Have you ever wished you had the equivalent of a map, handbook, or GPS that would help you know what to do and where to go to be happy? Or, have you ever felt envious of those who always seemed to know what decision to make to enhance their personal fulfillment? And, have you ever fallen in love with a person, a place, a home, a field of study, a potential new job, a cause, a spiritual path, or even a product of some sort and then felt horribly disappointed when you faced its reality? I know I have.
The Call of Eros
The ancient Greeks and Romans imagined there was a god outfitted with bows and arrows. The Greeks called him Eros, and the Romans Cupid. If this god shot you with his arrow, you would then experience a fierce desire for a specific romantic partner. The power of this is captured in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, when Gatsby approaches Daisy, desiring to kiss her.
His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her.
The Greeks also used the term eros (obviously named for this god) more generally to refer to the impulse that calls people to experience elements of a life that will satisfy their souls. For Gatsby, this erotic call was connected not only to a particular woman, but also to the lifestyle of the very rich. Yet, in both he ended up disappointed, in part because he attached his erotic yearning to a shallow woman and a materialistic American dream that could not actually fulfill him.
Too often in our world today the term “erotic” is connected more with porn than with achieving the deeper fulfillment evoked in such poetic lines. Yet, the disconnect from our soul’s calling is a major cause of the epidemics of dissatisfaction, stress, addiction, and even suicide in our society, as well as a pervasive inner sense of lack. And, like Gatsby, too many of us hook our yearnings into available societal success “shoulds” that leave us feeling even more empty than before. As mythologist Joseph Campbell warned, many climb the ladder of success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall.
Operating Your Erotic GPS
The antidote to modern ills begins with recognizing that eros is, potentially at least, our soul’s GPS system. However, psychological capacities, like technological gadgets, require a learning curve to utilize them well. The call of eros generally begins with a sense of feeling of emptiness and a desire for something as yet unknown. This results in dissatisfaction and impatience, which make it easy for us to latch the yearning onto an undeserving object, as Gatsby did, or one that is just not right for us. Or, if we hold out, we may come across some person or opportunity that provokes in us a powerful, visceral response, resonating as “Yes, this is right!”
It interests me how many young women today (and older ones, too) read fiction by Jane Austen. Even though they lack sex scenes, we find her love stories riveting, as they demonstrate how the heroine figures out which men are trustworthy and which are not. Modern love stories typically present case studies that reveal how to determine the difference between the kind of person you have been told you should date or marry and the one who truly makes you happy. The better romance novels trace this process, too; they’re like mystery stories that are not so much about solving crimes as about cracking the eros code.
Our love lives provide us with eros 101 training through the pain we experience when Mr.-or-Ms.-not-yet-right dumps us, disappoints us terribly, or even becomes abusive. From these lessons, we gain a sixth sense that allows us to see the clues early on of what could be coming. We also know from psychology that we can be attracted to partners who replicate other challenging relationships—perhaps with parents or siblings—giving us another chance to work things out more effectively than before. The same is true when we take what we think would be the perfect job and our boss is like our domineering father, or our coworker is like our envious sister. Eros frequently leads us into situations that do not immediately make us happy, but that can help us grow and mature into a person more and more capable of genuine fulfillment.
Living a Love Story
However, a well-honed erotic GPS system is precisely what helps us make soul-satisfying choices about what to study, what field to go into, what job to take, and how to achieve a balanced and happy life. As with our love lives, however, we hardly ever get our choices right the first time. Finding soul-satisfying happiness through utilizing the erotic GPS is simple, but demands attention. It requires thinking like a scientist about what attracts and what repels us. And, as we follow our bliss, we notice what happens. Sometimes, we know we have taken a wrong turn and that course correction is in order—and fast. Generally, some growth is required of us to experience what we have yearned for.
I remember some years ago being annoyed with my husband and asking myself, “What story am I in?” I immediately realized that I was, at that moment, living an entitled child story, assuming that he was here on earth to make me happy, rather than honoring that he had his own journey. It occurred to me in that moment that he and I—at least the adult part of me—were living a love story together. The love story plot is always fraught with miscommunications and seeming hurts, and the happy ending (or ongoing middle) comes when couples find their way back to one another. This insight has helped me take a similar approach to work and in other parts of my life that I love.
To the degree that we let eros lead, we are heroes and heroines of an archetypal love story. The more we notice when eros has gotten us in trouble, the easier it becomes to avoid heartache by recognizing what is simply a feeling to be noted and learned from rather than acted upon. And, the more we recognize when eros has led us to greater and greater joy, the more we can count on it as a trustworthy guide.
 For more information on this topic, go to my book, Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within