Meet & Greet Your Archetype Cast of Characters

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In Life Paths I will introduce you to an approach to working with your situational Archetypes–based on the twelve universal archetype figures–that can help you get to know yourself better. Archetypal psychology often recommends some form of “archetype dialogue” practice, yet usually this is very immediate, tapping into archetypal impulses a person recognizes in relation to a specific situation or during a specific moment of reflection or repose during a therapeutic session or a meditative practice. Without giving too much ‘away’ in this blog space—especially since the full context of the Life Paths approach is needed in order to utilize the approach to its best advantage as a self-help process—I will invite you to a processual form of Archetype Dialogue Practice that utilizes your own Life Theme-based, or situational, archetypes.

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Archetypal impulses are always present beneath the surface of your conscious attitudes and perceptions. And everyone has archetypal impulses or an archetypal architecture of unconscious dimensions of the personality.  How can you recognize some of these? Just slow down, quiet the conscious mental stream of consciousness for a bit, and Listen! What subtle attitudes would express themselves if you allowed yourself to give voice to them? Remember, you may ASK! Inquire of your unconscious sub-selves, “What Are You About?” “How do YOU feel about an issue or a decision?” “What do you wish I/we would DO?”

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Carl G. Jung understood Archetypes of the Unconscious (e.g. see his book of that title) better than most people, because he allowed himself to make contact in a direct way with his own unconscious personae. His posthumously published THE RED BOOK (2009) is a transcript of Jung’s own journal chronicling his intentional Journey into the depths of his own unconscious domains. For an initial consecutive series of 19 evenings (and continuing on and off for 16 years thereafter) Jung practiced a gentle form of ACTIVE IMAGINATION, a form of meditative, active contemplation, to “sink” into his own unconscious, imaginative realms in order to explore the otherwise ‘buried’ internal spaces and persons of his Psyche. I have read THE RED BOOK (except for the original German), and I recommend it highly! As Sonu Shamdasani, the editor of The Red Book notes, Jung encouraged his therapeutic clients and friends to compose their own ‘red books’: their own Journals in which they would record encounters with their archetypal denizens of the unconscious, through dreams and active imagination.

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Let me offer a basic approach to beginning a form of archetype dialogue. First review your Life Themes. These are the KINDS of events or situations represented by your set of Significant Life Events or shaping events. An earlier post allows you to reconstruct these (use this site’s Search engine for Life Themes), or simply make a list now of some of the most significant shaping events of your life, events that have “shaped the person you have become.” After composing your list, review the events and SORT each event into a category of KINDS of shaping events. These categories are your LIFE THEMES, recurring kinds of events and situations that weave through your life and make of your life a dramatic story!

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Now then, reflect on your set of LIFE THEMES (e.g. Work, Romance, Spirituality, Travel, etcetera) in relation to the ARCHETYPAL TWELVE presented below (see Friday, 8/15/14 post for discussion):

ELDER LEADER   ARTIST  TEACHER

LOVER   IDEALIST  COMMUNICATOR

WARRIOR  GOLDEN CHILD HEALER

NURTURER  DESCENDER  MYSTIC

For now, just by using the descriptive character names of these twelve archetypal figures (tables of traits will be presented in Life Paths), try to associate at least one ARCHETYPE with each of your Life Themes. For example, a Romance theme might be associated with a LOVER archetype, or a Family theme might relate to NURTURER or ELDER LEADER. Each archetype could pertain to masculine or feminine traits and could be in either a positive or Strength mode, or in a negative, Shadow mode.

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Once you have identified ARCHETYPES with your own set of recurring LIFE THEMES, try starting an imaginative dialogue with one or more of these Archetype figures. Start with active imagination if you can; close your eyes, center yourself in a quiet space, and envision one or more of these Archetypes as if they are characters that inhabit your unconscious. Start a conversation. When you come out of your reverie, write down what you can of the conversation, or simply generate the dialogue as you compose it directly in your journal.

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Let your initial exploration of archetypal impulses through archetype dialogue journaling be of a light, general form. Just start by getting to know these parts of self; aspects of your Self that show up in your SOCIAL ROLES that are activated as you experience recurring LIFE THEME events or situations. Simply visit with and/or invite your unconscious archetypal characters to dialogue!

Here is a hypothetical sample:

L:  I invite my archetypes to introduce yourselves to me and to each other. Who is there?

A: You can do it, Linda!

L: Who is this?

A: You might call me NURTURER. I support you; don’t give up!

L: Sometimes, honestly, I almost think I should.

B: Stay true to your Mission. Get yourself out of the Way.

L: Mystic?

B: Okay, if you like. …Remember, this is what you are here to do, there is no turning back. Remember you have the Response-ABILITY to Realize your Dreams, not just for Getting By.

L: Thanks for the reminder. I need ALL of your support. Speak up whenever you feel you want to or need to.

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To Readers: I have been using this form of Archetype Dialogue already for several years. I find it a very natural and helpful way to “Tune In” to my own unconscious attitudes and perspectives that I might otherwise ignore or “bury”. This is a simple imaginative technique anyone can use. These perspectives are not OTHER than or OUTSIDE from yourself. They ARE You, just different dimensions or facets OF your personality structure. So these are not outside “entities” or “demons” you are inviting; if by any means something very “other” seems to manifest itself, by all means end your session and close your journal! Indeed some of these inner aspects might have some negative feelings or attitudes to express; welcome this in order to hear and understand those feelings, but be clear from when you start your dialogue that the dialogue field is a SAFE SPACE. If you like, you can begin by calling on your own positive Spiritual Guides to maintain a protective inner environment. If you are currently engaged in a psychiatric or therapeutic treatment program, I recommend for you to share this with your analyst or therapist before proceeding.

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If you like you can artistically represent any archetypal encounters or insights or perspectives you gain from this imaginative practice. Jung used artistic creations, especially Mandalas, to represent his archetypal experiences. (You can see some of these at the Amazon site linked to for THE RED BOOK, above). After every session of active imagination, Jung painted something about the experience to represent the purpose or meaning of that archetypal experience in his life.

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So, Enjoy!

I welcome your queries, insights, and any results that you may wish to share!

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…