Our Many Storied Selves: Twelve Universal Archetypes

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Life Paths, which is a personal growth and development book and self-help handbook, will present readers with an understanding of 12 Universal Archetype character-figures that are derived from the specific archetypal psychology approach of Dr. Charles Bebeau and his consociates including his wife Nin Bebeau and Debra Breazzano (MA, LPC). The Bebeaus founded and taught at the former Avalon Archetype Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  Basing his work on a solid foundation of Jungian Depth or Analytical Psychology and James Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology, and using symbology tracing back as far as ancient Sumerian mythology and astrology, Charles Bebeau recognized a pantheon of Twelve Universal classes of Archetypes from which all other idiosynchratic and culture-specific archetypal forms can be derived.

The Twelve represent energetic archetypal character forms that represent the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) and the three energetic phases of Process (origination, maintenance, dissolution). Robertson has noted that Jung himself drew attention to the “quaternity” and the “trinity” as intersecting dimensions of archetypal energy, precisely in accordance with Bebeau’s insightful system. Also check out this excellent post about HermesTrismegistus from the blog Symbol Reader, which references the Alchemical relevance of the conjunction of elements and process.

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Here then, are a primordial set of Twelve Universal Archetypes :

 

ELDER LEADER    ARTIST    TEACHER

LOVER    IDEALIST    COMMUNICATOR

WARRIOR    GOLDEN CHILD    HEALER

NURTURER    DESCENDER    MYSTIC

 

On Friday I will reblog an excellent post from the Ptero website, a brilliant Archetypal Psychology venue.  The Ptero posting (from 8/10/14), speaks evocatively of the ‘storied’ lives we all lead, and expresses how we personify our lives and Psyche with archetypal energies and forms; some collective, others of a more personal resonance.

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On Sunday I will further develop this thread with a special Guest Blog to this site from Debra Breazzano (MA, LPC), a prime proponent of the Bebeau/ Avalon archetypal system who is a practicing Archetypal Psychotherapist. Her post will answer many questions about the history of this approach and its value and significance from a psychotherapeutic perspective. I first encountered this approach synchronistically, as Breazzano’s therapy client over several years; and gradually I began recognizing its significance and incorporating aspects of this approach into my own emerging study of the Life Maps Process, so that archetypal psychology now appears to me to be vital for anyone truly aiming to “know thyself” and to advance in a balanced way to the pursuit of their dreams.

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But let’s go back to a more hands-on introduction for today:

This week’s technique of identifying character modes, or “guises” and traits associated with your SOCIAL ROLES in life, can go pretty far in helping you begin to recognize some of your own dominant archetypal impulses or influences. As a quick sample from my own life–which I invite you to try on and apply to your own life experience–I find the following archetypal influences operating within my presentation of self in various roles (You can refer to the table of 12 archetype names listed above):

Roles         Archetypes     Traits

Teacher     TEACHER        organized presentation, authoritative delivery, enthusiasm for student          learning

Pet Mom    NURTURER     caregiving, Motherese

DESCENDER   (grief over loss)

Friend        COMMUNICATOR   empathy, listening skills, loyalty

Spirituality   MYSTIC        contemplative, visionary, patient

Traveler      IDEALIST      adventurous, love of new horizons

So you can begin to understand all this in terms of an Archetypal Assemblage (or, as I prefer, Assembly or Council). This is like a constellation of your regularly activated archetypal viewpoints or persona guises in your life.

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Using this method of reflecting on archetypal qualities associated with your roles in relation to your Life Themes will not identify ALL of the archetypal impulses that might personify your personal unconscious (in Hillman’s terms) or that reflect the collective unconscious archetypes like Shadow, Anima and Animus that Jung described. Your Psyche is much more fertile and dynamic than that! However, this approach of identifying SITUATIONAL or Role and Life Theme related archetypal impulses can help you recognize a set of your “dominant situational archetypes.” This can be helpful because these are sources of Strength as well as sources of recurring lessons and challenging perspectives within your Psyche or what I like to call your Total Self System.

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These dominant archetypal influences can be among your greatest Allies, especially when properly “aligned” in an integrated manner. (Think, Wizard of Oz.)This is what I aim to help people put into practice with techniques I will further present and develop for you in Life Paths.

So please, stay tuned!

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As always, I WELCOME your comments and stories.

Your Archetypal Cast & Crew

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I watched the movie “Maleficent” last week. Is the Fairy Godmother character Maleficent, or Beneficent? The story finds both in the same person: hero and villain, Light Giver and Shadow, depending on what? It is the stimuli that affect the character—how she is treated, mainly—that bring out her different personas. Then the other night I was watching a Brain Games segment. They offered a set of personality test questions. One question I answered yes to was: “If you are frustrated do you sometimes “blow up’”? It is pretty rare for me but, yes, sometimes I find there’s a part of me that privately expresses itself by acting out briefly in a sort of tantrum that I have little conscious control over in the moment.

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Think of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other; have you ever felt that sort of duality around a temptation or a decision? So, what’s that about?

Cherokees say we all have two wolves living within us: a good wolf and a bad one. Which will surface? The one you feed.

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Or how about this: “Who are you” at work compared to “Who are you” with your significant other?  Think of the whole set of SOCIAL ROLES you occupy. As a Teacher, my personality disposition or ‘presentation of self’, especially in a classroom, is quite different from my ‘Friendship’ mode, say camping with friends or walking my dog Sophie. My sisters even find it freaky how I shift into Motherese with my dog, because it is so not like my regular speech.

What about you? What roles do you enact in your life regularly? Do these different social roles or statuses bring out some distinctive aspects of your personality?

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As a cultural anthropologist I find all of this to be VE-E-E-RY interesting, that we shift our presentation of self, from slightly to a lot, in different “role guises.” Then I find myself thinking about… ARCHETYPES of the Unconscious.

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Carl Jung said: “For every typical situation in life, there is an archetype corresponding to that situation.” On one hand, a situation itself has ‘archetypal’ characteristics: features we expect to go along with the typical framing of that kind of occasion.  But if you reflect on the Life Themes that run through your Life Path: those KINDS of situations that are prominent in different phases or aspects of your life, you can see how the character traits associated with your ROLES in these recurring types of life situations (like Family, Work, Relationships, Travel, etcetera) are also archetypal. The Lover, the Teacher, the Warrior, the Mystic, for instance, all embody role traits recognizable in a culture.

When you “put on” a role or status, some archetypal character aspects (I wanted to type “assets”, and they ARE) step forth as it were to enact that role in tandem with your core sense of Self.

So we each have within us an “ensemble cast of mythic archetypal characters”. That is our topic this week and next. To start playing in this sandbox you get to have some playmates: your own ‘inner selves’ that are often submerged except in these role situations, sudden outbursts, and “inner dialogue”.

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Your first move, then: I invite you to make a list of the typical roles you occupy and have occupied in your life. Describe some character traits that feel like they ‘come forth’ for you in these roles. What KINDS of characters are these?

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Please feel free to Comment or to Query. Thanks and stay tuned…

The Multiple Threads of Your Life Story

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I’d like to invite you next to consider whether your Life Story might actually be playing itself out according to more than one Genre.  This week I have introduced you to three story types or genres that Life Stories represent: Comic Epic-Adventure, Tragic Epic-Adventure, and Episodic. You can determine which of these patterns your overall conception of your Life Story weaves by reviewing the sequence of Life Chapters you can identify by naming the event frames that have transpired between the critical Turning Points of your life’s Adventure (see the last two week’s tools in the right panel about identifying and naming your own Life Chapters).

Now then, might the same person’s Life Story be simultaneously Comic, Tragic and/or Episodic all at the same time? This is a profound question, for which I can say the answer is, Yes.  There are many layers to a Lifetime, after all.

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One way by which a person’s Life Story might be of multiple genres over time is simply in the sense that the Life Chapter you are in right Now—which I have called your Threshold vantage point—influences how you reconstruct your story. This is paradoxical, of course. If in the process of reflecting back about your Life you realize you stand in the Now at a relatively calm and aware precipice, then you are likely to name the Life Chapters you identify between your pivotal Turning Points in terms of a Comic Epic Adventure that has brought you to this Vantage Point of being a Threshold Dweller. On the other hand, if you are currently in the throes of a Dark Night situation, you might be more likely to reconstruct how dire events and repeating traumas have delivered you into this tragic Mess. (Please allow just for the moment my slightly droll attitude here, which cannot do justice to the real turmoil you might be experiencing.) Furthermore, if you find yourself currently on a sort of Lark of an adventure, relatively carefree and open to unexpected twists and turns in the Road before you, then perhaps you are more likely to reconstruct your Life Story as an Episodic, picaresque adventure.

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There is a more profound way, though, by which your Life Story might be transpiring according to multiple genres–and multiple story threads!– at the same time. This involves what Carl G. Jung or James Hillman or Carolyn Myss would describe in terms of Depth, or Archetypal, Psychology.  If you accept–and not everyone will–that we are each of us inherently “multiple”, all the time, because our personal unconscious domain houses a cast of archetypal character images or modes that exist under the surface of our conscious awareness yet they influence our perceptions and attitudes through dreams or ‘nudges’/ ‘impulses’, then you might be further willing to entertain the possibility that these unconscious aspects of Self may actually be construing THEIR Life Stories distinctly from your own conscious Life Story viewpoint. Perhaps you have an Inner “Wanderer/ Idealist” archetype sub-self in you. Then this figure might construe the life s/he shares with you as an Episodic Adventure, even while you may consciously be more goal directed on a Comic Epic Quest. Or maybe a ‘part’ of you that was squelched from early childhood trauma is in a Tragic mode and this colors all your experiences with a tinge of skepticism or sadness, even though for the most part you are consciously feeling happy and successful.

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I find that for Life Mapping, referring to Archetypes is very important and potentially very helpful and illuminating, so that in Life Paths I will be introducing a fresh new approach to working with some of your Archetypal “cast and crew”.  I also realize that Archetypal Psychology is not everyone’s cup of tea, outright at least. So in Life Paths I am also offering an alternative to thinking in terms of or making contact with your ‘depth’ archetypal impulses directly; you will be able to opt for simply reflecting upon your LIFE THEME values and qualities, instead.

For those willing to ‘sink’ to such depths (naturally), try reviewing the three Genres: Comic Epic Adventure; Tragic Epic Adventure; Episodic or Picaresque. Can you identify with MORE THAN ONE of these story types as having been or currently active in your life? I invite you to actively contemplate, talk about, or write/ journal about these multiple dimensions of your life.

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A third way to go about exploring your own Life Story Genre multiplicity is by simply reviewing one Life Chapter at a time. Sometimes each chapter is a Story in itself, and different Life Chapters may have taken their own forms as one of the three Genres we are exploring this week. Maybe your earliest Life Chapter as a Child was Episodic but your middle years were/are more focused as a Comic Epic Adventure. Maybe one of your chapters was distinctively Tragic but you survived and discovered a pathway to a more positive storyline. (If so was there a meaningful transition between these?)

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So what’s the point of all this complicating what seemed pretty simple at the start of the week? As humans we are Meaning Bearers and Meaning Creators. That is, our lives “Make Sense” because of our sense-making capabilities. If we are not entirely happy with the Story we construe ourselves to be living out right now, we can “switch horses midstream”, if we choose to.  We can look ahead to creating and re-modeling the Story as we choose! We are not locked into any storyline beyond our own control.

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Have you seen the Will Ferrell/ Emma Thompson/ Dustin Hoffman film, “Stranger Than Fiction”? I highly recommend it. A man (Ferrell) living out a fairly dull, overly routinized Life Story as an IRS agent comes to the awareness that he is actually a character in a famous writer’s story! The author (Thompson) always kills off her characters in the end. So an English professor (Hoffman) asks the man to try to determine whether he is the character in a Comedy or a Tragedy. I won’t tell you the ending but suffice to say, there is a definite turnabout needed!

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I Welcome YOUR Comments, Insights and Stories as you reflect upon or entertain these ideas in relation to your own Life Adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Archetype Dialogue Process

Today’s Best of Better Endings revisits archetypal character modes. These are your “inner voices” that can be associated with your Life Themes or typical kinds of situations in your life. I call such archetypal aspects “Archemes” because they are associated with your recurring situational themes. Do you have a Teacher (or, Student) Archeme associated with a theme of Education in your life? A Nurturer associated with being a parent? Or perhaps a Lover Archeme connected with your Romance theme? I will develop this concept for you more later when this blog converts to a Life Mapping focus later this month (or see lifepathmaps.com). For now, let me reprise a post about the personal development tool of “Archetype Dialogue”. I invite you to try it! And of course, I always welcome your feedback and insights.- LW (5/6-7/14)

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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 over an issue that is important to you, it’s as though you are two or more people within your same body or mind. 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.

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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 is 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?

Just a part of You that wishes you would lighten up a bit…

A Nurturer, I would guess.

Yes. You do need to give yourself more 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 year, with so much at stake…

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 find a  balance. Trust that you will get what you need to get done even better when you accept some time limitations.

Are you an Elder Leader?

No; a Communicator, you might say.

Thanks for all you contribute; all of you…

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 relax for a bit or take Sophie for a walk.

Oh just get over yourself! BORing!

Okay?

You are so frigging serious!

What would YOU have me do?

Wake Up!!

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[This is just a brief example of how to begin an Archetypal “Open Mike” dialogue. It is helpful to have a journal dedicated to this practice. You can explore any topics; get to know these ‘parts’ of yourself that are always within you and can help you as  Allies to reach for 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, insights and stories.

 

“You See Yourself in Others”–Family-Based Archetypal Projections

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Archetypal psychology á la Carl G. Jung or James Hillman or Carolyn Myss—or via a unique Life Mapping approach I will be introducing you to in Life Paths—can help you to become more aware of how easy it can be to project aspects of your own unconscious personality or “Psyche” orientations onto, or into, others.  This way others may serve as mirrors for you of traits or beliefs you may not be ready to own about yourself. It’s like my father used to tell me often, “You see yourself in others”.  We do this with both positive and negatively perceived traits or orientations; it is a psychologically ‘safe’ way to assess traits we may be not ready to see as part of our own psychic makeup.

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In prior weeks we have explored archetypal  “ensemble casts” of characters as represented in fiction, such as in the Wizard of Oz, one of my favorite examples. Discussing TV, we realized that several successful situational comedies such as M.A.S.H. or Gilligan’s Island use ensemble casts to represent various character aspects of a basic Self character (e.g. Dorothy, Captain Hawkeye Pierce, or the marooned Gilligan). Now I’d like to invite you to do the same with regard to members of your own Family. This might be your family of origin, or your immediate family you live with, or both, and it could as easily be seen in your family of friends or coworkers that you associate with on a regular basis.

What might your perceptions of specific family or significant relationship Alters reveal about Yourself?

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Here’s an easy way to start applying this understanding from archetypal psychology to your universe—i.e., your own Ensemble Archetypal Cast of relations. Simply compose a list of positive and negative (and/or neutral, if you like) character traits that you associate with those in your family or in a close, family-like social group.

What character traits, for instance, do you associate with your Father? If that has shifted over time, you can represent his traits accordingly. What strengths or weaknesses do you see in yourself that you can trace to being to some degree a result of your relationship with your father?

Now try applying those same questions to your full set of close family relations. Especially if you recognize in yourself a particularly strong ‘attachment’ to some perception you hold about a family member, describe the traits you are responding to as carefully as you can. Have you perhaps avoided expressing some character traits in your own life as a reaction to seeing those as ‘negative traits’ expressed by someone close to you? What values do you relate to your aversion to such attitudes or behaviors?

On the other hand, what noble or heightened pedestals might you have constructed for some persons; pedestals you feel you fall quite short of yourself. Why?

Now then, what if all of these character strengths and weaknesses you see in your family Alters are actually all parts of your own Total Self System (as well as being traits you associate with these others)?

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Try it out. I will, too…

Here’s a sample subset of a chart I might create for my own archetypal “family projections” exploration:

       Negatively perceived traits  Positively perceived traits

Dad  quick, harsh temper       excellent gaming strategist

Mom emotional over-sensitivity  excellent problem solver

 

Now then, looking at the negatively valued (to me) traits I’ve identified, what might they reveal about me? I definitely try to distance myself from a “quick, harsh temper” such as I associate with my father from specific memories. Does that mean this is not a trait within me? Quite the opposite. Because I do not want to own this trait, I have sometimes overcompensated in a disagreement with a relationship partner by “going away”–either physically or emotionally–when challenged by what may seem like frustrating or objectionable behavior or attitudes. Rather than erupt–as I construct my father might–I go away; or alternately, I might trigger this very response I eschew in myself, in my alter. Then though, when a situation remains tense and I finally DO express an angry temper, I might act out too much–in a brief but relatively uncontrollled outburst. Later I might apologize, or ‘go away’.

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The more we can recognize “ourselves in others”, the better!  An approach I use now when I recognize that I might be projecting qualities I don’t wish to own into others, is called an Archetype Dialogue, a form of active imagination, as Jung would call it. You can journal a dialogue (or imagine one) precisely with that ‘character’ in yourself that you think you have seen in someone else. Write out or sustain an imagined conversation with this part of yourself. What is he or she upset about or fearful of or uncomfortable around? Listen to what this part of YOU has to say. You might be surprised to find some of the pent up negative energy dissolves as you ALLOW this vital part of yourself to have a voice.

I invite your insights and stories! Go lightly with this one; be Gentle with YOU! (and You, and you too…….); LOL

 

Just Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale…

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Lately Gilligan’s Island reruns are back in my locale, and I’ve found myself tuning in now and then. As we’ve been focusing on television Better Endings all this week, I’ve come to realize something about Gilligan’s Island that I never understood before.

Like Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and Hawkeye Pierce of M.A.S.H. (as Brenda helped us realize this week), or any “central” protagonist within an ensemble cast of characters who regularly interact through a series of adventures, Gilligan is the SELF character of the archetypal ensemble marooned together on—after all—Gilligan’s Isle.  The rest of the characters he is marooned with represent archetypal aspects of Gilligan’s unindividuated Self, in Jungian terms; and the purpose of the castaways’ adventures is to help Gilligan to strengthen and integrate these projected shards of Self, to individuate as a more mature, responsible person. Then, presumably, he can go Home.

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So what is Gilligan needing to develop in himself? His intellect—the Professor; his leadership capacity—the Skipper; feminine traits of two Anima complexes—the graceful Movie Actress Ginger and the girlish, giggly Marianne; and the acquisitiveness and pomposity of the wealthy Howell’s, who represent the opposite of Gilligan’s rather lackadaisical lifestyle. Gilligan does come to manifest, over time through his dreams and island adventures with his ensemble cast, all of those qualities these projected other-than-Self characters exhibit. He often comes up with the “brilliant idea” that trumps even the Professor’s experiments. He plays the Howell’s son at times, benefitting from their largesse. He displays his own girliness at times, while interacting with the Women. And always, he lives in the Skipper’s rather corpulent shadow, hardly daring to assert himself but often being called upon by the Skipper energy itself to step up and step forward, learning greater responsibility along the way.

Working together, episode after episode, adventure after adventure and dream after dream, eventually Gilligan’s ensemble cast of castaways learn to better communicate and cooperate with one another, so that, with the season’s “Return to Gilligan’s Island” finale, they do return to their separate lives in Hawaii, each of them having been strengthened, especially Gilligan.  Ironically though, after each character experiences disorientation in modern society after 15 years away, the two-part finale actually ends with the group again taking a cruise together, again running into a tropical storm, and again becoming marooned, right at the same island they had left!

So here’s a fun exercise for you:

Fill in the following blank with YOUR first name:    _______________’s Island.

Who are you marooned with, that you interact with regularly, either at home or at work or in some other context? What archetypal QUALITIES do your individual castaway crew members represent to you or about you? Who among them expresses character traits you wish were stronger in yourself? Whose behavior do you distance yourself from, though secretly you might admire or else fear you in some ways resemble that person? Whom do you depend upon to do things you could be doing on your own; or conversely, do you allow someone to depend on you to do things they are capable of doing—and more—without you?

What are your own goals with respect to your ensemble cast situation? How can you get off the Island together?

(AFTER tvkapherr’s Comment: I neglected to add that of course just as our Other-alters are archetypal projected images as we interact with them, so are WE to them. And some would add this can also extend to all of us being projected images of the Divine.)

So this is all in good fun. Do feel quite welcome to Comment and share your insights and stories, if you feel so inspired!

Ahoy, Mateys!

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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

Listening to Your-SELVES: A Balancing Act

Theater Masks

Welcome to Prompts Day at Better Endings. On Tuesdays we entertain a list of topics for applying the principle of Better Endings to a weekly theme; this week, Attitudes. Some speak of a “Law of Attitudes,” which makes sense to me. Our attitudes to a large extent determine our experience. Attitudes reflect and can establish “mindsets,” which act like filters between our minds or hearts and the “reality” we are able to perceive.

Let’s consider especially opposing, paired attitudes this week. These are polar-opposite perspectives that frame very different outlooks on the same event or situation. Here’s a list of some paired-opposite attitudes for you to consider and add to:

optimistic            pessimistic

open            closed

impatience            contentment

       insecurity            self-confidence

   belief            cynicism

expansive            narrow

kindness            meanness

acceptance           rejection

constructive            destructive

respectful            demeaning

gratitude            conceit

Can you recognize within yourself BOTH poles of one or more of the above pairs of opposing attitudes with regard to some situation or enduring conflict in your life? I invite you to choose that sort of opposition to explore. Consider a subject that you can “look at” from either of a very opposite pair of perspectives. Allow yourself the space to feel-think-Be first in one attitude, and then shift grounds to the polar-opposite attitude about that same subject and feel-think-Be in that attitude instead for a while. What do you pay most attention to, in each perspective? What appears more important, and less important, depending on your outlook? What about the subject itself motivates you to shift more to one or the other side of the polarity?

Recognizing duality or bipolarity in ourselves, especially around ideas or situations we feel conflicted about, is natural for everyone, sometimes. From an archetypal psychological viewpoint, situations that evoke conflicting attitudes can expose to us ‘parts’ of ourselves that are worth listening to and exploring–in moderation–because we may tend to suppress some ‘sides’ of ourself at the expense of a whole, balanced, integrated outlook. Allowing an attitude you normally suppress to express itself while you are there to pay attention to it can help you to get to the root of some issues you might otherwise be denying or seeing only from a self-limiting perspective. These ‘buried’ attitudes can help you to troubleshoot a stubborn point of view in order to develop some more balanced and creative solutions!

Jester Juggler Juggling Balls Retro

For today,simply choose one or more of the above attitude-pairs–or use another–that represents a set of opposing attitudes you sometimes hold about some situation or subject in your life. Let both sides have their say, either through journalling from each perspective, or engaging in an imaginative internal ‘listening session’ to both sides, one at a time. The only guideline is that each side gets to have its say without judgement or interruption. Then, try looking at the situation again, AFTER clearly expressing both of your opposed attitudes.

Does a creative solution or a deeper understanding of the situation light up for you?

Tell us about it (if you’d like). If you wish you can submit your story or journalling practice as a Story of the Week (If I receive more than one, I’ll probably blog them all!) And always, I welcome your insights and Comments!

Better Endings to You!  – Linda

The ‘Innocent’ of Childhood

Small Girl Blowing Sparkly Stars

The Innocent. As a character type—what Jung or Hillman call an Archetype—the Innocent is most often a child. Since we have all experienced, to a greater or lesser extent, the innocence of being a child, then we each carry this Archetype of the Innocent Child within us.

In Life Mapping I coach people to identify and name their Life Chapters leading up to the Present.  Almost always, people name their earliest Life Chapter as something on the order of “Innocence”: a time of relative calm and joy preceding the Storms of life.

By a random review of a set of 9 Life Maps, 7 of their first Life Chapter titles reflect an innocence theme: “Innocence”(2); “Childhood & Youth” (2); “”Well Loved/ Happy”; “Pure Joy”; and “Oblivion”. The other two, I should note, refer to situations involving childhood trauma or abuse.

What was your earliest Life Chapter? To identify it, first think about your earliest major, pivotal life event, before and after which you feel that you were “not the same person”. Then think about the time of your life BEFORE that, between your birth and that first major turning point. As the author of your own Life Story, what title would you use to describe your early childhood?

If your first Life Chapter was not so bright and Innocent, how did that eventually get resolved, if it has been? Is there an Innocent you that was suppressed then?

If your early childhood was a time of relative Innocence (or if you can identify within yourself that archetype-Child who was suppressed), can you feel that Child archetype within you Now? What is she or he like? What does s/he–that part of you–love? How do you like to play, as your Innocent Child? Who is/was your BFF?

How can you best listen to, hear, and nurture your Innocent Child archetype today? Let him or her be a part of your conscious persona, because s/he is there regardless.

To be in better contact with your Innocent Child part-of-self, you might try DOING something you enjoyed most as that Child. Climb a tree? Go to a petting zoo? Sing a lullaby that your Mom or Grandmother once sang to you?

You can even write a dialogue in your journal—or have an active imagination encounter—between your Adult self today and your Innocent Child within you. I invite you to open your Heart to this inner part of yourself. You might be amazed—and even amused—by all s/he can show you!

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I invite you–as Innocent Child or adult!–to share your insights or story.

And always, Better Endings to You!

The Annual Party–Origins of a Situational Anxiety

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On Tuesdays I share a personal story to illustrate our weekly topic, and this week’s topic of Significant Life Events brings up many possible stories. I would love to share about my travel adventures, since these have been very positive, lifting events in my Life Story. Instead, though, I will share about the origins of a situational social anxiety, because I want to document how early Significant Life Events can have a lasting, dramatic impact and about how understanding that influence can also help to manifest Better Endings.

Every year for at least between when I was 12 and 17, my parents held an annual Christmas party. My father was an executive at Bell Aerosystems, so he staged this annual party for his professional colleagues. I, my three sisters, and my brother until he left for college when I was 14 were required to stay home on the night of the annual Party. We were paraded downstairs to the entry foyer once most of the guests had arrived, for brief introductions, then we were promptly sent upstairs to watch TV in my parents’ room for the duration of the Party.

Some aspects of the Party night were fun for us kids. We would plot a foray down to the kitchen island to nab plates of my Mom’s most wonderful chocolate meringue pie, and I was usually the scout and the procurer of pie. But the Party had its dark side as well, one that deepened from year to year. Let’s just say that since alcohol was freely flowing at the Party downstairs, we kids would have to keep raising the TV volume to try to drown out the increasing crescendo of conversations below that would ultimately coalesce into some loud altercation or another before the night was through. Then afterwards, once the guests had left, invariably my parents would collide over some issue that had surfaced at the Party. One next early morning, my sisters and I woke groggily to see my father dragging his full-sized bed down the stairs and into his den; it stayed there for the next several months. That day, Mom had a blackened eye, and Dad’s face was striated with three lengthy scratch marks. You get the picture.

Flash forward to my own later professional career. I am always warmly invited to the annual departmental Christmas party, held at a much respected colleague’s home. I attended the first few years, until one time, someone I was having some issues with, also attending, stringently avoided friendly contact. The next year, I aimed to go. I bought Belly Jellies to share and sat in my living room recliner counting down to the appropriate time to depart. I continued to sit, well past time to have left, for another hour or so, pinned in my recliner, until finally I called my older sister, Lee, for moral support. I had experienced a genuine panic attack over the very thought of attending the Party. And from then til now–the Party recently having come around and passed again–even though I genuinely like and highly value every colleague and the students I work with, I have not attended a single instance  of the annual Party since. After many years of kicking myself and offering fervent apologies on the following Mondays, I have finally come to examine and name my situational anxiety for what it is. I have come to a better understanding not just of its roots–that much seems obvious–but also of why, as a rational adult, part of me is still so adamant that this one thing–the professional Party–I shall not do.

In fact, this situational anxiety has become a solid proof for me of the reality and value of Archetypal Psychology, a la Carl Jung, James Hillman, and Charles and Nin Bebeau. I have become acquainted with two “parts of Self” within me that together conspire to absolutely shun the annual Party. One is an Elder Leader archetypal persona, one to whom I have unconsciously assigned final say when he asserts himself so strongly as to put his foot down. The other is “Little Linda’, an overly sensitive early childhood figure who prefers much of the time to stay alone, from an array of early childhood social hurts. I know that the archetypal Elder Leader member of my ensemble cast of inner characters, or Inner Council, has a purpose in forbidding me from attending the Party; he is protecting me (and Little Linda and himself, no doubt) from potential conflict and emotional injury.

Surely there is more to this avoidance behavior. I am single while most at the Party are not. I don’t drink alcohol at all; they likely will, evoking my childhood inhibitions from my parents’ annual festivities. But I have come to accept and to value and appreciate the wisdom of my Elder Leader protector, which may be the closest to a Better Endings scenario I will be able to achieve, at least for now. I have let my colleagues know not to expect me, and they are goodhearted about that although this antisocial tendency surely does not go unnoticed. I no longer pretend to myself that I will finally make it ‘this year’. Well, sometimes I still do try but after the time for leaving again has come and passed, I no longer beat myself up over it. Lately I might even journal a dialogue or converse inwardly with my Elder Leader, acknowledging his concern and  thanking him for his care. And so, while this might not seem to many to be yet the ideal solution, it has taught me to listen to and to include my Inner Council in my outer decisions. I am no more, nor less, ‘multiple’ than any of us are. Different situations can bring forth otherwise subtle or submerged parts of Self that help us to cope with or to master whatever it might be that the situation calls for. Significant Life Events often have their most obvious impact upon recurring kinds of situations in our lives.

A First Principle of Better Endings: Gratitude

 Forest road. Landscape.

The greatest tool we can use for manifesting Better Endings day to day and moment by moment is an attribute of Gratitude. So often, the hairsbreadth difference between a “success” and a “failure”–or, for that matter, between a ‘good’ day or not–is simply the thankfulness we feel about whatever our circumstances might be. Are we home with a cold? How wonderful that the body has given us time away from workaday routines to reflect and repair. Have you lost a job? Okay, granted, with this sort of cloud bank it is harder to find a silver lining. Still, there will be valuable life lessons that will inevitably follow from such a potentially major turning point in life.

Usually once the tension eases around a difficult ordeal, we can look back and be grateful for certain aspects in retrospect. But this is watching our lives unfold in the rear view mirror. Gratitude in the Present Moment is more empowering, right Now, than appreciating what life has brought us in hindsight.

To establish gratitude as a character attribute, an engrained attitude and not just a passing feeling, can be empowering because our attitudes govern our interpretation of facts. In my Life Mapping case studies I have found that two different people can experience the same sort of accident or illness under similar circumstances; yet, one will regard the event as an opportunity to bounce back even stronger than before, while the other might crumble into a prolonged remorse.

Please, there are no judgments here! I am not saying one person is right and the other not for responding to challenges with either gratitude or remorse. Each person’s lessons–and timing–are their own gifts, or burdens. Sometimes we must simply  descend into the depths of an experience before we can resurface and go forward in life. Even in Descent there may be vitality so that perhaps eventually we may come to value and be grateful for even our sadness and remorse.


Booktopia image (by Jung) from Carl Jung’s The Red Book

Carl G. Jung, James Hillman, and Joseph Campbell–three authors who have written from the perspective of Archetypal Psychology–have shown that often Descent is necessary. It can be embraced as a potent, deeply meaningful experience. We can be grateful for the darkness as well as the light. For both can help us to eventually unfold, to Better Endings.

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I am adding with this entry a regular Saturday spot: First Principles for manifesting Better Endings. Please feel free to Comment and share what you find helps most to manifest better endings in your life! Also please send your story on Fictional Better Endings, or answer What Are Better Endings to You? for a Guest Blog spot. I look forward to reading and sharing your insights!