The Archetypes Inside Me
For a while I’ve been yearning to explore what might come up for me if I invent archetypes or personas for myself, along the lines of Internal Family Systems (a therapeutic approach popular with my corner of Twitter) but more heavily inspired by this post from Autotranslucence: https://autotranslucence.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/the-queen-the-engineer-the-poet-and-the-river-a-meaningful-life-on-de-institutionalised-time/
So I finally did it and wrote them down.
In the article, Auto comments that finding some archetypes was fairly quick for her. As with her experience, the archetypes I have written seemed to come to me fast and easy, with pretty potent emotional force. I wondered if I would quarrel with myself or end up performing strange mental gymnastics where I questioned my ability to not lie to myself and so on, but the process seemed free from things like that.
Some of the archetypes have a few explanatory subtypes. I’ve decided to include these in this post to capture the moment in time, rather than wait a bit to allow this exercise to sink in to my psyche. Apparently I might integrate or morph those sub-types, given time, but I’ll post updates about that later.
The archetypes are:
The Tyrant, the Academic, the Socialite, the Vessel and the Sloth.
Beneath them all is the Lonely Girl. I’m going to describe her and an intermediary, the Teenager, to make sense of the Tyrant. They seem to come as a developmental package. However, she does feel important on her own, as if she’s the core structure beneath so many of my assumptions and motivations.
The Lonely Girl is very young and absolutely bereft. She is always crying, because her daddy is gone. He was her entire world. But one day he suddenly vanished. The Lonely Girl desperately needs comfort and reassurance but she can never get it because she’s alone. She finds people who are like her daddy but are not actually him. She can’t be reassured because her real daddy is nowhere to be found. She won’t stop looking. She won’t stop crying.
The Teenager. Angry at the world, fiercely independent, stubborn. She thinks she knows everything, but she doesn’t know she has massive blindspots and is quite naive. She is willing to endure as much suffering as it takes to keep her independence. She has toughened her emotional skin into into a hard shell and will face any level of pain to get what she needs to survive. She’s blind to ways she is manipulative and callous to the people around, who are also suffering in order to help her.
The Tyrant has all the fierceness of the Teenager, and she is no longer blind. She still wants power and control, but now she wants it for its own sake. The idea of power is intoxicating and alluring, not to mention fun. She wants to see just how crafty she can be. She wants to test her intellect and resolve against the best players. To see if she can win. She knows that this is dangerous, but doesn’t really care. She somehow wants the fear and the pain that come with playing power games. She knows she can endure a lot. She wants to grasp the electric wire. She wants to burn her skin off deep in the sun. She wants to see just how much she can take. However, both the desire for power and the lack of self-protective feelings are still rooted in trauma, an old trauma that no amount of power will heal. It’s possible she wants to annihilate herself. She wants to get revenge for this terrible trauma, but really the only way to do that is intense intellectual self harm.
The Academic likes to retreat to internal thoughts. She likes to think and play with concepts, on almost any topic. Although this reaction to the world is rooted in trauma, thinking is really fun. She loves thinking, abstract reasoning and learning for their own sake. At its highest peaks she understands concepts in novel ways and her Holy Grail is to invent a wholly new thought-object. Sub-types that all come under this heading: The Scientist, The Engineer, The Poet, The Contrarian.
The Socialite loves to have friends and throw parties. She’s an excellent host and conversational partner. She loves other people and helping them have a good time. She’s a loyal and empathetic friend. She sometimes experiences extreme guilt over social mis-steps.
The Vessel. Deeply sexual, the vessel wants to be filled both physically and psychically with the body and spirit of others. She is a bottomless container for dick and for emotions. Shaped by the contents but not fundamentally changed by them, she is ecstatic when she is full, and loves to hold things for people if they need to be unburdened.
The Sloth is not just lazy, but makes an entire art of resting, sleeping and moving slowly. Her languid skills turn lack of energy usage into a positively sensuous pleasure. She loves to lie around in absolute comfort, love to spend hours doing all kinds of dreaming and loves to be idle.
How the archetypes frustrate each other
The Sloth may have kept us alive, restraining the self-destructive influences of The Tyrant. However, The Sloth frustrates The Academic, indeed The Sloth normally frustrates any efforts to “achieve”.
The Academic can alienate people that are a source of joy for The Socialite and The Vessel. The Academic focusses lots of time and resources on itself.
The Socialite uses too much social energy, leaving the Academic and without any resources for the self, and the Tyrant disgusted with the waste, while it maybe becomes too merged with other people to be able to be an effective Vessel.
The Vessel is not critical enough or active enough to satisfy The Academic and The Tyrant. The Socialite is a bit scared of the expansiveness, rudeness and vulnerability of the Vessel’s activities.
The Tyrant is too cruel for The Socialite, and is too narrow in focus and critical for The Vessel. The Academic is kinda intellectually appalled. And they’re all scared of The Tyrant leading them down a destructive path.
All of them move way too fast and are far too anxious for The Sloth, lol.
How the archetypes could enhance each other
I’ve written this title to faithfully mirror the post that inspired me by Autotranslucence, but what I should write here feels trite and boring.
The Academic and the Socialite could work together for sparkling conversation, the Vessel could experience pleasure if she let’s the Sloth slow her down etc. etc.
I’m sure this stuff is useful in some ways but it’s not very alive for me right now.
What I really want to say
I’m currently just fascinated by this Tyrant figure. It feels new and dangerous. I have no idea whether to pursue Tyrant-y desires or not. Or if so, how much. The other archetypes have mostly just restrained the Tyrant and that seems like it’s for the best.
However these feelings keep coming up, they won’t go away. The other archetypes feel scared by the Tyrant’s desires but for the Tyrant those feelings of fear are, if not thrilling, then simply in the way. The danger plus the rewards are thrilling to her. The Tyrant wants to do stuff and is angry about being blocked all the time. I’m not sure she’d settle for half-measures either.
I don’t really know how to resolve this. Normally you let each archetype tell you what it needs and kinda promise it that it won’t be forgotten. I haven’t done that work yet. It might just be time to let the Tyrant have a play. It’s easy to fantasise how good things will be and fail to fantasise the bad, so perhaps some cold, hard reality will refine her attitude.
On another note, I noticed that these personal archetypes also seem to represent a set of archetypes themselves, namely a list of things that describe aspects needed for human flourishing.
The Tyrant is the most nakedly powerful of the subtypes, and could be said to represent Power. The Academic represents intellectual life, the Sloth is concerned with bodily pleasure, the Socialite with connectedness and community and the Vessel with Spiritual matters.
One notable absense here is Creativity. I often think I’m not very creative, until I recall the prodigious amount of output I create in words. My creative archetype might indeed be absent… but presumably she is the one writing these very words. Maybe she’s a sort of background archetype who is so ubiquitous she’s turned invisible. The Writer has been around almost as long as the Lonely Girl, and she is equally pervasive. Somehow, she is way more chill.
Ok it may be time to stop, before I go ahead and just make up an archetype for every known aspect of human existence. Still, the exercise was really fun and may continue to be useful in the coming weeks.