Tag Archives: trickster


I am in third grade, a tiny spry little girl, quiet as a mouse. For some reason I get the idea into my head to play a trick on the bus driver who shuttles us back and forth to school and home again at the end of the day. He has been very friendly lately, chatty, ebullient almost, joking with everyone. I like him. I think he’s funny and that he’ll appreciate a good joke in return.

Sometimes I came out of my shell and did something bad!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

When I get on the bus at the end of the day the driver is turned sideways in his seat facing all the children as they climb onto the bus. He says something funny to each of us as we walk past him carrying our book bags and lunchboxes. He gets us all in a good mood and there’s an overall air of jollity to the whole busload of kids as a result of his jokey attitude. I’m happy, feeling mischievous. I walk to a seat and sit down. Suddenly an idea comes to me. I tell my friend what I’m going to do.

“Nooo! How are you going to do that?” she asks, looking quite incredulous.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “Just watch me.”

I study the driver. He’s preoccupied with the kids getting on the bus. I know exactly how long it takes for everyone to get on and how many kids are not here yet. I’m naturally very observant. I calculate that I have plenty of time to do the deed.

I sneak up to the front seat directly behind the driver’s seat. There’s only a shiny steel handrail separating the back of the driver’s seat from the rest of the row of seats behind him. The rail is about even with a kid’s head when sitting down. I know this because my older brother got tossed into the bar once and broke his front tooth against it when the driver had to slam on the brakes.

I slide into the front seat and sit down. The driver doesn’t notice me. He doesn’t see that I’ve wormed my way up from the back of the bus nor that I’m sitting behind him. He’s distracted, still chatting away to the students getting on the bus.

Carefully, as quiet as a little mouse, I slither down to the floor and along the left side of the driver’s seat. I’m small and thin enough to squeeze in there quite comfortably, crawling on my hands and knees. The upper half of the driver’s body is turned away from me, facing the other way, so he doesn’t see me. He’s got his feet planted squarely on the floor, the bus idling gently. I reach around to where his feet are and very carefully untie first one shoelace and then the other. Then I tie the two of them together, nice and tight. I slither back out as quietly as I went in and sneak back to my seat. I can’t believe how easy it was!

“I did it!” I announce to my friend.

We giggle softly, conspiratorially. I have no idea what’s going to happen when he discovers his shoes tied together but I have no doubt it will be funny. I sit and wait in high anticipation. I can barely hold back my excitement. The kids in the upper grades finally get on. It’s time! I watch the bus driver swing his torso around and face the front of the bus, pull the door lever toward him to close the door and…

“Whaaaat the!” he says, letting out a loud shout of dismay. I see him trying to figure out what’s going on with his feet. It takes him a moment.

“Who did this?” he finally yells and immediately looks into the rearview mirror, searching the bus for the culprit.

I am standing up in my seat, leaning onto the back of the seat in front of me, laughing into my hands. I just can’t help it. I am laughing hysterically.

I watch as the bus driver reaches down to untie his shoes and retie them correctly. He gets up and slowly walks down the aisle of the bus. Uh oh, I’m in trouble now! I sit down hard in my seat, hoping he won’t notice little quiet me, but I must look really guilty because he comes right over to me and leans down, his big round face so close to mine I can smell his bad breath.

“You’re the rascal!” he says in a loud voice, loud enough for everyone on the bus to hear. And then he struts back up to his seat with an air of command, no more Mister Jolly, just an angry bus driver who seemingly doesn’t like getting pranked by little girls. He sits down, glares at me in the rearview mirror, puts the bus in gear and off we go.

That’s as far as any sort of punishment went. He never told the principal and my parents never heard about it, but he never let me off the hook for the rest of the school year. If there was a commotion on the bus, I got the blame. Any shenanigans going on, I got the blame, even if I had nothing to do with it.

As with the previous stories I’ve been telling about the little imp inside me, as I write this story my heart is thumping with the same level of excitement that my eight-year-old little girl self experienced as she thought about what to do and as she stealthily carried out her plan. And I can’t help but laugh out loud too. It was a thrilling moment in my life, thrilling to carry out and thrilling to get away with, one I’ve never forgotten. So quick, so quiet, so dexterous! I was invincible! Rarely did I feel in such control!

It was, however, not thrilling at all to be branded a rascal, because normally I was a quiet little girl, but in hindsight I understand that the imp inside me was enticed by this friendly fellow, greeting us all at the end of a long day at school with a joke and a happy grin, and she wanted to reciprocate with a funny joke on him that she thought he’d naturally appreciate. Not so!

It’s often hard to gauge the reaction a person will have to a practical joke. Sometimes we laugh when we’re really nervous, or scared, or embarrassed. Sometimes we shout when our ego is bruised or envious, or when something gets triggered inside us. Sometimes we cry when we really want to laugh. Sometimes we know we’re doing something mean and sometimes we really do think we’re doing something funny and that it won’t bother anyone.

The imp, however, has a little bit of nice and a little bit of mean inside her; it’s who she is. And I can say now that she wasn’t just a nice quiet little girl on the day she pranked the bus driver. She was all imp!

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

Chuck’s Place: Trickster To Trickster

At a certain level of reality, I and We become One. Growth might be defined as an ever-expanding realization of our essential Oneness. In the meantime, we grapple with the discovery, ownership, and coordination of our many parts.

Who is really in charge here? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Who is really in charge here?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Within the self of every “individual” are many parts: some known, many unknown, and still others disowned. Psychology has coined the terms conscious and unconscious to differentiate between those parts that we know about from those that we don’t know about but also are.

At the center of the known self—the seat of consciousness—is the ego. The ego has many “parts,” including the “face” it shows the world, called the persona, as well as a younger child state, and an adult state. Each of these parts has its own ambitions, needs, and motives. Being conscious “parts” allows each of these centers to have relative accessibility to awareness. That is, we are basically familiar with these states of being. They may, and often do, squabble among themselves.

For instance, the persona—the actor that we present to the world—often sees itself as the true self. The fact that I am a psychotherapist is indeed a real part of me, however, it is not the whole of who I am.

In another example, the adult ego, with its capacity to plan, organize, and make things happen, may trump the needs and desires of its child part, who wants to play.

The permutation of struggles at the ego level alone are staggering, particularly when the parts become tricksters in their maneuvering.

Trickster is a character who has an ulterior motive, a secret ambition or intention that powers its behavior. Trickster has little interest in fairness, cooperation, or consciousness. It’s goal is to get what it wants.

Trickster may be intelligent and cunning, or foolish and obvious, but trickster definitely does not play by the rules. Nonetheless, if we are willing to slow down the action and reflect, the trickster in all our conscious parts can be identified and a resolution to contradictory motives becomes possible.

However, when we approach the depths of the unconscious mind the plot thickens, as trickster can allude all but a very determined introspection.

The unconscious mind, all that we don’t know of who we are, is composed of countless layers. The uppermost region houses all that once was conscious but for a myriad of reasons has been erased from conscious awareness. Here we find many traumatic experiences, as well as parts of the ego-potential deemed unworthy of development.

Traumatic parts have a life of their own and often function as tricksters bent on being discovered by the conscious mind. For instance, a news item on TV might trigger an intense emotional overreaction, brought on by a traumatic memory insisting on being consciously redeemed.

Similarly, rejected ego parts—forming what Jung called the shadow—may function as tricksters by projecting a compelling but distorted perception onto the motives  of a friend or foe that actually reflects the true feelings of the rejected inner part but completely distorts outer reality.

As we go deeper into the unconscious mind we encounter what Jung called the anima/animus parts, the contrasexual components of the psyche, unrealized at a conscious level. These parts have their trickster ability to project themselves in powerful attractions to people in the world that distort completely who they really are. These trickster entrapments form the core of many troubled relationships.

At the center of the unconscious mind is the Self, the CEO of the entire psyche. The role of the Self is to establish balance in the entire psyche—conscious and unconscious. The Self is the higher power of the psyche. Ideally, the ego center of the conscious personality will subordinate itself to the dictates of the Self, which has the interests of the greater whole in mind.

Unfortunately, the ego often takes on its own trickster side, subverting the true needs of the Self, using all its power for decision and free will to accomplish its own aims.

If the imbalance thereby generated is too extreme, the Self counters with its own trickster side and generates symptoms of fear in the ego, such as an agoraphobia, where the ego can’t leave the house. To rein the ego in, the Self can also create psychosomatic symptoms, such as panic attacks or physical illness, to interfere with the ego’s willfulness.

The Self might also generate dreams that preempt the ego’s control through a terrifying nightmare that restores the waking ego to humility.

Yup, that says it all! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Yup, that says it all!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The difference between Self as trickster and all the other personality parts as trickster is its selfless intentions. The Self seeks unity and balance as its aim. When the other parts of the personality employ the trickster, it generally reflects a power play to meet individual needs, often at the expense of the greater needs of the overall Self.

The Self is only forced to become the trickster when the ego refuses to listen to its guidance. When the ego, like a good General, looks to the Self as Ruler, the Self responds with supportive guidance, energy, and freedom from symptoms.

So, trickster to trickster, stay in alignment with the Self, a much smoother ride to wholeness!

Bumping along,



Chuck’s Place: Coyote In Broad Daylight

Today, we switch things around and publish Chuck’s blog. Jan’s blog, which normally appears on Wednesdays, will be published this Friday instead.

What is that?

En route to errands, Jan asks: “Did you bring the DVDs for return?” I hadn’t. It was time to turn around, a familiar theme for us these days, as in the past few weeks we have noticed a propensity for making the same trip twice in a day, something always needing a redo. And actually there were two DVDs to return, though we had only watched one. “What is the unseen story?” I ponder, not wanting to get caught in frustration or be disheartened by this unnecessary waste of time, and so I stalk a different attitude as we turn around and slowly drive back home.

“What will we see that we wouldn’t have seen had we not had occasion to retrace our steps? What will we be shown?” I wonder.

Within seconds my questions are answered. Off to the right, deep in a field, I notice what appears to be a German shepherd on its own, standing alertly, sniffing the air. We turn the corner and pull to the side of the road. The animal slowly makes its way towards us, an unmistakable coyote, low to the ground, long bushy tail, triangular face. Barely breathing, we watch as it prances out of the field and cautiously crosses the road right in front of us. What a thrill! But what does it mean?

Coyote is a night hunter. What brings it so boldly into daylight for all to see? Coyote is trickster, a shapeshifter, who teaches folly and wisdom. We are tricked where we are fools, yet through facing our folly honestly we acquire wisdom.

In earnest, I watch the third presidential debate between Obama and Romney. Suddenly, I get it; shapeshifting coyote trickster stands before us in the bright light of scrutiny. Romney has become Obama, adopting nearly all his positions, many of which he disputed but a week ago. Romney has transformed into calm statesman, touting the wisdom of WORLD PEACE!

It’s shapeshifter!

This shapeshifter actually transforms into a being who in a non-lucid moment doesn’t seem all that bad, actually appearing presidential! Oh what fools we mortals be!

After watching the debate, I am awakened twice in the night by dreams that seize me with fear. In each dream, a psychopathic killer seizes power and is unstoppable. In the morning my waking mood is tense, worried. Not wanting to attach to fear, I penetrate the dreams and the synchronicities of now. Now awake, I clearly see the trickster, come in my dreams to play me, letting me in on the folly of where we are now poised in our world. If we fall for the fool we will eventually get to wisdom, but how rough, how necessary, will that journey be?

Presidents and presidential races attract our projections because they concern our destinies in this world. As well, like kings imbued with divine right, they mirror our inner relations to our own higher powers. As mirrors we must ask ourselves: Are we allowing ourselves to make decisions and take actions in our lives based on our deepest truths, or on foolish illusions we sell ourselves in order to live a safe and complacent life?

The fool will always indulge our weaknesses, but are we willing to out the fool who caters to our inner greed and avoidance of truth? If we refuse inner truth, we certainly will delude ourselves with outer fool, who caters similarly to our greed and fears. We cannot really expect more from our leaders than we do of ourselves. Do we stay mesmerized by the coyote within or the one that walks amongst us in broad daylight? Or do we awaken and heed its warning: Nothing is hidden; it’s right in front of us!

What really matters, the truth, or what we want to believe? Either way, we are led ultimately to wisdom. But the journeys will be very different.

With Coyote,

Chuck’s Place: Our Secret Partner

Trickster is always watching...

It’s early in the morning. This week my attempts to write a blog haven’t gelled. I’ve run out of time. As I go in and out of sleep, I’m met with painful images, someone dear always dying. I finally decide it’s not worth it to sleep; it’s time to wake up and write.

Out of my dreams, the topic of this week’s blog that I’ve struggled so hard to pinpoint suddenly becomes clear. What’s been churning in the background of my waking and dreaming experiences is the positive partnership of the unconscious even when applying its most tricksterish of methods. Taking pen in hand, I acquiesce to the guidance of this most secret partner.

The many scenes of death and dying that I enter in my dreams force me to confront excruciating feelings. On the deepest level I’m led to encounter my greatest fears, the loss of all whom I most cherish. Encountering the fears, even in dreaming, is active recapitulation, as I’m challenged to stay present and fully live through the inevitable changes. I’m challenged as well, at each awakening, to not project the experiences and people of my dreams onto real people and situations. I must keep my experiences inside me. The twists and nuances of my dreams make clear that there is nothing “really” to fear. This dreaming experience offers another exercise to awaken to the nature of projection, to not get caught in its tricky web. This is another trial set up by my secret partner—the unconscious—to further my conscious intent: the way of truth; and the Tao of the dream is to further this intent by paying attention to the instructions encapsulated in my early morning waking and dreaming experiences.

My trickster partner knows I must write my blog, and as it has done hundreds of times in the past, it encourages me to awaken at just the right moment. This time it sets the stage by asking me to choose between the unpleasantness of its dreams or the tension of awakening without a clear topic. My dreams, however, become so unpleasant that there is no point in staying asleep and so I “choose” to awaken, delivered to this day with this experience to present.

The message here is that we all have our secret partner. How our secret partner confronts us can vary from the uncomfortable, such as what I encountered in my dreams, to gentle support. The challenge is to awaken to the fact of its presence, tricksterishly presented or otherwise, for it is present whether we are aware of it or not. If we choose to ignore it, it will simply continue to approach us with unpleasantness, asking us to face our greatest fears, to live through them, and experience them for what they truly are. If we choose to engage our secret partner and develop a relationship with it, we will be supported in our intent, that is, if the intent resonates with the wholeness of our being.

We cannot control the methods by which our secret partner will confront us, though we can certainly challenge them, and that we must do. It’s one of the challenges of evolving consciousness, to assert ourselves even in the midst of overwhelming odds, just as I did in my morning experience. That, after all, is our ultimate preparation for our moment of dying, to stay calm and awake, even as we are delivered deeper into life.

Staying awake,

Chuck’s Place: Beyond The Movie

I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are,” says the Joker in the hospital scene of The Dark Knight, 2008.

James Holmes dyed his hair orange, became the Joker, and in REAL LIFE—at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado—unleashed a fatal assault upon an unsuspecting movie audience.

The Joker is a Trickster. The trickster is a force of nature, an agent of chaos with no attachment to the material world. The trickster’s objective is to disrupt the prevailing order, to break the rules with abandon. The trickster’s pranks may indeed result in tragedy, as evidenced in the horrific Aurora massacre, but they may also reveal truths and weaknesses that if faced squarely might lead to needed transformation and change.

Evolving human consciousness has relied upon spiritual institutions to mediate between its rational, civilized, ordered ego self and the powerful, chaotic energies of the instinctive self. Religious ritual has traditionally offered sacrifice to the instincts in exchange for energy needed to fund the structured, ordered objectives of the ego self in the modern world. In our time, similar to the crumbling of the absolute power of the Catholic Church during the Protestant Revolution, the reigning churches of the day have lost their ability to serve this mediating function.

In fact, modern humanity has become so rational that it has disowned its animal core, and religious affiliation or participation has largely become a place of social gathering or identity. The prevailing consciousness views religious institutions as relics of an unenlightened age.

What has largely replaced the mediating function formerly performed in religious ritual, in today’s world, is Hollywood. It’s a throwback to the days of the gladiators in the Coliseum in Rome or the bullfights in Spain. The modern movie theater is the setting where citizens vicariously project their instinctive energies onto the projections on a screen, as these images duke it out in epic battles of good versus evil. Moviegoers experience contact with their deep instinctive energies through powerful emotions that are enlivened and released, with the outcome being inner balance restored when they are safely delivered back to ordinary life as the movie concludes.

The massacre in Aurora instructs us that the sanctuary of the movie house has ended. It can no longer safely contain our psychic forces. The trickster broke through the screen in Aurora, showing us that the movie house can no longer safely mediate between our ego and deeper instinctive selves. The trickster has shown us that the psychic mechanism of PROJECTION—placing the issues and dangers within us outside of us onto some form of screen—can no longer keep us safe. We must grapple with the psyche directly, finding a new balance, a new relationship to the deep instinctive forces that both threaten us and enliven us.

On a global level, this tenuous balance is evident on every front. Global warming, with its consequent natural disasters, shows us the precarious hold humanity’s decision making has over nature’s wrath. Is it really time for another flood? Or will we do better?

Revolutions sprout up almost daily throughout the world as the urge for change and greater freedom press to topple outdated, repressive regimes.

Revolutionary energy is stirring throughout Europe and the United States from the economic underclass, as they balk at giving more while the 1% accumulate more. This is the energetic climate of Germany preceding the outbreak of Nazism.

All these revolutionary stirrings are threatening to disrupt if not submerge the world as we have known it. All are direct reactions to the collective world ego’s actions in relation to its deeper instinctual needs—nature reacting, both within and without.

On an individual personal level, we are all charged to deal with the psychic balance within our own beings, that is: between our conscious ruling selves and our unconscious instinctive selves.

Those in the midst of recapitulation are well aware of the tenuous balance between the psychic energies of their fragmented selves and their conscious selves. These individuals have heeded the trickster’s warning and have set to the inner work of integrating their deeper truths, to open a cooperative partnership with the deep unconscious.

But for those not currently in the throes of recapitulation, the urgency of the trickster’s exploits must be seen as THE CALL to introversion—to the facing of inner truth.

What are the ruling attitudes of my conscious ego? Are those attitudes listening to my inner revolutionaries: my symptoms and fears? What is my relationship to my deeply instinctive self—to safety, to hunger, to sexuality, to power? Am I being honest with myself? What is the true reality of my psychic economy?

We need to take responsibility for bringing our psyches into new and lasting balance, and not allow the collective imbalance that surrounds us to lead us into hopelessness and surrender. To attend to the self is to bring real change to the interconnected world that we are all part of. To place this call to action upon the self is to honor the victims in Aurora for their sacrifice.

May their sacrifice lead to a transformation that ends the need for human sacrifice as a means to needed change.

Reeling in the projection,