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  • Writer's picturePARLIAMENT NEWS

In the Name of Love: A quest for consciousness, meaning and solutions to domestic violence. Part2

Soaring the skies, seeking solace and solutions to domestic violence through the arts.

By Dr Desiree Saddik

In the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard, Boris Johnson suggests a law against misogyny. Surely such a law would cause the devil domestic violence to work more cannily. Since ‘In the Name of Love’ Part 1(Spring 2021 see, awareness and recognition of domestic violence has grown. 

Dr Desiree Saddik Consultant Lead Child, Adolescent, Family and Adult Chartered Clinical Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Founder of ‘The Pink Couch’ at 10 Harley Street London.    ‘The Pink Couch' is a psychological concierge service offering psychological consultation and treatment for those who find themselves in difficulty. The Pink Couch motto is ‘This couch changes everything’. It provides psychological services across the lifespan, cradle to grave. Contact:  

Many women politicians have come forward with stories of their own harassment, and domestic violence contact systems have been put in place for government workers in the NHS. Despite a burgeoning awareness, domestic violence continues to be a social disorder, the casualty of the quest for love. People unwittingly repeat destructive relationship patterns, creating situations similar to those that caused them harm and distress in early life.

Films, plays, opera, literature, fairy stories, poetry, soaps and even Netflix allow us to skinny-dip into the darker divided parts of ourselves. All arts work a certain magic. An art experience can be instructive and curative, transporting us to a place of reflection and self-dialogue, where we can safely ponder on our own and other’s behaviour. An art experience offers a chance for personal metamorphosis. It’s a space where we can suspend judgement, empathise with others, and most of all stop a cycle of self-blame and self-destruction. Art is about life and human experience; ’All the world is a stage and all men and women merely players’[1].

Art offers us a chance to understand ourselves, our love choices, our purpose and existence. Brancastle’s ‘The Mechanism of Suspended Time’, is a film about love[2]. When time is suspended and the planets align, there is an antidote to the darker side of human nature - violence, avarice, greed and vice. The mechanism is a cluster of processes that happen simultaneously when one is exposed to art and culture, like those moments in a theatre where you can hear a pin drop, where the desire to judge or punish is arrested. This magical mechanism, includes several inextricable processes: purging, reflecting, polarity, triangulation, identification and being one with the art form. Such processes may be common to the theatre scholar; but they have not been applied to the domestic violence conundrum. Jean Cocteau’s avant-garde film ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and the story of ‘Bluebeard’ are used to illustrate such mechanisms, for the purposes of personal growth and transformation. Such stories were written to school young girls in their thoughts about behaviours towards arranged marriages.

In Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Beauty’s father is sentenced to death for picking a rose from Beast’s garden. Beauty offers herself in return, and lives in captivity within Beast’s castle. Beast falls in love with her and proposes marriage to her each night, though Beauty duly refuses. The castle is full of magic. In captivity, Beauty’s tears become diamonds, showing the value of purging and catharsis. Since Aristotle[3], drama gained popularity amongst the masses as it served to purge unwanted emotions. DeMonaco’s series and film ’The Purge offers Americans one day a year to violate without consequence in order to maintain a crime free society. Though keeping violence to one day a year did not save society, ‘The Purge’ does show that the desire and need to purge still remain a part of human plight.

Mirrors appear in fairy stories. A child could reference the mirror on the wall in 'Snow White’, a poet, the love of ‘Narcissus’ for his reflection. In these myths and stories, the mirror represents the quest for idealised beauty or love respectively. Perpetrators will often idealise women and expect them to fit a certain formula of the feminine ethereal idealised beauty (the ‘Barbie’ doll or character Gretchen in Faust I). Any woman that doesn’t maintain this aesthetic is fit for punishment. Women learn to perform femininity, through icons like Marilyn Monroe, as a protective force against male vengeance, and in avoidance of conflict and violence[4]. Performing such an idealised and typified female role continually reinforces beliefs such as “I am a victim in a hostile world’, feelings of abandonment and a lack of self-worth - part of the domestic violence labyrinth. The path out of domestic conflict is not through idealisation of love and beauty, but through the capacity to reflect. In Cocteau’s film, Beauty is given an ‘enchanted mirror’. In this way she sees Beast as an ordinary, not idealised beast, as he goes about his day, violent and abusive, with ‘smoking hands’. Yet it is through the mirror that she empathises with Beast, and no longer fears him or her captivity. Cocteau uses the enchanted mirror in a reflective capacity, victim and perpetrator, Beauty and Beast become one. Through the mirror image, each can recognise the shortcomings of themselves and the qualities of the other, creating a clearing in the labyrinth of domestic violence.

            In me there are two souls…their division tears my life in two[5]

Every good drama has its twists and turns. The ‘tug of war ’ between good and evil, love and hate, care and violation, love and abuse. In Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’, conflict is ignited by polarity, Beauty and Beast are portrayed as polar opposites. Further, Beast is a murderer who is kind and empathetic. Beast saves Beauty from her complex family life, where she was treated like a servant. Beauty lives under the captivity of the Beast: she has to remain within the castle’s walls but the magical glove, allows her the freedom to soar the skies, to go where she desires. The audience identifies with Beauty’s ascent, as she learns to trust Beast.  This is not a journey that is idealised, it is one of uncomfortable predicament.

A love triangle, often an acting out of an intense inner conflict or experience of divided or conflictual selves, creates the ultimate learning space. The choice of love object can often reflect unresolved early relationships and triangulation that occurs in our own families. Beauty is the favoured child of her father. Beauty choses captivity to save her father’s life in the first instance. Triangulation is further created by Beauty’s beloved father falling critically ill whilst she is still in Beast’s captivity; visiting her father puts Beast’s life in jeopardy because he will die without her after some days; both Beast and her father will die without her. In this way Cocteau plays with the victim/perpetrator constellation. Beast, once a perpetrator, is now a victim. Through the juxtaposition of a magical and a mundane world - the world of Beauty’s family and her mortal betrothed, Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ make up a complex fairground of quests and dream like liminal experiences. The struggle is valued over the fleeting sense of redemption and idealisation. When Beast turns into the handsome mortal prince, he loses his glitter.

A tale about domestic violence would not be complete without considering ‘Bluebeard’, and the descent of Judith, his bride[6]. Count Bluebeard lives in a castle and has a habit of murdering his wives. A new bride, Judith, enters his castle of doom. He shows her several of the castle’s chambers, including the torture chamber, and other bloody chambers. In his usual fashion, as with the wives before her, Bluebeard tells her that she can have any riches she desires, but she should not open a certain chamber. He departs, leaving the key to this chamber in her possession.  Bluebeard returns and discovers that the bride has opened his chamber of secrets, and murders her as punishment. Other endings involve a victorious heroine who escapes and instead has Bluebeard killed for his crimes, disabling him from murdering future wives.

Bluebeard is a tale that initially schooled young women against curiosity and the use of their feminine wiles, punishing initiative or breakout of a social chastity belt. Judith’s descent symbolises a woman’s plight and her journey through victimhood. In some interpretations[7],  the blood represents the woman’s deceit and the man’s experience of not being understood in an intimate situation. Bluebeard has a lure and a dread; we enter the doom and deep freeze of a relationship that is dysfunctional and disturbing at its core, chambers of domestic violence and serial murder.

 Identification is considered an unconscious process, a little like falling in love where we emulate the behaviours of the love object. It is the secret to a good story, and insures a cathartic ride. Through identification we learn about ourselves and others and how to do or not do things. The social resonance and identification with Judith’s descent is so strong that the term ‘bluebearding’ has entered popular culture, describing the crime of a man who marries and divorces/kills off one wife after another, or the crime of a man who seduces and abandons one woman after another. Common behaviours of ‘Bluebeard’ including ‘love bombing’ and ‘gaslighting’ in order to coercively control the other in relationships.

‘Bluebeard’[8] schools us in breaking coercive control, and unlocking every inner chamber of our own minds, to follow curiosity and intuition, to remain alive and awake and open to the dark, but not to idealise and golden braid our way into the fairy castle, to not be agreeable, to not submit.

Cocteau, in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, allows us to hold both our faith and scepticism, to suspend belief and disbelief, as though these are the arms of the candelabra that pave Beauty’s way out of the labyrinth of confusion creating plain sight. Through the process of enchantment we become one with the art form. Cocteau set a preamble to his film:

            ‘Children believe what we tell them. They have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can plunge a family into conflict. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim…they believe a thousand simple things’.

Cocteau wants the audience to suspend disbelief, to watch as a child would without judgement or preconception, aided by the magical opulence of film. Beast’s castle is a place of enchantment, an inner world. Beauty has a magic mirror, a magic glove and a magic key. In contrast to ‘Bluebeard’, this key allows Beauty to unlock the chambers of inner riches that allows her to see anything; even the beast committing acts of murder. Beast changes Beauty’s fate, and brings her psychological riches, saving her from an impoverished family life plagued by her father’s mistakes and her envious sisters, where she is forced to work as a maid and very likely to be sold off in marriage, to support the family coffers. Beast is a beautiful villain, and when Beauty breaks the spell on him through love alone, he becomes a more conventional prince, but a part of her still mourns Beast.

I wish for a society like the one Jung[9] and Goethe spoke of, with an alchemical apothecary on every street corner, that conjures quests and cures for conflict, divided selves and metaphysical conundrums, all of which contribute to the origins and perpetuation of domestic violence. It is my view that opportunity for alchemical transformation is hiding in plain sight, available in every screen, bookshop and theatre.  Each of us needs to enter what those resources offer with awareness and curiosity, with a trembling willingness to be transformed, and to be freed from circumstances of terrible suffering and tedium.

As awareness of domestic violence grows, ‘In the Name of Love’ encourages us to consider our own ‘victim’ and ‘aggressor’ parts, to value our need to purge, to show patience with inner turmoil, love triangles, double binds and divided selves - marking these as fundamental riches for the quest for transformation and as a way out of the victim-perpetrator cycle and the labyrinth of violence.

[1] William Shakespeare ‘As You Like It’.

[2]‘The Mechanism of Suspended Time’ coined by film maker and visionary Stefana Brancastle IMDb 2016

[3] Aristotle’s ‘The Poetics ’ 335 B.C.E

[4] Mary Wild’s Projections: Marilyn Monroe’s Screen Persona 2021 at the Freud Museum, London.

[5]’Faust’ I Goethe

[6] Judith from Bela Bartok’s one act opera ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’, one of many narrative variations.

[7] For example in ‘The Uses of Enchantment: the meaning and importance of fairy tales’ by Bruno Bettleheim

[8] In the version where Bluebeard is a conquest of Judith, who remains victorious

[9] ‘I regard my work on alchemy as a sign of my inner relationship to Goethe’ from Carl Jung ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’.


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