©Justina Kochansky / Flickr
They say to always lead with your strength. I’m going to lead with one of my weaknesses – sometimes I feel like I’m not enough. Not smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough etc. Basically, take any positive quality and put ‘not’ in front and ‘enough’ behind it and I can, at some point, feel that this is so. It’s a type of nefarious self-judgement that most people can identify with and it can make dating un-fun and stressful. These self-judgements can take over and have us thinking that inadequacy is the only possible reason why we aren’t meeting that great guy or gal. And here’s the thing – a habit of believing ‘I am not enough’ does influence our dating experience and who we meet. Let me explain by wrapping it in the context of the archetype at play here.
Not-enoughness is the purview of the Prostitute archetype, which also goes by the name of the People Pleaser, among others. The Prostitute is symbolic of how we negotiate our integrity and self worth. The moment we begin to doubt our worth is a sign that the unempowered Prostitute is hanging out on our psyche’s street corner. It also encourages us to pretend we are something we aren’t because lack is crowding everything else out. It also means that everyone else is more important than we are. This only leads to more heartache.
There is a way to enable this archetype to work FOR us instead of selling our happiness out. Begin by noticing when you engage with the pattern of the Prostitute. Any thought that says ‘you are not enough’ is the archetypal voice of the unempowered Prostitute giving out bad information. Period. You ARE enough. The voice of the empowered Prostitute reminds you that you are enough as you are right now – an imperfect and amazing person, both. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you might want to work on, it means that you aren’t starting with a deficit.
Let me illustrate with some common dating scenarios and how the Prostitute archetype can show up in both unempowered and empowered ways:
You've met someone you like.
unempowered / judging
- Worry that they won’t be interested in you because you are inadequate in some way.
- Allow a list of ‘not-enough’s’ to cascade down the screen of your mind like the numbers and letters in the Matrix.
- Get neurotic about whether you should contact them.
- Check every ten minutes to see if they have called, texted or emailed you first.
empowered / innate worthiness
- Realize that the ‘not enoughs’ are not true and it’s a choice to identify with those thoughts or not. Besides all those crappy thoughts give you a headache.
- You are who you are ‘as is’ and you want to be with someone who accepts and cares for all of you.
- Call them within a time that makes sense and is respectful, in the mean time – enjoy yourself!
- Understand that your value is innate and not based on what other people think.
- If he/she isn’t into you, it is in no way a value judgement of who you are.
Dating someone who isn't good for you.
*Not good for you* generally means they don’t treat you well, take you for granted, put you down or in other ways are not positive for your well being.
unempowered / sell-out
- You keep dating them because you figure you can’t get anyone who is good for you because you aren’t ____ enough.
- You decide there are too many things you lack and it’s better to sell out than be without a date.
- You think that because you are inadequate and they are inadequate you somehow belong together.
empowered / worthy
- Respectfully and compassionately let your unhealthy relationship go (aka break up).
- Notice you spend way more time with the ‘not enough’ thoughts than you do with the truth of who you are and start reversing that situation.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy instead of worrying about Saturday night.
- Realize that dating someone does not make you any more or less valuable as a person.
Dating someone you aren't into.
unempowered / settling
- It’s nice to have someone be nice to you.
- They pay for dinner and/or provide company on Saturday night.
- No one else is on the horizon.
empowered / worthy
- Realize it’s not fair to anyone to stay in a relationship because you feel bad about yourself.
- Be the person who is nice to you.
- Realize that dating someone does not make you any more or less valuable as a person.
- Respectfully and compassionately let the relationship go (aka break up).
- Notice when you spend more time with the ‘not enough’ thoughts than you do with the truth of who you are and start reversing that situation.
Playing Hide and Seek
unempowered / unauthentic
- Wanting to share a part of yourself with your date/boyfriend/girlfriend but not doing it because they might judge you as not being ____ enough.
- Pretending to have traits that you don’t so they will like/love/accept you? (“Oh I love rock climbing” you say to your date when internally you are shuddering at the idea.)
- Saying yes to or asking for another date when you don’t want to.
- Saying you will call when you don’t intend to.
empowered / worthy
- Notice that you want to be known for who you really are and hiding a desire to share something about you is already a rejection.
- Your worth and love-ability are based on who you are and not whether you have the same interests as your date. You can show a genuine curiosity about their interests without having to fake enthusiasm.
- Acting on what you really want and being honest bestows respect and care on both you and your date.
Did you notice that the empowered sides of these scenarios were more loving, respectful, honest and authentic? That’s exactly who we are without the low worth rhetoric and those qualities are SO very attractive! The habit of thinking ‘not enough’ leads to more of the same; it’s focused on settling for whatever we can get which moves us farther and father away from what we actually want. Understanding that you are enough makes space to focus on what you really want in a relationship and changes the dynamic of choices in who you attract and engage with.
There are many books that have principles and stories that can help re-orient the Prostitute archetype from it’s low energy state to one where you hold your head high and stop trading away your innate fabulousness for anxious worries and low self worth. The wildly popular book from a few years ago, He’s Just Not That Into You highlights this perfectly and delivers it with a with a sizable dose of sharp candor. It applies to anyone working with the Prostitute archetype, which is pretty much everyone except for maybe the Dalai Lama.
“Being lonely … being alone … for many people … sucks. I get it, I get it, I get it. But still I have to say that yes, my belief is that being with somebody who makes you feel crappy or doesn’t honor the person you are is worse.” From He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tucillo
The empowered Prostitute holds him or herself with compassion and value, not higher or lower than anyone else but on the firm ground where we can meet others in the same way. It’s the same fertile ground where great relationships can grow. Learning how these internal archetypal patterns play out, can bring us back to center with compassion that begins with ourselves and inevitably out to those around us. And really what could be more attractive than that?
Part 1 of Dating Survival Guides sets up the process of engaging with these patterns with mindfulness and self-compassion. This recent article is a brilliant essay on the power of this archetype and how we compromise for love.
Dating can feel like a trip to the amusement park, filled with excitement, ups, downs and the occasional sense of inertia. Certain archetypes can help serve as guides for keeping grounded while amidst the thrills and spills of dating life. So far I’ve written about archetypal attraction based on shared patterns, paired needs and romantic chemistry. Now it’s time to dig into some of the archetypal characters that will likely show up for everyone dating. They also can play into why some people don’t even dip their toe into the dating pool. I call these our Survival Archetypes. They are roles we take on when we feel vulnerable as well as ones that can guide us to authentically being ourselves.
We all work with the survival archetypes. Some people are so in the thrall of the unempowered aspects of them that they have a hard time seeing beyond their negative effects. It’s my hope to turn this around a bit. Each archetype should be used as a guide – not a way to judge yourself poorly. In fact they are an excellent way of spotting how you might judge yourself and how to make a more empowering choice.
The four dating Survival Guides are: The Victim, The Prostitute, The Child and The Saboteur.
The names of these archetypes might seem to some harsh or intimidating, but that’s because we tend to know them only by their pathology. They also contain a wonderful possibility that often gets overlooked.
I launched this series on dating by recommending attention as a key for getting clear on who you are and who you want to form a relationship with. Paying attention to your thoughts and behaviors by seeing them as patterns helps you get clear on your options. That clarity can get lost however if we use the pattern to judge ourselves poorly or condemn ourselves.
The technology of using archetypes is best served with a practice akin to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) coupled with self-compassion. The basis of MBSR is moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. Awareness and self compassion are powerful practices in life and especially in the necessarily vulnerable experience of dating. Developing awareness and self compassion practices can make all the difference in being able to be authentic (you know, the real you) and attract the right people into your life. This isn’t just me talking, there are increasingly more scientific studies showing how awareness and self compassion are amazing for us in every aspect of our lives, from reducing stress, relieving pain and bringing greater resilience and happiness to practitioners. Two other pioneers in this field are Kelly McGonigal, Phd and Kristen Neff, Phd. Neff’s book Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind is an excellent starting place.
This series will focus on each of the four survival archetypes as they might show up for a single person looking to meet a significant other. They are of course useful to those already in relationship or those thinking about ‘getting back out there’. I’ll share ideas on ways to bring awareness to your actions and choices in a way that helps you enjoy yourself more in the process of creating new relationships. If we are enjoying ourselves from the beginning, we’ll be less prone to heap expectations on the person we are dating and vice versa. Sound good? Look for updates soon and links will be added to the list above so you can jump to the next exciting article.
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?
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
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.