ARCHETYPAL THERAPY – MYTHOLOGY MEETS PSYCHOLOGY
Archetypes are the stuff that life is made of: the energies that create, mold, and animate all that exists. The concepts and images that are common to everyone’s psyche … the collective unconscious. They are God as perceived as a collection of polarities:
male and female,
force and folly,
intuition and logic,
the self and the partner,
beauty and beast,
student and teacher,
mother and father,
work and play,
leader and follower,
healer and infirmed,
victor and victim,
spirit and flesh,
body and soul,
home and world,
hermit and socialite,
growth and death,
reproduction and destruction,
anarchy and law,
weakness and power,
reason and intuition,
inspiration and doubt,
the fortunate and the cursed,
slavery and freedom,
dreams and reality,
war and peace …
The archetypes as they live within us originate our instinctual behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. And just as we act out behaviors and express our thoughts, we constantly act out our archetypal selves and communicate our archetypes’ ideas. Our own point of balance with these primal forces is to either express them or project them. Any behavior or thought that we resist owning as part of our being finds a suitable actor outside of us to project upon. And of course, we are the actors for others’ disowned expressions. This is transference and counter-transference.
Mythology meets Psychology
Consider a man who refuses to acknowledge his need to be treated royally. Let’s call him Raul He was teased for his grandiose behaviors as a child. Within Raul’s psyche dwells an energy that is much like a king … noble and wise. The inner king provides the instinct to rule and delegate. He expects the very best accommodations and reverent treatment. The king sends Raul these feelings and ideas, but Raul ignores these notions.
So the king projects outwardly to maintain a balance. After all, the king is a universal force. Raul would combust if the king attempted to confine that kind of energy solely within him.
It’s got to come out. And what Raul won’t express consciously, the king causes him to project unconsciously. The king pulls in the appropriate actors … individuals whose psyches are heavily imbued with royal awareness.
These people seek Raul out as well, because he is the perfect audience for their regal expression. Wherever Raul goes, he attracts or has to contend with self-crowned kings. Raul’s postal person is offended if Raul fails to acknowledge him on the street. Raul’s friends insist upon living in enormous dwellings lavishly ornamented in gold on a commoner’s income. His rich aunt, Estelle, who hasn’t the time or tolerance for family members, chooses to sit next to him so that he can listen to her stories of romantic conquest. His charming, well-dressed, trust-bequeathed girlfriend, revels in her lavish dinner parties guaranteeing a captive audience for her musical talents. Raul’s flamboyant younger brother, Ramon, travels with an entourage. Raul’s best friend, Lenore, sends her plate back to the kitchen if it’s not piping hot. These are the actors. The royal, be it majestic or pompous, behaviors these actors display and illustrious ideas they extol for Raul’s enjoyment provide the balance.
When Raul despises their tendencies to self-indulge in a royal fashion, the characters he attracts annoy him. When he is in touch with his desire to be more showy and lead the royal life, except he lacks the nerve, these figures are more enchanting than bothersome. In other words, to the extent that Raul hates the characteristic in himself, he hates the archetypal character(s) he attracts. If Raul longs for that attribute in himself, he loves the archetypal characters he attracts.
Our archetypes, as they uniquely live within us, are different from everyone else’s. They have different needs and different gifts to offer. Raul’s inner magician will not be the same as his mother’s, father’s or siblings’ inner magicians. It’s our own particular crystallization of the energy derived from our soul’s history, our genetic heritage, and the circumstances of this life.
Why do we even have to contend with these forces’ It’s helpful to remember that we are these forces. All of them. We are our archetypes. When we deny any one of them, we deny our own truth of existence. When we love them, we self-actualize. Balance is temporary. We teeter between repression and expression. At some point in our existence, we will own our totality as individuals and as part of the All. The All demands that we self-actualize. Sooner or later we will come to know all expression as part of ourselves. Our accumulated wisdom and self-acceptance will enable us to choose the acts of our expression.
Consider the expression of destruction. It can surface in many manners. Extreme examples are suicide and homicide. There can be no creation without destruction. Planting a seed destroys the lands surface when the hole is dug. Carving a sculpture destroys the previous form of the rock or the trunk of the tree. The creation of a jack-o-lantern necessitates the destruction of a pumpkin.
There is a Divine archetypal plan. Some of the archetypes demand more attention and expression than the others in order that those aspects of our being develop more in this life.
Raul has already mastered physical expression in a former incarnation. This time he needs to focus on mental mastery. This shows up in his life in relationship to beauty. In previous lifetimes, he played out the polarities of beauty in its physical expression. He was very handsome in some lives and homely in others. In this life, he is neither extreme. He is attractive, but not so much so that it affects his decisions and behaviors. Instead, beauty is now expressed in his mentality … in the beautiful thoughts he holds of others. His perceptions are poetic. His imagination is vivid and vibrant. His ideas are full of loving intentions. He offers thoughtful solutions to those in need. His mind just naturally notices what’s attractive in his surroundings. Possessing an eye for good art, he fills his home with works that entice his mind.
In our own Divine plan, we remember our true identities. The denied parts of ourselves project themselves onto the many screens that surround us so that we can feel the energy within ourselves in our own responses to that projection. As the people who carry our our projections play them out for us, we get to understand the nature of the energy and eventually come to accept it as part of ourselves.
And part of the Divine archetypal plan includes the Divine conflict: the archetypes as polarities. Our evolution comes about from the integration of these polarities into our conscious expression and manifestation. Whenever we find ourselves caught in conflict, we need to return to our center: balance. We need to make time for ourselves and for others. we need to plan for work and for fun. We need to seek exposure to both youth and old age. We learn to balance quick and efficient with slow and enjoyable, as in showers and baths. In this way, we enlarge upon our patterns.
Meeting and working with the archetypal energies within us brings our own life’s myth into view. We can see our stories as a characters on the stage that is the world. Each of us is the main character, the writer, the director and the producer. We can decide whether or not we like the role we’ve cast for ourselves ‘No’ Well, then we can hold a board meeting with our archetypes and discuss new scripts.
Both Stephanie Jourdan and Diane Griggs-Ross specialize in archetypal therapy.