Your Elder Leader Archetype


The following is an abbreviated table showing some characteristic traits of the Elder Leader Archetype (composed by Debra Breazzano, MA/ LPC, an archetypal psychologist.) Do you recognize these traits (or Shadow traits) in Elder Leaders you have known and in yourself in certain sorts of situations?

The Elder Leader: Archetype of Structure, Leadership and Authority

Alchemical Correlation: Earth originating; coming into being
Astrological Association: January / Capricorn
Mission/Purpose: To provide structure, leadership and authority for the benefit of the group or community
Emotional expression: Values composure rather than display of emotions

Can detach from emotions or emotional expression

Thinks through emotions; rationalizes

Focuses on feelings of respect (respecting others, being respected)

Emotional satisfaction through discipline (with self, with others)

Values commitment and devotion

Shadow characteristics: Critical and judgmental (of self and others)

Intolerant of others with differing beliefs

Autocratic, dictatorial and often corrupt leadership

Rigid; unforgiving

Brutal with discipline

Interests/Involvements: Politics, legal systems, military, education, government, business…positions of authority or responsibility


What–or who–brings out the Leader, and in what mode, in you? Have you felt inhibited in leadership positions because you have been influenced by Leaders with SHADOW characteristics such as a hypercritical or dominating parent or boss?

The Elder Leader archetype is within each of us, and we have internalized this archetype unconsciously from our experience as a collective, recognizable ‘energy’ or persona mode.  Sometimes we first need to work through our reactions to Shadow Leader influences in order to let our positive leadership strengths develop and shine. I can relate to this quite a bit from my own life experience.  For most of my adult life I shied away from engaging with anger either in others or in myself. In leadership roles, where invariably such emotions might be encountered, I found I had a “flight or fight” response. I would avoid confrontation all the more because if forced into an encounter with an anger-expressing person, I could become overly (though briefly) aggressive myself.

Learning about the Elder Leader archetype and exploring its manifestations in my own life history has helped me come to understand that my imbalance around expressions of anger had to do with the fact that my father had a harsh temper and often expressed himself angrily toward me as a force of domination and control.  After reflecting on some of my interactions with my father I have used ‘archetypal dialogue’ to come to a better understanding of how his behavior influenced my own outbreaks of over-assertiveness in stressful situations in reaction to others’ anger.  This has helped me to relax, to pull back from immediate confrontations in order to LISTEN before continuing or advancing in such an encounter. Now I aim to demonstrate understanding of the other point of view without either responding in like mode.  I aim now to arrive at a win-win situation collaboratively with the other person, as I now realize that anger is a common reaction to real stress and real needs.


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I welcome your insights and stories!

A Letter to Your Elder Leader



I invite you this week to write a letter to an Elder Leader figure from your life who has at times been less than fully encouraging or supportive of your ambitions. An example is a high school guidance counselor who once told a friend of mine, Barbara—the best artist in our high school class—that she was “not college material.” This affected my friend’s life considerably. She did not go to college but she did go on to become a very successful artist who apprenticed at Toussaud’s Wax Museum in Niagara Falls and eventually became a wax figure artist herself. Barbara peopled several full wax museums in the US and one in Ireland, and she created a line of period historical wax dolls!

I remember that at one point Barb decided to take a college course just to see how she would do with that, based on the disparaging remark of our high school guidance counselor. Well, she aced the course, but she also realized how grateful she was for not having gone on right to college after high school; her real life experience brought her many more opportunities and allowed her to develop her artistic talent in her own ways.


Elder Leader figures like the high school guidance counselor serve as “gatekeepers;” in fact many elder leaders fill that role. Elder leaders are also by their very nature or position role models. Most parental figures can be considered Elder Leaders in their children’s eyes at least. For example, the other day while I was writing the previous blog at a local café, I overheard a conversation between two young children (a boy around 8 and a younger girl) and their mother. The boy repeated several times to his mom that: “Dad is my Hero!”

What might my friend Barb like to have said to that gatekeeping guidance counselor, either at the stage she was discouraged from going to college or later, after she had achieved far more than that counselor could have ever foreseen?

I invite you to think of an Elder Leader figure from your life who has influenced you either very positively as a role model or who may have inhibited you in some manner as a gatekeeper; or, both. I invite you to write a letter to this Elder Leader figure, and then I also invite you to write a RESPONSE to your letter from that person in return to you.

I will provide a brief example just to illustrate the process. Then I encourage you to practice this dialogue on your own. I welcome any sharing of your practice!

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Dear Dad,

First let me thank you for how you encouraged all of your children to find and then to follow their own path in life. Also I thank you for demonstrating the values of fortitude, perseverance and self-discipline.  My own leadership abilities follow in many ways from your example. At the same time, I needed to overcome a lot of inhibition because of how demanding and critical you could be. I always wanted to please you, yet it was difficult to earn that positive encouragement.

I do thank you especially for how in the late stages of your life, Dad, you were there to LISTEN and to honestly communicate with all of us about the difficulties you underwent as a young man. You were toughened and hardened by your experiences, and you tried to help us to develop a “tough skin” too, to survive in what you perceived as a harsh world.

I will never forget the day you taught me to swim by standing a few feet away in shallow waters, asking me just to go that far, then gradually establishing further distance so I could expand my reach!  That lesson applies to my whole life, so I thank you for the independence of spirit you invoked and for the idea I could attain my goals.




Dear Lindy,

Maybe in the end there are no accidents. From the bigger perspective, we all find our way. I am glad that you are following your path. Know that you are never alone!




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I welcome YOUR insights and stories!


The Elder Leader Archetype



Archetypes are both in the world around you and within the structure of your own Psyche. On one level you recognize archetypal images in the forms of roles and “typical” experiences and relationships. At the same time, you have unconsciously internalized these same archetypal formations in the process of being socialized and becoming who you are; developing your complex identity. While this may sound like a different understanding of archetypes than you are familiar with from Jung or Hillman or from more recent, popular authors, as a cultural and psychological anthropologist I see the connection between our role based social identities and the unconscious makeup of human consciousness that embodies at least The Twelve primordial Persona Archetype forms which Dr. Charles Bebeau associated with Sumerian astrological gods and goddesses and that pertain very directly with Jung and Hillman’s archetypal theories and practical therapeutic methods.


The Elder Leader is an excellent example of how an archetypal form is both externally constructed or projected onto others as well as existing internally as a ‘Persona,’ a facet of a person’s character or–as I see it–a member of a person’s internal ensemble cast of archetype character modes. They may be experienced as ‘inner voices’–like the angel on one shoulder versus the Devil on the other–, and they often appear in our dreams as well as in our basic expression of Self in various distinctive situations.

When our various situational persona archetypes, from deeply unconscious to more consciously felt and expressed, combine with one another to contribute in our life pursuits, we draw upon and hopefully learn to integrate these facets of our Self identity as Strengths. In Shadow mode, however, persona archetype traits can also complicate or harm our sense of who we are and they might inhibit our actions and restrict our dreams.


Strengths of an Elder Leader persona can help you to achieve your goals and function effectively in any situation, but internal or external Shadow Elder Leader traits and attitudes can also block your progress or limit your enthusiasm and self-confidence. If you grew up with a punitive father figure, for instance, you may have internalized “Shadow Elder Leader” statements that your father  conditioned you to which dog your footsteps, e.g.: “You are not college material!” or “Do something productive with your life, not art (or music, etc.).”  To this day when I am writing, if I start to become didactic in what I am saying, I hear “Heil Hitler!” in my head; then I know to stop writing, loosen up, and be less rigid with what I am trying to say, because my Shadow Elder Leader has been dominating the work.


The opening paragraph above is more analytical than I usually aim to be with these posts, but if you are reading BETTER ENDINGS FOR YOUR LIFE PATH (this blog), then I do want you to have a clear understanding of how I see Archetypal Psychology uniquely as a cultural anthropologist and how this approach can help you to manifest and Live Your Dream, Now! Basically what I am sharing is that as we  go through life from our earliest conditioning or socialization, we take on roles that help us develop our identity through repeating kinds of situations in our lives (our own recurring Life Themes). Each of these Themes, like Family, Romance, Education, and Work allow us to develop the relevant role aspects of our Self expression as, e.g. a Parent (Elder Leader and/or Nourisher), Lover, Teacher or Learner, and other archetypal persona character modes. Since each of our Life Stories emphasizes a unique blend of Life Themes, Life Mapping can help you uncover which archetypal modes and traits have been most helpful (and, hindering) as you have developed through your life experiences across your distinctive Life Chapters. All this will be in part the substance of the Life Maps Process  tools I will introduce you to with my upcoming book, YOUR LIFE PATH. (My agent will finally begin circulating the book to prospective editors this next month.)street-artists-117290__340

images are gratefully from


For Your Journaling or Contemplation Practice:

What are some of your own Elder Leader traits in both Strength and Shadow modes?


How do you construct the very notion of an Elder Leader based on your own life experience?


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I welcome your Comments and Stories!

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.


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!

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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!

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!”

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I welcome YOUR comments and stories!

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!