The archetypes of Poseidon and Delphinus can teach us important lessons about human relationships.
"...our research shows that a little understanding can go a long way toward uncovering the bids for connection that often lie beneath people's masks of anger, sadness, or fear. And once a bid is recognized, we can start the work that brings people together, the work of turning toward." --Dr. John Gottman, The Relationship Cure: a 5-Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, p. 36.
The story of Poseidon
Setting the intention of meeting an Ally for working with the deep emotions of the subconscious, I wandered down to the boardwalk during a recent visit to Virginia Beach. I was expecting a mermaid, or perhaps an ocean goddess, to show up. But I found myself face to face with an intimidating, much larger than life-sized, statue of the god Poseidon (Neptune), with a dolphin peering out from behind his giant back. Looking around, I discovered several other statues of dolphins as well.
Intrigued, and never one to turn down an offer from a powerful Ally, I looked into Poseidon's story. He turned out (of course) to be just what I was looking for! His was the lot of bad luck, losing sibling rivalries, rejection in love, and other disappointments, and his deep and stormy passions stirred up the seas. He frequently acted out, in frustration, when he didn't get what he wanted.
Finally, he was so lonely and distraught that the seas were raging. Deciding what he needed was a wife, he went looking for love. The woman he fell head over heels for was a lovely dancing mermaid, Amphitrite, who (just Poseidon's luck!) was afraid of his passions, rejected his proposal, and swam away and hid, hoping to preserve her virginity.
Poseidon asked his Ally Delphinus, King of the Dolphins, to find her and woo her for him, and Delphinus took up the perilous journey. Finally locating Amphitrite, he promised her that if she accepted Poseidon, marriage would calm his passions, creating safety for sailors everywhere. Moved by compassion, Amphitrite agreed, and she and Poseidon married and had three children together.
Delphinus is a powerful Ally and archetype in his own right, offering us the chance to work towards developing the advanced emotional intelligence of the dolphins. Dolphins can pay attention far more intently and sense emotional and physical states in other beings with far greater sensitivity and accuracy than humans, and respond with spoken language, nonverbal cues, and assistance. Dolphins can remain alert for days and have been known countless times to answer distress calls of other dolphins and even humans and swim to the rescue, holding up a drowning swimmer so they can breathe. In the context of Poseidon's story, Delphinus brings the ability to sense the loneliness and desire underneath a distressed or stormy exterior, and make the connection between people, even across great (emotional) distances.
Magical Practice: Turning Towards Even Unattractive Bids for Connection
In his research on relationships, Dr. John Gottman sees three responses to a call, or bid, for connection: turning towards, turning away, and turning against. Turning towards involves literally turning towards the person asking for attention, looking up from the screen, listening, and giving them the help or emotional validation they are asking for. Most of the time, these positive responses are so mundane, like fetching the milk from the refrigerator, listening to a child complain, or leaning into a hug, that we don't think of them as magical acts. But each one sends a little pulse of positive energy down the cord that connects the two people, and a little information packet that says "I care about you." Over time, the hundreds of little bursts of energy that best friends and family members give each other every day add up to a secure bond, one that we know we can count on in times of crisis. Turning away (ignoring the request or changing the subject without validating the caller's emotion) quickly creates hurt feelings, insecurity, and conflict in the relationship, and often ends it, sooner rather than later. Turning against (rejecting the request, contradicting, criticizing, or invalidating the person's emotional state directly) also damages the relationship, creating distance that eventually will destroy the bond as well. In his research, Gottman found clear indications that happy couples responded positively to each other's bids 80% of the time, while those headed for divorce did so much less frequently, and parents who validated ALL their children's emotions created better emotional health in their children than those who ignored or invalidated "negative" emotions.
The problem is that, like Poseidon's stormy seas, the big emotional displays that sometimes emerge from deep loneliness, depression, or upset may not look to the fearful recipient like a request for love. In these circumstances, we must turn to Delphinus to teach us how to recognize the desire for connection underneath, and calm the waters by turning towards even the unattractive bids of a frustrated teenager or neglected lover to validate them. Rejecting the uncomfortable or unattractive emotions in our partners, friends, and family members makes them feel they are not completely accepted, and must be "on their best behavior" or "perfect" or "someone else" to receive our love, and therefore creates insecurity.
This doesn't mean we must tolerate bad behavior, but just that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, and validate the emotional experience of the loved one, no matter how uncomfortable that emotion may make us feel. Generally, emotional validation is what we are looking for when we make a bid for attention, and hearing the acceptance of our loved ones soothes us, de-escalating the expression of emotion, while turning away or turning against just makes us more upset.
Poseidon himself is the one who calms the seas, once he receives the acceptance of the beautiful mermaid. In so doing, he brings the archetype of the planet Neptune, who governs the project of developing emotional self-Mastery that humanity as a whole is now engaged in.
Let's continue together to practice empathy and saying yes to emotional bids for attention this month, asking Delphinus to help us create connections between loved ones, friends, and even coworkers, reading between the lines for those nonverbal cues of loneliness and distress, turning towards and reaching out in acceptance of even the unattractive parts of each other. In so doing, we create secure relationships and opportunities for further growth for ourselves, our partners, and our bonds of love.
Love and Magic,