in which she has no apparent place. Thus, the central feature of the human condition is that once born each individual is fundamentally alone. The slowly dawning realization of this separateness is the salient dimension of the development of human consciousness. This realization is difficult and frightning.
When our early attachments to our primary caregivers are empty, intrusive, dangerous, chaotic, exploitive, we resort to infantile fantasies for solace and imagined safety. This helps us deflect from the unbearable void of being totally alone and helpless. The child blames herself for her parents inability to love, and when the stiletto of blame and shame hits the soul, the child loses her connection with the source of life, and experiences a terrifying isolation and a fear of being swallowed up by emptiness; a fear of dying. Aphrodite, in her unconscious desire to create or mend the primary bond, turns to sex.
Those who in cynical despair about ever having emotional intimacy with anyone, resign themselves to fleeting pleasure or even pain with anyone, as there is some contact, some recognition. Here Aphrodite’s wound festers, and just as she cannot return to the ocean, we cannot return to the womb. Like her, we are challenged to heal the shame, the self-loathing, the punishment of the body, which dulls the instincts and sensuality and sexuality, through love. As Plato said, it is only love, which unites the split in the self.

Aphrodite’s search for love manifests as sexual compulsivity and abuse of power. She misuses her sexuality to find love. This leads to shame and self-loathing, in which the body/self gets punished (eating disorders, addictive disorders) and becomes her enemy. She fears her body, her instincts, physical needs and desires. The instincts are dulled along with sexuality and sensuality. We feel sinful. Sex is merely a vehicle for the desperate attempt to reach another person. More basic interpersonal needs have become sexualized. In cynical despair about ever having emotional intimacy with anyone, fleeting pleasure or even pain with anyone will do, as there is some contact, some recognition.

When we blame ourselves for something we regret we stay locked into it. We remain fixated and stuck in a state of helplessness and shame. To forgive the self is the ultimate step in healing. It means to see ourselves with compassion, to understand why we did what we did and separate our basic essence from the mistake that was made. Forgiveness is the redemptive action of the heart. Forgiveness is an organic process and cannot be forced against its own time, but with this intention perhaps we can encourage it.

Aphrodite is challenged to actualize wholeness through her search for love and sexual expression. In her process of healing and forgiveness, she integrates archetypal polarities as she evolves from her sensory driven reality for pleasure and beauty (in her compulsive search to transcend her pain), which makes her oblivious to the pain she causes, to examining her feelings and instincts, thus allowing for wisdom and maturation. She takes us from human love to spiritual love and back again, and in so doing she discovers a conscious expansion of self, bound to her own instincts and in which the mind/body split is healed.

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW is a New York Psychotherapist (NYC), addiction specialist, Ericksonian hypnotist, and interfaith minister in private practice. Rev. Heller incorporates a traditional psychodynamic approach to her sessions and draws on diverse spiritual and creative vehicles to facilitate the healing process. Rev. Heller is also the founder of the Sistah Tribe-Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater collective with the mission to inspire marginalized, traumatized and culturally under-served women and girls in the public sector of NYC to give creative expression to their traumatic histories, and to find creative solutions to life's conflicts by using the play she's co-authored, "Let the Phoenix Rise" as a catalyst for healing and reclamation. For more information about Rev. Heller's services please visit her website sheritherapist.com