Tag Archives: archetypes

No Worries!

Who put that cloud there?
– Art by Jan Ketchel © 2018

My father was a chronic worrier. He worried about everything! It drove me and my siblings crazy! He could not let anything go. He’d nag and natter about a thing he’d decided to worry about, usually something minor that he just could not let go of, until he’d spun it into a massive worry storm, leaving us all exasperated and exhausted.

Once, when I was in college, he called me at 3 in the morning, waking me and my roommates from a sound sleep to ask me if I had eaten. I had made an off-the-cuff remark about not having any food in the house as I headed home after a holiday visit, saying that I would have to shop once back in the city. He only heard the part about having no food in the house and his worrisome mind spun that tiny remark into a whole devastating story. By the time 3 AM came around he had decided that I was starving to death!

I was so angry at him that I didn’t speak to him for weeks, but during those weeks I could feel his worry hanging over me like a dark cloud, dragging me down. When I finally spoke to him about it we joked, but I talked honestly about how frustrated and drained I was by his constant attention on me. I told him to lighten up, that I could take care of myself, that I wanted to live my own life and to please leave me alone. His worry energy actually dampened my spirit and added a burden I didn’t need when I had so much else going on in my life.

I now understand this dynamic between parent and child as the archetypes of the parent/child relationship, the structures and dynamics that every parent and child must contend with as they go through life, as the child seeks to individuate and become independent, and as the parent seeks to let them go.

As a parent myself I have had to learn the lessons I tried to teach my father so many years ago. My own experiences with him have helped me to back off and let life take my children onward without me, but sometimes it can be very hard. When we see our children struggling our first reaction is to jump in and help, but that may not be the best course of action to take. The same can be said for any relationship.

To underscore the dilemma, I had a dream the other night. I was carrying large chunks of construction debris, huge lumps of concrete. I stood on the edge of a vast landfill, looking down into a vast pit filled with similar debris. A man stood on the opposite side of the landfill, a foreman. He yelled at me to throw the debris into the pit. I worried that it was wrong, that it would hurt the earth.

“Nah,” he said, “it’s how it’s done. Just throw it away!”

And then I wondered just what the heck I was doing. The concrete was clearly useless and clearly burdensome. It wasn’t toxic material either, it was just heavy, cumbersome old building material.

“Let it go!” I yelled, and then I threw it into the pit and walked away unburdened, lighter and freer than ever.

“What am I carrying around inside me?” I wondered when I woke up. “What concrete thing, idea, or issue am I attached to?

As the day went on the dream stayed with me. I thought about it, seeking to analyze its message and purpose. I determined it was not about memories. Those have all been recapitulated, so it was not anything from my past. I finally realized it was worry, the worries of everyday life, the worries about others, the kind of stuff that keeps you awake at night but is just empty chatter in your head, stuff you can’t do anything about and if you tried you’d have no luck at all.

As I thought about it I discovered that those worries had no real meaning or necessity in my life. They were not building blocks to something new but old construction materials that were no longer useful. I was right to chuck them into the landfill where they would soon be covered over, bulldozed into the earth to disintegrate and become part of the landscape.

Just as I had asked my father to let go of the burdensome archetypes of parent and child, so too did I have to let go of such archetypes within myself, along with the concrete ideas that I have to do and be the end-all for someone else. In letting go of the archetypes we are allowed to each grow and mature in our own ways, taking responsibility for ourselves and the decisions we make, for our present and future issues, and for our own joys and freedoms in life too.

Just because I might want to give advice, I realized, it isn’t always helpful or wanted. I have to take my own advice that I gave my father so many years ago and step back and let life resolve life. In the end, we have to let things go so things can proceed as they will and as they must.

I learned from my father that if you put your attention on another person they will sense you in some way, and you may actually be harming them, even if you think your worry is justified and you only want the best for them. The best for them is to send them positive, self-motivating, and loving energy that sends them off on their own journey through life under their own steam, rather than burdening them with your guilt, worry, regret, resentment, or good intentions. As I learned from my father, it’s just not fun having those kinds of energies hanging over you, having to bear another person’s unresolved issues while you are trying to figure out your own life on your own terms.

My father never did fully remove his worry energy from me. It followed me right into adulthood and he remained a solid worrier right up to the end of his life. But he taught me how not to do what he did, and as my dream points out it’s a lesson that never grows old.

I have had to remind myself to remove my worries about my own kids’ lives countless times, so as not to burden them with a cloud of my worries hanging over their heads! After being the lifelong subject of someone else’s worries, whether justified or not, I know that it’s just not a nice thing to do to someone! Even if I may want to give valuable but unasked for advice, I also know that the best advice I can give myself is to remember my young adult self telling my father to just step back and let me live my own life.

Life itself is the best guide. We all have to go out into the world and learn how it really works. It’s how we learn and how we grow. The happiest people in the world seem to be those who have had to work hard for what they have, and there is no greater satisfaction than having done it on their own. And no worries either!


A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

Chuck’s Place: Fit to Serve?

A sorry state of affairs…
– Artwork by Jan Ketchel © 2018

As the current of collective thought-stream challenges the mental stability of the Commander-in-chief, I find myself questioning the greater significance of such a mythological character at the helm of our government at this moment of our evolution. I begin by suggesting that, regardless of political or ideological persuasion, we view the current predicament as a reflection or symbolic mirror of the relationship between the human spirit and its physical host, all matter of creation.

Spirit is the character that functions on the mental plane, the architect and creator of reality as it defines it. In the flow of everyday life, spirit is the mind, the internal dialogue, and the ego that direct the course of daily decision making.

Matter, in this definition, spans all of nature, including the human animal. In human terms, matter is the physical body with all its instinctual needs and wisdom. The wisdom of the body is expressed through the archetypes, our inherited knowledge of the properties of matter and the innate formulas of how to respond to life on earth.

Thus, the human being is actually a microcosm of this greater spirit/matter relationship as it contains both spirit and matter in one being. Spirit and matter are the yin and yang of this world, each critical building blocks of our existence. The balance and relationship between these two partners determines the state of overall health in our world.

Just as I was writing the above explanation a synchronistic event occurred that intimately expresses the relationship between spirit and matter, mind and body. My daughter (who for psychoanalytic discretion in agreeing to let me share this suggests I identify her as “Beyonce”) called in a frantic state, near panic. “I feel like I’m going to pass out!” she said.

We immediately guided her to calm breathing, shifting her away from the dark forecast issuing forth from her mind that sought to define her physical symptoms as lethal. As she stabilized we reviewed recent dietary decisions which, quite frankly, were remarkably healthy.

We went on to review the pace of recent events as she and her partner have been overwhelmed by customer demand for their recently launched business. In fact, it suddenly dawned on her that what had directly precipitated her acute sensation of “passing out” was a new customer call for service. She and her partner had determined the night before that they were simply too overwhelmed; they needed to say no to new business for awhile.

The customer’s call had stirred the dilemma: “Can I say no to new business?” The call had also stirred the archetypal wisdom of her body to deliver its answer to the request in no uncertain terms. As we reflected, we determined that her body—the matter part of her being—was giving its answer to the customer’s request directly, saying loudly and clearly: “I’m shutting down! Over and out!”

And yet, how many of us would really listen to such sage wisdom from body central? How many of us would secretly be rationalizing from the mental plane: “This is great, more business, more money, great success!” How long would it take to arrive at some dietary glitch to explain away the dizziness and persist with the current plan to meet all demand in the service of financial reward!

“Beyonce’s” dilemma reflects the dominance of spirit over matter that plagues the macrocosm of our world as reflected in the psychology of our Commander-in-chief. His psychology is marked by a supreme alienation of spirit from nature. The guiding principal, beyond its narcissistic wrappings, is the spirit of financial success at all costs, regardless of its impact on the physical body or Mother Nature, the physical body of the earth itself. And Mother Nature, as is increasingly evident, is responding with her feedback to this spirit imperative.

Fortunately, “Beyonce” took heed of the imbalance in her mind/body relationship and intends to change the course of business to bring greater harmony to her mind/body partnership. Unfortunately for our Commander-in-chief, he appears all the more driven to deepen his spirit intent: “More, more, more!!!”

Though “Beyonce” may be restored to fit-to-serve shape, she will likely be challenged again and again to go to the heart and ask the question: “What is the truly right decision?” The spirit at the helm of the mental plane at present is so focused on self and survival that it blots out the needs of the body, the needs of others, and the needs of Mother Earth, our ultimate home base for survival while in human form.

The mental status of our Commander-in-chief poses a grave riddle to all of us: “Who is responsible for the imbalance that has thrown our world into peril?” The silver lining to the true answer to this question is self-empowerment. We all have the power to elect the best Commander-in-chief within ourselves and in so doing change the world.

Intending to be fit to serve,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Modern Mana

Numinous energy…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

A burst of thunder! A flash of lightning! For a moment we are leveled in awe. Somewhere, out there, is an all-powerful energy far greater than the predictable flow of everyday life. For a moment we are seized by the divine, whether it be in terror or ecstasy.

The ancients took these outer manifestations in the heavens and on earth as the moods, judgments, and actions of the gods. For the modern ego the divine forces of nature have been explained and tamed by the human god of reason, though numinous encounters with nature quickly shatter its calm persona.

Mana is the term assigned to the energy of the divine. In our modern world that energy is projected onto people, places, and things. When a child is born, and for many subsequent years, mother is imbued with powerful mana. Who cannot recall either the experience or hidden craving for attention from mana mama!

A smile from mother deeply satisfies a need for validation: “I indeed belong in this world.” The glitter in her eye as she gives special attention to what the child is doing, saying, writing, drawing, singing,  etc. is utter communion with the golden nectar of divine mana.

As an infant grows and becomes a separate being the mother archetype, which at first included the entire world, differentiates and the mana of mother is distributed to other people, i.e., father, as well as to objects. In fact the well known special teddy bear or towel that the child attaches to for security and comfort was termed a “transitional object” by Winnicott.

By this he meant that the powerful mana originally totally projected onto mother now rubs off on the transitional object in the child’s possession, providing an intermediary container for the power and energy of mother that the child will eventually experience within the self-sufficient self.

The projection of divine mana in adult relationships often harkens back to this hunger for special attention first experienced in childhood. Adults often experience in others the divine mana which they are drawn to and are terrified of as well. All intimacy must work through the mana projections that lead to dependency and avoidance of connection that have their roots in mana projections.

Modern mana frequently is projected into substances that loosen the spirit’s confinement in the body and offer divine communion with mana through flights of the imagination and pleasurable shifts in perception and physical sensation. Food as well can take on a divine mana, which delivers pleasurable sensation, hunger relief, and a fulfilled self-contained wholeness.

Mana is often projected onto objects we absolutely must have. Amazon.com is really a major mana warehouse. Books are often filled with mana as we commune with information and plots that give us divine tension and satisfaction.

The crux of mana is divinity. Human animals appear programmed to find the divine spark of their own spirit selves reflected in the people, places, and things of this world. This striving for contact or union with the divine is ultimately our animal self seeking to discover and join with its spirit half.

Until we discover and recover our own mana in inner union we are led to follow its trail in encounters with significant transitional objects in this world. That is the magic of this world; it serves as the playing field for finding the divine through participation in life and relationship on the road to wholeness of body and spirit within.

May the force be with you,

Chuck


A blog by Chuck Ketchel, LCSW-R

Chuck’s Place: On the Road to Masculinity

“Is this the road to masculinity?” asked the traveler of the stranger.

“Yes, if you turn around,” replied the knowing stranger. “All roads begin with Mother!”

Mother Goddess…
– Illustration from the book, “KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”

Sorry Neo, it’s Mother who is really “The One.” In the beginning there was only oneness of being, life merged inside of mother. Though oneness became twoness at birth, the process of emotional separation and individuation from her power and resource can occupy a lifetime. Many remain attached to mother in her powerful archetypal mystique as benevolent goddess or dangerous witch, casting a shadow over the realization of  their own innate power, magic, and majesty.

Such a goddess status is hardly appropriate for the fallible mortal woman charged with raising a child. In fact, the famous child psychiatrist, Winnicott, desperately attempted to assure mothers that they only needed to be “good enough” for their children to be fine.

What he was referring to was the necessity for mother to only meet minimum requirements of loving presence to enable her child to come online to the vital energy of their own inner circuitry and to become a viable separate magical living being.

This is not to downplay the primal significance of an early connection with mother. If basic minimums are not met a child may perish via a failure to thrive. Beyond that a child may harbor a powerful dependency upon mother for years while the circuits for greater autonomy await her switching them on, in vain.

There is a only a narrow critical period in youth where mother’s attention can activate those switches. Beyond childhood it is the adult ego that takes charge of the circuitboard of the self. In plain English, the adult must take the journey to discover their own riches.

The circuits I am referring to are somewhat identifiable in the neural pathways of the brain and body, the earthly hardware of the soul. However, the mind, the outer wrapping of the soul, is a bit more ephemeral and includes both the ego, the conscious sense of self, and the unconscious, which at its deepest levels, the collective unconscious, contains the basic instinctual knowledge of our species, as well as its spiritual majesty.

In effect, the unconscious has all the knowhow we need to become a person and meet the challenges of life, but access to this inner font of wisdom is first projected upon the agent of mother, who through early attachment serves as conduit to these inner riches. Hence, the immortal goddess status is freely projected upon mother, vestiges of which can last a lifetime. Does mother ever become just the normal human animal we all are?

Given the power of the inner archetypal drama unfolding behind normal growth and development, in addition to the nuances of  one’s personal relationship with their actual mother, a lot can go wrong on the path to adulthood! That’s where adult psychotherapy comes in, helping an individual to individuate through developing a direct relationship between the adult ego self and the golden riches of the deeper self, turning on the circuits of wholeness within the self.

The major challenge on the original road to masculinity is to withdraw one’s all-powerful projection onto mother as “The One.” Fourth grade boys often trade “your mother” jokes to prove their personal power over this primal relationship. One must never show hurt feelings or rage at these jokes and risk suffering the label “mama’s boy.”

The technology of masculinity at this young stage is the ability to fragment and compartmentalize. If one has needy, dependent, soft feelings for mother they must be denied and hidden. To be masculine one must have power over feelings and needs. Instead the focus shifts to competition and the ability to conquer and control. Archetypally the dramas become identification with superheroes or sport’s heroes.

The thrust of adolescence is toward greater autonomy with needs shifting toward social groups and explorations of dating. Young adulthood focuses on deeper autonomy, planting oneself in career directions and the world of work. Intimate relations may move deeper into commitment but frequently dissolve beyond  the romantic idealization stage where love flows freely without obligation. Intimacy is a pathway to the magic, but only with maturity.

With commitment comes a deepening of intimacy and this is where the trouble begins. Masculinity gained through the tools of fragmentation, compartmentalization, competition, power and control are no match for the demands of intimacy, which brings one back to feelings, needs, and the omniscient power of mother that is resurrected in the person of one’s intimate partner.

Mother is the primal first love object who in one form or another is the prototype coloring all future intimacies. For men to truly secure their masculinity they must conquer this powerful female prototype of their infantile dependency needs, frequently represented in archetypal myths as battles with the dragon.

However, conquest of both need for mother and fear of her do not solve the final challenge of masculinity. The final challenge is to be open to deeply loving connection with an intimate partner. To achieve this there is no other road but the return to mother as she appears in the shadow of everyday life encounters, for it is there that we will encounter the ghosts of the nursery.

The ability to tolerate the power of these ghosts that can trigger us into rages and withdrawal is fundamental. The ability to stay present to regulate the archaic emotions that shoot forth from the depths and resolve their associated complexes are the deeper challenges of masculinity.

Adulthood and full intimacy with an other achieved…
– Illustration from the book “KRSNA, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”

To be able to make contact, to experience union without the need to dissociate, to hold onto self and fully receive an intimate other are all signs that the power of mother has been successfully transformed; the magic has been discovered within.

Mother can be loved for her humanness, but in adulthood she no longer holds the power of archetypal projection. Full masculinity has been reached and one is truly ready for deeper intimacy. Owning this full masculinity transcends the pseudo-masculinity of power grabs, or the relatedness of childish neediness. This is masculinity that embodies its own magic. Thank you, mother!

On the road again,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Father, Mother & The Road to Maturity

The Archetypes as they might appear…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Father’s sperm sows Mother’s egg. Mother’s body fleshes out Father’s spirit. All human life issues from this primal happening. The basic archetypes of mother and father traverse the full breadth of human life, from creator to created to beloved.

Children first encounter these powerful building blocks of human life in their personal parents who generate, sustain, and protect their lives. Freud enshrined this primal nursery scene of dependence and love upon omnipotent parents as the core playing field of life, such was his conviction of the immutable powers and attraction of one’s family of origin.

Jung went on to demonstrate how the mother and father archetypes are projected beyond parents onto gods, the sun and the moon, kings and queens, presidents, authority figures, friends, lovers and spouses. As children grow, the numinous energy of the mother and father archetypes extend into encounters with people and objects in the world beyond the family crucible.

With the dawning of adolescence and the emergence of sexuality young people begin to experience desires and compulsions that generate fixations of falling in love. The object of these projections, the one wanted, is imbued with the numinous energy and need that harkens back to the primal archetypes of life: Mother and Father.

This numinous energy projected upon a desired other may be experienced as ecstatic bliss, terror, anxiety, paralysis or even aggression, the drive to conquer that which feels too powerful. Way beyond adolescence we may still tremble at making contact or feeling worthy enough to approach the one who embodies the god/goddess energy of these projections.

In ancient times rights of initiation to facilitate an individual’s ability to mature into an adult capable of making contact with a coveted other were commonplace. The Dionysian Mysteries of Ancient Greece and Rome were just one of the many cults serving this function.

In our modern rational world, we no longer value the transformative power nor the necessity of formal initiation rites to facilitate the maturity needed to take on the deeper challenges of meeting and fully connecting with a blessed other. The task of initiation in the modern world takes place in the inner sanctuary of the human psyche and body, often through the guidance and support of a knowledgeable therapist.

The call to initiation is frequently encountered in the anxiety, terror, longing, and excitement—all numinous energy—of a potential relationship. The stages of the initiation process are directed by the problems encountered in approaching a relationship.

Often, the first problem is the power of the projection itself. The desired other may be experienced as a god or goddess whose glow is so powerful that you feel unable to actually look directly into the solar rays experienced as emanating from this human form. Perhaps the heart pounds so hard it can be heard out loud; perhaps the vocal cords seize up, unable to make a sound. These are the presenting problems.

Perhaps this desired person appears in a dream with a loving, welcoming smile and you are drawn into sensuous embrace. Upon awakening you feel warmed, in a state of grace. Perhaps you spend the day immersed in the communion of the dream-memory, generating more and more fantasies of delight. Perhaps this secret romance goes on for weeks, a love affair with an inner god/goddess image in your private world of fantasy.

Suddenly, one night, this dream lover may appear in a new dream with another date. You are no longer desired! The impact: devastation and depression.

What is the lesson here from the god/goddess?

Perhaps you have been lured into the trap of feeling entitled to own this living figure whom you have enslaved in fantasy to attend to your sensual desires. Perhaps the god/goddess is teaching that this is infantile behavior, an adult expecting the one-sided attention appropriate only in the nursery.

Furthermore, the god/goddess may also be pointing out that nothing has really been achieved, as no real or substantial contact has been made with the human being so powerfully pined for.

Another dream may then issue forth that signals you to be a hero, to cross a raging river despite the odds. The prompting of such a dream might be challenging you to be your own hero, to shield your eyes from the overpowering projection of the god/goddess and actually make small talk with the real human person of interest, to go beyond your comfort zone and put it out there.

And so, the initiation proceeds with the waking task to approach the desired one, as well as the private task to cease indulging in infantile fantasy and face the reality that genuine contact with a human being requires getting to know them, in a down-to-earth way.

The various tasks of initiation are many sided and are determined by the specific needs of each individual unique personality. The temples of initiation are alive and active within our own inner beings. We encounter the gods and goddesses of those temples in many of our human relationships.

If we remain uninitiated we will experience ourselves as children, still needing the sustenance and protection of others. This returns us to the vicissitudes of Freud’s Oedipus complex, projected onto our adult relationships, which will continue to present us with all kinds of challenges.

Best to take up the journey of adulthood, launched successfully by an active engagement of ego with the vicissitudes of the primal archetypes that guide us all on the road to maturity.

That’s what it’s all about, folks!

Chuck

A blog by Chuck Ketchel, a man of knowledge; one who knows that he doesn’t know