Which Mask Are You Wearing?
I am blessed with a wonderful and creative mother. Each year we would decorate our porch for Halloween with a different theme and dress the part. I actually grew to love putting on our little haunted houses more than actually trick or treating myself.
When I think back to those times, I am reminded about how much time and thought I put into deciding which mask to wear. It was a process I took very seriously and contemplated for weeks.
Halloween has always been fun for me because we get to be someone else for a night.
The focus of this article though, isn't about what mask you'll wear for Halloween. It's about which masks you wear in your life. You see we all have our personalities, but there are undercurrent themes we wear.
These themes are archetypal patterns that run as subroutines underneath our personalities. Yes, not all the decisions you make come from your head or heart. Some of our behaviors are inspired by these archetypal patterns. Here is where it gets interesting.
Perhaps you've been working toward significant goals for some time however, you don't seem to be able to ever achieve them. Can you relate to this? Why do you think these goals are so elusive? Is it something reserved for the privileged few? Were you born in the wrong family?
My suggestion to you is that falling short of these goals has nothing to do with your heritage or your financial status. It's not really about whom you know. Yes, these things can influence the ease with which you manifest your goals, but there are more subtle influences at work.
The archetypal patterns are said to rise up from our subconscious. It is widely believed they are brought to us through ancestral memories as well as the conditioning of our fairy tales and literature. Yes, you've certainly seen them in the plots of many movies you've watched.
They've likely appeared many times in your dreams as well. These patterns permeate our culture and our lives. They shape our perceptions of the world and of our own unique journey through life. Sometimes this can be a beautiful thing as they help us to tap into a sense of meaning and depth of experience. Other times, they seem to conflict with our intentions and stifle our efforts.
The question is what are these archetypes and how can we harness their power to influence and enrich our lives in a deep and meaningful way?
Let's first explore what some of these archetypal patterns are and how they shape our view of the world. There are far too many archetypes to cover them all in this article, so today we'll look at several of the most influential and common.
When we begin life we feel connected to the world around us. We don't have a sense of separation. Our parents generally meet all of our needs and the world seems comforting and secure. How many times have you seen someone look at a baby and say, 'Ah, so innocent!' with a smile? This is our first archetype. It is called innocence. We were all living it as infants and this is the most unaffected we ever were in life. As a baby we experienced the world without questioning it. There were no plans in play beyond crying to get fed or a diaper changed. We simply lived.
As we grow beyond infancy and begin to develop a sense of self, we then realize that the perfect comfort we thought was reality was temporal. Now we are progressively required to fend to a greater degree for ourselves.
Our Paradise is lost and whether we ever consciously acknowledge it or not, we feel a loss. At this still basic level, we fear pain and discomfort and we progressively learn to avoid it. Developmentally, we learn things the hard way like the first time we touch a hot burner on the stove. We learn these lessons, which teach us that the world isn't as safe as we once assumed.
This archetype is often called the orphan, a very fitting name for it. This is where our ideals are shattered by the sometimes too harsh reality of the world. The Orphan archetype operates from a sense of fear. The Orphan feels out of control and has the accompanying sense of despair.
Operating from an Orphan perspective, you'll find people having negative expectations. This is the classic 'waiting for the shoe to drop' scenarios that lead people to work at jobs they hate because that's just what the world expects of them. Self-sabotage is the most prevalent manifestation of this archetype in its negative context.
Once we get over feeling sorry for ourselves we begin to develop independence. This usually takes place as a journey. You may literally never leave your hometown but this journey is not about physical travel. This journey is about finding yourself. People in this archetypal mode will often be seen as loners. They will prefer solitude and contemplate life. In literature this is often portrayed as a quest for something sacred, such as the Holy Grail or the Fountain of Youth.
We can easily spot young people in this mode, as they try on new looks or social behaviors. This is the role of the non-conformist, often called the wanderer. Most often, people running this archetypal pattern will reject anything you say preferring to find their own truth. There is little regard for rules or norms and often people experiencing this pattern will avoid responsibility.
To be in this mode, you have to have a bad guy to rebel against, whether it is parent, pastor or politician. Clarifying this position is necessary however, because this isn't a case of rebelling where one would stand and fight, it is a reject and run mode.
Once we have identified the evils of the world and have learned self-confidence, we make another change, this time, we do decide to rail against the enemy. It is in this pattern that we begin to insist upon respect. At its core, this archetypal pattern stresses our right to exist and to do so with dignity. This is the role of hero or heroine.
Whenever you see a person fighting for a cause, whether it's Mothers Against Drunk Driving or the Prayer Warriors at your local church you're witnessing the raw energy of the hero/heroine archetype. The Hero/Heroine keeps score and bases everything on assumptions that are written in black and white. The Hero/Heroine believes that an obstacle must be conquered by will and that comes often with sacrifice.
If you've ever met someone who languished in pain, you've met our next archetype. The sacrificial goat or martyr as it is often called, discovers that there is a world of people out there beyond themselves and that there is fulfillment in helping them. This archetype can manifest itself in many ways but some of the more common are the loyal employee who works every weekend and holiday for the 'good' of the company or the single mother who works three jobs to put her kids through college yet never has a moment to spend with them. The Martyr is personified by a willingness to put yourself into harms way whether that is neglecting your own health or personal needs or saving a life on a bullet-ridden battlefield.
The last archetype I'll discuss is known as the Sage or Magician. It is the archetype that allows us to live by faith, to find the connection to all things and to live completely in the moment. It is this archetype that sees the silver lining in every cloud because it understands well that duality is really just an illusion. You will find the person who is running the magician pattern has a certain humbleness yet radiates with internal strength. It is in this inner trust the Magician archetype embodies that one can find a deep sense of being ok with the world. It is summed up well in the 'Serenity Prayer.'
Each of these archetypes has potential benefits and dangers to us. I often think of them as gears in a car. You wouldn't drive in 1st gear on the interstate, nor would you ride in 5th gear near a school.
It is the appropriate application of these archetypal energies that will greatly assist you in achieving your goals in life and to be much more happy and fulfilled in your journey. To do so we must learn to look at the underlying worldview we have in light of what we are currently trying to accomplish. If the two don't make a good match, it is best to start focusing on applying another, more appropriate archetype.
To awaken a new archetype within yourself, I'll defer you to an ancient magical practice known as evocation. The premise of evocation in ancient cultures was to become possessed by a God or Goddess for a time. To do so, these people would dawn ritual masks, tell stories of the particular God or Goddess and perform ceremonies or dances to honor them. In our modern age, I would suggest identifying the preferred archetype in a movie and simply watching that move. Another way to shift the gears is to carry with you symbols of the appropriate archetype. You may like to make a collage or drawing of the archetype. Anything to get you focused on the desired archetype over a duration of say several days to week should get the archetype activated for you.
Think about your last Halloween, which archetype was personified by your chosen costume? Do you think that happened by accident? Now what is that archetypes view of the world? Is that the view that will get you where you want to go?