Archetype Dialogue

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“For every typical situation in life,

There is an archetype corresponding to that situation.”

– Carl G. Jung (Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious)

Can you think of an issue about which you are conflicted or undecided, for which you can express “two sides” of the situation? E.G. whether to move or to stay with a job or to change a relationship? Or do you have a “personal conflict” over some area of your life that persists through the years without clear resolution?

When you have opposing viewpoints within yourself around an issue that is important to you, it’s as though you are two or more people about that. Here, we are talking about what Carl Jung and many others since have called Archetypes. These are submerged viewpoints, your ‘inner voices’ that might feel at odds with each other about how you should approach something.  James Hillman would say these various archetypal aspects of your Self are in your “Personal Unconscious”, and Jung would say we have even deeper sorts of archetypes in our “Collective Unconscious” that are universal.

As an anthropologist I take a practical approach as well as a “depth psychology” approach to archetypal character guises and traits. We all take on various ROLES in our lives that are associated with various STATUSES. These can include kinship statuses and roles (like Mother or Child, husband and wife) as well as occupational and recreational roles, like Doctor and Golfer. Each of these personal ROLES is associated with specific kinds of SITUATIONS we engage in regularly. And each of these brings out deep archetypal—not just formal ‘status’—aspects. Considering various Themes, or KINDS of situations in our lives, each Life Theme may be associated with archetypal character dispositions.  For example, ROMANCE might bring out the Lover in You, whereas EDUCATION may bring forth your Teacher and/or Student “parts of Self”, and SPORTS or MILITARY SERVICE might bring forth the Warrior. Each of these “situational archetype” parts-of-self has their own ‘character’ presence in your unique assemblage of archetypal outlooks. Some are deeply buried or suppressed (e.g. some may be in “Shadow” mode), while others may be more actively integrated within your conscious personality.

The Life Mapping activity for this week’s topic about Attitudes asks you to write or to imagine a DIALOGUE with two opposing viewpoints—both your own—around a topic you may feel conflicted or “dual” about. It can help to get these divergent sides talking to one another about a situation you are trying to better understand or resolve, especially if leaving it unresolved keeps you “stuck” about that issue.

Let me share an example from my Life Mapping cases. Mindy was a woman who had been experiencing a persistent dilemma for many years. In the course of life mapping she identified two Archetypal outlooks that she associated with a spiritual aspect—she called this her inner Warrior—and a Physical-life side of self, which she called her Descender. Around some of the same issues in her life, her Warrior-mystic and her Descender modes were at odds. Her Warrior wanted to follow inner spiritual nudges: make a move, take or end a job, accept a relationship. Her Descender, though, hated to be pinned to any decision.  Mindy journaled a dialogue between these two archetypal parts of self.  She found that one value was important to both of them: Freedom. But they each defined freedom in diametrically opposite ways! The Mystic thought freedom was about following inner nudges of spirit; it was “Spiritual Freedom”. The Descender wanted Freedom from commitments! So, for many years, Mystic-Mindy would boldly step forth and change locations, jobs or relationships. But almost immediately thereafter, Descender-Mindy would want to bolt; to leave that location, job or relationship. When Mindy put the two to talking with each other over a couple of weeks in her journal, they/she came to recognize how these opposing, archetype-driven points of view were interfering with her ever establishing a STABLE set of conditions. So she started asking them about their goals and she found some they shared. She needed a job, for instance, with built in variety and flexibility. Now Mindy has become a successful public speaker for a health supplements company she believes in. She gives workshops on various products and travels around the country. Both her Mystic and her Descender selves are happy, for once! Mindy has embraced and ‘integrated’ more of her total Self.

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Writing an archetype dialogue allows you to tap into aspects of yourself you might otherwise suppress. Offer a “safe space” to these feelings and viewpoints, knowing that your core Self will remain strong and centered throughout the exchange. Just as an example to get you started, let me illustrate briefly. I call this approach: “Open Mike”. Just set a topic about which you have dual or multiple ‘attitudes’, and invite your various situational selves to speak. If you’re not sure what topic to introduce, ask ‘them’ to suggest one for you!

Open MikeTopic: My currently overburdened schedule

This is crazy! How can we keep this up? You are going to collapse at this rate.

(Self in italics) Who are you?

Someone who wishes you would lighten up a bit…

A Nurturer, I believe.

Yes. You do need to give yourself some time to relax, dear. Breathe. Go to the gym. Read a Maeve Binchy novel; I want to!

I know but there is just so much to do. I have bitten off so much this semester…

This Life, don’t you mean? I am with you and want to see you reach your goals, too, Lindy, but she is right; you need to add some balance. Trust that you will get what you need to get done even better when you accept your time limitations.

Are you an Elder Leader?

No, a Communicator.

Thanks for all you contribute; all of you, too.

Nurturer: So what are you going to do to ease up a bit?

I will do what I can…feel free to nudge me when you see an opportunity for me to open a novel or take Sophie for a walk.

[This is just an example of how to begin an Archetypal “Open Mike” dialogue. It is helpful to have a journal dedicated to this exchange. Explore many topics; get to know these ‘parts’ of yourself that are always within you and can help you reach your Dreams! Use whatever names you want for these; in Life Paths I will be introducing a specific ‘pantheon’ of 12 universal archetype figures based on Jung and on the works of a lesser known archetypal psychologist, Dr. Charles Bebeau-LW]

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I invite your comments and stories of your own.

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Thanks for reading and for those who are “Liking,” Thank You!

Happy Valentines Day

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