I have long been intrigued with the idea of archetypes.
In Jungian psychology an archetype is defined as: An inherited pattern of thought derived from the past experience of the whole race and present in our unconscious minds.
For me, an archetype is a way of thinking or behaving, of which you might not even be fully aware. Thoughts or behavior patterns adopted or learned from family, friends and/or the media can go unnoticed. Sometimes these archetypes are beneficial – the Light Side. Other times not so much – the Shadow Side.
I think I am intrigued by them because of my lifelong passion for personal and spiritual growth.
I want to improve and do better.
When I engage in the Shadow thought or behavior generally I do not feel good about myself or the outcome and this spurs me to want to be better and, hopefully, engage in more “Light” behavior.
Archetypes are the mainstay of literature. All plots in books or movies have various forms of archetypes interacting with each other in some way.
One of my favorite depictions of archetypes is the cartoon Dudley Do-Right. (yes, cartoons are literary!)
For those who do not know Dudley, he was a Canadian Mountie who was often found saving Nell Fenwick, his boss's daughter, from the
villainous Snidely Whiplash. Dudley represented the Hero archetype, Nell the Victim and Snidely the persecutor or villain.
The first episode that Dudley was in was called "She Can't pay the rent". It went something like this:
Snidely to Nell: You must pay the rent!
Nell to Snidely: I can't pay the rent. I have a small baby and so many bills. Woe is me.
Snidely to Nell: You must pay the rent!
Nell to Snidely: I can't pay the rent.
Dudley to the rescue: I'll pay the rent!
The fact is that we all have archetypical behaviors. We can be Snidely, Nell and Dudley all wrapped up in one body.
Here are some examples of the Light and Shadow Archetypes:
||Take care of me
||Poor me, nothing ever goes my way
||Rules do not apply to me
||Gets in their own way
||Evaluates choices, deliberate
||Everyone is out to get me
||I am the best
||I fight because I am right
||Brave and courageous
||What I say goes
||With power comes responsibility
||I know it all
||I want to share what I know
||Selfless and likes to make others feel good
I am sure I am not the only one who looks down this list and can see parts of themselves in both the shadow and the light.
Did you ever fake an illness so you did not have to try out for that high school play even though you really wanted a part? Ok, maybe that was me, but you get my drift.
By putting some distance between you and the shadow behavior you can begin to see an opportunity for growth.
It is important not to look at the shadow from a self-beat up perspective but from the perspective of self-improvement. That is how you grow.
Looking at the fake illness example, the next time an opportunity to try out for a play came up I tried out in spite of my fear. I did not get selected but I was proud of myself for going for it.
Pick one of the shadow sides of an archetype above and spend a day exaggerating this shadow behavior. Have fun with this. Make light of your shadow.
Laurie the Shadow Ruler: Going forward everyone will wear a purple scarf and the "approved" University of Texas socks because I said so.
Laurie the Shadow Ruler: You have another idea? Ha! The only ideas that count are my ideas.
Laurie the Shadow Ruler: It's my way or the highway.
Now pick the Light side of the same archetype and embody that. Here is an example:
Laurie The Light Ruler: When we have clients in the office please dress nicely otherwise please be comfortable.
Laurie the Light Ruler: I am looking for suggestions on how we might improve customer service. Time to brainstorm!
Laurie the Light Ruler: I use my gifts as a leader to advance the good of the whole.
Once you start to shine a light on these archetypes some of them can become quite comical, but that light can also help you to start to adopt the more positive aspect of that behavior.
For fun, I challenge you to post, on Facebook, your favorite cartoon archetype, extra credit if you have a picture.