I’m still thinking about consequences, bottom lines, and legacies [See: The Bottom Line from last week]…and (not surprisingly) that leads me to think about personas. What are the stories I tell about myself that have led me to a personal image that my family and friends, my colleagues and mentors would recognize as ‘Andrea’? What are your stories? Over a lifetime, a personal image often changes. There are those people who seem to know who they are from the moment of conception. The rest of us tend to thrash around (a little or a lot) on our way to co-creating who we choose to be in the world.
I have mentioned before that I went through a Joan of Arc stage in my late teens and into my 20s. I listened to my voices, stepped fearlessly into the breach, and knew that I would save the world regardless of the cost. Joan of Arc, however, was burned at the stake at 19 and was done with being Joan of Arc. Long about my late 20s, I realized that keeping up that intensity was taking a toll on the psyche – to say nothing of the toll it was taking on my friends – and it didn’t look like a heresy trial was anywhere in my future (thank G-d!). I was just going to have to relinquish my ‘Joan of Arc’ persona by choice.
I find myself wondering about our world leaders – and those running for public office, especially those running for the Presidency of the United States – and how they imagine themselves. Who do they see in the mirror? What is the role they are filling in their own dreams?
The four male mythic archetypes include the King, the Knight, the Mage, and the Troubador (or Lover). The four female mythic archetypes are the Maiden, the Nymph, the Mother (Child-Bearer), and the Wise Woman. [I’m just going to let those two lists sit there for your consideration.]
Joan of Arc would have corresponded to the Nymph in the female archetypes, but she was really a perfect embodiment of the Knight who lives in the knowledge of imminent death, manifesting the principle of transformation of the world, disciplined and loyal to a cause beyond self, intensely idealistic. The danger of the Knight is a lack of self-reflection and ability to relate to the humanity of other humans. (If I said, “It’s the principle of the thing” once, I said it 9,341 times in that not-quite-decade of channeling Joan. The Knight has some amazing strengths…and some equally powerful weaknesses.)
My sense, listening to the Presidential candidates, is that they all see themselves as either a King or a Knight (Warrior). And those are certainly the ‘normal’ images of leadership in our western cultures. But those roles-archetypes are limited (this is the nature of archetypes) and can become very dangerous – not all principles are equally life-giving, after all. And not all rulers have the best interests of the populace at heart (think, President Snow or President Coin in The Hunger Games). Just as an aside, I think we might be better served from time to time by a leader who is a Wise Woman or Mage or Troubador.
Carl Jung (bless his heart) described the four archetypes in more fluid terms as Shadow, Anima, Animus, and Self (which for Jung is incarnation of a divine image). And he insisted that they are all present in each of us, realigning, ebbing and flowing with our maturity and the transforming events in our lives.
As we prepare to leave the discerning darkness of Samhain and move into the new expression of life that we celebrate in Imbolc, I think we might want to take some time to consider the current balance of archetypes in our own lives because thinking of ourselves as This (and nothing else) can limit us to such a degree that no new life is possible.
We might also want to think about the way we treat our political candidates. The vast majority of us seem to desire someone who never changes his or her mind or heart. In other words, who never grows in wisdom or maturity. How many headlines and news stories report on ‘flip-flops’? The least differentiated among us are the most judgmental when it comes to (not) allowing a candidate to vote one way in one situation and a different way in a different situation, to speak contrary to ‘party lines’, to express misgivings or complex questions. The assumption is that such politicians are trying to ‘play’ to all the demographics. And that may be true for some of them. But not all. Some people actually live and think and feel in a complex world and I would humbly suggest that we need more of them as leaders, not fewer!
So I invite you to sit with your own biases. (Yes, I confess, that I have on more than one occasion said something negative about a candidate who ‘flip-flopped’…but I am trying to be more aware of it and more intentional about assessing it. After all, I want to be able to grow and change. Other people may, too!) I invite you to consider your own image in the world: is it so predominantly one role or one archetype that you cannot breathe? Are you afraid to say, “You know, I’ve changed my mind” because you know that a close family member is going to make some snippy comment…or you are going to lose a job or a volunteer position or the authority you have been given by an organization? Do you hesitate to express some aspect of your personality because others might look surprised or you might no longer ‘fit’ in a comfortable or familiar slot?
We are never going to treat others with true respect or look for mature and differentiated leaders if we are not ourselves growing in maturity and differentiation, not ourselves aware of the complexity we embody, not willing to risk the familiar for the transformative. And, I worry that come November, we will get exactly what we have asked for. And it will be a disaster.
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015, 2009, Immram Chara, LLC
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