#444 Chuck’s Place: The Archetypes That Bind Us

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences!

Yesterday, Jeanne spoke about achieving detachment through viewing our lives from a different perspective. Three archetypes that are the foundations of family life are mother, father, and child. These archetypes provide the energy and structures that guide and define a significant portion of our lives. Once we choose to become a parent we open the door to being caught by the mother/father archetype for the rest of our lives. When a woman becomes a mother the archetype provides the energy to give, bond, and nurture another being at an unprecedented level of self-sacrifice. This energetic flow is completely appropriate and necessary to sustain a new life. The child, governed by its own archetype, must be completely open to receiving, in order to flourish and advance in growth. The father archetype empowers the man to provide shelter and supplies to support the developing family. Of course, there are many examples where these archetypes are insufficiently activated in individuals, seriously limiting their ability to fulfill these most necessary roles. However, this is not the focus of this essay, which takes up the challenge of “appropriate” detachment from an archetype.

First, let’s look at motherhood as an example of acquiescing to the mother archetype, which means becoming infused with its energy, as one’s life becomes structured by an array of needs, demands, and expectations of self and others. Our world is particularly reluctant to ever allow a mother to retire. Once a mother, always a mother. Is there any more serious crime than a mother who refuses to mother? A mother who would drown her children is, by archetypal standards, more despicable than any mass murderer. Deep within each individual rests the archetypal expectation that mother, at any age, should nourish and be a caretaker. This archetype finds its way into many marital relationships, where the woman is expected, at any age, to cook and take care of her husband. Clearly, once children have been launched, generally by their late teens, it is appropriate for a woman to begin the process of launching her individual self, as she detaches from the archetypal mother structure, which has possessed and defined her life through the child rearing process. In fact, failure to do so can undermine the developmental process that enables the child to become an autonomous, self-sufficient adult, as childhood dependence continues to be encouraged. There are many forces that discourage detachment from the mother archetype. There is the archetype itself, which resists accepting a minor role in life’s drama. There is the mother’s resistance to letting go of such a defined purpose in life, entering the unknown. There is the child’s reluctance to trust its own wings as it leaves the nest. And finally, there is the immaturity of society at large, which places its demand to be taken care of on mother, who must always remain mother. It takes tremendous courage to embrace one’s right and necessity to evolve, as an individual, discovering one’s true purpose for being in this world, and finding completion through detachment from the archetypal role of mother, when it is time to do so.

The archetypal father is responsible for providing and leadership. The challenge for the father becomes letting go of control, allowing for novelty and difference. I think that is the meaning of the phrase, “the king must die; long live the king.” In effect, the rules of the father must acquiesce to change. This is the challenge we are currently confronted with in America. The father archetype, which controlled our economy, eventuated in the extremes of capitalist greed. This ruling system has long outlived its usefulness. It must die and be reborn in some new format appropriate to the real needs of the world. The election of Obama reflects this death and rebirth motif, however, what is currently happening is the struggle to fully accept that the old way must die. The father archetype, seeking to maintain its control, is evidenced in the halls of Congress where arguments continue to be made that the old way is, essentially, sound. The FOXy fear mongers attempt preservation of the preexisting reign of the Bush father archetype by, literally, splicing speeches and rewriting reality. Within the family, the father is challenged to relinquish control and dominance over the decisions and directions of his wife and children toward individuation. How else can those, whom he so deeply protected, learn to trust and protect themselves if they are not allowed to do so? Within his own psyche, the father is challenged to dis-identify his ego with the power of the father archetype and take up the path of his own individuation.

Then there is the child. The ability to remain receptive, vulnerable, and innocent, open to life and the world is the appropriate connection to the child archetype in all of us. Jeanne would suggest that the inappropriate attachment to the child archetype is the big baby, who remains eternally needy, demanding, and entitled. Fixating on the big baby creates a world of security through the veil of narcissism. Detachment from the big baby is assuming adult responsibility in a changing world. That, in fact, is what is being demanded of all of us now. The great mother earth is compromised in her ability to nurture as a result of insatiable demands of greedy babies, supported by the rules and practices of a greedy father who manipulates the truths to maintain his dominance, at all costs. This is the father archetype that must die like Kronos, who ate all of his children until fooled by his wife by being fed a stone, that Zeus might be born to usher in a new era.

Only through allowing ourselves to appropriately detach from the archetypes that bind us, can we see reality clearly and become adults, assuming responsibility for the health and future of our lives and our planet. Yes, it is frightening to see reality clearly, as we are in the midst of death and disintegration and we cannot be taken care of in the old ways. However, the reality is, yes, you can choose to sail on the Titanic, but it is going down. There are alternatives, but they require detachment from the old securities and an appropriate connection, as adults, to the innocence, vulnerability, and receptivity of the child archetype to change and find new life in this world.

Until we meet again,