Ever get super annoyed about a date’s habit of eating loudly, or feel uncomfortable because they have a super hot ex? It can be oh so easy to extrapolate small things into relationship-stopping catastrophes even when other aspects of the situation are great. When your list of deal breaking items gets longer than five, the Saboteur is lurking in your psyche and things are about to get messy.
This archetypal dating guide has a reputation as ‘the Ninja’ because it has a way of being subtle and lethal before you know what hit you. I’m referring to the archetype of the Saboteur which is often cloaked in some pretty typical dating behavior.
The Saboteur shows up when we feel vulnerable and acts as a defense for a wounded part of ourselves (often the Victim). The reasoning of the Saboteur in dating is that if we can beat a potential wound to the punch then we’ll suffer less. Simple, no? Simple but deadly to any possible relationship with another human being. Ever.
We’ve all probably been on one side or the other of the Saboteur’s razor sharp blade and it hurts either way. Truth is, we can’t mitigate our way out of pain or loss but we can be strong enough to hold our vulnerability and make choices with both wisdom and heart.
It is possible to level up our wisdom by being mindful and recognizing what we are really up to before making choices. Recognizing key patterns as archetypes is a good way to get a hand hold on our own internal machinations. If you can spot the sneaky, weirdly well intentioned Saboteur at work you can then review the situation in a different light.
In the words of the urban poet and rap star, Ice Cube:
You better check yo self before you wreck yo self
Cos I’m bad for your health, I come real stealth
Knowledge is power, so here is a primer on the Saboteur in relationships:
The Two Sides of the Saboteur
Unempowered Saboteur Archetype
AKA The Critic, The Cynic Keywords: Reactionary, Fear, Exaggeration, Over-thinking, Cynicism This is the part of us that is consciously or unconsciously ready to sabotage when we feel uncomfortable or get scared. It’s a pattern of over-thinking a situation and/or making extreme judgements as a defense.
The unempowered Saboteur’s voice:
“They do (insert action here) and boom! I’m outta here.”
“I just can’t date a man/woman who (insert annoying thing here).”
“He/she is really great – I wonder what is wrong with them?”
The Saboteur is the chief in charge of trying to figure everything out right away, laying emotional land mines or generally mucking up the works. At it’s worst, the Saboteur is like a pernicious detective drawing all kinds of scary conclusions until we are too confused to know what’s what. Like the Magician, the unempowered Saboteur is a master of creating illusion.
Empowered Saboteur Archetype
Keywords: Listening, Wisdom, Clarity, Faith, Trust This is one of those patterns that the upside is being able to spot when the unempowered side is at play and take a breath to check-in with ourselves. It’s the part of us that says “relax, breathe, be open to the truth before you decide”. The empowered Saboteur’s motto is “Check it before you wreck it”. The empowered Saboteur as a representative of clear thinking can help you understand if doubts and worries are legitimate or just a function of fear. Also like a Magician the empowered Saboteur knows how the tricks work and can see what is an illusion before taking action.
“Old defenses block new success. Every defense is really a fear that forces you to play small, live in lack, and limit what is really possible. In truth, no defense can make you strong, no defense can win you freedom, and no defense can show you your true power.” ~Robert Holden, Ph.D.
4 ways to recognize and work with the Saboteur:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
~Viktor E. Frankl
Trigger Not So Happy
We often have specific triggers that will set the Saboteur off so it’s good to be conscious of them so we can see them coming before anyone gets hurt. I found this article lays out some ways to find and work with these emotional triggers: 5 Steps to Owning Your Emotional Triggers
Phone a Friend
If you are having an “I’m about to wreck it.” moment, call a friend and ask them to hear you out before you do anything rash. Often times we just need someone to listen and witness that we are scared and having a moment of uncomfortable vulnerability. You might even notice that you are trying to sway them to your thinking – another sign that the Saboteur is on the loose.
Speaking with a trusted friend, coach or therapist is often the way to get the Saboteur to put down the sword and so you can hone in on what you really want. You might even be right about your next action but if you make your choice out of wisdom and not fear you will treat everyone humanely and feel a whole lot better about your choice.
The Price of Admission
If looking for perfection is your own Saboteur style, recognize that imperfection is at the heart of what makes us loveable. We want to be loved and accepted as whole people – flaws and all. Perfection as manufactured by the marketing department in our heads is a complete deception that kills off any hope of being in a real relationship. This talk by Dan Savage on what he calls “The Price of Admission
” sums up how acceptance of our flaws and those of our partners is key to any healthy and lasting relationship. Warning: the video contains potentially offensive language and laughter.
Over-thinking A Square
If you find yourself thinking non-stop and obsessing about a situation from every angle, the Sabotuer has snuck in and amped your brain to the point that nothing can be perceived honestly. It’s time to get out of your head and into your body. Go for a run, go dancing, take a bike ride or a walk – the more strenuous the better. You won’t stop thinking completely of course, but you will switch gears and hopefully give the non-stop-thought-train a rest for a while. If you can’t get away for some exercise, the simple act of putting your hand on your chest and taking 3 deep, slow breaths will calm you and slow down the rapid fire thinking. Repeat as necessary.
“Intellect confuses intuition.” ~Piet Mondrian
Here is a sweet video that represents both aspects of the Saboteur.
photo ©Julienne Givot
Heartbreak is a term most often associated with the unfortunate end of a romantic relationship. It’s also a pervasive pattern that intersects every single human life everywhere. When we hear a friend say, “My heart is broken,” we can relate in an instant without their details. Heartbreak is an archetype that enters our lives on more than one occasion and under differing circumstances but it is not a pattern that organizes a life in the same way that, for example, the Mother does. We don’t meet someone think they were definitely born to for heartbreak. What drives the broken heart is the inability of our expectations to meet the demands of life.
A few years ago, I had my first great experience of heartbreak. The life I thought I would have and where I thought I would be by that time was unfounded and I admitted it. I couldn’t breathe as one image in sequence crashed into the next. I found it hard to stand. In the rubble of my fantasies I fell into despair.
We are forever building cities to our fantasies. We say to ourselves, “I’ll always be with this person,” “I’ll always work here,” “They’ll never die,” and so on. Then the day comes that person doesn’t love us anymore, or we get fired, or that someone dies. One illusion crumbles into another, falling against each other in a long, dusty sequence. Shocked, alternating in loss and denial, we begin a grieving process. We won’t see that the ruin that is our pain is also the opportunity. Whenever we begin something new we have to start with a clear surface to work.
I wandered through my life in the weeks that passed, through the same rooms and spaces I’d known but I wasn’t in them anymore. Whether I was angry at all the time wasted or in denial that the whole fantasy could be resurrected, I was in mourning for the life that had passed away. “Broken heart” became a mantra that I’d repeat to myself and then a visceral experience in my chest. When others saw that something was wrong and asked after it I couldn’t speak to what I was feeling. By myself, I’d weep a great deal. And then I began to ask, “What did break?” I knew I was alive so it could not be my literal heart. Something was broken but if not my heart, then a heart that was never real to begin with. And then there it was: A thrumming in my chest, a sensation that would become a guide back to the present. No longer was I drifting in the past and projecting towards a mythical future. Every motion a moment proceeding steady. With my attention there on my heart, I wasn’t dwelling on what was gone but I stayed here with was already still.
I call the heart that broke was my thimbled heart; cold, hollow, capable of measuring out loves only as much as what was put in, and hard enough to resist intrusion. It didn’t beat much. I had to lay down the remains of my expectations, and in so doing the thimble heart of who I thought I was in order to see what still stood undisturbed.
photo ©Julienne Givot
The magnitude of suffering that quantifies “heartbreak” constitutes a transformational journey, one of such weight and consequence that the issue(s) which began the process cannot be discarded as a measure of coming through the experience and being healed. In fact that would be irresponsible. We don’t leave these things behind, for living bodies carry the scars of the wounds that have been suffered. Only corpses never heal. And let me say that crying on occasion for the person we have been is not an indication that our wounds haven’t healed, but is a signal that our hearts are alive and engaged. If anything we gain the capacity to see the heartbreak in others and a greater compassion for the condition of loss and expectation that beats in all human beings. Born from the tears cried in the suffering of our undesired experiences, a greater heart moves unrelenting. Then it is that we break upon our hearts and breaking open, bear it blazing for all beings everywhere. When we sit with one who is breaking, maybe the best we can offer is a strong witness to the grief they are bearing and allow them their experience. Of all things the greatest helper is time. Perhaps when the broken heart calls once again to visit, we can remember and bring our attention back to what is left as a practical respite from our unbearable grief of letting go.
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
©Justina Kochansky / Flickr
If dating seems like an ordeal, you are not alone. I’ve heard many versions of “I’m not dating because it sucks” from all sorts of people; gay, straight, men and women of all ages. I’ve expressed that sentiment myself more than a few times, but I also know that it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. Each of the archetypal guides in this series can help illuminate why dating can be difficult and how we can experience the process in a more grounded, wholehearted way.
This next archetypal guide is a biggie – it’s probably the main reason dating can be painful, confusing and un-fun. Just stay with me here because our guide to less vexing and more wholehearted dating in this edition is the archetypeA universal pattern of motivation and behavior. of the Victim.
What did you say woman? Victim?!
(Like I said – hang in there.)
The BIG THING to remember is that the Victim has two sides to it and is all about safety, strength and boundaries. It remains neutral until we feed one side or the other with thoughts, ideas and actions.
Unempowered Victim Archetype
Keywords: Pain, Fear, Blame This is the part of us that is consciously or unconsciously hurt, defensive, pissed off, fearful, vengeful or sad. It’s a tender part that needs care and compassion but it also needs to know it’s not the only game in town. To identify with only the unempowered Victim is how we can end up in dating suckland. Being in the mindset of fear skews our vision and makes for hasty decisions (fight or flight dating anyone?). This is where being present and paying attention to what’s going on in our minds and hearts without judgement can keep us grounded.
Empowered Victim Archetype
Keywords: Strength, Resilience, Courage I like to call this the Victorious part of us but it’s still a part of the Victim – we can’t really have one without the other. This is the archetype of working with the fear, letting stuff go, setting healthy boundaries and getting on with life more informed and stronger than we were before. The empowered Victim is also a wellspring of compassion – for self and others. It opens the door to maintaining vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness. If that sounds like an oxymoron, think of it this way, our ability to truly connect (be vulnerable) allows us to be who we really are beyond the fear we might feel (strength).
Dating means putting yourself out there in a way that could bring old wounds and insecurities to the surface – something most of us instinctively avoid. Hence the Victim archetype rearing it’s head in the middle of our single life saying it’s not safe out there. Here’s the thing though, if we let our fears wall all that stuff up in order to feel safe, we are also walling out what we most deeply want – love and connection.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” ~Brené Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection
Love, if it is real, will never be completely safe because it requires vulnerability, which is to say that the soft gooey center of us could get squeezed and maybe not pleasantly so. In order to truly love, our shields have to come down for a connection to be made. This is true of platonic relationships as well but dating can feel like the stakes are much higher.
“No human being has ever lived without knowing heartbreak, and to accept that truth is to give a merciful gift to ourselves.” ~David Whyte
Actively working with our internal Victim can help us cultivate the strength, resilience and spaciousness to experience dating in a whole new way. How we relate to our internal Victim resonates out to how we treat other people, including our potential love partners and sets the tone for our future relationships.
Here are some ways the Victim can be a guide to dating where we feel stronger, more present and grounded:
Know Your Ropes
You know that exercise where someone walks up to you one small step at a time and you tell them to stop when you begin to feel uncomfortable? That’s how we can determine our personal physical boundaries. For some people it’s 5 feet and for others 5 inches. The Victim here is a guide to emotional boundaries, which is all about how we handle our own vulnerability. If we have overly porous dating boundaries we’ll be prone to spilling our emotional guts on the first date, getting hurt unnecessarily or taking on other people’s emotional burdens. Diamond hard boundaries mean we are never going to be able to let anyone in and be a part of an intimate relationship. Understanding how this might work for ourselves emotionally can save a lot of confusion and bruised feelings.
Understanding and developing emotional boundaries is huge topic and there are many resources to support more learning so I’ve provided a few below.
Boundaries vs. Barriers by Pema Chödrön
How to Set Healthy Boundaries: 3 Crucial First Steps
Ten Ways to Build and Preserve Boundaries
Self-victimization can slide in when we aren’t looking; maybe an un-returned call, text message or presumed mistake on a date sends you into a bout of self-flagellation. Whatever the cause, it’s a ripe time to take a moment to remember that:
1) things are not always as they seem
2) you are human and do all sorts of things that might not be intended
3) berating yourself does not help anything (in fact neuro psychology research shows it can make things worse).
Self-vicitmization is a call for self-compassion. Once you’ve stopped beating yourself up you will know what to do next with much clearer vision. You will also have more compassion for those you are dating.
Don't Go It Alone
The Victim can also let us know when we are heading for a situation that we should avoid and to take precautions to be safe out there in dating land. Hopefully we’ve all learned to meet someone new in a public place and continue to do gut check’s about whether we can trust the other person. This can also go overboard. My brother told me about a woman who brought along her BFF to their first date as a sort of guard. Granted, they met on a dating website but her reaction and obvious Victim mentality really turned him off on what could have been an otherwise pleasant date over coffee.
Whether for physical or emotional safety I recommend a ‘date buddy’; someone you can trust to talk something out with and check in with to let them know where you are going and with whom on a date. Our parents might not wait up for us anymore but it’s nice to know someone has our back. I’m blessed to have two date buddies (a man and a woman) and it really, really helps. I get the benefit of having access to both the male and female perspectives on things and get to support them on their dating adventures as well.
Being present to what comes up with the Victim in dating also reminds us that we can call on resources and helpers in the form of Mentors, Therapists or Groups where we can share our experience and receive support.
Avoid Reruns & Red Flags
You’ve heard the quote about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result as the definition of insanity right? It’s true, but most of us do it anyway and dating is no exception. The Victim is our guide to say “hey we’ve done this before and it didn’t end so well”. It’s a call to clear thinking and discernment knowing that dating re-runs and red flags can be avoided if we choose to.
This reminds me of a scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Carrie Fisher’s character says “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right – he’s never going to leave her.” about the married man who is always proclaiming he’s going to leave his wife to be with her but never does. The Victim can help us recognize when we get into an unhealthy pattern and need to make some different choices or at least look clearly at a situation.
Although dating can bring uncomfortable things up, an honest and compassionate relationship with the Victim means we can be stronger, more loving people for the difficult lessons and heartbreak we’ve been through. My experience with cultivating the lessons of the Victim in relation to dating has helped me immensely. I never thought the process could actually be empowering and compassionate, but it can be and that is what I hope to share with you. Please comment, share, Tweet and link this article if others that you think might benefit. I love when you do that.
©Justina Kochansky / Flickr
They say to always lead with your strength. I’m going to lead with one of my weaknesses – sometimes I feel like I’m not enough. Not smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough etc. Basically, take any positive quality and put ‘not’ in front and ‘enough’ behind it and I can, at some point, feel that this is so. It’s a type of nefarious self-judgement that most people can identify with and it can make dating un-fun and stressful. These self-judgements can take over and have us thinking that inadequacy is the only possible reason why we aren’t meeting that great guy or gal. And here’s the thing – a habit of believing ‘I am not enough’ does influence our dating experience and who we meet. Let me explain by wrapping it in the context of the archetype at play here.
Not-enoughness is the purview of the Prostitute archetype, which also goes by the name of the People Pleaser, among others. The Prostitute is symbolic of how we negotiate our integrity and self worth. The moment we begin to doubt our worth is a sign that the unempowered Prostitute is hanging out on our psyche’s street corner. It also encourages us to pretend we are something we aren’t because lack is crowding everything else out. It also means that everyone else is more important than we are. This only leads to more heartache.
There is a way to enable this archetype to work FOR us instead of selling our happiness out. Begin by noticing when you engage with the pattern of the Prostitute. Any thought that says ‘you are not enough’ is the archetypal voice of the unempowered Prostitute giving out bad information. Period. You ARE enough. The voice of the empowered Prostitute reminds you that you are enough as you are right now – an imperfect and amazing person, both. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you might want to work on, it means that you aren’t starting with a deficit.
Let me illustrate with some common dating scenarios and how the Prostitute archetype can show up in both unempowered and empowered ways:
You've met someone you like.
unempowered / judging
- Worry that they won’t be interested in you because you are inadequate in some way.
- Allow a list of ‘not-enough’s’ to cascade down the screen of your mind like the numbers and letters in the Matrix.
- Get neurotic about whether you should contact them.
- Check every ten minutes to see if they have called, texted or emailed you first.
empowered / innate worthiness
- Realize that the ‘not enoughs’ are not true and it’s a choice to identify with those thoughts or not. Besides all those crappy thoughts give you a headache.
- You are who you are ‘as is’ and you want to be with someone who accepts and cares for all of you.
- Call them within a time that makes sense and is respectful, in the mean time – enjoy yourself!
- Understand that your value is innate and not based on what other people think.
- If he/she isn’t into you, it is in no way a value judgement of who you are.
Dating someone who isn't good for you.
*Not good for you* generally means they don’t treat you well, take you for granted, put you down or in other ways are not positive for your well being.
unempowered / sell-out
- You keep dating them because you figure you can’t get anyone who is good for you because you aren’t ____ enough.
- You decide there are too many things you lack and it’s better to sell out than be without a date.
- You think that because you are inadequate and they are inadequate you somehow belong together.
empowered / worthy
- Respectfully and compassionately let your unhealthy relationship go (aka break up).
- Notice you spend way more time with the ‘not enough’ thoughts than you do with the truth of who you are and start reversing that situation.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy instead of worrying about Saturday night.
- Realize that dating someone does not make you any more or less valuable as a person.
Dating someone you aren't into.
unempowered / settling
- It’s nice to have someone be nice to you.
- They pay for dinner and/or provide company on Saturday night.
- No one else is on the horizon.
empowered / worthy
- Realize it’s not fair to anyone to stay in a relationship because you feel bad about yourself.
- Be the person who is nice to you.
- Realize that dating someone does not make you any more or less valuable as a person.
- Respectfully and compassionately let the relationship go (aka break up).
- Notice when you spend more time with the ‘not enough’ thoughts than you do with the truth of who you are and start reversing that situation.
Playing Hide and Seek
unempowered / unauthentic
- Wanting to share a part of yourself with your date/boyfriend/girlfriend but not doing it because they might judge you as not being ____ enough.
- Pretending to have traits that you don’t so they will like/love/accept you? (“Oh I love rock climbing” you say to your date when internally you are shuddering at the idea.)
- Saying yes to or asking for another date when you don’t want to.
- Saying you will call when you don’t intend to.
empowered / worthy
- Notice that you want to be known for who you really are and hiding a desire to share something about you is already a rejection.
- Your worth and love-ability are based on who you are and not whether you have the same interests as your date. You can show a genuine curiosity about their interests without having to fake enthusiasm.
- Acting on what you really want and being honest bestows respect and care on both you and your date.
Did you notice that the empowered sides of these scenarios were more loving, respectful, honest and authentic? That’s exactly who we are without the low worth rhetoric and those qualities are SO very attractive! The habit of thinking ‘not enough’ leads to more of the same; it’s focused on settling for whatever we can get which moves us farther and father away from what we actually want. Understanding that you are enough makes space to focus on what you really want in a relationship and changes the dynamic of choices in who you attract and engage with.
There are many books that have principles and stories that can help re-orient the Prostitute archetype from it’s low energy state to one where you hold your head high and stop trading away your innate fabulousness for anxious worries and low self worth. The wildly popular book from a few years ago, He’s Just Not That Into You highlights this perfectly and delivers it with a with a sizable dose of sharp candor. It applies to anyone working with the Prostitute archetype, which is pretty much everyone except for maybe the Dalai Lama.
“Being lonely … being alone … for many people … sucks. I get it, I get it, I get it. But still I have to say that yes, my belief is that being with somebody who makes you feel crappy or doesn’t honor the person you are is worse.” From He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tucillo
The empowered Prostitute holds him or herself with compassion and value, not higher or lower than anyone else but on the firm ground where we can meet others in the same way. It’s the same fertile ground where great relationships can grow. Learning how these internal archetypal patterns play out, can bring us back to center with compassion that begins with ourselves and inevitably out to those around us. And really what could be more attractive than that?
Part 1 of Dating Survival Guides sets up the process of engaging with these patterns with mindfulness and self-compassion. This recent article is a brilliant essay on the power of this archetype and how we compromise for love.
Dating can feel like a trip to the amusement park, filled with excitement, ups, downs and the occasional sense of inertia. Certain archetypes can help serve as guides for keeping grounded while amidst the thrills and spills of dating life. So far I’ve written about archetypal attraction based on shared patterns, paired needs and romantic chemistry. Now it’s time to dig into some of the archetypal characters that will likely show up for everyone dating. They also can play into why some people don’t even dip their toe into the dating pool. I call these our Survival Archetypes. They are roles we take on when we feel vulnerable as well as ones that can guide us to authentically being ourselves.
We all work with the survival archetypes. Some people are so in the thrall of the unempowered aspects of them that they have a hard time seeing beyond their negative effects. It’s my hope to turn this around a bit. Each archetype should be used as a guide – not a way to judge yourself poorly. In fact they are an excellent way of spotting how you might judge yourself and how to make a more empowering choice.
The four dating Survival Guides are: The Victim, The Prostitute, The Child and The Saboteur.
The names of these archetypes might seem to some harsh or intimidating, but that’s because we tend to know them only by their pathology. They also contain a wonderful possibility that often gets overlooked.
I launched this series on dating by recommending attention as a key for getting clear on who you are and who you want to form a relationship with. Paying attention to your thoughts and behaviors by seeing them as patterns helps you get clear on your options. That clarity can get lost however if we use the pattern to judge ourselves poorly or condemn ourselves.
The technology of using archetypes is best served with a practice akin to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) coupled with self-compassion. The basis of MBSR is moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. Awareness and self compassion are powerful practices in life and especially in the necessarily vulnerable experience of dating. Developing awareness and self compassion practices can make all the difference in being able to be authentic (you know, the real you) and attract the right people into your life. This isn’t just me talking, there are increasingly more scientific studies showing how awareness and self compassion are amazing for us in every aspect of our lives, from reducing stress, relieving pain and bringing greater resilience and happiness to practitioners. Two other pioneers in this field are Kelly McGonigal, Phd and Kristen Neff, Phd. Neff’s book Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind is an excellent starting place.
This series will focus on each of the four survival archetypes as they might show up for a single person looking to meet a significant other. They are of course useful to those already in relationship or those thinking about ‘getting back out there’. I’ll share ideas on ways to bring awareness to your actions and choices in a way that helps you enjoy yourself more in the process of creating new relationships. If we are enjoying ourselves from the beginning, we’ll be less prone to heap expectations on the person we are dating and vice versa. Sound good? Look for updates soon and links will be added to the list above so you can jump to the next exciting article.
In part 2 of this series, I wrote about the ways of Romantic Archetypal Attraction where people are drawn together by the complimentary needs and attributes of their archetypes. Equally important is the kind of an attraction to someone because of shared qualities. If you are interested in seeing how archetypes can help you select better dates, then taking a look at how Shared Archetypal Attraction works will help.
Meeting someone with one or more of the same archetypes can mean near instant bonding as well as attraction. I think of this as a kind of friend chemistry, which when it comes to dating can be really important especially if you are looking for a long term relationship. Friend chemistry doesn’t mean it’s without romantic spark however, just that it doesn’t require it.
You probably share quite a few archetypes with your friends – it’s one of the main ways people bond. Social groups and even companies stick together based on archetypal patterns. The archetypes of a group tend to form the goals and not the other way around.
Take a moment to think about your group of friends. How are you bonded together? Is it through the shared experience of working or sharing activities together? Do you have similar values and tastes? Which archetypes do you share? (here’s a list of some as a refresher). Now as you are interacting with people, possible dates or even looking through online dating profiles, what archetypes are you looking for?
Below are some examples of shared experiences and some of the possible shared archetypes:
- Being outdoors, hiking, biking, kayaking, bird watching, camping, working with animals: Nature Child, Adventurer, Athlete, Explorer
- Trying out new restaurants, cuisines, going to a spa, getting a massage, a mani-pedi, cooking a gourmet meal together: Hedonist, Gourmet (Foodie), God/Goddess (think Venus and Bacchus), Lover, Prince/Princess
- Going to concerts, museums, galleries, attending lectures on creativity, art. Touring a city by going to look at all of the neighborhood murals: Artist, Creator, Dreamer, Lover, Poet
- Pulling practical jokes, writing or performing comedy skits, telling jokes, goofing around, going to comedy shows, doing impersonations, telling funny stories: Clown, Fool, Trickster, Entertainer, Storyteller, Magical or Eternal Child (Peter Pan)
- Book clubs, study groups, classes and workshops: Student, Seeker, Detective, Teacher, Guide
- Volunteering, political rallies, fund raisers: Servant, Advocate, Activist, Philanthropist, Rebel, Revolutionary, Liberator
Sharing an archetype means you just naturally ‘get’ what you share with each other. There is generally little need to explain or cajole the other into an activity or discussion as it pertains to your shared archetype.
The next in the series about Archetypal Attraction and Romantic Chemistry
The Knight and the Damsel are a matched set of patterns with naturally occurring complimentary attributes and dysfunctions. This can be true of any couple with these archetypes no matter their gender, same, different or otherwise. While we think of the Knight as a man and the Damsel a woman, that’s not always the case. I’m going to go the traditional route here but keep an open mind that the archetypes are not necessarily gender specific.
The painting to the right is an eloquent image of the romantic chemistry of the Knight and the Damsel.
Notice the Damsel, who I’m going to call Miriam, stands above George (her Knight) which is symbolic of the pedestal of her more delicate nature, in other words, that which needs or wants protection. Miriam is dressed beautifully, her hair perfectly combed as she leans gracefully to tie her scarf (a token of her love and support) onto his armor before he goes off to battle the nasty icky dragon.
Miriam has a civilizing effect on George, whom she believes would probably be just another brute in jangling armor were it not for her inspiring beauty and attention. For George, Miriam is the reflection of his inner feminine nature, emotional, delicate and not something he generally sees in himself. For George, going off to slay the dragon is natural, Miriam’s support makes it all the more noble and important because he can do the manly things he needs to do knowing that she will be safe and there when he returns. Symbolically he can leave his own feminine nature safely at home while Miriam can see a reflection of her masculine side go off to do the tough and dangerous work.
The romantic chemistry for the Knight and the Damsel is so complimentary that it goes a long way by creating deep bonds and mutual admiration. It often imbues that sense of puzzle pieces fitting together that I mentioned in a previous article. But then there are the dragons, which in this image are both looming in the distance and perched at home on the balustrade.
The dragons rear up when one or the other get tired of all this projecting of what they want to see in themselves in the other person. George doesn’t want to deal with his emotions – especially when Miriam practically demands that he take off all his armor and do just that. Or when Miriam feels stifled up on that pedestal, maintaining her beauty for him and generally waiting for George to stop being so bloody insensitive. What attracts these two archetypes can be exactly what drives them nuts. The path back to being complimentary patterns who support each other (from co-dependent to interdependent) is often a truce of sorts that allows each to see the others nature as a reflection rather than a projection. George is able to see his own feminine nature and Miriam her ability to protect herself as they work to integrate the full breadth of these archetypes. When these two archetypes get together in a healthy way and honor each other for who they are – it’s a power team to be sure.
There are several sets of fictional characters that I can think of that model the empowered Knight and Damsel coupling. Interesting to note that several of them come from the mystery genre of fiction – both authored by men. Nick and Nora Charles are fictional characters created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel The Thin Man. While also boozily humorous, these two play off each other well in the generally empowered Knight and Damsel roles. Susan Silverman and Spenser in the long running series of Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker excel at being a Knight/Damsel power couple. Throughout the series of nearly 40 novels the two go through pretty much every archetypal peril and triumph with both heart and wisdom.
More recently, the BBC/PBS series Downton Abbey features an excellent example of an empowered Knight and Damsel in the characters of John Bates and Anna Smith. They remain steadfast and trusting of each other but not demanding. Bates does not treat Anna as if she is weak but he is protective. They both honor the masculine and feminine in each other.
Volumes have been written about Venus and Mars and their challenges which the Knight and the Damsel are rooted in. For a deeper , non-fiction insight into these archetypal relationships and the Western concept of Romance, I highly recommend Jungian psychologist Robert A. Johnson’s “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love“.
Read Archetype attraction part 1: The Basics
Romantic Archetypal Chemistry is based on complimentary needs. Typically it’s either an archetype we value or one that reflects qualities we want to see in ourselves. This is the kind of attraction we usually think of in terms of romance and dating. You know, that subtle “the puzzle pieces just fit together” kind of attraction. That’s great right? Who doesn’t like feeling that way? Of course there are some pitfalls to Romantic Archetypal Chemistry because the ingrained traits and their shadowy bits can make for a rough time once the heady days of romance wane. This, my friends, is where the archetypal view becomes even more helpful.
Romantic Archetypal Chemistry means that there are qualities that you both have that work well together because each feels the one has something the other lacks. The big reality check is that this isn’t always strictly true, it just seems like it. Call it mirroring or projection, each need and need not fulfilled by the other can either be an ugly wedge into a relationship or a way to gain a much bigger understanding.
Take these classic Romantic Archetypal Chemistry combinations below for example. It’s not hard to see where the interdependence starts to form. And from that, guilt and resentment can grow like mold in a frat house fridge.
- Victim & Rescuer (or Healer, Caregiver,Hero)
Is this really considered Romantic, you might ask? In the way of Western Psychological Romance, I believe so. Look to many the romantic novel or film and you’ll see the dynamic of perceiving that the other has something one lacks and is attracted for that very reason. It’s based on a belief that you and the other person somehow complete a circuit, but many times it’s a circuit of lack and not necessarily fruition.
Are these combinations doomed because of their inherent attraction and difficulties? Not at all. Knowing what the expectations are can make all the difference. If you know you have a Rescuer archetype you have a much greater understanding of how you operate and can choose not to enter into a relationship with someone who needs rescuing or not. This is something one of my clients took on and found it life changing – read about it in this case-study.
Next in the series: Romantic Chemistry: The Knight and the Damsel
Stay tuned for more!
Commments? Questions? Leave a message below.
We are attracted to people by archetypal patterns. For most people it can be so subtle that you don’t know what’s going on, but paying attention to these powerful patterns can really improve your dating experience. I mean, wouldn’t you want something to help guide you through the sometimes dark and murky forest of dating life and toward what you are really looking for?
No need to take tests, get astrological information, blood type or genealogy, just pay attention, suss out the patterns and go from there. In this series I’m going to break archetypal attraction down to some usable basics. The key to all of this is to pay attention in a new way – one that is a bit less emotionally cloudy. You needn’t be a detective, but someone who can see, listen and be present to what is going on with yourself and the people you are meeting.
There are two basic ways to look at archetype attraction, Romantic Archetypal Chemistry and Shared Archetypal Chemistry. We are repelled by certain archetypes too but I’ll cover that in another post.
Archetypes are short hand for an indelible collection of behaviors, personality traits and most importantly motivations. They have a light side and a dark side. Unless you are living on another planet, you can bet that it’s only the happy shiny version of the archetype that’s showing up for dates for the first few months.
“When you date…have you ever noticed when you meet somebody for the first time, you’re not meeting them. You’re meeting their “representative”. Then after a about 3 months you meet the REAL Candidate” ~Chris Rock
Knowing the archetypal makeup of yourself (both the shiny and the dark) and the one(s) you are dating is a good way to have an idea of what the potential is for the relationship as well as steer clear of some unwanted dating mismatches. How do you do this? Well naturally working with someone like myself will give you that edge but I’m hoping that these articles will have you beginning to use these ideas.
To get you started – think about the relationship you are looking for – what archetypes do you want that person to have? What attracts you to those archetypes in another person? Use the archetype list here as a reference.
Archetype attraction part 2: Romantic Chemistry
Not an endorsement of the book, but a funny picture. Photo©Isaach Hsieh
I was at a gathering recently and mentioned that I was thinking of writing about archetypes and dating. Heads swiveled, glasses stopped clinking and I had the feeling that I was in some sort of TV commercial with all eyes on me. Everyone wanted to know more and where they could go to read up on my insights. The response, beyond being kinda funny, has been pretty much the same for everyone I’ve floated the idea out to. It’s a fascinating topic and with that kind of response, how could refuse?
Do archetypes play a part in dating? Oh indeed they do! In fact dating might be one of those activities that bring out some patterns that you might not have thought much about before or just took to be typical dating neurosis.
For some, dating is a joy, to others it’s a chore or even akin to a trip to the dentist. For those of you in the latter camps, here’s some good news, there is a different way to look at dating beyond the love it/hate it quotient. One that is as multi-contextual and fascinating as life itself and yet totally practical. Archetypes might be one of the best ways to get clear on who you are and what you want before you pick up the phone, go out to the bars, start that online profile or flirt with the girl/guy in line with you at Trader Joes.
So friends, fellow singles and interested parties I’m going to put what I know about archetypes and dating out there and include some of the things I’ve learned from other sources into this new series of posts. My style will be a bit more casual, and a bit more comical. Posts will always have the comment section open for questions and feedback. You could even start now by adding your own 2 cents worth, request or question.
Here is a list of all of the Archetypes and Dating posts