If we think of life before mindfulness as encompassing either pleasure or pain, then most of us will gather around one polarity in an addictive fashion… and can therefore be classed under the Glutton or Addict archetype.
The Addict may be addicted to pleasure as a Hedonist or Lover, or they may be addicted to pain; as a Workaholic or any number of things one can be addicted to, such as food, gambling, or harmful drugs.
People are often addicted to one or the other to take the pressure off, as a distraction from their worries and shadow selves, or as a means to escape a particularly disturbing person or situation in their lives. Whatever your addiction is keeping you from, it’ll probably come served as some form of denial, cold platter and all, and once overcome will open all sorts of doors for you.
Letting yourself free from your cycles of addiction – no matter how harmless they seem – will lighten your load and give you a sense of empowerment. For the addict is most certainly involved in a power struggle. The moment you depend on, or let anything ‘external’ control your life, then you’re setting yourself up for a whirlwind of trouble, no matter how socially acceptable your weakness happens to be. Above all, the Addict will stop at nothing to get their fix… Might you be one of them?
Another possible guise our ‘shadow’ can take and is better understood as an archetype, is the Gossip. I think we’ve all been there; it can take a huge amount of sacrifice – both of the fear of being liked and of our precious reputations – to stand up for the underdog instead of joining in. More often than not, we become the Bully or Coward in order to secure our place in the hierarchy of society, whether we’re children in a playground or not.
The most subtle forms of cowardly bullying find themselves woven into most social interactions and groups, and are particularly present in situations where people come under the spotlight; at work, within family… as people this is how we determine status and rank in an ‘evolved’ species such as human kind.
To become more and more aware of the moments of cowardice present in most of our lives and overcoming it by fighting for the underdog can be a daily practice, but there are some of those who fit the archetype of the Gossip and Networker down to a tee.
There are those of us who seem to thrive in such situations, and often become a ringleader steering the bullying in the right direction, ironically mistaken into thinking they’re fighting for high moral codes that the underdog or scapegoat might’ve breached.
Their followers and crowd are those so driven by fear, they also begin perceiving some injustice. And with that the crowd becomes a mob; tearing at the metaphorical flesh of the underdog, eager to rid their pack of those who threaten their collective ego, any scrap of supposed evolution lost in the dust. In these situations we become animalistic. We become ignorant, we become dumb.
The story of Midas goes like this: Midas mopes about wishing he had more money (being secure and perfectly affluent as he is), makes a ‘vain prayer’ in the direction of his greedy desires and is ‘blessed’ with the gift to turn whatever he touches into pure gold.
At first this is great fun and he goes around touching cups and saucers and probably his washing machine in delight at the intense novelty of the whole thing until he finds himself experiencing the first pangs of hunger as dinner time comes around.
He goes to the fridge. Woops, turned to gold. Goes to the cupboards, woops turned to gold. In the end his daughter approaches him and he accidentally turns her to gold too. Weeping over her frozen statue, he eventually dies of starvation.
Although we may not all be driven to such drastic measures to satisfy our lust for gold, there may well be a nugget of the Miser archetype in all of us. It’s all about attachment; do you attach yourself to the lighter side of life and pine over it until the wave begins to lift? Do you find yourself aching for a bit more land, a nicer kitchen or better car?
Or perhaps you just plan each dollar down to the very last cent and often skip it when the donations basket comes ‘round? Although it’s easy to be desensitized, and yes we probably all do our bit and shouldn’t have to stress over it, we are still hugely rich in comparison to most of the world’s population.
And yes it is all an illusion. What we think we need and what we can do without is all in the eyes of the beholder. Remember the essentials; oxygen, shelter, food and water. And what was the fifth one? Oh yes, laughter and people to share it with.
Though it may seem glamorous on the surface, the Knight can actually be incredibly shadowy. High on a power trip and intoxicated by the feeling that they’re ‘fighting for God’, or on a crusade to save the holy land… the Warrior and Revolutionary may think they’re do-gooders, when in fact they invite violence into peaceful people’s lives, often leaving a bloody trail behind them.
Violence for the sake of peace, war in exchange for the correct and self righteous road… Although many of us may desire to help others in becoming such an ostentatious figure, take heed that it’s not solely your own needs you are satisfying.
Do the people you’re saving actually need or even want to be saved? Or are they happily learning at their own pace and on their own terms? Is your holy land even relevant or desirable to those you seek to help? One shoe certainly does not fit all… especially not your spurred boots that can appear quite alarming and aggressive to down-to-earth villagers who just want to harvest their crop.
Again, another one who is incredibly desirable to us in this masculine, get ahead and shine society that we live in. But be careful you don’t get too wrapped up in your own ego… the Writer and Artist can become so engulfed in creativity or perfectionism they are driven quite mad and become consumed in their own inadequacies as a mere human. Like Icarus there are downsides to walking alongside the Gods in their pantheon. The same goes for the Inventor. To play God is dangerous, and more often than not one gets burned.
Though not strictly feminine, the Princess represents all that is within us that needs to leech off others and attach ourselves to them because of our fear to face life head on. The Princess becomes a Victim, waiting for a Prince to rescue him/her and pretending they have no individuality or independence of their own.
Princesses can become incredibly apt at convincing themselves and everyone else that this is their ‘purpose’; like any caregiver who has learnt to become co-dependent they are willing to do anything; cook, clean, sing to the neighbouring wildlife… Like the Addict, the Princess is in denial, and usually needs to work on their sense of self and self love in order to grant themselves the Heroine status they deserve.
The Prostitute and the Femme Fatale are similar to the Princess, yet instead of granting the completion of household chores they grant sexual favours. Again they don’t have to be women with flirty dispositions; the Prostitute is that part inside of us who readily gives away our talents to any Tom, Dick or Harry without expecting much in return. Both archetypes draw on our need to reaffirm our sense of self-respect and re-draw our boundaries. Are you letting others walk all over you and take more than they deserve?
These archetypes are just a sample of what may be dressing itself up to the nines and posing as a positive aspect of who you are. To explore our shadows is a healthy thing; for then we get to truly know ourselves and can begin to love every single part of our being. To know and understand every one of our masks is an adventure, a journey to through the darkness to the heart of the self, a journey into the light.