Understanding Archetypes


After my last post, a reader asked me some questions about the Lover and Beloved archetypes.  Before I answer them I want to remind you that the whole concept of archetypes was only introduced to the West about 90 years ago and for everything we think we understand about them, there’s much more we don’t.  Here’s what I think right now.
Q:  “What is the difference between the Beloved and the true self?  Is the Beloved the true self?”
A:   As I wrote in my new book, the term Beloved connotes many different things. In your physical life it can mean the person you love above all others and with whom you enjoy sexual intimacy. Psychologically the Beloved is the beautiful, soulful, feeling, emotional, magnetic feminine aspects of our true selves that attract and inspire our masculine ego/Lover to undertake the search for love, pleasure and union. In Christianity it often refers to Jesus, or the Church, the body of Christ which is God’s beloved. Beloved can also be an encompassing term for the soul, or for all the feminine archetypes making up the feminine side of the Self, or it can mean the Self itself: our spiritual essence, the sacred Other with whom we wish to unite,  our true self, the Christ within, and so on.
Q:  “Is the Lover the one loving and the Beloved the one loved?”
A:  Essentially, yes. The Lover is the part of us that pursues love and pleasure,  (physical, and spiritual), and the Beloved is the part that receives, accepts and deserves love and pleasure.
Q:  “If our Beloved is unawakened, or not loved by our Lover, is that why the Beloved carries around all the unacknowledged feelings?”
A:   Either or both can be unawakened, which means that we will have trouble feeling and/or accepting the positive emotions of love and pleasure and will tend to look for them in the wrong places.  Until our Lover is awakened—which usually occurs when we have traumatic conflicts or experiences that compel us to acknowledge and work with our honest feelings—he will not have the passion to search for love and awaken our Beloved’s positive and tender feelings. Until he does, she will still be asleep, carrying all our unacknowledged feelings in our unconscious, and we will not have access to them.
Q:  “I thought the Shadow carried the unacknowledged feelings.”
A:  Our Shadow does include the unacknowledged feelings of the Lover and Beloved,  but it also contains unacknowledged qualities other than emotions. Some are mental, like the dogmatic Scholar’s calcified, childlike, one-sided ideas, opinions and attitudes and the immature Wisewoman’s tendency to be too gullible, receptive and permissive;  others are a combination of social, mental and behavioral, like the shadow King’s dominating, authoritarian manner.
Many who are fascinated with the psyche have tried to draw clear boundaries around the archetypes. I’ve worked for years to devise a framework that could help me understand myself, and I’m passing on what’s been useful; however, nobody knows for sure how closely our descriptions fit reality. In truth, it’s not possible to fully understand. Archetypes are unconscious patterns that we only become aware of when we project them onto Gods and Goddesses and portray in myths. The most fruitful thing we can do is observe how their energies move in us, then express them in imaginative ways. If naming them helps, good. But if writing, painting or dancing them helps more, even better! Theories can guide, but only personal experiences can heal.
Something to think about:  What does your Halloween costume this year say about your archetypal energy?  Happy Halloween!
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0 Responses

  1. Thanks for your detailed clarification. I can see that what I was trying to do was draw clear boundaries. The ambiguous leaves me feeling uncertain. 🙂 From what I read, which is not anywhere near as much as you, that Jung said the archetypes are like energy forms which we attach our experiences too giving the archetype personal meaning. Would you say that that is the same as activating an archetype.? Would you say the archetypes are unconscious and unactivated till we do that? Or until we acknowledge what we have attached to the archetypes, which are the personal experiences we have associated with them. In the Beloved’s case all “the beautiful, soulful, feeling, emotional, magnetic feminine aspects of our true selves.”
    The reason for my interest in the Lover and Beloved is I have this recurring dream, which I have not had lately though, where there is this man whom I don’t know, he does not resemble anyone I know in waking life, and he loves me. It is kind of sexual but then not. It is a beautiful love. In the dream I always tell this man, I am married, this is wrong. I am afraid of him yet attracted to his love for me. After reading your blog and some of your books and now these two posts on the Lover and Beloved I am wondering if this man is my Lover. And I as the Beloved was not awakened. Which is why I was afraid of him and rejected him. Before I thought this Lover was an actual person out there who loved me, then I thought it is a part of myself that wants to love me. Now I feel it is archetypal. I wonder if my Beloved is becoming awakened.

    1. Yes, I’d say that attaching our experiences to energy forms that give personal meaning is exactly what it means to activate an archetype. It’s essentially about becoming more aware and observant of how energy forms influence us. Until we can do that, it is actually “we,” our ego selves, who are unconscious of the archetypes—they’re in us doing their thing anyway—but one way of expressing this lack of awareness is to say the archeypes are unconscious or unactivated. Either way, we need to develop relationships with them, (active imagination dialogues, rituals, expressive arts, dreamwork, etc.), to strengthen our awareness of them and help them express themselves in increasingly healthy ways in our lives. To ignore them is to deny ourselves growth opportunities.
      I love your recurring dream!! I’ve had variations of it off and on for years. In the first dream I ever wrote down I was trying to drink water from a fountain at the wedding of a friend, and a very attractive man I didn’t know began pursuing me romantically. I ran away because I was married and didn’t want to betray my husband. When he tried to kiss me I rebuffed him saying “If this is love I’ll have none of it!!” Yet, I was attracted to him and knew it. When I looked away from him I saw a pitiful lonely hag in the driver’s seat of a bus. This dream bothered me enormously. I was afraid it was saying I was going to end up like that woman, bitter, alone, and aligned with collective thinking (symbolized by driving a bus instead of going my own way in a vehicle of my own choosing that belonged to me).
      My understanding of this dream now is that the man was the Lover aspect of my animus who loved me and wanted to develop a relationship with me, but my ego (symbolized by my dream ego) was so bound to collective thinking and therefore so unused to consulting my own instincts and passions and honest feelings, that I was refusing the call to begin the journey into wholeness. I didn’t understand that it was okay to be attracted to my own masculine side and confused these feelings and images about my inner world with outer world people and things, like believing I had to conform to conventional roles and standards about what men and women are supposed to do and be, and being afraid to honor the parts of myself that departed from these norms, and thinking that being attracted to a man in my dream meant that I was a bad person who wanted someone other than my husband! Yes, I as the Beloved was unawakened, which is why I rejected this dream Lover. I was simply unaware of “the beautiful, soulful, feeling, emotional, magnetic feminine aspects” of my true self and until that point in my life had been too afraid to go within to discover them.
      Fortunately, because of this disturbing dream I set out on my own journey and began my practice of dreamwork. 23 years later I am a very, very different person and now most of my dreams of the Lover leave me feeling beautiful and desirable and worthy of his love. By the way, this is exactly what I mean when I say we need to develop relationships with the archetypes! Doing so makes our inner lives so rich and fulfilling that the need to conform to outer expectations falls away and we are free to become ourselves.
      Thank you again for your wonderful questions. I hope I’ve helped, and send my best to you on your exciting journey to yourself!

      1. Thank you for your clarifications and the telling of your dream. For me I think I was rejecting the aspects of the my Beloved. I could not accept love. Not from anyone. I always thought their was some ulterior motive and that I was unlovable. So, I rejected the Lover in my dreams. I think I am more open to feeling loved and to giving love than ever before. I think that is why I have not had that dream in a while. I would welcome that dream now. I would like to see what develops when I accept the Lover rather than reject. I love how you pay attention to your dreams. I have always felt confounded by mine. Your work is helping me with that. Thank you for the well wishes on my journey. Part of my journey lately is the writing of my experiences with therapy and my growth or lessons learned along the way. Your work is helping with that too.
        Now I would like to take this opportunity to tell you I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. If you choose to participate, I have the rules in my post One Love Blog post at http://www.jazzmineycronechronicles.com.

        1. I’m so glad to know my work is helping you with your self-understanding and healing!! Congratulations on your One Lovely Blog award, and thank you for honoring me with your nomination for it! I’m very grateful and I accept with pleasure, but it may be a while before I can participate. My best, Jeanie

  2. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in this next week we could all make seeking the Beloved our primary focus? I think I’ll make this my intention each night before dreaming. Thank you for this offering, Jeanie, and thank you for your book. It is a feast for the soul.

  3. Hi Jeanie,
    Thank you so much for these archetype posts–so helpful.
    My question is about another aspect of dreams: The characters in my dreams are often people I know ( worked with, grew up with, relatives etc.) but a friend’s dreams feature unknown men and women, as in the man or two women, for example, with very few descriptive elements. Can you comment on this?

    1. Hi Bett. Great question!
      I see all the characters in my dreams as symbolizing aspects of myself I’m being invited to learn more about. If they’re people I don’t know in waking life, they represent potentials in me with which I’m totally unfamiliar. In other words, they’re more deeply unconscioius. So I notice what they’re doing in the dream and how my dream ego responds to them, then I ask myself: 1) What part of me is like this person? 2) What part of me is not like this person? (Am I sure?) and 3) How does my waking ego respond to the qualities and/or behaviors these characters represent? And finally, the most important question: 4) How does this inner attitude I have toward these qualities/behaviors play out in my waking life?
      If the characters are people I know, I ask the same questions, plus I ask if the way we’re interacting in the dream has anything to do with my relationship with the actual person in waking life.
      Hope this helps!

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