Into each life comes information that changes the course of your life, in tiny ways and gargantuan ones. For me, books have always been a source of life-changing information. Fiction and non-fiction alike have turned the rudder of my life for as far back as I can remember. There are some that I sought out, heard about from a friend or teacher and others that literally have leaped off the shelf and fallen at my feet.
If you have a curiosity about meaning, creativity, relationships, connection, philosophy and just what the heck our purpose for being here is, you will get a great deal from these books too.
Of the very, very long list I could create, these are 10 of the most influential in my own life. I have read them all again and again, always gleaning new and delightful truth from them and often at just the right time.
There would be no point in trying to rank them in order of importance or impact but I’ve listed them in the order that I read them for the first time, going back over 20 years.
Over the coming months I will post my thoughts about many of these and invite you into discussion. Their wisdom is evergreen, their ability to bring light and truth as strong today as when they were published.
The 10 Books That Saved My Live (metaphorically anyway!)
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Theory of Everything by Ken Wilber
Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss
How Can I Help? by Ram Dass & Paul Gorman
The Soul’s Code by James Hillman
We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert A. Johnson
The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self & Relationship by David Whyte
Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Greg Boyle
If you have a book club and are looking for new exploratory books to read, I highly recommend every single one of these.
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.
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“.
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