A warning: This blog post is a tangent, sharing insights from my current exploration into feminist writing. If this type of information is not of interest to you, I’ll be back to more “retirement transition – life journey” stuff soon. But a number of folks expressed interest in hearing about this topic, so I’m taking a risk and sharing some of the thinking it’s inspired.
So what is an archetype? An archetype is a recurring symbol that represents universal patterns/behaviors of human nature, recognized over generations and across cultures, and considered to be part of the inherited collective unconscious. Archetypes are different than stereotypes, which tend to be based on specific gender, culture, class, or occupation. One of the specific examples to show the difference is: A stereotype is assuming all women are maternal. There is however a maternal archetype, which depicts what behaviors ensue when that archetype is present (example, desire for children, nurturing of others, not wanting children to leave nest, etc.).
An individual will have some archetype(s) dominant, some latent, some completely inactive, and possibly some even repressed; the range and dominance of archetypes makes up their personality profile. All archetypes have both positive and negative aspects (positive often referred to as strengths, negatives often referred to as shadows) in their patterns/behaviors. Understanding your own dominant and latent archetypes can also help you understand the internal motivations for your external behaviors.
Why understand archetypes? A few reasons:
- There is psychological belief that an archetype within can be dormant, either because it’s been repressed in childhood (family or societal expectations) or just that it has not been fully activated to date. Activating/empowering an inner dormant archetype can bring stronger life satisfaction/meaning.
- Better understanding the negative aspects of my own archetype(s) can help me manage them better, and be happier with myself. And reminding myself of the strengths I do have can help with self-acceptance.
- When I understand that I do not have a specific archetype active in my own profile, it allows me to stop doing “Compare & Despair” (feeling I am “not enough”) when I see it active in someone else. I can then just admire the other person’s archetypal strengths. This also helps with not feeling good enough based on societal archetypal expectations.
I’ve explored archetypes previously (years ago), using the Carol Pearson 12 archetype model (link here if interested in these archetypes), which leans towards non-gender descriptions. More recently, as part of my feminist writings exploration, I’ve been reading about goddess archetypes in writings by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD. Stories (myths, fairy tales, great movies) that last for generations usually personify archetypes. So looking back towards the goddess myths is a great way to explore feminine specific archetypes.
A few of the goddesses that have sparked my interest so far:
- Metis is a goddess I was not familiar with. She is one of the “crone goddesses” and an archetype that might be activated as one gets older. Metis is about practical wisdom and becoming a Wise Counselor. Her behaviors/patterns (strengths) are the ability to intellectually grasp situations by seeing patterns in research/data and act wisely/skillfully for mutually satisfying outcomes. A younger Metis might have felt that her contributions/ideas were ignored or made insignificant by male politics/patriarchal culture. She might have hit-the-glass ceiling, been underpaid for her work, or realized that loyalty was not mutual (downsized). Ways to activate the wise woman Metis more strongly within are to create stronger affiliations with women (consider joining a women’s circle), to lose allegiance to hierarchy and patriarchal values, to look inward for approval and validation, and to work on passing on what you know (life experiences/ mastery).
- Athena is an interesting goddess because her behaviors and strengths are not usually associated with women. Athena is an outward-focused strategist, pragmatic & practical, clear thinking & tactical, and an achievement-focused planner (perceive, plan, act). She is the “daughter of the patriarchy”; at ease with male competitors, she learned to play/win in a man’s world and often upholds the patriarchal values. An Athena will often become too involved in work to have an outside life; intently focused on career, she will have an arrested emotional development (no creation of intimate relationships or soul-satisfying hobbies). Continued growth for an Athena archetype is to develop a connection to the feminine within (compassion, nurturing) and create routines and schedule activities (classes, cultural events, the reading) she wants to do or the projects she probably has materials for. She needs to learn to do things for the love of it and allow time for introspection (for example, try meditation).
- Hestia was interesting archetype to me because it epitomizes a good friend. Hestia is the Goddess of the Hearth, a true home-maker (not housewife, but home-maker). She stands for the sacred fire, a source of light/illumination and warmth, the still point center of the psyche. Words that come to mind with Hestia are solitude, sanctuary, safety/security, and silence. Hestia has an inward focus and a meditative wisdom; she is true introvert and prefers her own company. She is not ego striving, not worried about how she “looks” to others (physical appearance or activity engaged in), and has no angst from being/doing things solo. She does what has meaning to her, living in the present moment. She is one-in-herself.
I’m continuing to explore the Goddesses, trying to identity which ones are active or dormant within and acknowledging which will never “be me”. More to come on Artemis, Hera, Demeter, and Persephone for sure! But if you know me from my writing, you know I’m very much an Athena and hoping to activate more Metis.
Do you recognize yourself (or someone close to you) in any of these Goddesses?
Picture Credit: nothing to do with goddesses… fun during a Road Rally – a top down sunny Florida January day!