©Jason Blait courtesy of Flickr
Let’s consider for a moment that we all have a container in our psyche that holds the entire history of our being wounded: betrayal, abandonment, shame – the whole painful enchilada. This same container also holds the story of our healing: past, present and future. The archetype of the Victim is our guide through these storylines and shows us either a heroic triumph or an exasperating epic that never seems to end. The difference being which side of the pattern we pay attention to.
The Victim, like the rest of the survival archetypes has a bad reputation which might be why it’s easy to spot in others but sometimes difficult to own in ourselves. This bad rep is due to most of us only seeing the unempowered side. The unempowered version of the Victim is stuck, complains about how they have been wronged and are convinced that they had little to no bearing on the outcome of the wounding incident. We’ve all known “Debbie Downers” who incessantly complain about everything and re-frame their experience to get attention or sympathy. Often times this is seen as the Martyr which shares a good bit of DNA with the Victim, but lacks the element of witnessing a larger truth. The unempowered Victim will hand everything over and expect someone else to ‘fix it’. The balance of power lies outside when the Victim shows up in it’s shadow form.
“It’s your/their fault.”
“It’s all my fault.”
“I’m always getting hurt.”
“No one understands me.”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“This always happens to me.”
Conversely, the empowered Victim has an intimate understanding of their own trajectory of having been wounded and what it took (or will take) to work with it to come out on the other side stronger and more wise than before. Their power remains within them even if they ask for help. Help for the empowered Victim is not handing the problem over to someone else but to actively engage to work through an issue with some assistance.
“I made a mistake, now I’m going to…”
“This is really hard but I can do this.”
“I’m going to need some help with this.”
“I’m getting back in the game.”
“Live and learn.”
Spotting this pattern as it emerges allows for a broader range of choices where one can decide which side of the Victim card they want to play. Recognizing that the Victim is an archetypal pattern that all humans share can be a first step to take the sting out of a situation and make room for real compassion. After all, compassion is one of the things we seek when we’ve been hurt. Recognition and attention to the situation seen first as a pattern also points us toward discernment and wisdom instead of harsh judgement which can just exacerbate the pain of the situation.
The richer more enlivening place to draw from is that of the path of healing, which is to say the empowered Victim. Healing encompasses the story of the wound as well as what it it took to get to wholeness again. Not only wholeness but an expasiveness that did not exist before the wound. What do I mean by this? This quote from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the pioneering psychiatrist sums it up nicely.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen…”
©Garry Wilmore courtesy of Flickr
Having gone through something difficult and come out the other side with more wisdom, compassion and understanding is the Victim’s ultimate journey. The ways and means of a life with knowledge of the Victim pattern reminds us how strong we can be. A talisman that says we can’t rush healing to a perfection of wholeness but neither can we stay in the pure pain of a wound for very long. Even those who claim they are wounded beyond repair are not immune to what the world brings them as healing salve if they are open to it. The kindness of a friend or a beautiful piece of music can be healing. It’s the choices one makes to accept the gifts of healing and the stories we choose about what happened to us that make the difference. The Victim is a guide to how we work with the painful times as well as a way to be more generous with ourselves and others.
The Fifth edition of the Archetypal Tarot Podcast explores the meaning behind the Emperor card of the Tarot as a stage of a journey where one is asked to create structure and practical plans for your project or dream so that it can be fortified before going on to the next stage of the journey. The Emperor symbolizes the archetype of the Father as well as the King. Listen in as Julienne and Cyndera discuss these important patterns to our growth and flourishing.
Listen Now! or Subscribe in iTunes
Listen in on a conversation with Tarot Dream Stone
consultant Cyndera Quakenbush and Archetypal Consultant
, Julienne Givot, as they discuss the symbolic and real world qualities of these archetypal characters.
Books mentioned in the podcast:
We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert A. Johnson
He: Understanding Masculine Psychology by Robert A. Johnson
She: Understanding Feminine Psychology by Robert A. Johnson
Below is an expanded list of these two archetypes in popular culture.
Examples of the Father Archetype’s light aspects in Film and Television:
- Gregory Peck in ”To Kill a Mockingbird'”(1962)
- Frances McDormand in “Almost Famous” (2000)
- Bill Cosby in “The Cosby Show”
- Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006)
- Paddy Constantine in “In America” – (2002) directed by Jim Sheridan
- Sean Connery in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) both shadow and light
- “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” (2005) directed by Zhang Yimou
- Alan Arkin in “Edward Scissorhands” (1990)
- Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica” (2005)
Examples of the Father Archetype’s shadow aspects in Film and Television:
- Jon Hamm in “Mad Men” (AMC)
- John Lithgow in “Dexter” (Showtime) and “Footloose” (1984)
- Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty” (1999)
- James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos” (HBO)
Examples of some of the shadow and light characteristics of the Father archetype but also an example of the cultures misunderstanding of this archetype:
- John Cryer in “Two and Half Men” (CBS)
- Homer Simpson in “The Simpsons” (FOX)
- Ed O’Neill in “Married with Children” (ABC)
Examples of the King Archetype’s light aspects in Film and Television:
- Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Gallactica (SciFi Channel) (both aspects)
- Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech” (2010)
- William Moseley as Peter in the Narnia Chronicle series
- Keisha Castle Hughes and Rawiri Paratene in Whalerider (2002)
- Sean Connery in “The Man Who Would be King, First Knight, Time Bandits (both aspects)
- Good King Wenceslas (myth / song)
Examples of the Father Archetype’s shadow aspects in Film and Television:
- Marlon Brando in The Godfather (king/father)
- Christopher Walken in “The King of New York” (1990)
- James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos (HBO)
- Darth Vader in Star Wars
- John Noble as Lord Denethor in the “Lord of The Rings: Return of the King” (2003)
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Little things can mean a lot. Let’s say you’re having a crappy day and you’re at the store when the cashier pulls out a coupon that saves you a dollar. This gives you a boost and you walk out the door in a better mood. Maybe you don’t honk at the numbskull ahead of you for doing whatever it is that annoys you. That person doesn’t get irked with you for being a numbskull honking at them and who knows what other little improvements occur because someone did you a solid just for the heck of it. Little bits of beauty & generosity have a tendency to carry on long after their tipping point. Like watching a TED talk and getting inspired to write an article about something both simple and radically important about the patterns at work in our lives.
Neil Pasricha decided to do something seemingly small when he was going through a very rough patch in his life. His marriage was falling apart, his best friend took his own life and he naturally was finding it really hard to think of anything good. He started a blog in order to record and share what he called 1000 Awesome Things, figuring that it might help him focus on the positive again. Little did he know that this one effort would have him publishing books, calendars, TED talks and receiving a Webby Award for his blog in 2010. All of this AND bringing a grin or a LOL to millions of readers. Neil’s 17 minute talk about how all of this came about is totally worth watching so, go ahead, it’s right down there, I’ll wait. Then you can read about how this talk is an invocation of three of your core archetypes. (Or you can just skip to the next bit.)
Neil calls the major lessons of his experience the three A’s of Awesome: Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity. Each of these invokes one of your core archetypal patterns, the Victim (Attitude), the Child (Awareness) and the Prostitute (Authenticity). These are 3 of the 4 core universal archetypes common to everyone also known as the Survival Archetypes.
Neil’s own story has a lot to do with the Victim archetype. He could have simply wallowed in his circumstances, let them take over and obscure the beauty in his life. The unempowered side of the Victim is the part of us that can get wrapped up in anger, sadness, and blame. We all have a Victim pattern in our lives – we have setbacks, get hurt, make mistakes, have crappy days when we feel like we’ve gotten the fuzzy side of the lollipop. We also have the empowered side of the Victim that makes choices to get out of the mire of blame and move on. Neil calls this ‘Attitude’ and I see it as using the pattern of the Victim to make a gigantic difference in a few small choices.
The second ‘A’ of Awesome is Awareness and this invokes the Child archetype in us. The Child or as Neil says, our inner three year old, can be amazed at the simplest things, see beauty where most adults just see a knot in a piece of wood. Invoking the awareness of the Child archetype can help us enjoy something simple, open our eyes to opportunity or just appreciate something we would ordinarily pass by. This isn’t just a mood lifter, but a way to be in the world with a deeper sense of presence. The Child can be the antidote to a fast paced world where it’s difficult not to become jaded to little pleasures like putting on socks still warm from the dryer.
The third ‘A’ is for Authenticity which believe it or not, invokes Prostitute archetype. The unempowered Prostitute is that part of us that will negotiate our self worth away because of someone elses opinion or keep us doing something we dislike because we feel we can’t do anything else. The empowered Prostitute reminds us that we can be authentic and make choices not based on fear but out of an authentic belief in ourselves. Neil uses the example of pro football player Rosie Grier and his penchant for needlepoint as an example of authenticity. Rosie could have easily kept his passion for something unmanly under wraps and let what other people might think of him control who he was (keep in mind this was the early 1970’s) but he didn’t. In fact he published several books on his interests. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
While this archetype has a shocking name, it can be a guide for us to live authentically. Are you not doing something because you are afraid of what people might think of you? Are you putting the opinions of others over your authentic dreams and desires?
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“.
Are you the hub that connects a diverse group of people? If someone mentions they are looking for a new job or a place to have great Korean Barbecue do you have a list of suggestions for them? Do you make it a habit of never throwing out business cards or deleting numbers out of your phone, just in case you want to contact them or share their info with someone else (not counting ex-boyfriends/girlfriends). These are all traits of the Networker archetype.
We are in an age of connectivity and it doesn’t appear that we can ever really go back to a time of slow paced communications. It’s as if technology is making Networkers of all of us to one degree or another.
I had a chance to observe how people socialize in a Networker environment during last week’s Small Business Week in San Francisco. I could see people with a natural penchant for the Networker chatting up one person after another, exchanging business cards and moving on to the next. Others seemed a bit more reticent to walk up to a stranger and introduce themselves. If you fall into the latter category, here’s good news – you needn’t have the Networker archetype to make new connections, you just need to pay attention and find someone who is. The next step might be the most difficult for the shy, but will pay off with a deep breath and a “Hello, my name is. . .” to a Networker. If they are worth their salt in networking they will be glad to meet you and introduce you to more people with little prompting. Often times it’s as simple as staying in their orbit and letting them do what they do best. These are the social butterflies with the smart phone filled with contacts and are often the key to finding the people, resources and excellent gelato that you have been looking for.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is an ode to the power of this particular archetype. Imagine how many times in your life you have met just the right person or found just the right thing because you made one little contact. Gladwell goes even further to show us just how incredibly powerful the archetype of the Networker is to spread ideas and bring about change. He breaks the process down and provides real life case studies that apply to everything from political, ideological to fashion trends. He describes what I would call flavors of the Networker archetype, the Connector, The Maven and the Salesperson each with their own behaviors and motivations.
- The Connector has friends and acquaintances everywhere – they are the social glue that spreads an idea.
- The Maven collects knowledge and loves sharing it on the basis of educating. They are the information brokers or data banks of information. They are motivated not just by networking but by teaching (Teacher) and serving (Servant).
- The Salesperson enjoys helping and building relationships with optimism and physicality. They are natural persuaders and are able to connect people to ideas and products.
Little things can indeed make a big difference. Social Media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp were created to facilitate just such things and have been known to make or break ideas, careers and products with their speed of communication and sheer reach into our collective consciousness.
There is of course an empowered side and a dis-empowered side to each archetype. The Networker can use it’s power for good or for selfish. Like many other archetypes, it’s shadow side is the reverse of it’s empowered behavior. The Networker can use it’s skills and connections for purely self-serving or manipulative purposes, pitting one connection against another, withholding information or delving into another related archetype with a pernicious bent, the Gossip.
So if you are a Networker, Connector, Maven or Salesperson you have what it takes to facilitate all sorts of connections, hopefully using your powers for good.
Archetype Crib Sheet:
Networker (Messenger, Herald, Courier, Journalist, Communicator)
Although networking seems like a very modern skill tied to career advancement in the media age, it is actually quite ancient. Networkers expand their sphere of influence by forging alliances and making connections among vastly different groups of people, and can be traced back to the intrigues of the Middle Ages, Greece, Rome, and ancient China. Networking would also have been an integral part of any military alliance as well as all social and clan confederations in prehistory. In its positive aspect, this archetype has a it helps us develop social flexibility and empathy that enables it to find commonality with others who might not at first seem to be potential friends, allies, or confederates. Like the related archetypes of Messenger and Communicator, the Networker has the skills to bring information–or power– and inspiration to disparate groups of people. The shadow Networker merely uses others for personal gain.
Films: John Boles in A Message to Garcia; Stewart Peterson in Pony Express Rider; Jeff Goldblum in Between the Lines; Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde; Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame
Religion/Myth: Almost every culture on earth has or had a messenger of the gods who networks between the divine and human realms, including the angel Raphael (Judaism); Gabriel (Christianity); Jibril (Islam); Matarisvan (Vedic India); Eagle, Coyote (American Indian); Iris, Hermes (Greece); Mercury (Rome); Sraosa (Zoroastrianism); Nusku (Assyria); Nirah (Sumeria); Srosh (Persia); Paynal (Aztec); Savali (Samoa); Gou Mang (China); Narada (Java); Gna, Hermod (Norse)
Image courtesy of Identity Pursuit
“So much is happening in the world, earthquakes, revolutions and wars and you’re writing about the archetype of the Lover?” My reply: “Heck yeah, with all this chaos how do we approach what needs to be done without the passion of a Lover!?” She gave me a look of kind incredulity. “But the Lover? what could be more dreamy and ungrounded?”. I love my friend (pun intended), and her point is well made, the archetype of the Lover can be fluffy. The Casablanca version of this archetype is ubiquitous and needs little explanation, but to limit the Lover to only romantic endeavors would be carving out but a tiny slice of it’s potential expression.
At the risk of sounding like a tragically optimistic hippie – what the world needs now is love. There I said it. How about this – peace is sexy! Why does peace need to be a meek dove awaiting release from a cage? It doesn’t. It’s a succulent main course not a delicate dessert.
We’ve got war, strife, stress, anxiety and for some reason we fight fire with fire. That or we just tune it out with distractions. Both approaches take a lot of energy. The Lover is marked by passion, devotion and exuberance. All qualities we need to counterbalance the fear and confusion of the world scene today.
There are many forms of love and all can be expressed within the pattern of the Lover archetype. The ancient Greeks spoke of ‘agape’ or brotherly love as well as the erotic love related to the god Eros. It matters not which form, the Lover wants to be in touch with it both literally and figuratively. The Lover is about action and expression. It calls us to move out into the world or to at least take on a fuller more sense related (sensual) experience in our lives.
The 1989 film Dead Poets Society tells the story of the many forms of the Lover archetype. This 5 minute clip sets up the theme for the film which is centered around the ethos of the Lover – to devote oneself to passion and expression, in other words to love life and “Seize the Day”. It also tells of the potential cost of doing so in a society that might not support your efforts. Go ahead, watch the clip.
The film uses the context of a stuffy boarding school in the 1950s as a metaphor for the hemmed-in life of society’s expectations and boundaries. Robin Williams plays Mr. Keating the Teacher/Liberator encouraging the boys to be ignited by their passions, to devote themselves to what their souls call them to do. The many iterations of the Lover are portrayed in the film interlaced with archetypes: hopeful Knox Overtstreet madly in love with the blonde cheerleader, rebellious Charlie Dalton enamored with freedom and expression, Todd the painfully shy Invisible Child who longs to express himself and Neil, the Artist who finds his souls expression in acting. I won’t spoil the end for you but just as in life, requiring approval can be disastrous especially with an archetype such as the Lover. The shadow of the Lover looms large towards the end of the film and evokes tragedy when love leads to obsession, desperation and a loss of faith.
Love is not something that you can save up and put in a bank account. It can’t be bottled, lent or borrowed. By nature it’s fiery and must be expressed in some way. An energy that must move can be channeled into our daily challenges, both personal and social.
How much more connected to purpose can one be than when they are in love? Imagine what it would be like to love a problem. The Lover is able to see the essence of the beloved and can hold that image through thick and thin. I realize this goes against many notions of how to take action or work with something as fractious as the problems we face now, but the old paradigms are crumbling and we are in need of some new patterns.
Archetype Crib Sheet:
This archetype appears not only in those who are romantically inclined, but also in anyone who exhibits great passion and devotion. One can be a Lover of art, music, gardening, Persian carpets, nature, or needlepoint. The key is having a sense of unbridled and exaggerated affection and appreciation of someone or something that influences the organization of your life and environment. The Lover is connected to issues of self-esteem because this archetype is so strongly represented by one’s physical appearance. Even if you have the Lover archetype prominently in your psyche, you may repress this pattern out of a lack of self-esteem, especially regarding your physical attractiveness. The shadow lover manifests as an exaggerated obsessive passion that has a destructive effect on one’s physical or mental health and self-esteem.
Films: Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck; Charles Denner in The Man Who Loved Women (Truffaut version); Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca; Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge, Dead Poets Society, John Hannah in Sliding Doors, Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in Moonrise Kingdom
Drama: Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare Books:
Fiction – Stealing Heaven by Marion Meade (Abelard and Heloise),
Non-fiction – King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
“The problem, if you love it, is as beautiful as a sunset.”
(With thanks to my client, Val for reminding me of this great quote!)
Here’s a great post on Peace is Sexy.
Emily Dickinson Image via Wikipedia
In his biography of Emily Dickinson, Alfred Habeggar describes a scene where Emily sits happily in the lap of a male acquaintance in the front room of her family home. During her later years, she found pleasure in this man’s attentions long after mysteriously absenting herself from Amhearst’s social life and an almost complete inaccessibility to all but the most intimate and trusted friends and family. We know her to be an eccentric and quite likely a virgin, yet this example contradicts all that we assume about virgins. How can someone who rejects physical intimacy and normal human sexuality be comfortable canoodling with a widowed judge? As well, there are many accounts of Queen Elizabeth I being overly demonstrative and affectionate with male courtiers and visiting dignitaries while also cultivating a reputation as the Virgin Queen. Notes written in the private papers of her Council members and others close to her affirm their belief in her sexual inexperience. The question bears repeating: How can a virgin be at once physically inaccessible and sexually expressive?
Typically, a virgin is seen as one who cannot bear to be touched, inexperience, naive, and traditionally female. These barriers to intimacy comprise an over-identification of the self with intangibles in an inviolable sense of purity, or the Damaged Virgin. We see similar expressions in ourselves when we recoil from an object that is unclean, like scrubbing a toilet on our hands and knees or laying flat on our backs to change the oil in a car. Our wider culture has limited the state of the Virgin to the purity and separateness of her body, specifically the state of her hymen. “Virgin” is often used in reference to an individual’s state of pre-initation before a particular experience (a vessel’s first trip is a “maiden voyage”). This usage refers to a lack of experience in an individual or object, implying a transitional consciousness, a Before and After expression when looking back tat the event.
Unfortunately for the damaged virgin, very few people on this planet have arrived without the benefit of at least one person having an orgasm. Sexuality and physical intimacy is an experience that all of us share in common, both in our own experiences and that of our forebears. For some, engaging in a mutual sexual experience is the basis for expectation and ownership. As the comedian Sommore says in The Queens of Comedy, “…you f*ck with me, you stuck with me.” [Censorship added] For much of human history, the act of marriage has transferred the exercise of a woman’s power of choice from her father to her husband,
Vestal Virgin engraving by Sir Edward Leighton
demonstrated most visibly in the change of her name. But in ancient Rome, when a girl was selected to enter the service of the Goddess Vesta, she escaped the common social practice of her culture and moved beyond the strict bondage of a male relative. She was expected to remain celibate, (to be more specific, uninitiated in the ways of physical intimacy with a man) in her 30 years or more in Vesta’s service. Serving the goddess effectively and exemplifying an unimpeachable character for Rome’s citizens required a great degree of training (education), consequentially enabling a personal mind, her own view of herself and the world. Whether she decided at the end of her term to remain within the Temple or to go out into the world and marry a man of her choice, in her late-thirties on, neither the Vestals’ mind nor body would be owned by husband, father, son or brother.
We can examine a virgin’s sexuality as a means of seeing this pattern symbolically: Sexuality is a way of expressing a person’s accessibility . Literally, a virgin’s crotch is closed for business. We can say ‘access’ is also ‘proximity’ in that we often do not allow ourselves to be near certain experiences, ideas, and individuals. When we hold ourselves apart from the truth, when we won’t allow certain people near us for whatever reason though simultaneously we long to be with them, we are expressing a damaged virginity.
The Virgin’s association with purity applies deeper than a physical condition and contacts an inherently internal intimacy. This archetype enters our lives when we feel a need to draw inward, pursuing exquisitely personal questions that are commonly suppressed in the social expressions of ourselves. In the doldrums of personal awareness we may not access others in the same ways we had before, lacking connection professionally, socially, sexually, and conversationally that were once so automatic and assured. The Virgin can be seen as a gatekeeper of the spiritual path, an advocate for personal introduction. But the expression of the Virgin as a spiritual mentor is temporary and wisely recognized as a pause for the sake of upgrading ourselves. Once our lives open up again, we return in possession not only of new understandings, but of ourselves too.
More than a sexual experience with a cast of one (or for some of us, hundreds), this archetype contacts an outrageous expression of one’s personal identity. “Outrageous” because this pattern has the potential to embody an inviolability that is independent of our experiences, lays beyond our physical location, is separate from our familial lineages. Virgins contain a knowledge of themselves that can be seen by others, but never tainted, claimed, co-opted, or violated. Going through the experience of isolation and self-focus earns the Virgin attributes that extend beyond any physical grasp.
One answer to the question how can a virgin be at once physically inaccessible and sexually expressive may be:
I am myself. My body, my attention, my affections are all mine to share and intimacy at any level comes from me, not as a reward or certificate of ownership, but as part of that which I have to offer those of my choosing.
Mythology/Religion: Artemis/Diana; The Madonna; Hestia/Vesta; Minerva/Athena; Vestal Virgins
Historical Figures: Queen Elizabeth I; Emily Dickinson; Joan of Arc
Movies: The Forty Year Old Virgin; Sean Connery in The Medicine Man; Kirstin Dunst et al. in The Virgin Suicides; Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
I haven’t found a more potent and exciting combination of the Hedonist and the Revolutionary archetypes than in Jamie Oliver (formerly know as the Naked Chef). One of the the UK’s brightest culinary exports is taking America by storm and I for one love him all the more for it. He won the TED prize in 2010 and began by using his 100k grant to start a Food Revolution!. One year later his progress is stunning and includes a partnership with the American Heart Association and numerous thriving community projects. You can read more about it here at TED.com
Jamie is an archetypal Hedonist – he loves food – good food – nutritious and delicious food. He is rebelling against the status quo (Rebel) of processed food and unhealthy diets and is a Revolutionary leading a movement to change the way we eat, what we feed our children and how we treat food in general. Watch his impassioned speech from the TED Awards and you’ll see this Hedonist/Revolutionary using his powers for good and not evil.
Jamie’s mad as hell that American children are being fed so poorly and he’s not going to take it any more! This Food Revolution was televised last year on ABC and now can be seen online at Hulu.com. Besides being educational, the program was entertaining and engaging in a way only someone with a great deal of passion for change and a good bit of playful sensibility could. Along with the Hedonist, Rebel and Revolutionary archetypes, I’ve observed the Divine Child, Father, Teacher and the Fool playing out in Jamie both on television and how he presents himself in his work.
“This Food Revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way people eat. It’s not just a TV show; it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future, take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking, and find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better, it will also add years to your life.” ~ Jamie Oliver
What is most exciting for me is that the combination of Hedonist and Revolutionary presents a deeply personal examination of both how we care for our health in terms what we eat and the pleasurable, social aspects of eating as a joyous and healing experience.
Image via Wikipedia
Jamie is not the first Hedonist-Revolutionary however. Alice Waters of the famed restaurant, Chez Panisse began her crusade decades ago and continues to revolutionize how we grow, cook and share food through her Chez Panisse Foundation and the Edible Schoolyard.
Archetype Crib Sheet:
Hedonist (Related archetypes Bon Vivant, Chef, Gourmet, Sybarite) This archetype has an immense appetite for the pleasurable aspects of life, from good food and wine to sexuality and sensuality. Indulging the self is central to the psyche of this archetype, whether treating oneself to a health spa or creating and indulging in delicious food. The Hedonist celebrates life in all it’s pleasure, with joy and sensuality. The shadow Hedonist may manifest as being self-indulgent without regard for other people or one’s own good health.
Films: Babbette’s Feast, Like Water for Chocolate, Big Night, Tampopo, 91/2 Weeks, Sex and the City 2
Fiction: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding; The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera; Les Liaisons Dangereuses by P. Choderlos DeLaclos.
Revolutionary This archetype of the Revolutionary is motivated to radically transform the conventional order. The Revolutionary awakens consciousness and works for change in any area from politics to science, art and in the case of Jamie Oliver & Alice Waters, the way we view and consume food. Revolutionaries are also inventors and business people who create and promote ground-breaking new products and services that create change. Director Lars von Trier and his Dogme 95 Collective are an excellent example of revolutionary ideas in action in the art of film making.
Films: Motorcycle Diaries, The Corporation, V for Vendetta, Fahrenheit 9/11, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Star Wars (original trilogy), The Social Network.
Theater: Bertolt Brecht
Books: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Future of Revolutions: Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization edited by John Foran,
Understanding archetypes goes much deeper than a chat about a movie and beyond the confines of a psychology textbook. An archetype is not just a pattern “out there” in theory but it is a recurring set of experiences that unfold through the course of a human life. Our ability to spot when a particular pattern walks in the door makes the difference between acting out and making a conscious choice. We begin to view the shape of our lives within an archetypal language by introducing ourselves to four patterns that we all share, the Survival Archetypes. Let’s imagine that four well-known television characters become clothed for a time with each her own version of a pattern. Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia share a home somewhere in Miami in the Emmy winning television sitcom, The Golden Girls.
‘Rose’ image via Wikipedia
This pattern and the next are the most obvious to match with characters from the show. Rose captures the essence of the Child perfectly. Her wide, gullible eyes lack any indication of doubt because she accepts anything an adult tells her. The pattern itself balances innocence and responsibility. Forced to make her way through life by her own efforts, Rose gathers herself up from a fantasy world where she is taken care of by her husband’s pension plan or a steady job and takes life on directly. This is significant because the Child has to leave the safety of the family and enter a harsh world populated by sharply critical adults. When we want to run away from a situation and deny what is happening, we are confronting the Child within us. Yet this is also the pattern where we can choose to see each situation as overflowing with limitless potential and see things as new again.
‘Blanche’ image via Wikipedia
Of course it’s Blanche. In almost every episode, she decides to assign a value to her body by comparing her looks to another woman or using her body to advance her own interests. At every turn Blanche is chasing a man or furious that her wiles haven’t produced the results she expected. The Prostitute grabs a price scanner and makes its mark on every part of us it can so that we feel safe in the world, often by remaining in a relationship or a job. Whenever she is confronted with a problem, Blanche throws on a negligee and adjusts her makeup in order to barter her way through. She never fully believes in her own capacity to solve her problems beyond her salable attributes. Only by the end of an episode does Blanche find what is truly valuable: Her friendships and sense of herself beyond her outward appearance.
‘Dorothy’ image via Wikipedia
Dorothy is the “smart” one with the cold stares and the newspaper in her hand, ever expounding on the failures of society with its potential to violate and betray us. It is her voice that speaks up after silently burning for a few moments, waiting for the assault to stop, and sets appropriate boundaries. More than a few times Dorothy picks up a newspaper and hits Rose over the head when the St. Olaf stories go on too long. This is the Victim, present when we feel unable to defend ourselves but also when we go after someone else for revenge. Its empowerment isn’t in aggression and dominance but in being clear about our boundaries as they relate to who gets “in” as well as how far you get “out.”
‘Sophia’ image via Wikipedia
Sophia’s entrance is often preceded by someone starting to dream about a wonderful new idea or vision of themselves. She shuts them down with a opinion based on how they will fail, often gouging out a chunk of self esteem in the process. The Saboteur does the same. Dorothy, for her part the empowered Victim, slaps her hand across Sophia’s mouth to prevent the impending criticism. When you are about to make a choice that will interrupt a new opportunity for you to build self-esteem and connect to your destiny, the Saboteur has entered the room. Through the entire series, Sophia exemplifies the Saboteur in her attempts to pursue a vibrant, active life for a woman in her eighties and confronts the view that she is hastening towards senility and the grave. The ability to step into a new life for ourselves is guarded by the Saboteur, but make no mistake: This is the pattern where WE are blocking our way forward, not anybody else.
Blanche: What do you think of my new dress? Is it me?
Sophia: It’s too tight, it’s too short and shows too much cleavage for a woman your age.
Dorothy: Yes, Blanche. It’s you.
Picture it: One night you can’t get to sleep. Something’s really bothering you at work or you’re ashamed of your bank account. Maybe you’re not with the person you love anymore. Whatever it is, you get up and shuffle into the kitchen. Soon, you are surrounded by four of your lifelong archetypal pals, only they’re doing all the talking. You sit there on the table while they pick at you, bicker and lay into each other with their concerns and fears. Basically, you’re a cheesecake, slowly eaten away bite after bite. Instead of becoming a pile of crumbs when these voices are in control, we can take the time to pursue a relationship with them. We can know when we are making a choice that obscures or magnifies our destiny. At first a silent partner, studying our deeper motivations, but in time we claim our place at the table. Eventually, we will distance ourselves from their automatic choices and see what has been waiting beyond our fears in front of us the whole time.
More articles about the Survival Archetypes
Darryl “DMC” McDaniels
“Everything happens for a reason.” Says Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, who is one third of the pioneering rap group Run DMC and one of the most influential rap artists of all time. At the age of 35, DMC made a startling discovery and suddenly, everything he thought he knew about himself had changed. He told his story on stage at a Moth Storytelling event which was aired on the radio and subsequently published as a podcast. Info on subscribing to the free podcast here.
DMC’s story caught my attention because it’s about purpose, destiny and the seemingly small things that can lead us to it’s discovery. Even something as simple as hearing a song on the radio. The archetypes of the Artist, Midas, Angel and Orphan feature prominently in this true story. I’ve noted them parenthetically.
Darryl had everything he wanted (Midas). An incredible career, top selling records, fame, money, respect, a healthy family, good upbringing – the whole thing and yet he was depressed (Artist). While on tour in Europe he began to have suicidal thoughts. He could sum up all of the things that were wonderful in his life but he couldn’t connect it all together, something was missing. He decided to put off thoughts of suicide until the tour was over. When he returned home, he got in the limo and heard a song on the radio called “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. As he listened to the song, something in him said “life is beautiful, it’s good to be alive”. (Angel)
Image via Wikipedia
For the next year, listening to Sarah McLachlan’s music was all that kept him going. His obsession with her music confounded his friends and colleagues. He is a rap star after all and what is he doing just sitting at home listening to some chick folk singer? His manager convinced him to leave the house to attend a music industry party. DMC wasn’t interested in going, but agreed to go for an hour. Even though he was surrounded by pop luminaries like Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keyes, DMC couldn’t care less (Orphan). He was counting the minutes until he could leave when Sarah McLachlan walked into the room. He finally had the opportunity to meet her and tell her how much her music meant to him. To hear him tell it, he came off like a bit of a lunatic praising her music and how it changed his life. She demurred and thanked him saying “That is what music is supposed to do”. (Much like an archetypal Angel would do.)
Three years go by and Darryl is still trying to figure out what he is missing. He decides to write an autobiography and calls his Mom to ask her about when he was born. His perspective completely pivots when his parents tell him that he was adopted. (Orphan)
“Now if you think there is really a time to commit suicide, finding out you’re adopted at age 35… but right then and there something happened. I remembered, when I asked myself ‘am I here to be DMC?’ and summed it up, that, was the missing piece, the void was filled. I really wanted to kill myself but then I remembered something, Sarah McLachlan said ‘that’s what music is supposed to do’. So I said ok before I get suicidal, depressed and do something real crazy, I need to write a record that’s going to help that little orphan or that little kid in foster care who thinks they threw me away, I’m worthless, I mean nothin…because I may be DMC but what I really represent is purpose and destiny. I need to make a record that will inspire somebody the way Sarah McLachlan inspired me.” ~ Darryl “DMC” McDaniels
What this revelation brought about was just that. In fact he contacted Sarah McLachlan and they recorded a hip hop mash up of Harry Chapin’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle” together and dedicated it to “every life and every soul touched by the reality and experience of adoption“. Just as Darryl was leaving the recording studio Sarah said “I’ve got to tell you something. I was adopted too, and I didn’t know that.” Everything happens for a reason.
In 2006 Darryl “DMC” McDaniels was presented with the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award for his work with children in foster care promotion of adoption.
Click to watch the video of “Just Like Me” by DMC featuring Sarah McLachlan
Click to watch the video for Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”
We find ourselves in the middle of the first month of the New Year. The air is still fresh, dreams are new, and heartbeats run fast. Maybe, like me, you are starting to slump under the abundance of material on keeping resolutions for the next twelve months. Instead of yet another piece on holding your intentions for the next month, let’s look at an archetype that can be your ally for the rest of your life.
Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr
The Zombie, which is only increasing its popularity in films, comic books, and classic novel mash-ups, is an image that hardly needs an introduction. They are dead people returned from the grave, wandering around the land, and groaning after the living. Side-stepping the gory details, the classic Zombie is easy to recognize: Insatiable hunger, a monotonously numbing routine, and a lack of individual choice are three primary characteristics of this pattern. Any act, from voracious spending to pursuing increasing amounts of attention, qualifies as long as what you gain is never enough. This is not consuming for sustenance, but as a temporary fulfillment, stilling any discontent and numbing you to the full experience of life. Where is the ability to make a personal choice if one has glutton-ed themselves to the point of total numbness? That’s why you rarely see a lonely zombie. They’re part of a group, all of them chasing an endless appetite.
Zombies move in groups, lack a personal identity, and are attracted by that which is not like them, namely someone alive. They move together with a singular goal to consume and internalize some part of a person who, through their life, possess a personal share of destiny. Unfortunately, once a living person contacts a zombie they become part of the homogeneous group lacking independent animation and destiny. Instead of claiming their own destiny, zombies are attracted to someone else’s and consume what they can until everyone is in the half-life existence.
The Raising of Lazarus – Vincent Van Gogh
It is the empowered Zombie that wakes up and moves toward her passions and the life that has been calling her. Lazarus in the Gospel of John is a useful illustration to this point. He had been dead and in a cave for several days before Jesus finally rolled into town. After speaking with the deceased’s grieving family members, Jesus stood outside the cave and called to the dead. (This is the voice of destiny urging the zombie to stir from his half-life.) A few moments later Lazarus woke, walked out into the daylight and stood while his face, hands, and feet were unwrapped from the constraining funerary garments.
For you and I, we can detect the presence of the Zombie when we find ourselves deep in our caves, consuming all that spews out of our electric displays, wondering at those who seem to have a slice of their own destiny. We may dream at the possibilities of fame and glazed camera lights instead of making things happen for ourselves. There is a voice outside in the sunlight calling to us every moment to wake up and come out into the world. First, we have to shake off the bindings that block our walking and our talking. We have to struggle to move and at times even to hear the voice itself. But we can walk out into the brightness of the life that we were born to live and follow each our own destinies. What better time to resolve our own longings than right now?
Film & Television: 28 Days Later; The Night of the Living Dead; Shaun of the Dead; Office Space; Clockwatchers; Fido; Zombieland; the Borg in Star Trek
Fiction: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith; the Inferi in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling; 1984 by George Orwell; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Religion/Myth: Lazarus in The New Testament (John, Chapter 11)
My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead (New York Times)
The still life of an Artmonk
How do archetypal motivations become passions that bring something new into the world? Sometimes one enriches another so much as to create a whole new experience. Inspiration is the deity of the Artist and contemplation the mark of the Monk/Nun. These two archetypes might not ordinarily be considered a natural synergistic match but in 2006, Bay Area artists Betsy McCall and Christopher Fülling began such an adventure in creativity and contemplation called The Art Monastery Project.
The Art Monastery Project is a contemporary experiment in social sculpture inspired by the tradition of the Monk/Nun: to apply the disciplined, contemplative, and sustainable monastic way of living to the creative process of the Artist.
Labro, Italy – home of The Art Monastery Project
Betsy and Christopher, along with a growing group of like minded ‘Artmonks’ embarked on a search for a location to put down roots for their project in 2007. Europe is home to many monasteries and convents that now sit empty, virtually waiting for their next community to inhabit them. After a search of over 25 different locations, they found their ideal home in the monastery San Antonio in the medieval hill town of Labro, 70 minutes north east of Rome, Italy. The building dates back to the 17th century when it was a Franciscan monastery and now hosts the artists of the Art Monastery Project, as well as a world-class hotel and a restaurant.
This international group of multi-disciplinary artists seeks to create original, collaborative work and live together as an intentional community. The practices of the Monk not only serve the creative process of the Artist but also honor the community and environment in which they live. The people of Labro have embraced being a part of this symbiotic relationship and are active participants in cultivating their town as a center of art and cultural tourism.
The guiding principles of The Art Monastery Project
Our world has been shaped by passionate people who reflect deeply about what they can give and who embrace their full creative inspiration and dedication to manifest this insight into being. The Artmonks are passionate about artistic excellence, innovative spiritual process and the investigation into the nature and benefits of community living. They are open to new international collaborations as well as new community members. Local Artmonk groups are being formed all over the United States.
For more information on the Art Monastery Project, how you can give your support or even join in on the experience visit their website. They also have a You Tube channel with videos of their stunning dance, music and other artistic productions.
The archetype of the Artist is marked by passion to express a dimension of life that is just beyond the five senses. The Artist psyche is animated with the energy to express it into physical forms. The nature or relative grandeur of any form of expression is irrelevant; a chef can be as much of an artist as a painter or landscaper. The signature of artists is not in what they do but in how intense their motivation is to manifest the extraordinary. Doing what you do in such a way that you create an emotional field that inspires others also indicates the Artist energy at work, as does the emotional and psychological need to express yourself so much that your well-being is wrapped up in this energy.
The archetype of the Monk/Nun is marked by intensity, devotion, dedication, persistence, and wisdom. On the shadow side, the role of a religious recluse could be seen as removed from the real world, overly pious, even privileged in the sense of not having to be concerned about earning a living or raising a family. Yet, historically, monks have been extremely industrious and involved in real-world enterprises, whether draining swamps and planting vineyards in medieval Europe, working the rice fields in Asia, building monasteries, teaching, or copying and preserving texts. Today the Monk archetype may show up in the ability to be single-minded, assiduous, devoted to a spiritual path or to any great achievement that requires intense focus. In this sense, novelists and entrepreneurs can carry the Monk as readily as spiritual adepts.
Image by Loving Earth via Flickr
Know a Martyr? Most people have had the experience of working with or knowing someone with a Martyr archetype, or maybe you even see it in yourself. I’d like to provide some information in order to help understand and work with this pattern.
Bad Reputation The Martyr archetype seems to get a bad rap and I think I know why. It has to do with the Martyr’s very visible shadow form and a motivation behind the behavior that is not always clear. You might be familiar with the ‘hand-on-forehead-oh-I’ll-do-it-because-no-one-else-will’ type of Martyr behavior. This is but one shadow aspect of the pattern that has garnered a bad reputation but there is far more to it than that.
Motivation The heart of any archetypal pattern is its underlying motivations. Unless we are looking for this archetype in ourselves we won’t always know what is motivating the person involved, but being aware of the probable motivators can make all the difference. This awareness enables us to work with the archetype more effectively and take things less personally.
Witness, Sacrifice, Receive The archetype of the Martyr has it’s roots in witnessing as much as in sacrifice. The word ‘martyr’ itself comes from the Greek word for ‘witness’. It is synonymous with a willingness to proceed because of a higher cause or truth despite the risk of injury or sacrifice. While we tend to associate the Martyr with its shadowy side of manipulation, at it’s core it’s about doing the right thing – even if that right thing is just in the mind of the individual. An important and often overlooked facet of this archetype is that of receiving, be it help, praise, recognition or what have you. I found this written about the archetype of the Martyr at work in the Organizational Development Journal helpful:
Healthy martyrdom revolves around sacrifice by choice, which opens the martyr to receive as well as to give. People who feel they must take care of everything and everyone, yet refuse to receive in return, are acting out the shadow aspect of the Martyr archetype. Their ceaseless giving permits them to manipulate and feel superior to those they are helping, even as they complain about how deprived they are.
Mistaken Identity Since the behavior can be similar, maybe people confuse the Martyr with other archetypal patterns. The difference is in the motivation. Below is a list of a couple that I come across frequently in my practice.
- If the core motivation is feeling less valuable and therefore doing more to seem of greater value – it’s not the Martyr but the Prostitute archetype at play.
- If the core motivation is to protect from being taken advantage of, doing more or showing up in a way so as to fend off criticism, it’s most likely the Victim archetype. Of course it could be a little of both.
The Martyr is also mistaken for the Hero, Advocate, and Avenger archetypes but differs in the fulcrum of it’s motivation. The Martyr can very often be an aspect of the Mother and Father archetypes where the role of witness for the family tends to fall to one or both of the parents in addition to the sacrifice called forth by the archetype.
Statue of Joan of Arc / photo ©Julienne Givot
The Empowered Martyr The empowered Martyr witnesses a higher principle and is willing to go the distance not for themselves but for the benefit of others. It’s the witnessing and not just the sacrifice that makes a Martyr.
Modern Martyrs Lilly Ledbetter was employed by Goodyear Tires for nineteen years before she discovered that she was paid far less for the same work as her male peers. She filed a lawsuit against Goodyear, and after a long legal battle, her case was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court; she lost. The Supreme Court stated she had taken too long to file a complaint. Ledbetter pursued an effort to persuade congress and the President that there was a need for change. Over a decade later she succeeded and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law in early 2009. A woman of retirement age, who probably had other things to attend to, decided that the principle of fair pay was worth the effort and sacrifice even if she herself would not be able to take advantage of the goal she worked for. This is the heart of the empowered Martyr.
A mention of modern day representations of the Martyr archetype would be remiss without of course honoring Civil Rights pioneers Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk, Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza, and most recently Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize Winner from Burma.
Films: Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons; Meryl Streep in Silkwood; Denzel Washington in Malcolm X; Ben Kingsley in Gandhi; Sean Penn in Milk; Made in Dagenham
Drama: Saint Joan by G.B. Shaw.
Fiction: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Religion/Myth: Many Christian saints, including Joan of Arc; Mansur al-Hallaj (10th-century Sufi mystic martyred for his belief that God existed within him).
Image via Wikipedia
I try to make a point to write about what could be called the ‘unsung’ archetypes. One’s that don’t seem to have a popular or even a very present place in our culture. Last month I wrote about the archetype of the Scribe to illuminate it’s presence and potential for positive change.
I’ve recently come across some wonderful pieces of poetry and it brought to mind the power of the Poet archetype. For many people poetry can seem lofty , arcane or just downright fluffy in terms of day to day life and yet a good piece of poetry can stop us in our tracks with it’s ability to communicate a deep truth. T.S. Eliot I think puts it best.
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” ~T.S. Eliot
When I come upon genuine poetry as Eliot describes, I am taken aback by its ability to circumvent the mind and drop away all it’s judgment so I can just be with something true.
My recent discovery is that of the contemporary Poet, David Whyte. He embodies the Poet archetype as well as the Teacher, the Philosopher and the Guide. He is not only a respected Poet but also teaches corporate executives and businesses using poetry as well as being the author of several non-fiction books. In reading his work I felt first-hand, the power of the Poet – the transmission of a truth with a capital ‘T’.
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
the step you don’t want to take.
(Excerpted from “Start Close In” – the full poem can be found here.)
In trying to sum up the deepest power of the Poet archetype, I found exactly what I was looking for in the description of one of Whyte’s workshops:
Poetry as Robust Vulnerability: Language Against Which We Have No Defenses: Poetry is a break for freedom. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. In a sense, all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable. Yet only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk, into territory that previously seemed unobtainable, in the passage of a few short lines.
Now that is a power worth treasuring! I’ll agree with Shelley when he said that Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
Films: Glenda Jackson in Stevie; Philippe Noiret in Il Postino; Sean Connery in A Fine Madness, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries; Wes Bentley in American Beauty, Ethan Hawke in Dead Poets Society; Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur in Poetic Justice
Fiction: The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll (shadow);
Religion/Myth: King David (ruler of Israel credited with writing many of the Psalms); Orpheus (great musician and poet of Greek myth, capable of charming wild beasts); Bragi (in Norse myth, the god of eloquence and patron of poets); Finn Mac Cumhail (legendary Irish hero and leader who was also greatly skilled as a poet).
This comes on the heels of a similarly themed article that I published in June called “Does productivity = happiness?” which deals with the same topic. Statistician (a Scribe in Archetypal terms) Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation’s success by its productivity — instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised. Here’s his fascinating TED Talk:
I find real world examples of the Visionary, Scribe, Detective and the Advocate in this presentation. The Scribe archetype in particular tends not to get a lot of attention. Clients rarely pick this archetype the first time around. Maybe it’s the name “Scribe”, it just doesn’t have the pizazz that “Alchemist” or “Visionary” do. Anyway, I’d like to use this presentation by a Statistician aka a modern Scribe, to illustrate the power of this archetype. Where would we be if there weren’t Scribes to keep track of our history, our finances and even to use statistics to help enlighten and help us solve real-world issues like happiness and climate change?
The Scribe Archetype – description and history
Variations on this archetype are: Journalist, Documentarian, Accountant, Secretary, Record Keeper and Genealogist.
The Scribe differs from Author or Artist in one significant way: scribes copy or use existing works rather than create new ones. The Hebrew scribes were originally secretaries who wrote down the preachings of the prophets, but evolved into a priestly class charged with writing and maintaining the laws and records, copying previous scrolls, and committing oral traditions to paper. Medieval Christian scribes copied manuscripts and helped preserve learning. In India, the sages who compiled the Vedas are known as vyasa, a Sanskrit word that means “collector” but could be translated as “scribe.” We can expand the definition to cover modern journalists, who also record the existing knowledge and information of their day and uncover secrets (investigative reporters). And we would also have to include that largely anonymous horde of copiers who are busy uploading everything imaginable onto the Internet in the hope of preserving it by distributing it to millions. What makes the Internet the modern equivalent of the medieval scriptorum is that so much information is transcribed onto it not for personal gain but for the sheer joy of preserving and sharing these artifacts with the rest of the world.
The shadow aspect of the Scribe can manifest in altering facts, plagiarizing, or selling information that belongs to others. You could even say that a crooked Accountant is a shadow Scribe or a photo-journalist that sets up images to portray a biased opinion.
Films: Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in All the President’s Men; Sally Field in Absence of Malice (shadow); Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (shadow); Nicole Kidman in To Die For (shadow); Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.
Fiction: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Religion/Myth: Ezra (Hebrew scribe and priest, best known for collecting and editing the books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, in the fifth century B.C.); Imhotep (in Egyptian myth, an architect, physician, and scribe in the court of the Pharaoh Zoser); Thoth (Egyptian god of wisdom, inventor of writing, and patron of scribes, often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis, holding a scribal tablet and reed pen).
This is a true story about one woman, the Storyteller archetype and it’s power for both good and tragic. I came across it on a podcast recording from The Moth which is a not-for-profit storytelling organization.
photo by Eddi
When Nancy Finton was in her early 20’s she had a job as a bartender in New York City. She tells of riding the subway home late at night and walking along dark streets making up stories about how she would defeat any attacker who came her way. Sometimes she would walk with such belief in her own goodness that she imagined that no one would dare hurt her. She relates how these stories would make her feel safe and how they had seemingly worked as she had so far never been assaulted.
A few years later, she was living in Norway and was attacked when walking home from a bar late at night. She escaped the would-be rapist by talking to him, telling him that this was not what he wanted, not really, and asking him about himself. In trying to get his story from him, she disarmed him (figuratively) and got home safely.
A week later she heard a news report that a woman had been raped in the same place where she had been attacked. She had not reported her incident because she told herself (another story) that since she had not seen his face it was useless to report it. The truth was that she was embarrassed that she had taken such a risk walking home alone so late and she feared that the police would mock her. She was also feeling good about herself that her power to tell stories had again kept her safe. She admitted that what she had been telling herself had blinded her to the fact that it was not just her story. The story included others – including the girl who had been raped and who she could have possibly spared by stepping out of her story and taking the opportunity to report it.
There are several layers here that illuminate just how powerful the Storyteller archetype can be:
- She used the Storyteller archetype to feel confident and then when threatened, to distract her attacker.
- The Storyteller also kept her inside her own story and blinded her to the greater context of what happened.
In an act to relay how she herself got ‘storyfied’ (got caught up in her own story) the author chooses to share it via a medium that attracts other Storytellers. I have no way of knowing her real intentions, but it strikes me that her ability to communicate the whole story – including the crappy bits about her actions – has a curative power for her. Could it be catharsis? A cautionary tale? Maybe both. Either way it’s a powerful and real example of the Storyteller in action.
Films: Rod Taylor as Sean O’Casey in Young Cassidy; Laurence Harvey and Karl Boehm in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm; Judy Davis as George Sand in Impromptu; Barbara Bel Geddes in I Remember Mama.
Fiction:Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad; Beloved by Toni Morrison; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
Religion/Myth: Homer (combined history and mythology in the action adventures of the Odyssey and the Iliad); Blaise (Welsh storyteller who in Arthurian legend became Merlin’s scribe); Thamyris (Thracian minstrel who won so many contests that he challenged the Muses themselves, and in return for his presumption was struck blind).
Fairy Tales: Arabian Nights (Tales of Sheherezade)
The term Prostitute doesn’t typically come up in polite conversation. It does however in popular culture, usually in it’s slang form, “ho”. In fact “ho” is used quite liberally and casually in music, movies and by kids talking on the bus.
So what is all this “Ho” business? Do they really mean the Prostitute archetype when referring to someone as a “Ho”? I looked up the definition from the slang website Urban Dictionary (Warning – this site does contain much foul language). Below is the 3rd listed definition:
Ho (noun): Anyone who dehumanizes themselves by selling their soul to others. The term can be applied to either a man or a woman or–as in the case of <Anne Coulter>–both.
Aspersions on Ms Coulter aside (although it did make me giggle), the definition is spot-on for the Prostitute archetype in it’s shadow aspect. So it seems the terms don’t differ in their meaning but I believe that there is a much better, more productive way of looking at this archetype.
The Prostitute is one of the four survival archetypes which we all have. You, Me, the barista at the cafe and yes even Ann Coulter (ok, I’ll leave her alone for a while) – we all have a Prostitute archetypal pattern working somewhere in our lives. The Prostitute archetype is our negotiator. It is also a signpost of our level of faith in ourselves.
We all negotiate ourselves one way or the other – much of the time it comes down to how we feel about ourselves in the situation. Sometimes it’s a case of selling out or selling up. So as with any archetype, we meet it in both it’s light and shadow incarnations.
To find the Prostitute archetype one only needs to look to the moments when we feel our faith in ourselves slipping away. Be it in our job, relationships, finance or shopping for shoes, the Prostitute archetype can go looking for something to trade away to feel safe again. Minor or major, situations like these come upon us again and again:
- We withhold our opinion because we fear being judged. What this does however, is make their opinion more important than ours.
- We stay late at work, neglecting our personal life in order to feel more secure in our job. Is the job important? Of course it is, but when this negotiation is based on fear, we are more likely to sell out which is not an empowered position.
- We stay in a relationship that has gone bad in order to have someone in our life. – OR – We neglect our own needs because we are afraid that it might lead to a break up, a fight or more work than we want to deal with.
We sell our happiness, peace and honesty for what often times is just a flimsy sense of safety. Sadly these things tend to pile up and create an ugly reckoning later on.
So how do we not become a ‘ho’ in these situations? Awareness is the first step – it can be a doozy – but it’s the doorway to better choices.
- Be on the lookout for this pattern in your life.
- Look at when it comes up and why.
- What situations trigger it?
- What are some alternatives to the un-empowered behaviors and choices that it can tempt you with?
The role of the Prostitute is to alert us when we are losing faith in ourselves. Use it as a ‘poke in the arm’ to remind you that you have the ability to shore up faith and confidence in yourself. The empowered Prostitute archetype imbues a sense of worth, faith and confidence.
Once upon a time I was in a grocery store check-out line and struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me. We were talking about good deeds and she mentioned how her friend liked to put quarters in parking meters for total strangers. She called her friend the ‘Parking Meter Fairy’.
While we often associate the Fairy Godmother (FGM) archetype with children’s stories and fairy tales, they do walk among us. They might not have a talking umbrella or a magic wand, but people with the FGM archetype are real.
What makes a Fairy Godmother in terms of an archetype?
The Fairy Godmother and Fairy Godfather archetypes are closely related to the Angel archetype in that they generally have loving, nurturing qualities and a tendency to help those in need, either anonymously or with no expectation of any return. While their natures can be maternal, they don’t necessarily have children of their own but often serve as foster parents or guides to others. Some other tell-tale characteristics are:
- Enjoy throwing parties, dressing up and helping others to have a good time
- Provide make-overs and ways people can feel better about themselves
- They can see the potential in something or someone and can help bring that to life
- Excellent gift-givers (and many times anonymously)
- Adopts or otherwise takes on a protégé (or several)
- Has unbridled support of one’s growth and achievement
- The FGM/FGF might grant a wish or two but nearly always teach how we have magic of our own
- The ability to see the best in someone but also administer a stern word or two if necessary
- Tends to be smart, knowing, wise and slightly aloof
- Often portrayed as eccentric or quirky if not down right odd
As with any archetype, the expression is up to the individual, so not all of these characteristics will be the same person to person.
“Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
Film: Mary Poppins, Wizard of Oz, Sleeping Beauty, Princess and the Frog, Cinderella and Auntie Mame all feature a Fairy Godmother archetype in action. The title character in ‘Amelie’ is a Fairy Godmother/Angel as she anonymously does good deeds for people as well as some mischievous ones. Dustin Hoffman’s role in ‘Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium‘ is a prime example of a very endearing Fairy Godfather as is Robert DeNiro’s Captain Shakespeare in ‘Stardust’.
Literature: Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, Aunt March in Little Women, Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, Lady Lilith de Tempscire of the Discworld series, Leanansidhe from the Dresden Files series, Mrs. Madrigal in the Tales of the City series
Television: Oprah, Stacy and Clinton from the make-over show ‘What Not To Wear’ (They might be catty, but you can also tell they really enjoy helping people feel better about themselves.), the animated series The Fairly Odd Parents, Stephen Root as Jimmy James in ‘News Radio’
The Shadow side of the FGM:
It would be nice to think that these generally lovely and helpful archetypes don’t have a shadow side, but alas they do and it can be a doozy!
Hepzibah, the angry Fairy Godmother in the Disney version of ‘Sleeping Beauty ‘curses the baby when she isn’t invited to the christening. Fairy Godmother in ‘Shrek 2’ manipulates and plots against the heroes to get her way – in fact she shows only the shadow aspects of the FGM.
Glenn Close as the Marquise in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ is about as evil as a Fairy Godmother can be. The very good can go very, very bad. In ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ you will see that the Marquise has the same archetypes as Auntie Mame, only they are all in shadow.
The shadow aspect of the FGM usually has to do with putting in effort and then being resentful when they don’t get thanks or attention. The FGM gets the Princess ready for the ball but never gets to go herself. The downside of being both aloof and giving can be spite and self-pity. Not a lot of fun.
I’ll stick to the wisdom of Mr. Magorium:
“Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.”
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Poke fun all you want, but I am totally cool with their being a new Karate Kid movie (coming in June). I’ve no doubt that Jackie Chan can pull off the Mentor role first played by Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi). He’s made an entire career playing Fools and Warriors with a lesson to teach (Teacher) so this role should fit like a glove. From the trailer it appears that Jaden Smith is going to do well playing the scrappy young Warrior-in-training as Ralph Macchio did in 1984.
The Child/Victim taking down the Bully is one of our perennial archetypal stories. It’s the David and Goliath story all over again but this time in a 21st century context. I enjoy being entertained and reminded that we all have a deep well of strength within us which can many times only be found through adversity.
The Child, in order to go up against the Bully needs to learn how to find the strength to do so. The Mentor provides discipline and guidance to be come a true Warrior.
Contrary to much of our modern myths and movies, the core motivation of a Warrior is to protect boundaries – not seek vengeance or violence. The Warrior needs to be ready and have enough confidence to perform when he or she is called to duty. He or she might have been called to become a Warrior because they were beaten down by a Bully (become a Victim) but the most inspiring part of the story is the journey of learning not only how to build their strength but to learn respect and flexibility. Without respect and flexibility it’s far too easy to become a Bully and use strength for harm which continues the cycle of violence. The original Karate Kid did an excellent job of this and it looks like this new one will too.
The Warrior is about duty, protection, honor and respect but above all the wisdom to know when to fight and when to hold the line. Summer is coming and I am looking forward to some entertaining, inspiring and yes even big Hollywood cheesy movies.
The film “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” provides a prime example of the hero’s journey of each of the four core (or survival) archetypes: the Child, the Victim, the Prostitute, and the Saboteur. This film is an archetypal treasure trove, but for brevity’s sake I will concentrate mainly on these four.
The first character that we meet in the film is Dorothy – the Child. She looks for attention and is struggling to be heard and recognized by the adults (the Child seeking self-authority, responsibility). She longs for a place “somewhere over the rainbow” where she can have both authority and innocence – that is to say, a home of her own. The Child is the guardian of innocence and is the part of us that both wants and shuns responsibility and protection. Her hero’s journey begins when she is whisked out of Kansas by a tornado (chaos) and is taken to Oz where she finds new friends who will aid her on her journey back home.
After being recognized as a Hero by the Munchkins for doing away with the Wicked Witch of the East, she asks how to get home and is told that she needs to go ask the Wizard in the Emerald City for help. And so with a gift of ruby slippers on her feet, she starts out on the yellow brick road and happens upon the Scarecrow, her first ally on the journey.
The Scarecrow – the Saboteur, points in one direction and then another because he can’t make up his mind. He is stuck on a pole and announces that he is a failure because he hasn’t got a brain. The Scarecrow sings about all the things he would do ‘if only’ he had a brain. This is the Saboteur in the shadow aspect. The Saboteur is the guardian of self-esteem and choice. It represents both the voice in ourselves that sees things as confusion, lack or ‘if only’ as well as the voice that sees the attributes, resources and abilities available to transcend difficulties. In this sense the Saboteur is both our best ally and worst critic depending on what aspect we choose to imbue (shadow or light). You’ll see throughout the film the Scarecrow claiming he isn’t smart (shadow) and then using his intelligence (light) to help Dorothy and the others succeed in their quest.
Next our heroes meet the Tin Man – the Prostitute. He is standing alone, frozen and unable to speak in the forest. With the aid of Dorothy and the Scarecrow his joints are oiled (is given attention and love) and he can once again move and speak. The Tin Man’s complaint is that he hasn’t got a heart and sings about how loving he would be if he had one. He could then love freely without becoming frozen in fear. The heart here is symbolic of his faith in himself. The Prostitute archetype represents our internal negotiator, our guardian of faith and integrity. Like the Tin Man we can become frozen in fear when we feel our survival is threatened and will negotiate a price for ourselves to feel safe again. When Dorothy asks the Tin Man to join them he asks “Suppose I got there and he wouldn’t give me a heart?” – another question of faith.
The Cowardly Lion comes on as the Bully/Coward archetype but quickly transitions to the fourth and final Survival Archetype – The Victim. He claims that he has no courage and is therefore always the Victim (shadow). He is tormented by his fears and even scares himself. He complains about how unbearable life has been (seeking pity – shadow) and wants the Wizard to give him courage so he could be victorious (light). Later in the film he sings about how he would be transformed into a gracious and compassionate King (light) once he gets some courage.
Each of these characters is on a quest to get what they perceive as lacking from someone outside of themselves.
They have given the Wizard of Oz the authority to grant them what they need and have to face their fears and obstacles on their way to meet him. Each of these fears and obstacles are conquered using the exact thing that each of them believes they are missing. Only when they discover the Wizard to be a fraud do they begin to realize that they had what they were seeking all along. Being gracious though, they accept the blessing of the Wizard along with the symbols of their quest; a medal for courage (empowerment and self-esteem), a scroll for intelligence (choice and esteem), and a heart shaped pin for love (faith and integrity). Dorothy was carrying her symbol, the ruby slippers, the whole time and so too was her ability to get home (self authority).
We all have these powerful and transforming archetypal patterns in us and like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, we are on a quest to re-discover them. These are some of your powers – use them for good and not evil ;).
Interested to know more about how these archetypes work in dating and relationships? Dating Survival Guide series