Archetypes offer unique windows to our Soul
(~ 2 minute read)
Archetypal psychology carries with it an approach to life that values the development of the individual soul. There are times when it is developmentally appropriate for people to be self-centered, materialistic, independent, or a warrior. We help people best by honoring the lessons they can gain from each state. Stories and folklore assist in our developmental tasks – using archetypal characters – by helping us make meaning of our lives.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell encourage us to discover our purpose in life – or to glean meaning – through the archetypes which are revealed to us in the stories we hear; the novels we read; in our dreams; and the shows that we watch. These two great thinkers suggest that human beings are biologically hardwired to understand the symbolism and expression of character archetypes. These archetypes are consistencies observed throughout the world and all times, providing meaning to otherwise individual experience. We recognize them, and we understand them.
Our reactions to the characters in these mythical dramas offer unique windows to our soul, and a chance to work with the “Shadow” side of our psyche.
Are you willing to tune in to aspects of the self that are ready to be discovered?
I’m a big fan of Game Of Thrones, for example. I typically avoid exposure to violent content – I don’t want to ‘adapt’ or accept violence in my life. But in Game Of Thrones, there is so much more. Every major archetype is explored and exposed in this drama series. There are righteous Kings, wicked Kings, altruistic Kings, and immature Kings. There are old Wise Ones, young Wise Ones, budding Wise Ones. There are Martyrs, Lovers, Jesters, Warriors and Innocents. And many more.
One of my favorite characters is Daenerys Targaryen, the young, wise Queen of Dragons, and the woman who wants to rule the seven kingdoms.
The word ‘hero’ is derived from the Greek word hērōs, which means something along the lines of ‘warrior’ and ‘defender.’ A hero is someone who is ready to sacrifice to protect the greater good. In fact, the Hero must sacrifice in order to transform herself and the world she is attempting to save, for “the mythological hero is the champion, not of things, but of things becoming.” (Joseph Campbell)
The female hero can fit into the traditional Hero’s Journey—we prove that Daenerys’ experiences match up quite nicely here—but the lack of ancient questing female hero myths forces us to construct our archetype more from the old idea of the great goddesses. Joseph Campbell recognized this necessity.
Daenerys Targaryen and her Heroes Journey
The Hero archetype isn’t just born. They evolve through other archetypal stages. The Hero’s journey, like all journeys, begins with Innocence. The achievement at this stage is the ability to gain others’ trust and optimism because of their endearing innocence.
The next stage is the Orphan. Daenerys has no desire to join her brother’s wish for power after her parents died. But the orphan wishes to regain safety, away from King Robert’s assassins, yet they also don’t want to be exploited. Though her path was thrust upon her, she found her protector in Khal Drogo, the leader of 40,000 Dothraki warriors, in return for the use of his warriors in invading Westeros. She also eliminated her exploiter (her brother).
But when she succumbed to her destiny, she discovered her own Warrior spirit. She discovers she is the Queen Of Dragons, and is determined to fight for her new goal – To claim her title of Ruler of the seven kingdoms.
As the Warrior discovers his/her competence and power, the Caregiver emerges, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others. She freed slaves!
But the caregiver and rescuing others, in and of themseves, weren’t enough. Daenerys took her responsibilities to the next level, embracing the archetype of the Righteous Ruler – Not the power-hungry, self-centered and entitled type of Ruler. But one who embraces all the prior journey’s wisdom, of caring, of being willing to be a warrior for what is “right”.
As her journey continues, what other archetypes will emerge? Stay tuned!
What characters do you relate to? What do these characters reveal to you, about your place in your current journey?