We are about to be finished with the month of February here in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It has been a month of snow, snow and more snow–my home on Clemens Road still has piles three feet high around the driveway! Between the labors of shoveling I’ve been working on a set of stories that explore the Jungian idea of archetype. I will not venture a professional definition of an archetype, but I will offer my own understanding. An archetype is an influence, an energy that directs our lives in unconscious ways. The influence is not generated through personal experiences; it wells up from the collective unconscious without our always being aware of the ways it influences us. It is only when we pause to reflect on our lives that we can begin to identify the energy and understand its influence. I’ve been reflecting on the archetypes that have influenced my life and trying to share them through the medium of story.
We all have many archetypal influences on our lives. I will share just one of my influences, one of my sources of energy in this writing. Jungian analysts call this archetype variously: “the rebel”, “the contrarian”, and “the outlaw”. I will suggest several ways that this energy has influenced my life both positively and negatively.
First positive: I started my school education in a one-room country school. From this first grade beginning I discovered that I had problems with reading books–particularly when I was called upon to read aloud. As a six year old child, I was made to feel inferior to those who could read well. It would be nearly thirty years before I understood my problems with dyslexia–but it was my contrarian energy that refused to accept the opinions of others about my intelligence; and in particular, I developed an antagonism toward teachers. Eventually I earned two college degrees–Bachelors in Anthropology and Masters of Divinity–but I never had a favorite teacher. It was always a struggle, but my rebel, contrarian energy supported me.
Second positive: When I graduated from the seminary, it seemed proper and right that I should be ordained and work in the Church. I know this would have made my parents happy. Instead of going to work as a minister, I took a job working in a steel mill! My contrarian self reasoned that I could earn a living working eight hours a day, five days a week, and the rest of my time I would be free to begin creating stories!
Negative: The bad thing about being the contrarian, the rebel, is that you find it difficult to deal with authority and bureaucracy–somewhere in my writing I’ve called myself the “Cut and Run Kid”. During the thirty-five years that I earned a living as an oral storyteller, I was a contract performer, do the job and go home. I was never offered work with benefits for an institution or a company. Multiple times I started a working relationship with an organization, but for a variety of reasons these relationships ended. Often it was my contrarian nature that caused the ending.
I have no regrets about the way that my life has played out–what Jung would calls your “individuation”. I have tried to direct my life by listening to the wisdom shared by the unconscious. Just last night I had a dream where I was trying to explain how you could sail across America–in my family there were many stories about members traveling from Pennsylvania to California to start a new life. In my dream, a man called out, “YOU CAN’T SAIL AGAINST THE WIND!”
When I woke up and remembered the dream, I thought: ‘What was that all about?’ After a short time of contemplation I recognize that my unconscious was commented on, reminding me of my archetypal nature, to be the contrarian, the rebel, the outlaw who is always trying to sail against the wind….thank you Grandpa Jung for this understanding!
Now I better check to see if more snow has fallen while I’ve been sailing against the wind!