The Method to my Madness
Explaining the world of archetypes and what it means to become The Maiden
Explaining the world of archetypes and what it means to become The Maiden
My perfectionist self tells me that I should go get a PhD in Jungian psychology before I even attempt to write this page. While it would be awesome to be at that level, I am not, so I will not pretend that I am. I can, however, speak about my process, and how a basic understanding of archetypes was enough to get me started on my journey to heal from my perfectly hidden depression.
My process was not linear and it was not logical because I was not following someone's recipe or step-by-step method. I was simply trusting my instinct and giving myself what I needed, and as I began to do that, the clues started to reveal themselves in front of me. I followed the breadcrumbs in the trail, until I finally became myself.
How dafuq did I turn that into a course?
That's why it has taken me over a year to develop this course - I had to reverse engineer two years of my life to understand what I did, then I had to distill what I learned into phases, and then I had to put these in a logical order. This was very important to me, because looking back, there were times that I was making an effort to heal but I had skipped too many steps (which I only understood in hindsight) and thus I gained very little from doing things like affirmations, meditation, and other forms of self-care.
The Gist of It
I shall now make a blanket statement about the state of perfectionists around the world. This is my rough model of the inner life of the perfectionist, and how we can move to the coveted quadrant of Radical Self-Acceptance.
Pit of Despair
Self-love is low and recognition of demons is also low.
This woman has little awareness of what is making her feel the way she feels. She might even struggle to define and describe her REAL emotions. All she knows is her symptoms, which might be depression, anxiety, perfectionism. She might have other self-destructive habits and behaviors (like eating disorders). There is an emptiness in her heart that she does not know how to fix. Her ability to love herself and to believe that better things are coming is quite limited. Deep down, she doesn't believe in herself, her worth, or her capacity to improve.
Trapped by Her Demons
Self-love is low, but recognition of demons is high.
Unlike the pit of despair, this woman has higher awareness of her demons - she can tell you the story of why she is broken. (Yes, I picked an emo-looking avatar because I think it's funny.)
However, listing all the reasons she is fucked up does not help her move on with her life because she is not able to love herself. She is stuck, and whether she knows it or not, part of it is by choice. Who is she without her struggle, without her attachment to her demons? Moving towards self-love would require letting go of false beliefs, forgiving herself, making peace with her demons. All of this requires courage to open up emotionally, which is something that does not come natural to her.
Self-love is high and recognition of demons is low.
I believe that highly-functioning perfectionists live in this box. The woman who has high self-love but hasn't recognized her demons lives under a state of constant fear. In fact, the self-love she thinks she has is a farce, because whatever appreciation she has for herself disappears the second she perceives herself as a failure. This is why she is in a never-ending state of doing and hustling, she needs to be in control of everything (and sometimes everyone), it is hard for her to relax and just be...if she lets her guard down, the jig is up, and everyone will realize what a phony she is. Deep down, she is in a constant battle against her demons, and while she will not do the emotional work to face them, she does whatever she can in her waking life to prove the demons that they are wrong. She is exhausted from faking it until she makes it, and the day never arrives. She can't stop and doesn't see the benefit of changing because she does not understand that letting go of perfectionism does not mean that she has to accept a mediocre life. As a result, her body might be the only thing that is telling her that she is in danger of losing herself (gastrointestinal issues, inflammatory diseases, hormonal issues, low libido, to name a few). This can also be true for the Pit of Despair and Trapped by Her Demons women.
This bish knows demon alchemy. She went down the rabbit hole of her subconscious and learned how to communicate with her demons. She has given them space, she listened to them, and she nurtured them until they became her friends and her source of power. She loves all manifestations of herself, for she understands that growth never stops, and she will have to sit with old and new demons over and over again. She has learned to use the same mechanism of her old inner critic to tell stories that empower her. She is no longer a victim of her emotions, she knows how to use them, for they are a source of power that is bigger and greater than the rational self she used to rely on for everything. She connected with her true self, and remembered the importance of play, imagination and leisure to bring out her creative life force. This woman is in her flow, she is in her inner power, and she makes the patriarchal world tremble because she is no longer a slave nor a victim. She is her own. She is The Maiden.
What does this have to do with Jung?
The entrance point for me was working with archetypes that are present in myths and stories. This is where I give credit to Jung, as he is the father of Jungian archetypes. The following is my interpretation of archetypes and their power to heal:
- Archetypes represent concepts that are universal to humans. In every culture, you have stories about good, evil, heroes and villains. Archetypes represent the collective unconscious, and they can be a mirror that we can use to observe ourselves and understand the trappings of our ego and conscious mind.
- The fact that these characters are universal and capable of working at the level of the unconscious means that almost everyone can connect to them at an emotional level. You may not know why (this is your conscious mind searching for explanations), but you connect deeply with them. This is why they are so powerful, they allow us to see what is possible when we are not capable of seeing the light in ourselves. They also allow us to see the darker aspects of our personality with compassion. If these characters represent traits of a collective, that means you are not alone in your struggle. You are just another human being learning to be a better human.
- Archetypes gave me the permission to see the good and the bad. This is how I was able to start loving the person that I am now. Archetypes are symbols, and that's exactly the language that our subconscious uses to communicate. Therefore, they act as a compass so we can navigate our subconscious self and see the demons that are lurking in there. Just because they are hidden, it does not mean that they are not messing with your waking life. In fact, that's what makes them so powerful, they are able to control your conscious self without your awareness.
- I don't see archetypes as the embodiment of "truth", but rather, the embodiment of our psyche, what we are capable of, what we are ashamed/afraid of...this is why they are a fascinating area of study, they are not static, they can evolve as they are shaped by the culture and historical period in which they are created.
- According to my extensive Wikipedia search (sarcasm), many critics dislike Jungian archetypal psychology because it is reductionist and too mystical. Okay. All I will say, this is something that has to be experienced to be understood. If you can't connect with these concepts, move along and find another method that will help you, it's that easy. I'm not here to convince anyone that this is the ultimate cure, I am reaching out to people who wonder what would their lives look like if they didn't have to respond to their inner critic. I am reaching out to people who love stories and can get lost in imaginary worlds (the source doesn't matter, they can be from myths, comics, movies, books, paintings, any kind of art).
While I worked with several archetypes over the last two years, I realized in hindsight that the archetype I needed to heal and reconnect with was The Maiden.
That's the focus of my course and the focus of my work. I have been all the women you see in the graph of self-love vs recognition of demons, and all of them, except for the Radical Self-Acceptance Woman, are disconnected from their Maiden in some way. They might also be cut off from other archetypes (we don't embody just one archetype, think of it as psychological power sources that you can use interchangeably) but I mostly focus on the Maiden because this is the archetype that is wounded at an early age, this is where the feelings of "not good enough" and "I don't have what it takes" begin to take hold.
What comes up for your when you hear the word "Maiden"?
Is she a useless, helpless victim?
Or is she the fountain of optimism, innocence, and creativity that is characteristic of youth?
Is she easy prey?
Or is she a young girl who is her own, who belongs to no one but herself?
Is she a timid, sheltered, shallow girl?
Or is she pure energy, exuberance and idealism?
Is she a fool?
Or is she someone who knows how to trust, receive and give?
Is she timid and full of fears?
Or is she "Carpe Diem" embodied?
She can be all of the above. How is she expressed through you? That is the most important question.
I might be a recovering perfectionist, but that's not the only thing about me. I also have a vivid imagination (hello, what else is overthinking and catastrophizing if not your imagination gone wild?). Books have always been my escape. Therefore, I am not surprised that I ended up healing by doing the same things that always brought me comfort, except this time I was not looking to hide and escape, I was looking to break the box that I was trapped in.
And that's how I ended up choosing Alice in Wonderland as the story and the vessel that will take you on this surreal journey...
I invite you to join me on May 2021 for an exploration of the Maiden archetype. We will use the story of Alice in Wonderland. Through her eyes we will learn to see ourselves, connect with our demons, and transform them so they can become our psychological power sources.