Around the Bend? Life Is… a Winding Road


The most common metaphor for Life is that it is in some form a Journey, and in that regard, we are all travelers. We think of ourselves as having originated at birth and as having an exit, at death, with a “long and winding Road” from start to finish. J.R.R. Tolkien expressed this metaphor beautifully in a song from The Fellowship of the Ring:

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the Door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger Way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then?

I cannot say.

Now then, where have you come from? Where are you going? How are you going to get there? Tolkien’s song reminds us that a life traveler, like you or me, is on a Quest to achieve unique potentials.


Of course, not everyone is in a set of conditions that appears to allow them to “Follow their Bliss,” as Joseph Campbell exhorted.  A student recently reminded me of this fact after watching Campbell and Moyers’ dialogue in volume 1 of The Power of Myth series, The Hero’s Adventure. Life certainly can appear as a deep, dark pit rather than as a happily winding road to those caught up in apparently immovable or intractable conditions. Can someone beset with a genetic illness or chronic mental disorder, or can someone suffering in poverty anywhere in the world, benefit from the lofty thought that “Life is a Winding Road” leading to a positive destination? Or is that a merely privileged, Polyannish fantasy?


I’ve been pondering this question since my student raised such a sobering perspective. I must for myself yet answer, Yes! I do believe that ANYONE, even in the most critical and painful of circumstances, not only can benefit from imaging Life as a Winding Road leading toward an ultimately positive destination, but that in fact they are likely to do so.

Why? Because I believe it is a human imperative, part of our basic survival instinct no doubt, to strive to transcend negative circumstances so as to—in some fashion, either for ourselves or those we love—prevail.  At very least, in the worst of times we at least usually aim to survive; albeit survival might come in various forms, including spiritual survival.


I don’t mean to make little of human suffering and pain by any means; certainly it is a fundamental and crucial aspect of the human condition.  It is just what it is. But it seems also very human to aim to transcend suffering in any possible way or to any possible degree. I guess since I do see Life as a long and winding pathway, in fact through potentially MANY lifetimes and states of consciousness, there seems to be a plus factor, all in all.

It feels anyway to me as if we are all of us tending toward Home in the most ultimate sense, no matter how long it may take for any of us to get Here.

Road to nowhere

So this month I invite you to contemplate Life as a Winding Road. I welcome your insights, stories, or any artistic representations.

Invoking Divine Wisdom

Prayer Flags

As this is to be the final blog post for the January monthly theme combining the Life Metaphor “Life Is What You Make It” with the Elder Leader archetype, I feel it is appropriate to refer to the highest archetype of the Elder Leader, which is God Itself, or Higher Power, the Creator (Great Spirit, God, Allah, SUGMAD, Jehovah, First Cause, Intelligent Design, Nature, or whatever you choose to Name divinity.)

Sunset over Kourion coast

Not a day goes by that I do not find it helpful to appeal to Higher Wisdom for the grace and humility to make decisions and to understand and respond as well as I can to life’s challenges.  A poetic prayer I use many times on a daily basis is one I know from my spiritual belief system of Eckankar as “Lai Tsi’s Prayer”.  It is very similar to and is in fact a modification of one of the Psalms (25.4), as well.

Lai Tsi’s Prayer

Show me thy ways, Oh Beloved (God),

Teach me thy path.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me;

On Thee do I wait all day.

Remember, Oh Beloved, thy guiding light

And thy loving care,

For it has been ever thy will

To lead the least of thy servants to Thee.

(from The Shariyat-Ki-SUGMAD, Bk.I, by Paul Twitchell)


This prayer song or psalm reminds me to be grateful for all good things. It helps me to keep my heart open to receive wisdom with patience. It lifts my Spirit to the realization that the ways of the divine are always in good order, Here and Now. It shows the way, thereby, to Acceptance and to right discernment. It expresses the willingness to wait on the will of Heaven.


Elder Leader as Pathfinder: Change It Up!

Open Door Background

On Sunday I blogged about Chefs as Elder Leaders bringing about a new fusion of cultural traditions in our globalizing world. Reflecting further on this theme, “change it up!” comes into focus as a statement about personal growth.

The Elder Leader archetype is a harbinger and often an agent of change. When you become too settled into established routines or habits, beliefs and attitudes, you can always call upon your archetypal Leader persona to set you forth in a new direction. This is because Leaders are Pathfinders. They are not content to stay in a situation that feels stuck or stultifying for very long. When you do resist change or feel hampered by limiting conditions, your Leader might “submerge” and cause a feeling of dissatisfaction—that is a Shadow leader trait—or else it will seek a new direction and set your course in the direction of exploration or, at least, envisioning a future set of possibilities.

Forest road. Landscape.

I have been feeling somewhat impatient or hedged in about my own creative development lately. I have been getting plenty of things “done” to fulfill my responsibilities, yet now that some of these projects are completed I see a break in the “busy-ness” cloud and I have become more aware of what I wish would be happening beyond my day-to-day routines and workload. So it is a good time to enter into Archetype Dialogue:

Ringleader Whip Circle Retro

LW: Calling Elder Leader; come in, please!

EL: Very funny. Watts’ up, Doc?

LW: Very funny in return!

EL: Droll perhaps, but hardly funny really. What can I do for you?

LW: I feel stymied.

EL: What is it you are wishing for?

LW: Are you my Genie in a Bottle, then?

EL: That is an apt metaphor, at least.

LW: Well in the biggest picture of things, I want to go Home!

EL: What do you mean?

LW: To find my place, my REAL place or space … you know?  Where I belong, where what I do can be effective and reach those hearts I strive to connect with in a dynamic, helpful way…my Family (both literally and metaphorically). Where I can serve my kindred well and be progressive with my own Soul Journey.

EL: You wish to leave this earthly plane?

LW: No, of course not; you know that is not what I am saying.

EL: You want the world to change around you, to better suit your ambitions?

LW: Yes I suppose, I do want the routines to dissolve so that NEWness can enter. New conditions, new activity, finally proceeding to Live my Dream fully, here and now.

EL: What are you going to do about that?

LW: I thought you are the Leader, the Pathfinder for change.

EL: I am; You are!

LW: You seem rather placid lately; you lead me to act toward my goals but seem content with that activity (writing, resubmitting earlier today).

EL: Are we doing all that we can do, Now?

LW: On the level of basic activity and productivity, yes. But I sense there is more I COULD be doing that could facilitate the greater change. What is that?

EL: Perhaps you are referring to the Law of Attitudes or Assumptions.

LW: Change my beliefs or postulates?

EL: Be open to all that which Spirit offers; do not hold back. Sometimes ANY small change is a step in the right direction, like rejoining the Y as you have done recently.

LW: Yes! Physical activity or “returning to fencing” has always been a way for me to shake off the cobwebs to make greater progress.

EL: Then do two things better: Contemplate better. Trust more.

LW: Thank You.


I invite you to open a dialogue with your own Elder Leader, whomever and however you might perceive that to be!

The Chef—Archetypal Maestro Extraordinaire


Between Nature and Culture, as a famous chef insightfully claimed in a recent NPR interview—that is, between the Raw and the Cooked—, is food and its creative Maestro: the modern Chef. In every human society since the dawn of Culture itself, it is the cook or Chef who orchestrates the very Taste of tradition, stimulating the appetite and satisfying the palate of a people in any time or place. Whether a nursing Mother or a Michelin Star head chef, the one who transforms raw resources into the sorts of food that define a peoples’ signature cuisine is an Elder Leader of the highest magnitude.


 In today’s globalized, multicultural pastiche of nationalities, religions, and colorful customs, the archetype of the Chef—as an Elder Leader—has taken on new layers of significance, deeper than ever before. It is the Chef who combines and harmonizes traditional foods from many sources of origin, creating haute cuisine from scraps and unifying spices that blend whole communities together in a delicious fusion of common ground.


The recent film The Hundred Foot Journey   beautifully dramatizes this insight about the role of the Chef in today’s multinational cultural landscape. “The Chef leads,” says the young Indian protégé of his late mother’s exquisite cuisine as he boldly melds ancient continental Indian spices into classic French cuisine. The story is about more than this fusion of menus; it is about the interweaving and transformation of peoples brought together around these foods; about transcending ethnic boundaries symbolized by  their distinctive histories of food and temperament. When the Chef succeeds in overcoming all obstacles to ethnic divisions through inter-cultural romance and humble learning across the arc of international variety, then a new Fusion can emerge; a new world order of community itself can flourish.


The Chef “makes it so!” by introducing the subtlety of change into a world once characterized mainly by sameness. “Viva la differance!” we may declare, appreciating a new tide of flavorful camaraderie. Similarly, Julie and Julia is about a blogger who celebrated Julia Child’s masterpiece cookbook that brought the rich Art of French Cooking to America shortly after WWII. The Spicer of life and forger of new cultural identities that foster peace and brotherhood is often the Chef of a new menu, n’est-ce pas?

What new items are on your changing menu of life experiences? How can you  bring about Better Endings metaphorically as the Chef of your own family meals?


Building Community with Your Archetype Allies


We have been focusing on one archetype Ally per month with this year’s blog theme, introducing one after another of 12 universal persona or character archetypes that are part of the makeup of the human psyche for everyone though in different proportions situationally and culturally. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, however,  that the goal of recognizing and exploring all 12 of these primordial parts of Self is ultimately in order to integrate their unconscious potentials and to align them within the Psyche as an interactive Assembly or as a Council of Allies. You want to be able to call upon all of your archetypal perspectives and Strengths, together as a combined force of holistic energy, as you go forward to Live Your Dream, Now!


I know that many of you readers are, like myself, also writers or artists of varied backgrounds and media. Consider the EDITOR in You. Archetypally one might at first assume that the Editor will draw upon either Communicator or Elder Leader strengths; or Artist or Idealist or even Teacher… but actually ANY of the Twelve might be associated with your artistic process and goals. If you limit your energetic focus to only one or another of these deep  unconscious energy reservoirs, you may limit and unduly constrain your creative, productive output considerably.


For example, sometimes in the past (less so recently) when I would be writing an academic paper for a conference presentation or for a journal, I used to every once in a while hear this strong, sudden inner voice that stated emphatically, “Heil Hitler!” Whenever I would hear this, I would know it was time for me to step back, take a break, and re-read what I had been writing with an eye to seeing that I was being too forceful or didactic with my writing style and voice. I would need to simplify, add some humor or use less academic jargon in order to SOFTEN the message and to broaden the appeal of the article or presentation. Maybe I was in that moment channeling (as it were) my Elder Leader’s authoritarian traits but then my Nurturer or Artist intervened to call my attention to this unbalanced, overly strict or controlled focus. I always found the message amusing but it was also instructive; I learned to listen when this happened so as to know when to ease up and shift my approach to be more inclusive of a wider set of INTERNAL voices and values.


The more integrated you become through attending to the multiplicity of perspectives within your REPERTOIRE of archetypal Ally orientations, the more holistic and integrative your creative and day-today work output—or parenting, or travel enjoyment, or whatever you are doing—will become. So I invite you to PLAY and to ENGAGE personally with the material I am presenting with this blog from day to day, week to week, and month to month. We are building here a COMMUNITY OF ALLIES that you can draw upon, always.


I invite your insights and stories about your own archetypal creative experiences!

Of Great Valor: Heroic Leaders


When tragedy strikes a community, the Elder Leader rises from the masses as heroic individuals step up to the tasks of search and rescue, repair, and restoration. One of the clearest examples in our current times is responses to terrorist attacks on innocent, average people. When the attack on the Twin Towers wreaked havoc in NYC, firefighters and a host of other officials including police, politicians, journalists, psychologists, doctors, nurses, social workers and emergency vehicle personnel rushed immediately to the horrid scene to recover victims and tend to the injured of both body and heart. Many of these heroic leaders have sacrificed their own lives or health while trying to rescue as many as possible from the rubble. The Leader steps forward where others might shrink away from fear of a dangerous situation.


Sometimes people who demonstrate heroic action, like a neighbor rushing into a burning house to rescue a child or a pet, might ask themselves later, “where did that come from?”, referring to their own instant courage and ability. It is at least in part from their Elder Leader archetype stepping forth to conduct their behavior.


Then there are the driven Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa, who step up in full exercise of their leadership strengths to bring about positive change by their examples for the entire world.

angel-with-floral_Mk4DKJ8d (1)

So get to know your own Elder Leader persona. I invite you to dialogue with your Elder Leader part-of-Self this week, or to write about how and when your Elder Leader has been most active in your life.  The more you reflect upon your deep archetypal potentials, the better “integrated” they will become, and the more available to your conscious awareness and outlook.

And re-blogging from Finding My Inner Courage on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday:


I welcome your insights and stories!




Allow me to reblog a fascinating story about Harry Chapin from The Ptero Card (an excellent, richly crafted blog site about archetypal psychology and such). I see in Debra’s account of the lyrics for “Taxi” Harry’s Elder Leader guiding his footsteps to keep him on his path of service in his brief lifetime.


If it weren’t for two of my dear High School friends, I may not have this story to tell about singer, songwriter, Harry Chapin. But it was their invitation to go see him perform in our High School auditorium during our senior year that endeared me to his music. Harry, with just an acoustic guitar, gravelly voice and a love of story songs, sat on the edge of the stage playing simple renditions of his songs. When I heard him perform Taxi, I was smitten.

Seven notes; four major scale, and three minor scale, combine in a sequence that repeat throughout the song. I have often wondered how a simple sequence of notes could touch so deeply. And what about their relationship to the lyrics? Melody, through the relationship of the notes, turns sound into emotive expression.

Music, so primary to life, was perhaps our first language. Besides the music that we humans create…

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The Good King or Queen


Anna and the King is a fine fictional example of the alchemical pairing of Elder Leader with the metaphor of Life Is What You Make It. Here we find an historical King of Siam (Thailand) who is a central figure in the lives of all his subjects. Anna herself–Teacher to the King’s many children as the progeny from his required monarchic polygyny–circles in the King’s orbit in this story, as a friend and as a close personal advisor to the King during a transitional historic moment as Siam is beset by both internal and external political forces trying to dismantle the monarchy.


The Good King–and his country–survive the onslaught through the King’s exercise of strong leadership qualities: decisiveness, love of his children, compassion for his subjects, and his willingness to act with force and even with clever deception in order to win the day at the final confrontation with his foes.


As I teach cultural anthropology I often point out how ironic it might appear that chiefdom and state societies–like Siam as an example of a state–have just one central leader within their highly populous societies. In fact the more populous and complex a society becomes over time, the fewer the number of paramount leaders there are! This makes sense when you consider that the Elder Leader universal archetype figure is an overarching, organizing principle. The Good King or Queen unifies their subjects around–at their best–the highest interests of all concerned.


Just as a complex society benefits from the permeating, integrating character of a central Leader persona, so does your own complex Psyche. Calling upon your inherent Elder Leader energy allows you to act decisively and to develop better clarity with respect to challenging life situations. You can step into the image of the Good King or Queen whenever you feel the need to adopt a wise perspective.

As a personal development tool, I invite you to try this:

Close your eyes and actively picture the various strands of a difficult or sensitive situation you face. Now assume the ROLE of the GOOD KING or QUEEN and peruse the situation from your Wise Elder Leader perspective. What do you perceive as the King or Queen that adds to your understanding of the situation? Declare an EDICT as the Good King or Queen, and later then, Make It So!

******   ******

For next week’s blog posts, I invite your stories or comments about times in YOUR life when you found yourself able to Make Things Happen by drawing upon your inner Leader abilities more than usually for you. What kinds of situations bring out the ELDER LEADER in you? What have been the benefits of allowing your Elder Leader ALLY to express itself in a difficult situation? ALL stories and comments are welcome!

Take Me to Your Leader

Aliens Spacecrafts

This week we are pairing—or aligning—the Elder Leader archetype with the monthly life metaphor of Life is What You Make It. This is an especially fruitful alignment because it is a very natural, common combination culturally.  Leaders “make things happen” by their inherent character, so long as they are manifesting archetypal leadership qualities more in Strength than in Shadow mode. Villains (Shadow leaders), on the other hand, interfere with positive growth or survival potentials, requiring a protagonist’s leadership potentials to be ‘stepped up’ in order to meet the challenge.

Consider the prototypical science fiction line, then: “Take me to your leader!”…what’s that about? First, this line recognizes the archetypal nature of a Leader; we expect to find a leader of some sort in any society, on any planet. The Leader is conceived of as a single, central persona figure, representing an organizing principle for that society.  The Leader’s own character permeates all of the alien or subordinate ‘others’ by virtue of her or his influence over their world and lives.


Second, the visitors want to talk with the Leader because presumably it is s/he who makes the important decisions and gets things done. If the visiting astronauts are ever to get Home, they know it is only the alien Leader who can facilitate their Return and implement the necessary process to make it so. The visitors’ main concern is that the Leader might be in Shadow, a villain; then they will need to count upon their own intrinsic leadership strengths in order to overcome that opposition and find a solution that can get them Home under their own steam, as it were.  Either way, it is archetypal qualities of the Leader that must be appealed to in order to achieve the protagonists’ goal.

To be clear then for those fairly new to this blog or to the concept of archetypal character modes, archetypes can be defined and understood in two interconnected ways. Archetypal characters in one sense are simply character MODES; that is, they are typical forms that are found in fictional, mythical and everyday situations around the world. The Leader is found everywhere with fairly normative character traits, albeit each society may attribute to the Leader archetype some culturally relevant traits.

American Football Quarterback Throw Ball Shield Retro

In another aspect, archetype character modes–according to archetypal or depth psychologists such as Hillman and Jung—are also found in each of our personal unconscious makeup, so that the Leader is a complex of potential character traits inherent in all of us.  The fact that universal archetype modes show up in the day to day SOCIAL ROLES we occupy as well as in our nightly (or daytime, waking) DREAMS simply shows that as we grow up in and are socialized within any given cultural milieu, we internalize facets of these archetypal character modes as a matter of adapting to our social personas in life.  These sorts of archetypal layerings of our psyche may be more or less conscious to us, and their positive and/or Shadow traits may become embedded in our general personality orientations.


So then, a useful active imagination or creative visualization technique we can try this week is to contemplate a sticky situation or a difficult decision in your life right now. Imagine you are a member—the leader—of a visiting astronaut crew, shipwrecked on some alien planet. Inwardly imagine a group of aliens approaching and surrounding you. Step up and address the one who appears to head up this alien delegation, and ask: “Take me to your Leader!” Imagine what transpires after that on your own, focusing on the situation about which you are seeking greater clarity.

******   ******

I invite and welcome all of your comments and stories!

What’s Up, Doc? (Enlisting Your Elder Leader Ally)


Do you sometimes wish you had a trusted advisor by your side, 24/7, to help you make a difficult decision or to help you to take effective action on a significant next step in your life journey? You might have a valued spiritual advisor or sources to consult, but when you seek your own inner counsel, how can you strengthen your connection with your own Elder Leader archetypal strengths and outlook?  For all twelve of the universal primordial archetypes I am presenting in this year’s blog cycle, I invite you to DIALOGUE with your own archetypal cast and crew, as it were—forming and strengthening your own archetypal Inner Council.

This week, I invite you to enlist your Elder Leader persona as an Ally. Get to know this important energetic figure that is always within you but may be more consciously available in some of your day-to-day activities or roles more than others. When do you ‘step into’ your Elder Leader energy? For me, for example, sometimes in my workaday role as a department Chair I find myself expressing my Elder Leader traits, or when I help to organize some service activities within my spiritual community. Also as a pet parent sometimes I rely on this aspect of Self to help me make decisions about proper care of my dog and cats.


So, my first suggestion is for you to simply review your alliance with your own Elder Leader persona. When is he or she most evident in your life? Under what circumstances might s/he emerge?

You might wish to name your Elder Leader facet; I guess for me my title of “Dr.” best fits this persona for me, though I rarely emphasize this title with others except to allow students to use it if they wish to.

Second, I invite you to dialogue with your Elder Leader archetypal Ally or cast member this week in relation to any situation you are pondering that may require a decision on your part. Maybe it’s that New Year’s resolution! In fact, as I write this I realize it was my Elder Leader persona today that took me over to re-enroll in the YMCA.


LW: “Why did you want me to do that today?”

Dr. L: “It will be helpful for our health as we approach another new cycle of heavy activity this next semester, and we can start getting into a workout routine now while we are still on winter respite.”

LW: “I have been feeling somewhat vulnerable lately to flu or other things going around because of how busy things have been.”

Dr. L: “Thanks for paying attention when you heard on the radio that the Y is suspending enrollment fees during this month.”

LW: “Okay, Doc—can I call you that?—but you know how I am with gym memberships. I usually start pretty strong but then I get busy with everything else and I don’t get over to work out much; then I quit again so as not to waste the monthly fees. So what’s to make that any different this time around?”

Doc:  “Excellent question!  Let’s talk about that.  I want you to establish a reasonable schedule this time and stick to it.”


LW: “Once or twice a week maybe?”

Doc: “What is the most open day you will have over this next semester?”

LW: “Probably either on a Saturday morning or maybe a Monday afternoon.”

Doc: “So let’s check it out tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon to see how that feels for a start.”

LW: “All right then. I can do that. Will you help me maintain the schedule once we get started?”

Doc: “I am with you and you can call on me whenever you wish.”

LW: “How does this help you with your own specific goals or interests in our life?”

Doc: “But we are one, along with the rest of us, not ‘many’ ”. You may need to come to understand that better. “WE” are not about compartmentalizing, as you sometimes seem to think. We are simply One AND Several, altogether, at the same time!”

***   ***   ***

I welcome YOUR comments and stories!

Releasing Shadow-Leader Impacts


We all have within our psyches all twelve of the primordial universal archetypal energies that I’m presenting over this year, month by month. Each of these archetypal character forms can express in masculine or feminine form and also in either Strength or Shadow modes. This next few days I invite you to consider Shadow aspects of your own Elder Leader persona.

Many of us acquire SHADOW ELDER LEADER messages as a result of having encountered Shadowy elder leaders in our lives, most often in the form of parental figures but it could also be from experiences with other “shadowy” leaders.  I can own that my father, a complicated man, often displayed negative attitudes in the family by expressing a very challenging, critical point of view. The middle child of five, I was quite often the target and recipient of his sharp criticism. My older sister Lee has told me that one of her first memories of me was when I was four and stood up to my dad’s abuse, saying something like, “You can hit me, but you can’t make me cry.”


My relationship with my father was really quite a mixed bag. He was often an exceptionally GOOD parent and leader, but he exhibited as well a mean streak and a quick temper. Since I was the child most able to “stand up to him”, I was also the child most targeted for his disdain or rage, even though he and I also sometimes shared very deep private conversations that showed me he valued our connection as I also appreciated his complexity.

One terrible memory that I will share to explain the sort of Shadow Elder Leader example I am developing here happened when I was maybe 4 or 6. I remember it like a nightmare and even thought for many years later on that maybe it really had been a dream; but no, it was real.  I was the only child at home, alone with Dad. I was in the front yard at our family home in Cincinnati. He came out and called me with a tone I immediately felt was accusatory and threatening. I remember running as he chased me around the yard and carried me into the hallway near the living room, enraged because I had tried to run away.

For every word you say, I am going to hit you with this.” (brandishing a belt in his hand).

“But Dad, what did I…” (followed by five excruciating slashes on my four-to-six year old rear end.)

He led me into the living room and forced me to sit in an armchair while for what felt like several hours (who knows how long it really was), he sat facing me from another chair, glowering at me, ready to strike again at any word I might utter.

This nightmarish reality penetrated to my core and lodged deeply in my psyche. I must have dissociated to some degree in the moment of that experience, as I don’t remember anything more except sitting in stunned terror and turning inward, of course not speaking and not looking in his direction at all. I never did learn what he was even angry about, although I have a dim sense that it was about something my sister had actually done but he had thought it was my wrongdoing.

Magic Pond Fantasy Background

Many years later while I was in graduate school, I shared an adventure with my father when he sold me a used car (for a good price, by payments), and he drove all the way from Buffalo to Phoenix to deliver the car to me. We met halfway (me riding by bus to join him in New Mexico during a blizzard), and we drove together to Arizona. At some point I reminded him of the childhood trauma I had held onto since the event described above. He denied that it had happened at first , supporting my thought that maybe I had only dreamed the encounter, but then he admitted that he remembered the experience too, and he apologized.

I shared with him then that moments like that one had haunted my psyche since childhood. I became fearful of ‘adults’ or even of fully becoming an adult myself, developing somewhat of a Peter Pan complex (“I’ll never grow up!”). But sharing about this painful memory and having my father acknowledge its occurrence helped me to gradually resolve the feelings associated with those sorts of encounters with my father. Later in his life we talked much more about his own punitive attitudes and behavior and I came to understand the difficulties he himself had also carried from his own childhood and later harsh experiences. By the time of his passing we had fully resolved our early conflicts and we reached a very loving, mutually respectful relationship. But it has taken many years yet for me to separate out positive from Shadow Elder Leader attitudes and traits, both in my relationships with others and in myself.  My general tendency for many years was to deny anger until it might explode within me, usually at only the frustrating final end of a close personal relationship. Eventually I have resolved most of this, but only after I had dealt with these Shadowy memories and fears could I enjoy developing the full potentials of my own most positive leadership potentials.

lotus flower

So what I am sharing here is about how others might often come to represent or mirror archetypal traits that through such encounters may also lodge within your unconscious psyche orientations. It helps and is even necessary to confront these sorts of buried impulses in order to illuminate their influence directly so as to arrive at a more realistic assessment. Forgiveness is possible when we expose these shadowy residues to the light of our conscious understanding and mature perception. Then we can release these Shadow impulses once and for all, or at least we can learn to integrate these memories within a more positive understanding that might help us to develop empathy for others going through such experiences themselves, strengthening our own positive leadership roles.

I welcome your comments and stories at the SAFE SPACE that I hope this blog site has become. I thank Brenda for commenting about this site as one exhibiting “solidity”; that has inspired this personal sharing that I hope might stimulate some productive reflections in others.


God—The Ultimate Elder Leader


What would God do now? Have you ever asked this question, in some form? Isn’t God—in such myriad forms or conceptions as are to be found in any religion or spiritual belief system—our ultimate Elder Leader? The Great Spirit, Higher Power, or some vehicle or manifestation of the Divine represents the highest state of consciousness: omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient! God (and/or Goddess, in some views; or even a scientific principle like a conscious universe) is the Creator, Higher Intelligence, the Divine Dreamer, the ultimate Architect of the Grand Design. It/He/She is also the Source and template of our own Higher Awareness; so we can ideally think/act/be in a specific situation so as to manifest our own divine nature.


To me, the answer is always to express unconditional Love, for whatever else God might Be, It is Love and love is therefore the uppermost source and fabric of all of Life. Some might see God or the Divine as Power; but to me the power of God is yet Love, a pure positive life force.  So, what would God do now? Love is the simplest answer (for me). As the ultimate Elder Leader, love and love alone is the always the right response.


I don’t expect or require anyone else to agree with my perspective here. God is so many things to so many people and from so many belief systems and points of view that your answer is your own, and matters. My housemate and I jokingly declare, “God is on!” whenever we see Morgan Freeman on TV, especially when he is hosting Through the Wormhole, which is my favorite documentary series.

Black Hole in Space Background

Certainly mythical images of God as an Elder Leader have evolved with society over time and vary cross-culturally and across many different religions. Zeus with his thunderbolt might choose to brandish raw power rather than love; a bodhisattva might exercise detached neutrality rather than either power or love. So, we find models for leadership strengths in our view of divinity or spiritual mastery. What are yours?


I invite your comments and welcome you to share your stories!

 The Elder Leader Archetype Ally–a Role Model of Service to All Life

Winged lion statue

“Make it So!,” utters Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and once again the Enterprise and its crew survive yet another harrowing threat.

Leaders are found in all societies throughout time and around the world. They are often the stuff of legend as culture heroes, yet villains are also often portrayed as Shadow leaders; that is, individuals who have gone over to the Dark Side. In general, a positive Elder Leader offers support, protection, or guidance to others; he or she SERVES OTHERS by developing and sharing from their own inherent strengths of character. Those negative, Shadow Elder Leaders usually aim to serve only themselves.


Followers are another aspect of the archetype of the Elder Leader. To become a Leader, one is first an Aspirant, an Apprentice, an Acolyte or a Disciple. So a true Follower of a bona fide, positive Elder Leader figure aims to develop their own leadership skills and potentials based on the role model provided by their respected Leader as mentor or guide.


Leaders STEP UP when the situation calls for that; they drive ahead without looking back, forging a path to success or survival for all those they can. There are various leadership styles and strategies, some more direct or more indirect, more humble or more directive. But the Leader creates a pathway or shows the way for people to accomplish their goals with a sense of clarity and responsibility.


Still, many people fear the Elder Leader in themselves, especially if they have been raised by Shadow elder leaders rather than fully positive ones. Many parents—who are models of the Elder Leader in either positive and/or mixed positive and Shadow mode for most of us—may fall short of always being able to manifest positive leadership traits; so as children we might struggle in developing our own highest leadership potentials.


Mythic and fictional stories present collective ELDER LEADER scripts that we all can learn from; again both in positive or else in Shadow formations.  The very stuff of Good vs. Evil tales is the manifestation of this Elder Leader duality.


So this week I invite you to contemplate your own Elder Leader potentials. Who are your most positive role models, either in your life or in mythology or fiction? What makes them the leaders they are? What are your own greatest leadership traits? What situations bring out the best of these in you? And, what of Shadow leader traits? How can you increase your own positive Elder leader traits to help you achieve a valued goal?

I welcome all of your insights and stories!


Make It So! The Power of Metaphor


Metaphor:  Life Is What You Make It

Semantic Entailments:

  • Life is an “it”; i.e. comprehensible as an abstract object
  • Objective realities are “things,” composed (made up of) of ingredients or components, including conceptual components
  • Persons can design and construct objective realities
  • Therefore, people can construct their lives according to their own design

What is a metaphor? It is a cognitive SCHEMA—what George Lakoff and Paul Johnson would call an Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM)– that MAPS one conceptual  SOURCE domain of meaning onto another TARGET domain. A LIFE METAPHOR schematizes the semantic domain of a LIFETIME or of LIFE Itself (as a TARGET domain) according to factors associated with a SOURCE domain that projects metaphorical entailments onto this TARGET.

amusement park

So, for example, Life is a Roller Coaster is a Life Metaphor that posits a Roller Coaster as the Source Domain and Life as a Target Domain.  The metaphorical entailments of Life is a Roller Coaster include such conceptual transfers as:

Like a Roller Coaster, (a) Life:

  • Exhibits an unpredictable sequence of sharp Ups and Downs
  • Can be a jarring experience
  • Is a “wild ride”

Life is a Roller Coaster then carries further implications. BECAUSE (someone’s) life is like a roller coaster:

  • Life is experienced as a mixture of happiness and hardship, characterized as extreme Highs and Lows


Working with clients with my Life Mapping process, I always ask at the beginning and at the closing of a coaching process for the person to express a Life Metaphor that is meaningful to them at the time. I have found that many clients who later characterize their life experience as–or have received a psychological diagnosis of–Bipolar (or Borderline) Disorder tend to express Life is a Roller Coaster or a closely related “UP and Down/ Hardship” schema as their initial Life Metaphor. Always I find that the Life Metaphor that one expresses closely characterizes patterns active in a person’s life experience at the time.

Flower Illustration

That is why in this blog I am focusing on “positive” Life Metaphors. After completing a life mapping process, virtually all of my clients and students arrive at more optimistic life metaphors than those they expressed when they entered the process. The Life Metaphor you hold serves as a lens that projects and reflects the cognitive schemas through which you view and interpret your world of experience. So, if someone conceptualizes Life as a Roller Coaster, they might always be waiting for the “other shoe to drop” (to use an extension of the Hardship based semantic superclass). Now consider if, instead, that same person were to adopt the Idealized Cognitive Model of “Life Is What You Make It” and if that person were to act in terms of the principles and beliefs of this new construct. Then, perhaps, the Downs might be avoided because the person can implement proactive change rather than fatalistically expecting a downturn after every positive step “upwards” or “forward”.


We construct much (if not all) of our life experience according to metaphor. “Up”? “Down”? “Forward”? “Back”? “Steady as She Goes”? All of these are imaginary, schematic constructs when applied to “a Life”… which after all is actually NOT an objective entity but is rather a flow, often disjunct, of moments.

Ergo, Life is What You Make It is actually more than JUST metaphorical; it is a truism. For life cannot be other than this: what you make OF it via your conceptual and schematic perceptions.

Thus I recall for you the famous words of a Starfleet captain many of us know and love (er, at least as a fictional character), Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who operates the Enterprise according to this month’s theme when he instructs his crew at every decisive moment: “Make It So!”

I welcome your comments and stories!