Jun 6, 2008

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Me and My Shadow – the other side of maturity

We all have a desire to embody one or more of the mature male archetypes: the efficiency of the warrior, the charisma of the lover, the wisdom of the magician, the generosity of the king. However, to get there we each need to take on our own demons. These tend to be embodied in the various immature archetypes, or the shadow sides of the matures.

I like to use a short hand to refer to these traits — the immature side of the Warrior is the Bully; the Slacker is the immature Lover, the Trickster the immature incarnation of the Magician; and the Spoiled Brat as the embodiment of immature King energy. These “characters” are a short hand for various immature traits that have haunted us in our youth. No matter how “together” you perceive yourself to be right now or how happy you remember your childhood to have been, you had to take on and either compensate for, tame or overcome one or more of these “shadows”. I’d g so far as to say that those who have made the greatest impact in the world – in both a good and bad way– probably had the most significant demons haunting them in their youth.

I know the connotation of immaturity carries a negative stigma. But if you think about it, these ways of being have served as our tools for survival. They tend to come to play when we feel threatened or our very existence is at stake. Let me explain.

First the type of immature behavior is not he same for everyone. There is usually a yin and yang to each immature archetype. They are polar opposites. Everyone may have a touch of both but usually one dominates over the other.

So let me lay these bad boys out and see what fits for you.

The Slacker (the immature Lover) shows up in the way we deal with emotions and can be distilled a little further into either the addict or the extremist. The addict is someone who needs something to deaden or distract him from what he is feeling. On the other hand, the extremist has trouble feeling anything and only feels alive only when he is overwhelmed by stimulation. You’ll often find extremists jumping out of airplanes or precipitating fights with their loved ones. Have you ever been amazed at how a couple can engage in this intense argument and be lovey-dovey a few minutes later? The intensity of the argument reminds them of the depths of their love. On the flip side, addiction is not limited to alcohol and drugs. It finds a safe haven in work or other fastidious obsessions.

For the Warrior, there is the immaturity of the Bully which comes to the fore when self esteem is on the line. Low self esteem triggers either the Sadist or Masochist. The Masochist is viewed as some one who derives joy from someone else’s pain but the pay off is in the sense of control over another. If I can belittle you, I must be alright. Conversely, the masochist will subject themselves to intense pain and sacrifice to prove that they are “worthy”. Why else would someone choose to participate in an iron man triathlon?
At work for the Trickster, the undeveloped Magician, in times when the responsibility of knowledge comes to the fore is either the liar or the innocent. Both manipulate others in essentially same way. One lies to mask his ignorance of the truth; the other feigns ignorance to mask his grasp of a truth he’d prefer to deny. Both do it for the same reason, they’d rather not be in a position to take a stand for what they actually believe. It was no surprise that for Germans in post-war Germany they either claimed ignorance of what was going on around them or pled that they were just following orders.

This brings us to the King. While the King typically emerges the latest in life because it requires us to harmonize the other archetypes first, its immature side usually emerges first in the form of the Spoiled Brat. If you think of young children they either fall into one of two categories: the little tyrant shouting out his needs, stamping his feet, angrily throwing away those things he rejects or the weakling, the quiet, shy, pale child that you are convinced will shatter if you so much as sneeze. For the first, parents try to placate the rage by running through every imaginable options, nothing is too much. For the later, parents over compensate by doting on the child and providing for their every need, literally spoon feeding them. Both versions of the Brat get their way, albeit in opposite ways, and survive to live another day.

As with everything I write here, this just glances along the tip of the iceberg. It is woefully simplistic and reflects my own belief system. It is hardly intended to be the gospel. It is stuff I picked up from reading Carl Jung, Robert Moore (the co-author of KWML), Alfred Adler, and a whole host of others and it is sprinkled with the experiences of spending weeks on the road with tour buses full of kids – no parents in sight to muddy the waters – and of course my own journey coming to terms with my dysfunctional family. I am a firm believer that we all come from dysfunctional families – which in turn makes all families normal. As always, I welcome your thought.

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