By Patricia R. Adson, PPC, Ph.D.
As a long-time student and colleague of Carol S. Pearson, it has been my mission (and my great joy) to further the application of her hero’s journey twelve archetype model to the fields of psychotherapy and coaching. To that end, I have written two books based on my experience with this model: Finding Your Own True North and Depth Coaching: Discovering Archetypes of Empowerment, Growth and Balance (both available at http://www.capt.org).
In my blogs, I will write about the ways we can apply this material to situations that arise in everyday life. I will speak to you as if I am asking you to coach yourself, and I will give you practical ways to awaken archetypal resources you already have.
Archetypes and Issues: Abandonment and rejection
Emotional self-care: Handling Rejection and Abandonment (and just plain bad behavior):
Part II: The Warrior
In a previous column, we spoke of using the Caregiver archetype to soothe ourselves when we feel abandoned and/or rejected. Calling on the Caregiver is the essential first step, but it is only a first step. Although it is necessary to stay with the self, comfort the self, soothe the self, and listen to our own emotions, there comes a time when we have to stand up for what we believe in; to do that, we call on the Warrior.
Recently a dear friend came to me in despair. He had taken verbal abuse and false accusations from a colleague for years and finally he lashed out. He told the other man in no uncertain terms that he would no longer take that kind of abuse, but then he lost it. He yelled, screamed, and ranted until someone else had to intervene, fearful that the dispute would escalate into violence.
My friend was desolate. He was ashamed of the way he had behaved and his inability to hold his temper. Yet, at the same time, he was proud that he had finally found his voice. He realized that he needed to learn how to stand up for himself without losing his temper and his self-respect. Like many of us, he had not yet found a middle ground and was confusing his Warrior with anger. Although awareness of anger can be a signal to call on the Warrior, the Warrior archetype is more complex than the raw emotion that summons it. Emotions are one-dimensional; archetypes are combinations or constellations of feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Also, there is a difference between “getting angry,” or feeling angry, and acting in an angry manner. Angry actions and loud words may scare other people, or allow you to express yourself and vent, but in interpersonal relationships, such actions seldom get the results we desire. We want to strike a balance between the aggressive Warrior, always ready for a fight, and the worried Warrior who keeps anger under wraps at all times, fearful that if we let it loose, we or someone else will be destroyed. To achieve this balance, we need to learn to call out the Warrior in small situations and not allow our annoyance to build until we can’t take it any longer and explode.
Let’s think of some day-to-day situations where we can practice calling on the Warrior: your spouse belittles you in front of other people; your child talks back to you; your colleague interrupts you, falsely accuses you, or steals your great idea; or someone tells an offensive joke. In situations like these, your Caregiver often says, “Don’t make any waves, let it go, it’s not that important, don’t give other people the right to define you,” etc. While there could be times when this might be the wisest course of action, when these events occur repeatedly, or when you have been betrayed or abandoned, the Warrior needs to be called into action.
How to Call on the Warrior:
- Take a moment to assess the situation. Unless you are physically under attack, you don’t need to respond (fight or flee) immediately. If in doubt as to how to respond, say nothing or temporarily leave the scene.
- Find the physical stance that evokes your Warrior. You cannot be a Warrior with slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, or an out of balance posture. Take a stance physically; center yourself; practice speaking up for what you believe in; find your voice.
- Ask yourself what it is that you do not like in this situation.
- Decide what you are going to do if the situation happens again, then speak it or write it down.
- Do it: follow through if it happens again.
Remember, you are always in a stronger position when you say what you are willing to do instead of what you are not willing to do. It’s one thing to say, I will not put up with that any more, and to tell the other how angry or sad or disappointed you are. But if you don’t follow through with what you are going to do, you are predicating your success on the willingness of the other person to change. In most cases, how we feel is something we have to contend with and interpret for ourselves before we share our feelings with others.
Try an experiment: keep your feelings to yourself but tell other people what you don’t like, what you want, and what you intend to do. Use your Caregiver to take care of your feelings, to work internally to soothe and nurture and externally to take physical care of yourself and others. Use your Warrior to stand up for yourself in the world, to protect yourself, and to speak for yourself in your interactions with others. Together, these two powerful archetypes form the cornerstones of a strong ego.