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Articles by Marion Woodman

From the archives

Worshipping Illusions:

An Interview with Marion Woodman

In the Summer of 1987, Parabola sat down for an exchange with Marion Woodman on the subject of addiction.

Marion Woodman (1928-2018) has left us a rich legacy of material for those in search of understanding feminine psychology, the soul of the conscious feminine, and the spiritual and psychological roots of addiction. Jungian analyst, international teacher and workshop leader, and author with more than half a million books in print including Addiction to Perfection, The Pregnant Virgin, The Ravaged Bridegroom; Leaving My Father’s House; and, with Robert Bly, The Maiden King, she has explored in her BodySoul Rhythms intensives how to bring us into our bodies through voice, movement, dance, breath-work, and yoga, grounding her teaching in dreamwork and the psychology of Carl Jung. More information is available at
—Patty de Llosa

PARABOLA: The title of one of your books, Addiction to Perfection, raises a great many questions. I wonder if you could explain a little about what that title means.

MARION WOODMAN: Well, it comes in part from the situation in which parents have a concept of what the perfect child would be—perfect athlete, perfect scholar, when 100 percent achievement is the goal. The parents are trapped by this ideal, and their whole life is centered around performance. The child then learns how to perform and has an idealized vision of what he or she should be. Anything that doesn’t fit in with that ideal has to be pushed back, has to be annihilated, really. As a result, whatever is human in the child, whatever is “dirty”—sexuality, and the plain, ordinary world of the body—the child experiences as not part of the perfect ideal. Spontaneity—just the natural anger or natural joy even, or the natural love of rocks and mud—is blocked, and the child gets the idea on some level that he or she is unlovable. “Whoever I am in the reality of my being is not lovable,” the child concludes.

Natural being is repressed, and performance becomes everything. In any given situation a person subject to this repression will figure out whom to please and then perform in order to please that person, and their own reality is not present in the performance. People begin to live for an ideal—there’s nothing else to live for. But if you are living for an ideal, and driving yourself as hard as you can to be perfect—at your job or as a mother or as the perfect wife—you lose the natural, slow rhythm of life. There’s just a rushing, trying to attain the ideal. The slower pace of the beat of the earth, the state where you simply are, is forgotten.

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