What is “BetterEndingsNow!” to Me?, by Dr. Joshua Bertetta

{Dear Readers: Here is a treat (for me especially!). Joshua Bertetta of the intriguing blog The Story of the Four  has taken time to reflect on BetterEndings Now which he has been graciously following. Joshua is a scholar of comparative religion, mythology and archetypal psychology, and I am always grateful to have him “Watching,” as I am also grateful for every one of you who reads this blog whether or not you comment. You are always welcome to share your own insights and stories. So here is a guest perspective, from Joshua Bertetta. I will add some graphics because that is always fun to try to be synchronistic with GraphicStock images…}-Linda

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Dr. Linda Watts’s BetterEndingsNow! and its companion, Life Paths for Better Endings, rooted in C.G. Jung’s theory of the archetypes and James Hillman’s archetypal psychology, is a program, which, as much as it offers guidance toward discovering and manifesting one’s dream, is, to me, as much about the process as it is the final goal.

As someone who holds a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with a degree emphasis in depth psychology, I am well familiar with Jung and Hillman, as I reflect upon Dr. Watts’s work, the element I have come to most appreciate is its simplicity.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a simple program—it takes work, but the work, aside from enlightening, can also be fun (as well as scary, as any process of self-discovery can be). What I mean by simple is two-fold. One the one hand, BetterEndingsNow! is free from psychological jargon. Yes, a participant is introduced to archetypes, but anyone familiar with Jung and Hillman know each defines and uses terms like “soul” and “psyche” in specialized ways. You don’t need to know all that to participate in the Life Paths process. In other words, you don’t have to be a specialist in analytical or archetypal psychology.

All you have to do is follow the steps, beginning with “Your Origin Story,” along as they proceed—simple.

Looking at Dr. Watts’s program, I particularly appreciate her understanding of life as story—as myth. There is too much baggage associated with the word “myth” these days and in many respects this baggage makes me sad. “Myth,” from the Greek mythos, simple means story or, perhaps more accurately, plot.

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Stories have arcs; they have peaks and vales; they have climaxes, themes and conflicts as well as a whole cast of characters.

Is that not life?

Too much today, I think, is life perceived by many as a simple sequence of events. Freud (to whom Jung and Hillman are in debt) revolutionized psychology because he understood life is a story. Hence his “talking cure” was a means by which his patients could understand their lives as stories and thus initiate a process of self-understanding and healing.

Of course Jung and Hillman would continue their own projects much in the same trajectory and I think what Dr. Watts has done is to distill this process by offering insights into such a journey in addition to introducing us to a means by which to understand central themes of our lives and the characters we meet along the way. By this I mean those archetypal presences that are at work in us and through us our entire lives. Dr. Watts not only introduces us to such archetypes, but offers a means by which to enter into a relationship with such.

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Jung and Hillman located the source of modern humankind’s suffering in the loss of meaning and the loss of imagination, respectively. Dr. Watts’s work follows in the same trajectory in that though using our imaginal capacity to connect with archetypal figures and to see our lives as stories, as myths. This is a key component in Jung’s and Hillman’s psychological projects. I might even say the key component, for when one is connected to the depths of experience, which are archetypal in nature, meaning in life is restored.

In the end, as I look at Dr. Watts’s list of primary archetypes (see “Meet & Greet Your Archetype Cast of Characters”) I would not hesitate to say that the Teacher archetype is present in her work. Offering guidance as she does as well as teaching us along the way, so much is clear. She is a university professor after all. But there is more.

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What makes BetterEndingsNow! special is the presence of the Nurturer. The program Dr. Watt’s sets before one does take work, yes, and again, such work can be hard. But there is a gentleness to her approach, embedded in her language. Like a mother, I see BetterEndingsNow! as open hands, hands available for the taking, and like a good mother, there is a quiet care present. Like a mother watching her baby learn to walk, that after those first few wobbly steps, she stands back and watches her baby go; yet despite the separation, the mother is always there, there to offer her child care, love, and guidance.

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Thank you, Dr. Bertetta. You have read this blog well to understand its intent deeply. I find that many authors and bloggers such as yourself and several others whom I have discovered through putting this material “out there” (which somehow always feels like “In There”, somewhere we all share consciousness together) are converging to bring similar messages through. I love Joseph Campbell and Jung and Hillman, among others (e.g. also Gail Sheehy, Jean Houston, Carol Pearson, Mary Catherine Bateson, Fredric Hudson, Julia Cameron, and  Carolyn Myss),who all are helping us realize our lives AS Mythic and therefore we can explore our own narratives and develop these in the direction of fulfilling our Golden Quests. Thank you for your reflections! – L

 

 

Your Dream Messages

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Descent is a vital process whereby a person can ‘sink’ into their unconscious depths to discover or learn about their deepest motivations, challenges, abilities, and needs.   Western cultures tend not to emphasize the Inner or unconscious dimensions of our psyches, favoring rather the Outer, surface appearances. This can be problematical, because we tend to “bury” our conflicts or sensitive issues, often resulting in unbalanced behaviors and emotions and ‘off-kilter’ attitudes.

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One of the easiest ways to take stock of your inner unconscious messages is through paying close attention to the content of your nightly dreams. You can establish a two-way communication with a deep level of awareness by asking for help in your dreams, then tuning in!

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Two very common forms of archetypal figures that might show up in your dreams are what Jung called the Shadow (or Shadow aspects of any number of archetypal forms), and animal figures.  The classic Jungian Shadow is a same gender, dark figure that appears to dog your footsteps or threatens you in your dream. Animal figures—sometimes representing what Jung would call Animus and Anima archetypes—may reveal aspects of yourself that you tend to project onto others and may need to “own” in order to better integrate your intrinsic strengths and awareness.

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A dream dictionary is a helpful tool (see the Art of Spiritual Dreaming, by Harold Klemp for this and many other helpful dream techniques). In the back of your Dream Journal, you can keep a log of the special dream images that show up in your dreams. Some of these will change in their appearance and in their significance or message to you over time. You are the best interpreter of your own dreams, so long as you pay attention and ask yourself what the message of an image or dream story is, to you.

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I went through a period of many years of dreaming about being chased by Tigers or Bears. I would admire the Animal, but then I would run from it, sensing that in its wild nature it would come after me; and then it would! Over time I came to realize these graceful, powerful animal figures represented my own strengths that I was not owning; I projected my own strengths into others for fear of wielding too powerful and thus possibly dangerous feelings. Once I was able to hold my own anima/animus powers in a balanced way, these dreams ceased.

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What are some of your own Shadowy figures that turn up and recur in your dreams?  What messages do they bring you? If you are not clear about their meanings, I invite you to engage in an active imagination. Go within, and ask to be shown what these images are meant to teach you. I did this once after a Bear dream in which after petting a cub, I realized the Mother would come after me and my sister. I sent my sister to climb a pine tree, and I clambered up behind her. Below me I saw this graceful, powerful Mother Bear scaling the tree as though on flat land. When I asked in an active contemplation two days later about the message of this dream, the whole scenario replayed before my inner eyes and I heard: “Even though you run from Her, she is pushing you to greater heights!”

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Sail Past Your Threshold Guardians: Do It for Love!

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So how CAN we/ you/ I  get past a Threshold Guardian or Gatekeeper to reach our goals, anyway?

Writers deal with this question a lot, as does anyone whose “next step” appears to depend on someone or some process beyond their immediate control.

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A few years ago I attended a writers conference in South Carolina. While I was mainly there to advance with my life mapping book, for a lark I entered a “slush pile” event for science fiction. Everyone submitted just their first page of a scifi manuscript, and two well-known scifi editors then gave their evaluative response as if they might be sloshing through their daily Slush Pile of unsolicited manuscript submissions. Forty people attended. The editors liked only ONE of these forty submissions. Typically they would read no further than a phrase or a word in  the first sentence and they would reject the whole work for some minor ‘pet peeve,’ dismissing the value of the entire manuscript on the basis of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to some very minor apparent blemish or weakness.

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“This one opens with a Prologue!” (reject.)

“I can’t pronounce the main character’s name.” (reject.)

“Too wordy.” (reject.)

“Too sparse.” (reject.)

“Too colorful.” (reject.)

“Not colorful enough!” (reject.)

So, what can a writer or an applicant for a desired job or a promotion, etcetera, DO when you encounter one of these sorts of Guardians of the Threshold?

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Just keep on doing what YOU do best. Cultivate your passion. Do it for Love.

Sure, we can always learn from our travails, and will persistently, so as to improve our approach. The Guardian Gatekeepers, after all, represent accepted standards, genre conventions, well established popular forms. They are experienced as experts in knowing what will “sell” or what the Public needs, wants and expects. And yet innovative artists, by definition, strive to push past the boundaries of convention and aim to advance beyond established norms with their unique insights and contribution of new forms.

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So, do it anyway! Keep on writing or composing or applying for and redefining that job you really want. Claim your dreams and go for them with absolute faith that your process bears fruit even just in the doing! Then when you are really ready—on all levels, outwardly and inwardly—the obstacles will dissolve, and you may find your Gatekeepers will turn out to have been among your greatest of Archetypal Allies, after all!

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I welcome your Comments and Stories!

Your Gatekeepers as Threshold Guardians

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In the social sciences the concept of gatekeepers is well known; gatekeepers are people who by virtue of their position in an institutional setting may either admit or deny entry for someone to a higher status or to the means of obtaining a desired goal. A gatekeeper can let someone in or close them out, depending on the gatekeeper’s prerogative.

My best friend in high school, Barbara, for example, was by far the best artist in her class. As a painter, she could create realism as well as more modern forms of art such as cubism equally well, and the deep thought and brilliant creativity she applied to her art was nothing short of genius.

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However, when Barb went for her standard Guidance Counselor visit that we all underwent in the 11th grade, the counselor told her in no uncertain terms:

“You are not college material.”

On what grounds this Gatekeeper turned my friend away from even seeking a college career, who knows? I do know that Barbara was not only a talented artist but she was also—still is—a deeply philosophical and intelligent person. Perhaps Barb might have gone on to become an Art Professor or to have written philosophically about the creative process, had she been deemed “college material.”  But Barb accepted the rebuttal of the Threshold Guardian; she turned away and did not attend college.

Barbara moved to Alaska for several years after high school, where she waitressed, worked in a crab cannery (I joined her there for one summer in Yakutat), and she continued with her art. When she returned to Niagara Falls, New York, Barbara worked at and apprenticed for a wax figure artist at the famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum; when the stateside Mme.Tussaud’s museum folded, many of the clients were directed to Barbara, so that after awhile she was doing wax figures to fill whole museums around the states and, once, in Ireland. Later on Barb developed a small business selling wax dolls in period clothing, molded after two of her own children’s forms. Barb became well known as a wax figure artist, but she never chose to become famous. She remained humble with her talent and eventually took a job as a customs broker, working on her artwork privately. Once while I was an undergraduate in Buffalo, Barb took a one semester college course at my university. She aced it, of course, but she said she was glad she had not gone in that direction; it was too sterile and theoretical for her artistic sensibilities.

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So, was the Gatekeeper a blessing in disguise in Barbara’s case? Did she hear what she needed to hear in order to follow her destiny, or might she have found her way as well without the guidance counsellor’s rejection? I know that she has never forgotten that brief encounter.

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Let’s shift forward a bit. While in graduate school in Arizona for 14 years, I observed that every student approaching their MA thesis or PhD dissertation project at some point always faced their own Threshold Guardians! Key Advisor-faculty were often the gatekeepers involved. They might challenge the logic or the feasibility or the competence of the student for carrying out their study ambitions.  I myself heard from many would-be gatekeepers when I was desiring to do my dissertation research at Zuni Pueblo. “They will never talk to you; they don’t like White people.” “Why not do something easier, like study language dialects and ethnicity in Phoenix?” “How will you pay for the research?” “What is the value of Anthropology, anyway? (my father).”

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Because of my spiritual grounding and an intrinsically persistent nature, I did not allow these detractors or naysayers’ words to filter into my heart. I knew what I wanted to do, and I persisted relentlessly, ultimately succeeding with my research and having the time of my life in the process. I met several beautiful, lifelong friends at Zuni, and this rite of passage of ethnographic fieldwork opened many other doors and windows far into my future. In this case, then, I saw the threshold guardians as challengers that simply helped me to refine and to clarify my resolve. Yet I witnessed many a grad student through those years who turned away from completing their graduate studies altogether after having been steered away from their goals.

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Gatekeepers and Guardians of a Threshold serve vital functions in relation to your own sense of purpose, inner direction, and goals. Your reaction or response to the gatekeepers is what matters, for it can allow you to weigh how deeply you actually value or are committed to your goals.  Once you know inwardly what you truly are here to DO, no power in the Universe can deter you. Which reminds me of a Hermann Hesse line, from his Siddhartha:

“Nothing can deter Jivatma (Soul) from Its goal.”

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So, set your sails, and Go! Let no one control your Destiny, but Yourself—in tandem with your inner spiritual Guidance and the Strengths of your Archetype Allies!

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I welcome your comments and your stories!

 

Your Guardians of the Threshold

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What major resistances show up in your life that seem to always obscure or obtrude your progress? You would like to go back to college, but no, there are so many reasons that pop up to say you can’t. (What is it you really wish to study or to learn and how else might you go about that?) Or you want to try a new diet and start exercising regularly, but where is the time? The money? If you could form a mental image of the naysayers within your own “conscience”, what would they look like to you? I call them Gremlins and will tell you why in a bit. These are your Threshold guardians!

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Joseph Campbell talked about Dragons and about Threshold Guardians separately because the way these archetypal mythological figures show up in your consciousness, dreams, or fixed attitudes varies, but they are related notions.  According to Campbell your inner Dragons are those internal voices that “hem you in;” they appear in your consciousness as self-limiting constructs that aim to hold you back from achieving your “Bliss” or your highest potentials. In a way, these sorts of internal Dragons are protecting you from failure; if you never strive to achieve your dreams, then you can avoid the feelings of failure that could occur if you fall short of fulfilling your desires. So the Dragon protects a part of you from venturing forth into the “big bad world” of external hardships and challenge. But of course, those challenges are what we are here to engage, from another point of view!

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Guardians of the Threshold pop up in your consciousness—perhaps in nightly dreams, waking dreams, or “road blocks” generally—when you are getting closer to attaining the fulfillment of a worthy Quest.  These Guardians guard the passageway that would allow you to finally “cross the threshold” by overcoming the final obstacles between you and your ultimate Goal/Bliss/Life Dream. In mythology and fiction, Guardians of the Threshold are those towering, often stone statues—usually paired as two Guardians facing each other—that wield powers that can destroy you if your heart is not pure when you attempt to step across into a field of “Higher Power” or higher Awareness and achievement. Often a set of Tests or Riddles are issued by the Guardians; only if you pass the tests can you survive in stepping forward. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for instance, while Indie’s father lies dying from a gunshot wound, Indie aims to cross a Void in order to find the chamber in which the Golden Chalice is protected by an ancient guardian and ancient magical forces.  He must answer three riddles and then he must step into the Void, demonstrating absolute Trust and purity of heart and mission. He takes the step, and a stone passage way opens beneath him. He confronts the knightly Guardian and wins the chance to choose the chalice, a final test of his wisdom and worthiness. As confirmation of his purity, Indie uses the water of immortality from the chalice to save his father’s life.

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I had a significant, archetypal dream (we can call it) about two years ago in which I found myself in a realm of higher energy; even the air was “rarified,” as in a high altitude region.  I saw horses there; not just any horses but what I awoke calling “Horses of Heaven”. Yes, these were winged Pegasus horses, huge, beautifully colored and magnificent Beings whom I knew instinctively served the missions of heavenly Masters or Saints, transporting them on their Missions throughout the Cosmos.  These Horses lived in this rarified zone when they were not in service on their missions. It was like there was a boundary line between where I was standing and this heightened realm where the Horses of Heaven abide.

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So, of course, I wanted to enter that beautiful realm of the Horses of Heaven.  I approached the boundary, when all of a sudden, Gremlins popped up all along the boundary! Literally gremlins, these fiendish appearing little fellows had broad ears and flat, rodent like faces. They were grinning, but I knew if I approached any further they would attack and I would be gremlin fodder! So, I paused and knelt, content not to approach any further but to remain in this place to be even this near to the realm of the Horses of Heaven.

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A beautiful, familiar seeming, White Pegasus appeared, returning along with one of her fellow Horses from a service they had performed.  As they approached to step across the boundary, the other (dapple colored) Horse went on across, but the White Horse knelt on one beautiful, graceful leg, inviting me silently to climb up onto her back. She rose with me gratefully astride her wide back as She stepped across into the heavenly realm. I awoke, humbled and grateful!

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My dream, which I have titled “The Horses of Heaven” and which I will ALWAYS remember, is an example of how Guardians of the Threshold might appear in a dream; the Gremlins protected that rarified Heaven from any impurity. I have felt ever since that dream that this was a blessing; a confirmation that I can proceed with my own Life Dreams. It has fueled my ambition ever since.

So, what are YOUR Guardians of the Threshold? What Threshold, first of all, would you approach in aiming to Cross a Threshold to achieve your Higher Purpose? And then what “pops up” to test your resolve or your purity of heart and Spirit if you would step forth to realize that Goal? Have you had any dreams of this nature? Perhaps recurring dreams from childhood or as an adult? Or do recurring situations tend to pop up every time you try to make a meaningful change of course for the sake of realizing your deeper purpose? What is your Quest? And of course, it may be that the life you are currently living is already fulfilling that Purpose; it does not have to be something more, but then you can better appreciate how you can serve and develop the deep potentials all around you, Here and Now!

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As a tool for understanding and contemplating your own Guardians of the Threshold, I invite you this week to represent them artistically via a poem or a picture or song lyrics, or to reflect and talk about them with loved ones, or to dialogue with them in an archetype dialogue through active imagination and journaling, such as I introduced last week. Get to know your Gremlins; they may never befriend you as that is not of their nature, but after all, they are of a positive force that allows you to refine your Purpose!

Guest Story: “The Professor,” by Joshua Bertetta

{I welcome a special treat to share with you today: a story from (professor) Joshua Bertetta. This story, inspired by our weekly topic of the Twelve Universal Archetypes–especially The Teacher– transports us to the depths of the unconscious. I like how the Teacher archetype here also reflects our topic of next week: Guardians of the Threshold. An interesting connection re. Teachers as Gatekeepers…! Thank you for your story, Joshua. – Linda}

Universal Archetypes—The Teacher

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“The Professor”

By Joshua Bertetta

 

“Is it true? That there was once a monster who guarded these hills?”

“Ha!” The ragged man bellowed, then leaned close to the boy and for whatever reason, began in a whisper. “Monsters, my young friend, lurk everywhere. And I mean more than just the si’lahs and the sa’alus and the abominations raging in the Fire. The Cedars of El-Banon grow in the cities too, but there the lurking monsters do not look like those in your dreams or in your fancies. Some are real, others, your own making. Have you ever heard about the ghuls who rise from the dead?”

“Ghuls that rise from the dead? I don’t think so.”

“I’ve been hearing a lot more about them lately. That is, did, before I left.”

“What do they do?”

“They eat human flesh.”

“Like the si’lahs?”

“Yes, but they’re dead.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I know. That’s what I think too. But what they say about them is what, I guess you could say, intrigues me the most. They say the only way to kill them is to destroy the brain. Piercing their heart won’t kill them, cutting off their head won’t kill them. And if they bite you, you’ll turn into one too.”

“Gross.”

“So what I’ve been thinking is that these ghuls are us.”

“Now that’s just crazy.”

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“Wait, wait. Hear me out. See, I would say I myself was a monster, maybe I still am. You see, mine is the type of mind that seeks answers through reason. But I forgot how to dream. Since I left, I began to dream again. For me, the academic life, a mind focused only on the reasonable, the rational, is nothing short of a nightmare. In more ways than one. On the one hand, many like myself will do anything for a name—oftentimes to the extent the name means more than the students, than the teaching. And what do we teach?” His hands matched the veracity with which he proceeded. “Nothing new. Sure, some say they are blazing a path unwalked, but really they are just wrapping old ideas in new parchment and calling the whole package new. So focused on ideas, and when one becomes so particularly focused on one idea and starts calling it the idea, telling everyone he has the right idea? They lose sight of the bigger picture. Those are the ones you really need to watch out for. But I digress…where was I?”

“Monsters, you yourself, a monster.”

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“Oh, yes, well…maybe I didn’t digress. Maybe I did. Anyway, what are monsters other than those who settle for contraction? People nestling themselves in their single idea and around their idea—an idea they tell everyone else they must believe or agree with—they build bigger and thicker walls. Harder crusts. Walls built around the nightmare of a single idea are made from the failure to live, to expand, the mortar that holds them together made from the failure to love. Life out here produces peace born in slow movement. You know the city—it’s too fast. We try our best just to keep up and it just whizzes on by. Out here, there is no contradiction…Well, that’s not exactly true—there is contradiction when I find myself in my old way of thinking. Paradoxes, things that just don’t make sense. Do you see?” He clapped his hand and looked overhead. “That’s when I understood! As much as I have tried to unravel contradiction, paradox, they just made a mockery of my mind until I realized its futility. So out here my mind no longer gets stuck—not as much as it used to—and in those moments I hear song.”

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Joshua Bertetta, an aspiring fantasy author, holds a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with a degree emphasis in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently on the adjunct faculty in Religious Studies at a private university in central Texas. He maintains a blog at jbertetta.wordpress.com which contains excerpts from his novel in addition to short stories and thought provoking essays focused on mythology, religion/spirituality, and culture.

Mindi Finds her Freedom

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Mindi, 34, heard about life mapping and she came to me with a problem. She had a difficult life pattern that had plagued her since she was a teen.  She would start a relationship, or take a job, or relocate when she felt a spiritual nudge. But then she would soon leave the relationship, job or location, feeling a compulsion to not become bound by that situation. How could she ever feel comfortable with any commitment for the long run?

Mindi embarked on the Life Maps Process. We met over a 9 month period for once a week or so, and Mindi composed her Life Map with Life Themes, Life Chapters, a Parallel Mythic Life Story, and an Archetypal mapping of dominant Archetype influences over her life course. Mindi identified a WARRIOR archetype that she associated with her Life Theme of Spirituality, and she identified a DESCENDER archetype associated with her Life Theme of ‘Physical’ events, among others. These two were significant because they were often paired off in her Life Map as diametrically opposed in relation to critical Turning Points in Mindi’s life.

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Mindi engaged in an Archetype Dialogue practice. She invited her thematically associated archetypes to introduce themselves to her and to each other, using a journal to write out these ‘conversations.’  She asked each archetype at some point what its own GOALS are, and later she asked how each archetype’s goals might relate to her own overarching goals within the Total Self System including her core Self and all of her archetypal character aspects.

Mindi’s WARRIOR archetype associated with her Life Theme of Spirituality claimed Freedom as its primary goal. But guess what? Her DESCENDER archetype that she associated with Physical events also claimed Freedom as its goal. So Mindi asked each of these ‘parts of self’ to define Freedom from their own points of view. Mindi’s WARRIOR self defined Freedom as following spiritual nudges even if they did not make logical sense. Her DESCENDER self defined Freedom as the capacity to leave any situation that could limit her, so as not to become overly attached to any physical situation. This made sense of Mindi’s dilemma: Her spiritual WARRIOR would act on an inner nudge to move or act in a specific manner or direction, but soon after Mindi would act on this nudge, her DESCENDER would compel her to bolt, to move on!

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After Mindi moved further along with her Archetype Dialogue practice, she clarified her greatest STRENGTHS and her most overarching life goals. She was an excellent Communicator (another of her Archetype aspects), and she loved to travel. Eventually she defined a Life Dream that all of her archetypal ‘cast’ Allies could benefit from and that they could all contribute toward, together.  She wanted to become a public speaker, traveling around on the job, and speaking about more than one product or idea that she could support spiritually as positive, healthful products or ideas.

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Some 18 months after Mindi completed her Life Maps Process I received a phone message from her on my phone. She was excited.

“Everything we talked about, everything I said I wanted to do, I am now doing!”

Mindi had moved to California and after apprenticing as a political caucus speaker, she landed a job with a health related company that sells many different products that she can support spiritually because she believes that the products are healthful. She has become a public speaker, never staying too long with any one product or in any one location, as the company sends her to various locations to represent its large array of products.

Mindi has found her FREEDOM! (At least for now…)

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Two years later, Mindi is still engaged with this flexible but productive public speaking career. She feels more centered and she looks forward to discovering where this path will lead her to further down the road.

What Mindi has accomplished at this stage in her life is a greater INTEGRATION of her unconscious archetypal influences and yearnings. By LISTENING to herself..which, is, her “selves” as well as her Core—as we all can when we choose to—Mindi has embarked upon her own ‘Yellow Brick Road’ that can lead her to fulfill her deepest sense of Purpose.

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I invite you to continue with your own Archetype Dialogue journaling and/or active imagination practice. I will present a full process for this approach with Life Paths (or feel free to ask me about that), so,…stay tuned!

Meet & Greet Your Archetype Cast of Characters

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In Life Paths I will introduce you to an approach to working with your situational Archetypes–based on the twelve universal archetype figures–that can help you get to know yourself better. Archetypal psychology often recommends some form of “archetype dialogue” practice, yet usually this is very immediate, tapping into archetypal impulses a person recognizes in relation to a specific situation or during a specific moment of reflection or repose during a therapeutic session or a meditative practice. Without giving too much ‘away’ in this blog space—especially since the full context of the Life Paths approach is needed in order to utilize the approach to its best advantage as a self-help process—I will invite you to a processual form of Archetype Dialogue Practice that utilizes your own Life Theme-based, or situational, archetypes.

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Archetypal impulses are always present beneath the surface of your conscious attitudes and perceptions. And everyone has archetypal impulses or an archetypal architecture of unconscious dimensions of the personality.  How can you recognize some of these? Just slow down, quiet the conscious mental stream of consciousness for a bit, and Listen! What subtle attitudes would express themselves if you allowed yourself to give voice to them? Remember, you may ASK! Inquire of your unconscious sub-selves, “What Are You About?” “How do YOU feel about an issue or a decision?” “What do you wish I/we would DO?”

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Carl G. Jung understood Archetypes of the Unconscious (e.g. see his book of that title) better than most people, because he allowed himself to make contact in a direct way with his own unconscious personae. His posthumously published THE RED BOOK (2009) is a transcript of Jung’s own journal chronicling his intentional Journey into the depths of his own unconscious domains. For an initial consecutive series of 19 evenings (and continuing on and off for 16 years thereafter) Jung practiced a gentle form of ACTIVE IMAGINATION, a form of meditative, active contemplation, to “sink” into his own unconscious, imaginative realms in order to explore the otherwise ‘buried’ internal spaces and persons of his Psyche. I have read THE RED BOOK (except for the original German), and I recommend it highly! As Sonu Shamdasani, the editor of The Red Book notes, Jung encouraged his therapeutic clients and friends to compose their own ‘red books’: their own Journals in which they would record encounters with their archetypal denizens of the unconscious, through dreams and active imagination.

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Let me offer a basic approach to beginning a form of archetype dialogue. First review your Life Themes. These are the KINDS of events or situations represented by your set of Significant Life Events or shaping events. An earlier post allows you to reconstruct these (use this site’s Search engine for Life Themes), or simply make a list now of some of the most significant shaping events of your life, events that have “shaped the person you have become.” After composing your list, review the events and SORT each event into a category of KINDS of shaping events. These categories are your LIFE THEMES, recurring kinds of events and situations that weave through your life and make of your life a dramatic story!

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Now then, reflect on your set of LIFE THEMES (e.g. Work, Romance, Spirituality, Travel, etcetera) in relation to the ARCHETYPAL TWELVE presented below (see Friday, 8/15/14 post for discussion):

ELDER LEADER   ARTIST  TEACHER

LOVER   IDEALIST  COMMUNICATOR

WARRIOR  GOLDEN CHILD HEALER

NURTURER  DESCENDER  MYSTIC

For now, just by using the descriptive character names of these twelve archetypal figures (tables of traits will be presented in Life Paths), try to associate at least one ARCHETYPE with each of your Life Themes. For example, a Romance theme might be associated with a LOVER archetype, or a Family theme might relate to NURTURER or ELDER LEADER. Each archetype could pertain to masculine or feminine traits and could be in either a positive or Strength mode, or in a negative, Shadow mode.

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Once you have identified ARCHETYPES with your own set of recurring LIFE THEMES, try starting an imaginative dialogue with one or more of these Archetype figures. Start with active imagination if you can; close your eyes, center yourself in a quiet space, and envision one or more of these Archetypes as if they are characters that inhabit your unconscious. Start a conversation. When you come out of your reverie, write down what you can of the conversation, or simply generate the dialogue as you compose it directly in your journal.

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Let your initial exploration of archetypal impulses through archetype dialogue journaling be of a light, general form. Just start by getting to know these parts of self; aspects of your Self that show up in your SOCIAL ROLES that are activated as you experience recurring LIFE THEME events or situations. Simply visit with and/or invite your unconscious archetypal characters to dialogue!

Here is a hypothetical sample:

L:  I invite my archetypes to introduce yourselves to me and to each other. Who is there?

A: You can do it, Linda!

L: Who is this?

A: You might call me NURTURER. I support you; don’t give up!

L: Sometimes, honestly, I almost think I should.

B: Stay true to your Mission. Get yourself out of the Way.

L: Mystic?

B: Okay, if you like. …Remember, this is what you are here to do, there is no turning back. Remember you have the Response-ABILITY to Realize your Dreams, not just for Getting By.

L: Thanks for the reminder. I need ALL of your support. Speak up whenever you feel you want to or need to.

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To Readers: I have been using this form of Archetype Dialogue already for several years. I find it a very natural and helpful way to “Tune In” to my own unconscious attitudes and perspectives that I might otherwise ignore or “bury”. This is a simple imaginative technique anyone can use. These perspectives are not OTHER than or OUTSIDE from yourself. They ARE You, just different dimensions or facets OF your personality structure. So these are not outside “entities” or “demons” you are inviting; if by any means something very “other” seems to manifest itself, by all means end your session and close your journal! Indeed some of these inner aspects might have some negative feelings or attitudes to express; welcome this in order to hear and understand those feelings, but be clear from when you start your dialogue that the dialogue field is a SAFE SPACE. If you like, you can begin by calling on your own positive Spiritual Guides to maintain a protective inner environment. If you are currently engaged in a psychiatric or therapeutic treatment program, I recommend for you to share this with your analyst or therapist before proceeding.

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If you like you can artistically represent any archetypal encounters or insights or perspectives you gain from this imaginative practice. Jung used artistic creations, especially Mandalas, to represent his archetypal experiences. (You can see some of these at the Amazon site linked to for THE RED BOOK, above). After every session of active imagination, Jung painted something about the experience to represent the purpose or meaning of that archetypal experience in his life.

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So, Enjoy!

I welcome your queries, insights, and any results that you may wish to share!

The Archetypal Twelve, by Debra Breazzano

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{Today’s post (through Monday) is an Invited Guest Blog from Debra J. Breazzano, MA/LPC, Archetypal Psychotherapist and Gifted Children Program Director.

I invited Debra to answer some questions readers might have about the “Twelve Universal Archetypes” that I am featuring in Life Paths and here at our Better Endings blog. Debra has co-authored articles and chapters with me before on this subject and has written an Appendix about “The Twelve Universal Archetypes” for Life Paths.  I sent Debra a set of questions in an interview sort of format, and here below is her reply.- Linda}

from Debra Breazzano:

The late Dr. Charles Bebeau (1944-2008) was the Founder and Director of several graduate Psychology training programs in Boulder, CO beginning with the Colorado Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in the early 80s, and ending with the Avalon Institute from which his wife, Nin, continued teaching his system of Archetypal Diagnosis under her directorship in Archetypal Academy until 2010.  I was privileged to learn from and teach with Dr. Bebeau and Nin for over 10 years and continue to incorporate many of the Universal Twelve concepts into my own work as educator and licensed counselor in the Boulder and Colorado Springs areas.  Traditional archetypal psychology has generally used dream images, poetic images and mythic-images in its efforts to “provide soul with an adequate account of itself (Hillman: 1983).”

Dr. Bebeau’s unique contribution to archetypal psychology, supported by years of research, concluded with the Twelve Universal Archetypes as a basis for his Archetypal Diagnostic approach.  This pioneering work synthesized the psychology of Carl Jung and other archetypal theorists such as James Hillman with the psychotherapeutic techniques from Wilhelm Reich, Fritz Perls, Carl Rogers and many other profound theoreticians.  From an archetypal perspective Dr. Bebeau explored the unfolding process of the soul and was able to empirically show through numerous case studies the unfolding cyclical processes relating to the Twelve moving through mind, body, spirit, soul, nature, dreams and personal events at one time.  Continuing this work, I also have discovered how powerful using the Twelve Universal Archetypes is, to equip people to meet life directly as they move through the challenges that are inherent to personal growth.

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The question arises:  Why Twelve?

As we know, archetypes are universal principles governing the order of the manifest world. Long ago ancient mysticism and hermetic sciences explored and documented the world of archetypal patterns.  These universal principles are very elusive. In conceptualizing the inconceivable, some of these systems chose to anthropormorphize the archetypes, bestowing upon them the form of angels or gods.  As internal deities or underlying archetypes, these Greater Powers instigate the dramas of our lives.   In archetypal psychotherapy, the archetypes are identified by names which characterize the way they appear in human personality.   The following names are used to describe the Twelve Archetypes that appear in human personality:

Originating             Maintaining     Dissolving

ELDER LEADER    ARTIST            TEACHER

LOVER             IDEALIST   COMMUNICATOR

WARRIOR        GOLDEN CHILD       HEALER

NURTURER      DESCENDER           MYSTIC

These principles are not only metaphysical theories but are a series of structural patterns which underlie all existence and can be understood in practical terms.  On the most elemental level, the individual characteristics of each archetype are based on the interplay of two factors—the four primary elements that are naturally found in the physical world:  earth, air, fire, and water; in combination with the three natural states of universal movement: all manifestation is either coalescing into form, maintaining the form it already has; or dissolving its old form.  The frequency of this interplay is the signature of each of the Twelve Archetypes.  When the knowledge and wisdom of these twelve states of awareness is acquired, consciousness moves from the mundane to the sublime.  The essential pattern of each archetype never changes because it is dictated by a particular vibrational frequency.  However, the possible combinations for manifestations are endless. There are many possible ways the Twelve continue to be combined to produce a great variety of human personalities.  However, the characteristics always echo the same network of relationships unique to that archetype.

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The process of becoming whole is one by which the psyche strives to incorporate all Twelve faces of consciousness into a harmonious blend.  Through grappling with the issues, challenges and personal talents inherent in each personality type, the individual expresses some of the divine force of the archetype.

Are the Twelve the absolute truth of the number of core patterns found at the base of life manifesting?  Possibly.  Or possibly not.   Dr. Bebeau believed and was able to demonstrate that these were the building blocks of the Universe.  However, that answer isn’t relevant if the purpose for archetypal diagnosis is to provide a powerful and useful tool for communicating and understanding each of our own unique personalities on the soulful journey we wish to engage.  For myself, and in my work with others, this system has provided an empowering structure that heals.  The multiple combinations of the Twelve are unending, and each individual is the authority of their own mythic evolution and its meaning.

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In addition, each archetypal pattern has qualities that can be considered “Feminine” and “Masculine” although all archetypes are inherently androgynous for they are embodied by both men and women. When energies expand outward they are designated as Masculine, while inward, contracting movements are considered Feminine.  However, these are not to be confused with gender; nor, does a man or a woman necessarily embody one correlating aspect more easily than the counterpart.  However, due to societal bias, masculine expression of an archetype may be more accepted in a man with their energies focused externally out into the world, and the feminine more socially accepted in a woman with her focus drawn towards an inward awareness.  A truly integrated being has equal access to both poles of consciousness and can express in either in accord with the demands of the moment.

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Carl Jung’s idea of the Shadow—or inferior function– shows up in a particular wound physically, emotionally, or transpersonally as the  energy manifests in repressed or exaggerated aspects of an archetype. If the wound is addressed with archetypal awareness this shadowy aspect can transform into the healthy expression and the individual aligns themselves again with the awesome life generating power of the energetic force.

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I have discovered over and over again, that when people consciously align their state of consciousness with these natural cycles of life, they accelerate their psychological growth.  The Twelve Archetypes provide the foundational tool for understanding the soul’s evolving process.  Combining this understanding with Dr. Linda Watts’ Life Path Mapping process, the sense of empowerment for an individual as they navigate their journey through life, is truly profound.

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Thank You, Debra!

 

 

The Next Chapter

Dear Better Endings readers: Here is a wonderful post from The Ptero Card that relates very well to our discussion this week and next about how our lives are “storied”, and “peopled” with archetypal impulses from within the dynamism of the unconscious…

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To practice the living of one’s life as “storied,” it may first be necessary to experience the idea as a meaningful one. The beauty of stories, their telling and living is an art coming from more than the deciphering of meanings, moral lessons, endings, or truth – as influential as those things may be. As I hope to show, they’re not the whole story. All stories, and especially the story we tell ourselves, need a willing participation, an immersion into deeply lived characters, especially to see our life in story form.

Stories speak to the heart and soul through the primary language of symbol and image, and what Hillman, Jung and others referred to as personifications, meaning the voicing of archetypal qualities speaking through and around us.

Whether we see or believe in it or not, personifying goes on in and all around us. It is human nature to experience the world…

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Our Many Storied Selves: Twelve Universal Archetypes

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Life Paths, which is a personal growth and development book and self-help handbook, will present readers with an understanding of 12 Universal Archetype character-figures that are derived from the specific archetypal psychology approach of Dr. Charles Bebeau and his consociates including his wife Nin Bebeau and Debra Breazzano (MA, LPC). The Bebeaus founded and taught at the former Avalon Archetype Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  Basing his work on a solid foundation of Jungian Depth or Analytical Psychology and James Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology, and using symbology tracing back as far as ancient Sumerian mythology and astrology, Charles Bebeau recognized a pantheon of Twelve Universal classes of Archetypes from which all other idiosynchratic and culture-specific archetypal forms can be derived.

The Twelve represent energetic archetypal character forms that represent the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) and the three energetic phases of Process (origination, maintenance, dissolution). Robertson has noted that Jung himself drew attention to the “quaternity” and the “trinity” as intersecting dimensions of archetypal energy, precisely in accordance with Bebeau’s insightful system. Also check out this excellent post about HermesTrismegistus from the blog Symbol Reader, which references the Alchemical relevance of the conjunction of elements and process.

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Here then, are a primordial set of Twelve Universal Archetypes :

 

ELDER LEADER    ARTIST    TEACHER

LOVER    IDEALIST    COMMUNICATOR

WARRIOR    GOLDEN CHILD    HEALER

NURTURER    DESCENDER    MYSTIC

 

On Friday I will reblog an excellent post from the Ptero website, a brilliant Archetypal Psychology venue.  The Ptero posting (from 8/10/14), speaks evocatively of the ‘storied’ lives we all lead, and expresses how we personify our lives and Psyche with archetypal energies and forms; some collective, others of a more personal resonance.

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On Sunday I will further develop this thread with a special Guest Blog to this site from Debra Breazzano (MA, LPC), a prime proponent of the Bebeau/ Avalon archetypal system who is a practicing Archetypal Psychotherapist. Her post will answer many questions about the history of this approach and its value and significance from a psychotherapeutic perspective. I first encountered this approach synchronistically, as Breazzano’s therapy client over several years; and gradually I began recognizing its significance and incorporating aspects of this approach into my own emerging study of the Life Maps Process, so that archetypal psychology now appears to me to be vital for anyone truly aiming to “know thyself” and to advance in a balanced way to the pursuit of their dreams.

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But let’s go back to a more hands-on introduction for today:

This week’s technique of identifying character modes, or “guises” and traits associated with your SOCIAL ROLES in life, can go pretty far in helping you begin to recognize some of your own dominant archetypal impulses or influences. As a quick sample from my own life–which I invite you to try on and apply to your own life experience–I find the following archetypal influences operating within my presentation of self in various roles (You can refer to the table of 12 archetype names listed above):

Roles         Archetypes     Traits

Teacher     TEACHER        organized presentation, authoritative delivery, enthusiasm for student          learning

Pet Mom    NURTURER     caregiving, Motherese

DESCENDER   (grief over loss)

Friend        COMMUNICATOR   empathy, listening skills, loyalty

Spirituality   MYSTIC        contemplative, visionary, patient

Traveler      IDEALIST      adventurous, love of new horizons

So you can begin to understand all this in terms of an Archetypal Assemblage (or, as I prefer, Assembly or Council). This is like a constellation of your regularly activated archetypal viewpoints or persona guises in your life.

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Using this method of reflecting on archetypal qualities associated with your roles in relation to your Life Themes will not identify ALL of the archetypal impulses that might personify your personal unconscious (in Hillman’s terms) or that reflect the collective unconscious archetypes like Shadow, Anima and Animus that Jung described. Your Psyche is much more fertile and dynamic than that! However, this approach of identifying SITUATIONAL or Role and Life Theme related archetypal impulses can help you recognize a set of your “dominant situational archetypes.” This can be helpful because these are sources of Strength as well as sources of recurring lessons and challenging perspectives within your Psyche or what I like to call your Total Self System.

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These dominant archetypal influences can be among your greatest Allies, especially when properly “aligned” in an integrated manner. (Think, Wizard of Oz.)This is what I aim to help people put into practice with techniques I will further present and develop for you in Life Paths.

So please, stay tuned!

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As always, I WELCOME your comments and stories.

Your Archetypal Cast & Crew

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I watched the movie “Maleficent” last week. Is the Fairy Godmother character Maleficent, or Beneficent? The story finds both in the same person: hero and villain, Light Giver and Shadow, depending on what? It is the stimuli that affect the character—how she is treated, mainly—that bring out her different personas. Then the other night I was watching a Brain Games segment. They offered a set of personality test questions. One question I answered yes to was: “If you are frustrated do you sometimes “blow up’”? It is pretty rare for me but, yes, sometimes I find there’s a part of me that privately expresses itself by acting out briefly in a sort of tantrum that I have little conscious control over in the moment.

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Think of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other; have you ever felt that sort of duality around a temptation or a decision? So, what’s that about?

Cherokees say we all have two wolves living within us: a good wolf and a bad one. Which will surface? The one you feed.

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Or how about this: “Who are you” at work compared to “Who are you” with your significant other?  Think of the whole set of SOCIAL ROLES you occupy. As a Teacher, my personality disposition or ‘presentation of self’, especially in a classroom, is quite different from my ‘Friendship’ mode, say camping with friends or walking my dog Sophie. My sisters even find it freaky how I shift into Motherese with my dog, because it is so not like my regular speech.

What about you? What roles do you enact in your life regularly? Do these different social roles or statuses bring out some distinctive aspects of your personality?

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As a cultural anthropologist I find all of this to be VE-E-E-RY interesting, that we shift our presentation of self, from slightly to a lot, in different “role guises.” Then I find myself thinking about… ARCHETYPES of the Unconscious.

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Carl Jung said: “For every typical situation in life, there is an archetype corresponding to that situation.” On one hand, a situation itself has ‘archetypal’ characteristics: features we expect to go along with the typical framing of that kind of occasion.  But if you reflect on the Life Themes that run through your Life Path: those KINDS of situations that are prominent in different phases or aspects of your life, you can see how the character traits associated with your ROLES in these recurring types of life situations (like Family, Work, Relationships, Travel, etcetera) are also archetypal. The Lover, the Teacher, the Warrior, the Mystic, for instance, all embody role traits recognizable in a culture.

When you “put on” a role or status, some archetypal character aspects (I wanted to type “assets”, and they ARE) step forth as it were to enact that role in tandem with your core sense of Self.

So we each have within us an “ensemble cast of mythic archetypal characters”. That is our topic this week and next. To start playing in this sandbox you get to have some playmates: your own ‘inner selves’ that are often submerged except in these role situations, sudden outbursts, and “inner dialogue”.

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Your first move, then: I invite you to make a list of the typical roles you occupy and have occupied in your life. Describe some character traits that feel like they ‘come forth’ for you in these roles. What KINDS of characters are these?

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Please feel free to Comment or to Query. Thanks and stay tuned…

What Is Your Mission?

 

An early ‘Friday’ post this week…

Your Mission Statement 

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Every successful organization has something that helps its employees and customers to thrive: a Mission Statement. In a way this is like a narrative throughline, such as we have been exploring this week, except a Mission Statement highlights the endpoint to be achieved rather than the full process it might take to arrive there.

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A Mission Statement orients those aiming to manifest this Mission to be mindful of the End Achieved. It is like a positive affirmation or a goal based mantra phrase; it empowers a person to anchor their actions to the destination and, so, to arrive Here with clarity and Purpose.

So I invite you to create a logline to the manifestation of your deepest Dream, as a fulfillment of your Life Mission. To uncover your Mission, first think from the end achieved and write how you ‘got there’ as a fulfillment of Why You Are Here, the Dream accomplished in the highest sense.

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If it helps to think of a narrative parallel first, to help you to then write your own Mission Statement, choose a story with the sort of happy or Better Ending you desire.

E.G.:  She was Home, in Kansas! And she had learned so much while being away in the Land of Oz. She knew exactly what to say to her mean neighbor now; she would apologize for Toto’s behavior and take responsibility for making sure it would not happen again for she would build a fence around the yard so Toto would not traipse into the neighbor’s garden. She would appreciate her family and friends, now more than ever before. But, she would also always remember: Home is not the Farm itself; Home is in the Heart. She wanted now to eventually leave the farm and travel to find her destiny, her way to serve from the foundation of all she could learn. She was no longer afraid of being alone, for she would never be alone, Not Really. She was free to grow, to explore; free to give of herself to all Life. She was, quietly to herself alone, Dorothy, a Good Witch, a Wizard of OZ.

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Well, that was fun!  A Mission Statement: My Mission is to be All that I CAN BE, in service to All Life; to follow my Outer and Inner Guidance in order to follow this Dream fully, to Live my Dream, Now!

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Yours?

So, What Is YOUR Logline?

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If you read Sunday’s post you may have already been practicing the art of crafting fictional throughlines or loglines.  I would love to be a fly on the wall to see what some of you may have come up with! (Do feel free to share! You can write one or two now if you haven’t yet.)

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What have you learned about throughlines from writing some? A throughline is like a skein of thread you unwind that leads directly through the center of a tale from beginning to end, with nothing wasted. Or it is the story itself, as it were, stripped bare to the main character’s quest, challenge, strategy, and mission achieved (or if a tragedy, not).

Yet here is the real question I want to set before you to be pondering this week: What is YOUR Throughline; the Narrative Statement or central thread of your unique LIFE STORY?  ‘Is there one?’ you may query, and I would answer, ‘Yes, but of course there is!’

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Whether you have been following the weekly topics and applying the life mapping tools offered here for the last few months of this Life Paths for Better Endings blog or not, we have been gradually developing an approach that allows you to map out the Life Chapters of your Life Story narrative by identifying significant shaping events and Turning Points in your life history and giving chapter titles to the activity cycles in your life that have occurred between your pivotal Turning Points. (I invite you to review the past several weeks’ Sunday topic introductions and sidebar Life Mapping Tools if you would like to catch up with this process or to share it with your friends.)

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Last week I invited you to read across your series of Life Chapter titles and to compare your life script, as this reveals, with a parallel storyline you are familiar with, and then to reflect on the similarities. (EG How is your series of Life Chapter titles like the plotline of a favorite story you have always identified with?)

One simple way to arrive at your own Life Story logline or Narrative Statement is to collapse a parallel mythic storyline you can relate to with your own.  I recommend that you give yourself a favorite protagonist’s name and write your Life Story logline in the 3rd person, present tense.  Your Narrative Statement should be brief; perhaps one or no longer than two or three sentences at most.

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Here are some examples of Narrative Statements some life mappers I have coached have produced by using this sort of parallel mythic comparison:

J.D.       The hero, once freed, became more open-minded and saw things as they were. He was able to move forward and help others.  He went through rough times, having to choose between saving his girlfriend Trinity and helping the world. He did what he believed, not what he was told to do. He followed his heart. (Parallel myth = The Matrix)

Hope:  Hope begins her life with a thirst for “truth”.  She is Wanasai, “Seeker of Truth”.  Innocence is lost. Knowledge is gained.  Descent becomes opportunity to face and “slay” the dragons.  Seeking power and taking Death on as her ally, Hope walks with grace.  Healing Self – healing others. (Parallel Myth = A Native American Vision Quest)

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Does this practice of revealing to yourself a logline or throughline for your own Life Story offer some new insights for you? What, after all, is or has your life been about, up to Now? How might where you have arrived at in your storyline to Now relate to your life goals or to your own mythic Quest from here forward?

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I encourage you to place your personal narrative logline or Narrative Statement someplace where you will see it often. Refine it, represent it artistically; do anything to let yourself remember your logline even daily for awhile.  When basic life choices come along—these are like a writer’s editing choices, yes?—use your logline to help you make your next decision about where it is most helpful to place your attention or which direction to take or to walk away from; see?

If by chance you are not yet entirely satisfied with your throughline as it has manifested in your Life Story to Now, you are free to craft a new one that might lead you—like Theseus’s thread leading him from the Labyrinth in which he overcame the monstrous Minotaur—out of your own mental labyrinth and back to the Light of day; your day—a Day you may deeply wish to wake to! Let this new throughline define for you a pathway to your own Better Endings!

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Feel free to share!

Your Narrative Statement 

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 Have you ever taken ‘time out’  to try to encapsulate what your life is “all about”? Of course, it doesn’t need to be “about” anything, but at the same time, since you like everyone else have a Life Story, then there is a meaning and a message to YOUR story that is uniquely important, if only to you. This week’s Life Paths for Better Endings topic is about a way to uncover the underlying significance of your own Story and the potential benefits of claiming a personal Narrative Statement.

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What I’ll call a Narrative Statement is known to authors as a “Throughline” or a “Logline”. E.G.:

The throughline is an invisible thread that binds your story together. It comprises those elements that are critical to the very heart of your tale — these elements needn’t be the same for every story you tell but should remain the same throughout a given story.  (Shot through the Heart: Your Story’s Throughline / Terrible Minds, by Chuck Wendig, http://terribleminds.com/ramble/)

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To begin, let’s look at some fictional stories or mythic tales to explore how narrative statements can function to make a story cohesive and well-focused on the key protagonists’ character arcs and plotlines. Writers know they should be able to boil down their story into one brief, tense statement, usually one sentence that fully encapsulates the story in terms of characters, goals, oppositions and outcomes. Here are some feasible narrative throughlines just as a practice in devising narrative statements (though of course the authors would do a better job):

  • An orphaned boy discovers on his 11th birthday that he is a “wizard”, destined to master the positive potentials of magical abilities along with a cohort of friends, in order to thwart the evil rise to power of the megalomaniac wizard fiend who killed his parents.
  • After witnessing UFOs firsthand a man becomes obsessed with replicating a mental image that turns out to be a UFO landing site to which he is being telepathically called by an alien race aiming to bring an Earth representative to their home world for interplanetary communication.

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Here are some actual throughlines I have found online that are associated with well-known stories:

Sleepless in Seattle: A recently widowed man’s son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.- Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@imdb.com>

Oedipus Rex: Sophocles’ most famous work about the King of Thebes (translated here by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald) tells the simple tale of boy gets parents, boy loses parents, boy gets new parents, boy kills biological father and marries biological mother. http://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/throughlines-oedipus-rex/Content?oid=1675058

The Wizard of Oz: After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.  (from Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips: So Now You’re a Screenwriter…Tips to Improve your Film and TV writing and Your Career/ Writing Effective Loglines. http://gideonsway.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/writing-effective-loglines/)

 Graffiti wall (sea theme)

I invite you for the next few days to practice writing narrative throughlines for some fictional stories that matter to you. This practice will prepare you to develop a throughline or narrative statement encapsulating your own Life Story, later this week.  So first, I encourage you to practice the method!

  • What do you find yourself emphasizing about the stories you choose to write loglines for?
  • What does the very fact that you can write a logline, even for what might be a rather complicated story, say about stories or about storytelling in general?

castle

Throughlines or loglines are essential for writers. They are the very heartbeat of a story. In editing, it is often said that every line or even every word in a manuscript should propel or develop the logline; else, remove it! Hold that thought in relation to devising—later this week—a throughline for your own Life Story. What might be some implications? Stay tuned…

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As always, thank you for reading and I invite you to play in this life mapping sandbox!

Your Comments and Stories are welcome!