I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Wisdom Council member and retreat contributor Dr. Jamie Marich’s reflection “Exploring the Wisdom of Your Archetypes.”
“There’s a part of me that wants to work on this issue, and a part of me that just feels more comfortable being stuck.”
“Some parts of me still like the church and what it offers and other parts of me think it’s just a load of nonsense and that it’s time to walk away.”
“A part of me likes the quiet and stillness and wants to live like a hermit—and when I give that part too much space, my noisier, more social parts rebel.”
How many of you relate to one or more of these statements? They all signify a reality of the human condition—that people contain many parts, sides, or aspects of themselves. The internal world of parts can be a very lively place, whether or not you see yourself as a person with mental health struggles. As a therapist, I encourage people to embrace all parts of their experience, even if those parts seem to be the source of the problems that bring them into my office. Because whenever we tell a part to “shut up” or try to hide it away, that part usually makes its needs and desires known even louder!
Therapists use many different models for helping their clients to understand parts. Despite the development of newer models, I still find Jungian archetypes to be the most useful Western model for helping people to appreciate their multifaceted, plural, and numinous nature. The following paragraphs feature some general explanations about Jungian archetypes, as summarized in my recent book Dissociation Made Simple: A Stigma-Free Guide to Embracing Your Dissociative Mind and Navigating Life.
Carl Jung (1875–1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist regarded as one of the fathers of psychoanalysis and depth psychology. Jung believed in the concept of the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious, according to Jung, contains instincts and archetypes. Archetypes, according to Jungian scholar John O’Brien, are universal organizing themes. These themes show up regardless of space, time, or person, and they appear in all existential realms. Another Jungian term for this existential realm is the unus mundus (one world), which Jung describes as the world outside of time; detectable through synchronicities.
The main archetypal frameworks that Jung taught can be roughly categorized as follows:
- separation from parents
- the union of opposites
- great mother (can exist opposite to the bad mother)
- father (can exist opposite to the bad father)
- wise old man
- wise old woman
- the trickster
- the hero
- the shapeshifter
- the apocalypse
- the deluge
This list is not comprehensive, as many other archetypes can be explored within these main categories; archetypes such as the visionary, warrior, healer, and sage.
Jung also spoke to other concepts that weave into the collective unconscious of the human experience: the self (unity of personality as a whole and the wide range of our psychic phenomena), the shadow (sometimes seen as the dark side or the aspects we’ve not yet examined; may run counter to our values), and the anima/animus (sexual energies). If you are a fan of mythologies and cinematic universes (like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc.), perhaps notice which archetypes that appear here may correspond with some of your favorite characters. As an example, Yoda in the Star Wars Universe can be described as a blend between the wise old man and the Trickster.
Naturally, the work of Carl Jung, as with many early leaders in modern psychology, has come under criticism for not being sufficiently grounded in science and not sufficiently feminist. In my view, there is always room for a feminist update of traditional concepts that may carry some value, and archetypes are no exception. And as you can imagine, many in the modern era are put off by the obvious mystical and metaphysical quality of Jung’s beliefs and writings. Yet his embrace of something larger than the physical body and mind is what I find particularly appealing as a therapist who sees the value of science yet also believes that my field is missing something critical if we ignore people’s deep hunger for spiritual and mystical connection.
Since my involvement with Abbey of the Arts began in 2014, I’ve appreciated the approach of Jungian archetypes by Christine Valters Paintner, Melissa Layer, and many other involved with Abbey programs. The Abbey has also given me a safe haven to play with these concepts in a way that honors my feminist ideals and desire to bridge older wisdom with the newer, intuitive learning that I’ve gained in my journey. Thus, it is my delight to once more be on board as a teaching facilitator for our upcoming program on Archetypes to Navigate an Unraveling World. The visionary, warrior, healer, and sage in me greets and honors those parts in you, and I hope that we have a chance to explore further in our online retreat space.
The journey through Visionary, Warrior, Healer, Sage: Archetypes to Navigate an Unraveling World begins May 8th.
Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, REAT, RYT-500, RMT travels internationally speaking on topics related to EMDR therapy, trauma, addiction, expressive arts, LGBTQ issues, spirituality and mindfulness while maintaining a private practice in her home base of Northeast Ohio. Jamie is also the developer of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts practice. Jamie is the author of several books including Dancing Mindfulness: A Creative Path to Healing and Transformation (2015, with foreword by Christine Valters Paintner) and Process Not Perfection: Expressive Arts Solutions for Trauma Recovery released in 2019, heavily influenced by the growth she has experienced through her study with Abbey of the Arts! Now primarily a North Atlantic Book author, she has recently released Trauma and the 12 Steps: An Inclusive Guide to Recovery (2020), Transforming Trauma with Jiu-Jitsu (2022), and Dissociation Made Simple: A Stigma-Free Guide to Embracing Your Dissociative Mind and Navigating Life (2023). Visit Jamie’s website here.