The goddess Aphrodite gave Psyche four impossible tasks to complete: sort a huge pile of seeds, gather the golden fleece of the fierce solar rams, fill a crystal flask with water from the river of life, and make a trip down to the underworld to get a boxful of Persephone's beauty. The goddess never expects Psyche to succeed but she does. She manages because she gets help. First the ants come to Psyche's aid, then the reeds, the eagle, and the tower. Each task and each helper suggests something different about the transformational process underway and the skills required to complete it. The seeds and the ants, for example, illustrate the need to begin any endeavor by methodically taking stock, by sorting the possibilities, motivations, and resources available and creating order from the initial chaos. Good stuff.
But I want to skip over a detailed analysis of the tasks and helpers to focus on Psyche's reaction to each task. She doesn't square her shoulders or heroically gird her metaphorical loins. She weeps. Just like a woman, right? We want to say "Don't just cry damn it--- DO something!" But common attitudes about Psyche's response reveal our collective disdain for emotion and cultural preference for masculine forms of heroic action. Could weeping be powerful? Could it be the most appropriate---and effective---action?
Psyche was faced with impossible tasks. Her tears summoned forth the resources that she did not possess but that are available to us---instinctual nature, the anima (inner feminine) or animus (inner masculine), and the deep self. The heroic ego is but one small player in life's great dramas. Sometimes effective action starts with recognizing what you're up against. Weeping is synonymous with bowing and descending. It's an act of surrender. We aren't conditioned to do this, but as someone at my recent workshop observed, if you're determined to power through you're not likely to hear the whispering of the reed. The guidance we receive from the depths, the voice that speaks from the unconscious, can be outshouted by ego consciousness in the grip of a fantasy of self-sufficency.
Then we get trampled.