Haunted by Hungry Ghosts and Ghostly Lovers


Tis the season of the thinning of the veil between worlds and I don't fear visits by ghosts or spirits, but instead the demons and hell of my own making. I find the worst hauntings occur from the phantoms of my psyche, the ones that loop me into patterns of pain and emptiness--hungry ghosts and ghostly lovers.


 

We all have a hole in our soul, or in Buddhism the "realm of the hungry ghosts" a place with beings who will never have enough ruled by their unending desires...for me it's love and connection. The endless neediness and terrified fear of abandonment that never seems to find fulfillment or enough. The emaciated and hungry starving self that feeds on whatever crumbs she can get. Chasing self worth and value in the reflections of others rather than her own beautiful shining heart. I can't stand her, she oozes of pain and smells like desperation and death. But she is a part of me, a part that I wish would go away. We're trying to create new terms together--terms where I can exist as myself and she can beg elsewhere without me. Her hunger and appetite becomes a tormented beast never able to fully access desire in a way that heals instead creates hell.


Together we constellate an addictive pattern where we turn on ourselves and the shame gets stronger. I know others sometimes see her hovering nearby and also can't bear to look--she's terrifying. She's so afraid of being left that she shapeshifts and dulls herself down to be okay and appetizing to all. She tortures herself with people who can't and don't love her and fixates on them. She can't orbit herself long enough to sit still and then feels the helplessness and hopelessness right before it swallows her whole. To her distance feels like death.


She evolved out of neglect and festers in phases where I don't slow down enough to notice her appetite. Her unmet needs for love looks for any substitute other than self-soothing. We're slowly learning to be friends but often I don't hear her until she screams...her voice echoing an animalistic, instinctual wildness that I hardly recognize in myself. In Japan, a tradition called segaki ritualizes feeding the hungry ghosts perhaps a practice for nourishing the unfulfilled parts or ourselves and the ancestors. In many ways Halloween could be this practice, where we feed "ghosts" or the unknown at our door hoping to ward them off with an offering.


I want my hungry ghost to have the nourishment and fulfillment she needs, so I've started setting up a space on my altar for her. To feed her small bits of things so she doesn't have to get so hungry...we will see how long it lasts but even with her satiated; I still have to do my best to ward off the "Ghostly Lover."


 

My Ghostly Lover, a term coined by depth psychologist Esther Harding, comes to me in dreams and sometimes in every day moments. They're a combination of a past lover and an impossibly perfect potential partner where I will feel loved, adored, perfectly balanced, and become all of my favorite parts of myself. A fantasy vision of a perfect parent and ideal muse projection of my "other half" as a shield from the reality of loving a flawed human being. The GL has immense power of over me promises me bliss in a dream world of my own creation where all my needs are met and I can float away on a cloud of ease and love.


I recognize it as a perfect soulmate and Beau Ideal, for those familiar with Jungian thought this could be called the animus or anima complex. Culturally we see the Ghostly Lover archetypally sold to women as Prince Charming or Twin Flame to come save us. Sometimes the GL projects itself onto celebrities or other people we won't ever meet or seem beyond our reality. Other times it reveals itself through wanting perfection and falling quickly into love with someone only find out they aren't who we thought they were. Romantic love lures us like a siren into fantasy and projections galore unless we are able to ground it into reality and day-to-day life.


James Hollis describes it as the "Magical Other," and says:


“The idea that there is one person out there who is right for us will make our lives work, a soul–mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history, one who will be there for us, will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs..."


The part of me needs a Ghostly Lover to keep myself safe from rejection from abandonment and continually seek my soul in others. I break the spell when I avoid the critical nature towards a partner and instead practice loving and appreciating them as they are. The GL drifts farther away when I see myself as an ideal partner and honor my own internal sacred marriage. Rather than searching for a soulmate I look for a mate for my soul to weather the storms together as an equal where I can heal and awaken rather than requiring perfection and peace.


 

Both the Hungry Ghost and Ghostly Lover visit during times where I'm filled with things other than myself...when the distance between myself and soul has become so distant I seek something external. When my wholeness feels in question and my self-compassion inaccessible the hauntings begin and my hope is to continue greeting them at the door rather than cower in the corner.