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She: Understanding Feminine Psychology

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What does it mean to be a woman? What is the pathway to mature femininity? And what of the masculine components of a woman's personality? Robert A. Johnson explores these questions in this new edition of She, updated to reflect the growth of his thinking on these subjects.

Many writers and scholars have long considered that the ancient myth of Amor and Psyche is really the story of a woman's task of becoming whole, complete, and individuated. Here, examining this ancient story in depth and lightening up the details, Johnson has produced an arresting and perceptive exploration of what it means to become a woman. You will not read these pages without understanding the important women in your life and a good deal more about yourself as a woman.

112 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1976

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About the author

Robert A. Johnson

47 books563 followers
Robert A. Johnson is a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst in private practice in San Diego, California. He has studied at the Jung Institute in Switzerland and at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India.

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5 stars
868 (35%)
4 stars
794 (32%)
3 stars
574 (23%)
2 stars
175 (7%)
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51 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 154 reviews
Profile Image for Jenny.
13 reviews2 followers
Read
March 17, 2010
There were moments when I thought Johnson was really on to something, but overall I couldn't relate an iota to the "femininity" posed in this book and, in fact, felt offended by it at times. This could be due to my surface-level reading of the book, but it could also have to do with the fact that Johnson tries to summarize feminine psychology in a mere 80 pages- missing opportunity after opportunity to present concrete modern examples of his interpretation of this Greek myth. Alas, true to my compulsive form, I must now read "He" and "We." I'd like to see how they all tie together and to see if Johnson interprets the psychology of his own sex/gender better than that of females.
Profile Image for Ashley.
6 reviews
January 25, 2015
She: Understanding Feminine Psychology is an interesting book for readers that are intrigued by philosophy, psychology, mythology. Johnson relates feminine psychology to the Greek myth of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche to show the similarities between modern and ancient times, as well as the surprising authenticity and relevance of this myth.

The myth deals with Psyche, a young, lonely daughter of a royal family that ends up falling in love with Cupid, the son of the very jealous Aphrodite. She has no idea that she's in love with Cupid because she was originally arranged by Aphrodite to love and marry Death, but Cupid pricks himself with one of his arrows and falls for Psyche. Long story short, Psyche finds out that she's in love with Cupid and loses him. In order to win him back, she must go through many challenges created by Aphrodite. She makes it through each task with the help of nature and even Cupid. In the end, they get married and Psyche receives immortality from Zeus.

Johnson compares this myth to the experiences that women have in their transition from maidenhood to womanhood. He also elaborates on the maturation of women during marriage and the relationship between women and their mother-in-laws. One of the most interestingly analytical aspects of the book is his explanation of a woman's abilities to gain consciousness of the cruelty in the world around her and to encourage and understand herself emotionally and psychologically in times of distress. I found it quite interesting when Johnson admitted that men needed the femininity of a woman in order to fully understand and find meaning in situations and sometimes even in themselves. He elaborates on this topic much further in one of his other books, He: Understanding Masculine Psychology.

Many women that have read this book were taken aback and somewhat offended by the fact that the writer was a man, but I actually wasn't surprised or angered by it. I can honestly say that there is a great deal of truth in the book, but it is quite general. I really enjoyed the book because the author kept me on edge. Not because he was always right about everything, but out of my own curiosity to see whether or not he'd say something ridiculously sexist. I have to admit that the book wasn't what I was expecting, and I'm pretty relieved about that. Of course there are a few things that I disagree with, but that's mainly because I can't relate to a lot of the generalizations that were made in the book. I would recommend this book for strongly opinionated people because its great for finding new topics to either support or refute. Its also a good book for debates and discussions concerning both the masculine and feminine psyches.

Profile Image for Owlseyes .
1,634 reviews257 followers
July 4, 2022
"Unless we do conscious work on it, the shadow is almost always projected. That is, it is neatly laid on someone or something else so we do not have to take responsibility for it".



I took notice of him passing away last 24th September. My homage, reading him and listening to him.

This is a great book as proof that, in some cases, a myth (namely Psyche and Eros) may provide a model for understanding woman’s failed or successful psychological development. But, despite Robert Johnson mentioning the feminists having a lot to say about this mythical approach, he doesn’t reveal much.

To me, in our days, the Feminist movement, in some cases, reached the incomprehensible level, maybe thus, demanding new Myths to explain and understand such a feminist fury (and hate projection?), ultimately, and negatively, impacting on women’s psychological development.

And there’s always the question of those true and false feminists. Though not agreeing totally with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, her words may shed some light on these issues: “…the serious and sincere feminists who really care about the equality between men and women…should not be seen with these fake feminists”. Hirsi Ali was commenting on a “Women’s March” back in 2017. And, she’s been critical about Islam*. She's quite an antithesis of Linda Sarsour.

"Crawl back under your rock"
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom

Or, quite recently, a Swede feminist indirectly calling a Canadian clinical psychologist a caveman…(or a bug?)...or something else.**

* https://womenintheworld.com/2017/02/0...

**https://www.rt.com/news/443477-peters...

UPDATE: https://www.expressen.se/gt/ingen-ska...

UPDATE: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Lisa Hough-Stewart.
122 reviews7 followers
October 1, 2015
A narrow and occasionally offensive reduction of women that purports to be an analysis of the female psyche. What it is, is a reasonably interesting interpretation of the myth of Psyche and Eros. I would be giving it more stars if the author had been honest about what this short book actually is. Instead he makes sweeping conclusions about femininity (but only in relation to masculinity, because the female psyche is valued only by reference to what it can do for men, apparently), based on his subjective views on one myth.
Profile Image for Alex.
44 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2017
This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I picked it up today because it is December 28th and I needed one more book to reach my 40 book goal. This was by far the skinniest book on the shelf, alas! I grabbed that shit and sat down to speed-read (this 40 book challenge was really important to me, ok?!)

Well, I'm not a believer in fate, but this book was what I needed to read at this exact moment in my life. Some of the love stuff was kinda schmaltzy for me, but I really loved the bits about personal development and growth. Oh, and the parts about weddings and marriage? I had to get a pen out to underline at that point- I was like, PREACH, Robert A. Johnson!

The mythical, dreamy, Jungian stuff was totally new to me and I really enjoyed it. My Aphrodite/Psyche energy is bout ready to bring a new consciousness to birth, mmk.
Profile Image for Nancy Lewis.
1,097 reviews38 followers
August 5, 2016
An interesting essay, but still slightly subjugative. I wonder if it's because of the author's personal views, or a sign of the time in which the book was written. Was 1989 really that long ago? There is a companion book called "He" (of course).
Profile Image for Azy.
71 reviews38 followers
November 16, 2015

از مقدمه ی سخت و غیر جذاب! مترجم و ترجمه ی نه چندان مناسب کتاب که صرف نظر کنیم، خود کتاب یکی از بهترین هاست! کتاب با نگاهی به اسطوره ی سایکی و اروس به روانشناسی و تحلیل زن درون بر اساس رویکردهای یونگ می پردازد. کتاب شامل 9 بخش است. 3 بخش اول کتاب به تحلیل سه شخصیت محوری اسطوره آفرودیت، سایکی و اروس اختصاص دارد. در فصول بعدی دکتر جانسون به روانشناسی مرحله به مرحله ی این اسطوره می پردازد و در فصل 8 با بررسی و تحلیل خوان های پیش روی سایکی کتاب به اوج خود می رسد و نهایتا در فصل 9 تحلیل های مطرح شده به روانشناسی زن مدرن پیوند می خورد.


تقریبا همیشه تمایل به احساس خودکشی نشانه ی رسیدن به لبه ی یک آگاهی جدید است، یک سطح آگاهی تمام شده است و سطح دیگر آغاز به رشد می کند. آگر ادمی بر لبه ی این تیغ بتواند آن چیز درست را بکشد- روش های قدیمی، رفتارها و عادت ها را – و به خود آسیبی نرساند، یک دوره ی پرانرژی جدید آغاز خواهد شد.
وقتی زن یک تجربه ی کهن الگویی دارد معمولا در مقابل آن فرو می پاشد. در این فروپاشی است که زن به سرعت ارتباط کهن الگویی خویش را پیدا می کند، وجود درونی اش را دوباره بازسازی می کند. زن این کار را مثله مرد انجام نمی دهد. مرد ممکن است بیرون بزند به دنبال کارهای قهرمانانه بگردد. اما زن در این زمان به مکانی ساکت می رود و صامت و ساکن می ماند. تلی از تناقض سوار بر تناقض زن احتمالا در می یابد که مرگ عادت های گذشته را در آغوش کشیده است.

بخش 7- مصائب سایکی- ص 77
Profile Image for Will Bellais.
46 reviews5 followers
August 9, 2007
This slim volume focuses on the story of Cupid (eros) and Psyche. Eros is the need for love and Psyche is the spirit of love. Johnson explores the maturing process of women through the story of Eros and Psyche. The story enchants on its own -- and we have heard much of this story through the Grimm Bros. fairytales. However, once we meed Eros, the perfect man who does not want to be seen for what he really is, Eros' mother Aphrodite, and the most beautiful girl on earth -- Psyche -- we are taken in by all the tasks that Mother-in-Law sends her through so she will be qualfied to marry her perfect son. Sounds crazy, but when we realise this is the story of all women as they mature into womanhood, then the story is not crazy. I used it as a text in my classes for over 25 years. It is an importnat book.
Profile Image for Nicole.
76 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2013
Don't be fooled by the book's small size. She: Understanding Feminine Psychology packs a powerful and frighteningly applicable punch. Delving deep into Greek mythology (particularly the tale of Psyche), Robert A. Johnson reveals how age-old stories contain universal truths. The work draws parallels to modern-day situations, and in effect, sheds light on the psychological and emotional issues that are prevalent in contemporary society. The information is useful to both men and women alike, since there are "feminine" elements in each of us.
Profile Image for Humaira Khatoon.
6 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2012
A book about feminine psychology written by a man and using a man-centric pscyhological interpretation.An interesting essay, but still slightly subjugative.
Profile Image for Caroline.
13 reviews
August 10, 2016
Whenever you have a man writing about something Karen Horney basically discovered and not mentioning her once, you know you have a problem.

Profile Image for Eileen.
453 reviews14 followers
May 20, 2011
Well, I still don't understand Feminine Psychology, but I enjoyed reading the book. Another notch in the belt of Jungian thought. One of these days I expect to have an awakening when it will all suddenly make sense to me. Till then I continue to plug away at reading – building a foundation I hope. This one looks at the myth of Eros and Psyche as a metaphor for the spiritual journey every woman faces.
26 reviews8 followers
June 18, 2021
I compulsively skimmed this read because I was frustrated by the paucity of legitimate and insightful analyses of feminine psychology. Found this rather dated - narrow in the sense that the events pertaining to development/transformation seems to revolve around a woman’s relationship to the men in her life. Johnson misses the point of this myth. (I have yet to read Neumann’s analysis so I cannot comment on that.) Jung was onto something when he insisted that, any perspective a man (male-identifying) might have on the archetypal feminine may be polluted because he projects his anima onto the image (see the mother complex in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious).

Oh well, not entirely a waste as I only spent 15 minutes on this endeavour and also my frustrations are confirmed.
Profile Image for Cara.
Author 18 books83 followers
June 28, 2009
Just couldn't get into this one. Disappointing after what a revelation We was.
Profile Image for Tricia.
250 reviews
January 16, 2012
more like 3.5 stars. It was interesting the interpretation of the Psyche, Eros, Aphrodite myth. I also enjoyed some insights re: the female influence over the male influence.
November 11, 2020
I have come to an understanding how the feminine energy work with women. The author breaks it again in different sections for example why women value marriage more then men also that all have women a psyche in them. The author puts these terms in a Greek mythology way about how women see love in a different way then men do.
Profile Image for Erin.
106 reviews
December 1, 2015
While this book was good in that it was validating to my inner work experiences and spiritual journey, it wasn't as poignant or clarifying for me as his other book on the divine masculine called "He". Perhaps because of my own long-term suppression of my feminine aspects and thus lack of familiarity with that part of myself, I need to do more reading to get further clarity and really have the allegory provided in this book sink in. There were points in the allegory, the myth of Psyche and Aphrodite, where I couldn't quite connect it to my own experience. I have to wonder also if it was the limitations of being written by a male author. However, it was still enlightening and provided a new lens for viewing my journey, and provided the feeling that I'm not alone, that this has been the journey of all the woman before me, I'm not doing something "wrong" or failing when I have struggles. One thing I learned from this series of books of his that is most valuable to me is the role of myth and our mis-perception that myths are false, untrue, and do not exist because they are not based on facts. Well, then why do they persists for so many thousands of years? The author explains that they do not function as a historical recounting of external events, but represent the inner experiences of human-kind, as told in story fashion. This makes them as real as anything else when we look to them not as literal stories but as a history of the collective consciousness. This recognition of myth as being rich in psychological, emotional and spiritual insight is what allows them to persist and remain useful for eons.
78 reviews
December 21, 2014
Female mythology as an element of our lives is found in men and women. "Myths are rich sources of psychological insight. Great literature, like all great art, records and portrays the human condition with indelible accuracy."

"Often when new growth occurs , the most dreadful things seem to happen, but then we see that they were exactly what was required." 6
"It is almost always women who say, 'Let's sit down and talk about where we are.' The women are almost always the carrier of growth in most relationships. A man fears this, but he fears, even more, the loss of it. 38

"There is a popular heresy abroad today which states that if a little is good, more is better. Following this dictum creates a life which is never fulfilling . Even while you are engaged in one rich experience, you are looking for another. There is no contentment because future plans are always intruding on the present". 63

"The ego that is attempting to raise some of the vast unconsciousness into human conscious life must learn to contain only one goblet of water at a time lest it be overwhelmed and the container shattered. This warns against any great plunge into the depths to bring the whole of life into focus; better one crystal goblet of water than a flood which may drown us. " 63
Profile Image for Stevie.
12 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2017
Although these books are quick and interesting reads with intriguing perspectives on gender, I was rolling my eyes through this one. The "He" counterpart book explores male gender through the tale of Parsifal, who is struggling to become whole through adventure. It explores the feminine side of every male. This book explores femininity through the myth of Psyche who is pursuing love with the god Eros, and struggling with her other side "Aphrodite." I found this to be sexist and over-generalizing. Furthermore, although some parts were appreciable, I find this theory outdated, heteronormative, and cisnormative. It may be that I need to re-read it to fully grasp and comprehend these theory-- they are muddy and vague and hard to concretely grasp, but this is my take after my first read through.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Shavawn Berry.
168 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2013
In this book, She: Understanding Feminine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson examines the myth of Eros and Psyche as a metaphor for the work a woman must do to become conscious and alive. I found the the story illuminating and surprising -- full of magical events (ants sorting seeds, reeds giving advice on how to gather the golden fleece, an eagle who is sent to gather water from the river Styx)-- and down to earth explanations of the difficult passage that Psyche must make in order to become conscious. It is a life long journey that I find extremely fascinating. I am drawn to myths as sources of spiritual solace, and this is no exception.
April 11, 2018
Some of it made sense, some of it was kind of nonsensical... women should not define themselves and their femininity around men. Also, I would of been more comfortable and the research done was by women.... However, there are some good ideas about men and women needing femininity and masculinity both. There is a lot of good information surrounding evolutionary theory: how did the genders get this way? However, the author defines personality and purpose strictly in gender. As my boyfriend has many feminine qualities, and I have many masculine qualities, we cannot fit into these strict gender roles.

All in all, some interesting ideas about femininity and masculinity—-but lots of cringes.
Profile Image for Kathleen McKee.
16 reviews
December 1, 2016
The book is better than then name, well written by someone who helped me see the value of myth in society... he also connects how Western society's passion for falling in love, is the displacement of how we used to have a Love for God... but religion is unpopular and romance movies are popular. He explores our psychology of passion and love in terms of Psyche and Aros (Cupid)... and it's a bit sexist of course... written some years ago, but the philosophy/psychology/myth of this short book, so well written and insightful, was worth it for me.
Profile Image for Headley Mist.
80 reviews13 followers
Read
June 19, 2012
Can not think of a better review of this book than this quotation:

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Kind of reflects the plot.
Profile Image for Sarah Rasmussen.
11 reviews
December 4, 2020
This book is super interesting, and I at times; felt like Johnson was really on to something but then would stop. I wish he went more in depth with the concepts he is trying to relate. I do appreciate that it’s a short read with some really interesting ideas to get me started, I just wish there was a bit more depth to the ideas.
Profile Image for readbyjulia.
147 reviews24 followers
August 20, 2021
It’s just beyond me that a man writes about feminine psychology.

The author seems to act like he knows women better than the women themselves.
He made a few fair points, I don’t deny it, but most of the time he’s just presumptuous.

He also says that a woman can feel most feminine when she helps her man to feel more masculine. Absurd…

The male perspective is too intrusive here.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Puntolillo.
172 reviews4 followers
May 15, 2014
I recently discovered this author but I wasn't as impressed with this as I was some of his other titles. It read more like a good college psychology paper. Maybe feminine psychology isn't his strongest point. I wouldn't call it a waste of time, however.
Profile Image for Mafalda Afilhado.
134 reviews36 followers
October 18, 2016
3,5 estrelas
É sem dúvida muito curioso este tipo de livros que acabo de descobrir, através de um mito/ lenda sobre o qual nos é demonstrado aquele que é o ser psíquico da mulher.
No entanto consegui aperciar de uma maneira mais vantajosa o 1o volume, He.
Profile Image for Joanie.
1,271 reviews68 followers
November 15, 2008
Yet another book from my "Psych of Identity" class. About the feminine archetype in psychology.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 154 reviews

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