Intoxicating Power of Romantic Love – Myth of Paris & Helen of Troy

Discover the intoxicating power of romantic love in the myth of Paris and Helen of Troy where Paris betrays his country and family for the woman he loved in our continuing series on myths and symbols that influence our life. In this episode we discuss:

  • The levels of love and how we aren’t meant to remain in the romantic phase as it can turn destructive;
  • Symbology of the Trojan Horse;
  • What can we learn about love and how to harness its power without destroying others and ourselves.

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Intoxicating Power of Romantic Love – Myth of Paris & Helen of Troy


Robert Maldonado  00:04

Hello there, welcome back to Soul Sessions.

Debra Maldonado  00:07

Today’s episode is called The Intoxicating Power of Romantic Love. We’re going to continue our series on myths, this myth we’re talking about today is Paris and Helen of Troy, one of my favorite movies with Brad Pitt. If you haven’t seen it, it’s awesome. But it really is such a great myth. There’s so much symbology in it and things we can learn about ourself.

Robert Maldonado  00:40

Some people think it’s history, there probably is some history to it. But we’re approaching it as part of Greek mythology, the hero’s journey. Let’s talk a little bit about Jung’s approach to mythology so that we frame it in the right context. Jung actually used the character of Helen in one of his theories, just like Freud used the Oedipus complex in his work. Jung tended to look at myths, especially Greek mythology, as a source of inspiration for his work.

Debra Maldonado  01:27

Which inspired Joseph Campbell, a lot of people are familiar with him and The Power of Myth, carried on Jung’s work.

Robert Maldonado  01:36

He did incredible work. I think his library is still at Pacifica University in Santa Barbara, California, they house his works there. Jung identified or used the character of Helen as part of the evolution of the Anima. Anima, for those of you not familiar with the term, is the counter sexual part of a man.

Debra Maldonado  02:09

So the feminine aspect of a man that he is not conscious of?

Robert Maldonado  02:16

A lot of people tend to read it in a social sense of sexuality and gender. But Jung was talking about archetypal elements of the psyche.

Debra Maldonado  02:28

Universal feminine powers.

Robert Maldonado  02:31

For him, the Anima began at the basic level, the way a man relates to the feminine principle was very much a physical way, which all of us know that as men, we wake up to that sexuality. It works on the opposite side as well. But it’s only a stage of evolution of that relationship, or that understanding of the Anima. Because he says the next stage is Helen.

Debra Maldonado  03:13

So a sexual relationship that’s purely sexual, with a man and woman. Then Helen is more when the person starts having feeling romantic feelings for the woman, that would be the Helen, the Anima is activated, it’s more evolved.

Robert Maldonado  03:30

The first level would be Eve, naked in the garden, which is beautiful. The second stage would be Helen, which is that romanticize love. The third stage would be Mary Magdalene, who for Jung represented more mature, socially engaged love.

Debra Maldonado  03:56

She was a part of the mission or the purpose of Jesus’s message. She wasn’t just romantic, it was more of this bigger purpose, I would say the human purpose, tying to that type of anima. Then the last stage is Sophia, which is the Mother of God. And that’s the divine.

Robert Maldonado  04:21

Sophia translates as wisdom. It’s the wisdom stage of love.

Debra Maldonado  04:28

For women, we go through these stages. For a man, how we relate to a woman goes through the stages, when they’re teenagers, they’re not thinking romance, they’re thinking “Wow, my teacher third grade is really hot all of a sudden.” They’re just going on hormones, then they get into junior high and they start feeling, getting that first crush, we’re evolving from there. But let’s go back to the power of the Anima. A man is externally connecting with a part of himself.

Robert Maldonado  05:07

To paraphrase one of Jung’s quotes on the Anima, he says the Anima on the one hand connects the man to the collective unconscious, to the source of those primal images of the Goddess, feminine reproductive power, creativity, the night, the unconscious mind. He says, on the other hand, it also connects him through the emotions to the ever changing appearance of the external world. It works in both directions. It connects us to the deeper unconscious mind, the collective unconscious, but also gives us a way to express that in our external life. It’s an important function, he saw this coming to terms with the Anima as an important function in both men and women. In women, he saw it as the Animus, the spirit within. The Anima translates more as a soul. The soul within a man, the spirit in a woman is that part of individuation he called the Anima/Animus. When he talked about Helen, we want to read the myth in this context, in the background of this idea that Jung had. Let’s look at the story and see what it’s talking about.

Debra Maldonado  06:38

I’m ready for storytime. Once upon a time, there was this Prince of Troy who visited Sparta. He met this beautiful, amazing, intoxicating woman named Helen, who was married to the king of Sparta, and he couldn’t stop himself. He didn’t think rationally. It was like intoxication.

Robert Maldonado  07:09

He was smitten, meaning he was possessed basically, by the love that wells up from within. When we experience love, it feels like that other person is the one that is projecting.

Debra Maldonado  07:30

Or giving you some kind of feeling.

Robert Maldonado  07:32

It gives us that feeling but it’s actually, according to Jung, the Anima being projected onto that woman.

Debra Maldonado  07:43

What you’re actually saying is that we are projecting who we love. In essence, if we don’t examine, bringing another myth, Cupid, the arrow’s just gonna shoot wherever and it’s gonna be random. But we can actually in Jung’s work find a way to become conscious of this part of ourselves, the Anima/Animus within us, then we can consciously project, we could choose who we love in essence, the type of relationship we want. But that didn’t happen with Paris because he would have chosen a Trojan woman, they would have solved a lot of problems. Let’s go back to the story. He falls in love with Helen. She’s the wife of the king of Sparta, who’s their ally, they were doing some deal, not for long.

Robert Maldonado  08:34

Helen ends up essentially going with Paris. Of course, that sets off the Trojan War, or the a fall of Troy. Most of you know the horse story, where the Trojans build a wooden horse, and use it to sneak into the city, past the gates, and therefore the city falls.

Debra Maldonado  09:16

they were able to penetrate the inside and then take it down.

Robert Maldonado  09:20

The story is rich, we invite you to read it and re-read it. But we’re focusing on the love story as telling us something about what goes on in relationships. What is the myth talking about as far as what that love, especially at the level of Helen, the romantic aspect of the Anima, tells us about relationship? First of all, it is a very irrational thing to do. We all know, people that are infatuated— I don’t like to use the word “infatuated” because it’s more than that. It’s not puppy love. It’s essentially like a divine experience.

Debra Maldonado  10:17

Possession, madness that you can’t control. When you fall for someone, it’s like “I wish I could not feel for this person. They don’t make any logical sense.” Other forces are active within you that defy logic, it overrides the logic, even fear. This is a stranger, I don’t know who this person is. But I just want to be with them every day now.

Robert Maldonado  10:44

There’s a recklessness to it. The person is willing to risk a lot to hold on to that relation. You see it in Paris, throwing his whole city under the bus, his family, his father, his brother Hector, the whole city basically, because he wants Helen so badly. And vice versa. Helen is willing to run away, be abducted by Paris, despite knowing the king is going to be pissed off, it’s going to make everybody very upset.

Debra Maldonado  11:30

Don’t you think that you see men that aren’t connected to their anima, this is why a lot of married men, or men cheat in a relationship because they haven’t connected. They crave that romantic feeling, that passion. They have to find a new projection for it. Do you think that’s why men know they shouldn’t cheat on their wife and kids, and they know it’s so dangerous for them to do but it’s almost like they can’t stop? Not all men, but men that aren’t connected and grown, the Anima possesses them?

Robert Maldonado  12:09

The story indicates it’s happening on both sides. Men don’t have a monopoly on cheating and infatuation.

Debra Maldonado  12:19

We’re talking about the Anima. If you’ve ever been married, and your husband wasn’t faithful, you think “Why would he do that?” It’s just because this other force. If they’re not conscious of it, it can take over and ruin marriages, ruin lives. Women too, they look for that young, like the counterpart to Helen, that young man, romance, or the younger boy, the younger man, the dangerous person that’s not the predictable, safe husband, and went on that adventure. If we’re not conscious of these forces, what I’m trying to say, it’s both sides. They act autonomously through us, if we aren’t conscious of these forces, they will basically make a mess of things.

Robert Maldonado  13:20

They can ruin your life. Love can give you the biggest gift of your life or it can essentially ruin you emotionally or in many ways. This is one of Jung’s points. The unconscious, especially the archetypes, are powerful entities. They’re not necessarily separate from us, because they are part of our psyche. But they act as if they take over our life when we’re possessed by them. They have a dark side, not a dark side in the sense of evil, but a dark side in the sense that there’s elements that we can’t control about them, they don’t lend themselves to rational thinking. Therefore they’re irrational, emotional, which means they make us act in destructive ways according to society. 

Debra Maldonado  14:25

Every romcom you’ve ever seen, the hero always is making a fool, what you do for love. A lot of people just try to understand love from hormones, it’s just a bunch of hormones. But there’s a psychic energy that’s within each of us. If we didn’t have the Anima/Animus, or what Jung called the Anima/Animus, feminine/masculine energy underneath the surface, we would never have the compulsion to connect with another person besides procreation. Why would we want to stay in a relationship? What makes love last? How do we evolve love from that primal physical experience and the fluffy infatuation experience? How do we bind and stay for a lifetime with someone or longer term and deepen that love? That’s really what these elements are. If we can be conscious of them, they could be an asset to us and understand our partner better and ourselves better.

Robert Maldonado  15:29

There’s a big hint in the story of Helen that she is from Sparta. Sparta, for those of you that know anything about culture, is a war culture. The Spartans were warriors, everyone in that tribe was essentially a warrior. She was a warrior, she was not a wallflower waiting to be plucked by sailor basically, she was someone to be reckoned with. She got her way essentially, as this powerful warrior woman or princess. That’s a big hint also, that love is powerful. It’s not, like most of us think, these hearts and these little Cupid chubby babies. It is a power to be reckoned with, not to be trifled with. Most of us approach it as if it was this beautiful, tender thing.

Debra Maldonado  16:40

Then when it no longer is fine, we want to move on, we don’t want to stick with it. Not only romantic love, but all close relationships, when you build a family. It’s tough to be a parent, it’s tough to have a parent, people you love and that you really bond with, good friends. It’s not easy. I find that a lot of times love comes with that price, the deeper you love someone, the more you grieve them when they’re gone, whether they leave the relationship or leave at the end of their life. It’s such a deep, profound experience for a human being. But life wouldn’t be as colorful and bright if we didn’t have it. Think about level of love you have for a friend. Then think of a level of love you can have for a partner. It’s just a different level. And of course, parent-child is also another level of love. But there’s something about that stranger, that’s not blood, that you don’t owe anything to but you choose to be together, you choose to want to be with that person. And when it’s mutual, it can be so powerful. Because when two people are awake and conscious and aware of these forces, can you imagine what they can create together? Have a bigger mission in the world.

Robert Maldonado  18:09

You see this in Helen and Paris. They change history, they change the course of armies, they launched thousands ships and essentially ended up destroying a whole city which at that time was like destroying a whole civilization, a whole nation because they were city-states, they weren’t part of a country. Each city was its own country in essence. The Greeks had a couple of names for love, especially the Helen type. Ludas was this playful flirtiness, it might have started that way. Then Eros, which is the erotic sexual passion, passionate love. That is what in the West we all think of as the way love is, the way love should always be. But as we see there’s other stages that are natural progressions of love, that nobody teaches us about. After that initial flirtiness and that passionate love, romantic attraction and attachment, there comes a more pragmatic love. It was actually called Pragma, more established.

Debra Maldonado  19:51

You’re making a commitment to marriage and be together. It doesn’t mean the romance leaves or the sexual passion leaves, it goes on top of that, it’s like you’re adding layers and building upon what we have versus moving on to a stage.

Robert Maldonado  20:09

It was probably meant to rebuild what the initial stage, that Helen stage. Because it is about the couple building something new in society, not only in their family or relationship, but giving something to society that could help society, beyond their relationship. And finally Sophia, or that higher stage of wisdom. It is agape, meaning the individuals in the relationship, through their relationship, through the love for each other, learn to love humanity and the world. That’s a divine love. It’s a much bigger process than just thinking “I have to be in this romantic love and in that romantic phase for the rest of my life, otherwise it’s not love.”

Debra Maldonado  21:09

I think a lot of people believe that, they think “We’ve lost that spark, the passion has left the marriage, how do we bring that passion back?” Then it’s this manufactured “I’m going to bring flowers home, I’m going to take you out to a dinner or I’m going to give you a spa day, we’ll go away on this adventure” to just keep cultivating it. But I think the way it stays in that authentic natural, authentic romantic is that you grow, you connect and have a deeper connection to your own animus for women and anima for men. When you come together, that romance is still there. Because you’re not looking for that other person to be the container for it. You’re finding deeper aspects of yourself. We’ve been together for how long, almost 20 years, and it always feels fresh because we’re always growing, we’re always doing our own work. When two people in a relationship are each doing their own work, each growing, it’s never the same person, you’re never the same person with them. There’s always that little bit of romance, a little bit of mystery still there. It’s not “Claire’s been the same way for 20 years, she’s gonna make the same meal, it’s just gonna be in our habits.” There’s something new to discover about your partner when they’re growing and you’re growing.

Robert Maldonado  22:34

That brings us to this idea of the hero’s journey. The story of Helen and Paris is very much couched in this bigger idea of the Odyssey. From the fall of the city of Troy, Odysseus goes off on his journey, which becomes the Odyssey, which is essentially the hero’s journey. But he plays a trick because he is very much the Trickster in this bigger story. He comes up with this idea of sneaking into the city in the Trojan horse, which is very much a trickster scene.

Debra Maldonado  23:24

Unexpected, like the Trickster archetype, unexpected, messing things up when someone’s not looking, a little bit of chaos.

Robert Maldonado  23:35

Very clever, tricky, pulls a fast one on people and surprises people. We see that the myth is always leading to this idea of transformation, of going on a journey of transformation. This is not a literal journey, it’s an inner journey. The mythology is talking about the inner process of transformation that’s going on in the human psyche. You always insist on being practical.

Debra Maldonado  24:17

I just say these ideas are so big, so how do I apply that in my life right now? My romantic relationships. What would be practical? One of them is to see love as a hero’s journey. It’s an inner journey, the other person is basically there to help you, mirror your inner journey. Where are you? Are you in that sexual type of love? Are you in that romantic love? Is that’s the only kind of relationships you have? Where does that stop? Do you not have that long term? If it’s long term, does it feel stuck somewhere? Does it need a spiritual element to it? As you’re willing to look and grow within yourself, that relationship will change, or the type of relationship you fall into will change.

Robert Maldonado  25:10

We see the walled city that represents our mind when we’re entrenched in ego, our own life, our own perspective, what Jung would call the persona. The war is the disruptive element of transformation.

Debra Maldonado  25:31

I think it’s the battle between your divine self wanting to be known, this soul or spirit in you wanting to express itself, and the ego saying “No, this conditioning is good. My survival kit, we want to keep it in place.” But there’s always that trickster element, there’s something that interferes or intervenes in your life to wake you up. It could be an event or a person, maybe a heart ache even, a terrible relationship that just goes horribly wrong. You start to ask yourself the deeper question “What am I doing? Why am I repeating this pattern again and again?” There’s that opportunity, but the battle is within yourself. You think you’re fighting the world out there, there’s not enough people matching for me, men or women are this way or that way. You’re fighting them, the opposite sex, or fighting society and what’s expected of you. But the battle is always within. I think that’s the most important thing to remember that whatever is showing up out there, there’s an inner conflict within yourself.

Robert Maldonado  26:39

What brings the battle to our life is love. The desire to connect with another person, in this case, Helen is taken back to Troy and into the walls of the city, meaning, the individual takes another person into their heart. But that begins the war, meaning that’s going to change everything, you can no longer exist as your ego self anymore. Because now the war is knocking at your doors.

Debra Maldonado  27:22

You’ve had that experience with people. When you meet them, they changed your life forever. Whether that lasts a short time or a long time, there’s something that stirred up something new, you’re not the same after it.

Robert Maldonado  27:37

The war is a transformation. In the symbolic language of dreams and mythologies, war, fire, those elements represent transformation, Judgment Day basically. The horse right being snuck in represents that we have to be tricked into this transformation because most of us will not willingly renounce our life or ego self. We hold on to it because we’re attached to it. But something has to make us move from that position. Otherwise, we stagnate.

Debra Maldonado  28:21

I always say the path of least resistance creates the path of least existence. We want to not look for that route, smooth flow all the time. We’re always in battle, that’s another thing. But the battle is where we grow, the conflict is where we change. Love is not about just the Cupids and flowers. It’s conflict. I have to make room for this other person who has a completely different way of working, living, thinking, and feeling than me, especially a man and woman relationship because a lot of it is conditioned socially. How do you deal with emotions? How do you communicate? It’s a challenge, after you get through the love and infatuation and the sexual part, which is easy, how do I really live with someone? How do we make that long term commitment? That’s the battle.

Robert Maldonado  29:27

You’ll notice most of the world spiritual epics are couched in that context of a war going on. A lot of people think that it’s a literal war they’re talking about. It might be, but it’s really representing that internal battle going on in us, between our animal nature, our lower nature, and our higher nature, our desire to transcend our ego, our physicality, and reach those higher levels of existence.

Debra Maldonado  30:06

Someone on the outside is seeing Paris-Helen as a tragedy, it’s terrible. But there’s something mystical and transformational about it as well if you see it as a symbolic representation of our own inner journey.

Robert Maldonado  30:26

And of course, Hector, the great hero, dies in the battle with Achilles, which is also symbolic of transformation, sacrifice.

Debra Maldonado  30:39

Next week, we’ll talk about the last leg as the hero’s journey, and more into the hero’s journey and the symbolism, pop culture of the heroes and how they undergo their transformation, and how we can be the hero in our life and for our journey to go for what we really want, and experience life to its fullest. Hope you enjoyed today. Don’t forget to subscribe, you can click below if you’re on YouTube. If you are listening to us on Spotify or iTunes, please subscribe. Leave a comment and honest review. We love those reviews. That helps people find out more about us, and we hope to see you soon. 

Robert Maldonado  31:30 

Stay well. 

Debra Maldonado  31:31 

Take care, everyone. 

Robert Maldonado  31:34 

See you next time.

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