June 22, 2016 Pearson Blog: Hillary’s Archetypal Challenges—And Ours

By Carol S. Pearson


CP square 125Hillary Clinton has major archetypal advantages and faces equally major challenges, similar to ones we all confront in figuring out how to link our strengths with the needs of a time and place. I’m sharing this analysis of her archetypes as a model for what any of us can do to be effective in the environments we must deal with.

Strengths: Hillary’s Ruler[1] archetype strengths are important to the role of a President: her knowledge of the issues, her public policy savvy, her presidential demeanor, and her unflappable poise and competence, demonstrated most memorably in the Benghazi hearings. She is well prepared for the position she aspires to hold.

Her gender also is important to the form of the Ruler she embodies. Womanly qualities soften the Ruler archetype. Hillary needs to campaign and govern in a facilitative way, listening before making decisions and promoting caring policies, all of which she has promised to do. Current research has found that many women in political positions get things done because they are better at reaching across the aisle than most of their male counterparts.[2] And, when I have asked college students to identify their own personal heroes, a surprising number—males and females alike—picked their moms, describing them as caring, tough, tell-it-like-it-is fountains of strength and wisdom. Hillary’s Ruler has these qualities at a time when our country needs to face 21st century issues head on.

Challenges: As often is the case for women, Hillary’s strengths are being held against her. Many Americans today are anti-government, and hence scorn the typical strengths a President should have. Moreover, her belief in the primary value of democracy—that we all matter—is under fire by those who think that their own groups are more important than others. Furthermore, popular psychology has inadvertently encouraged people to blame mothers for whatever problems they have. And if that were not enough, the far right fears that enacting government programs that express our caring for one another would lead to a dreaded “mommy” state.

Solutions: As many of us have found, having the right archetype and experience to do a job is not enough. To succeed, we also need to tap the archetypes active in those we want to support and work with us. To gain more enthusiastic support, Hillary would do well to integrate a bit of the archetypes that have helped Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump get their backers charged up. This could lead her to:

  • Campaign with a more Revolutionary archetypal style, which could be achieved in part by engaging Bernie in the campaign. Since she agrees with most of his policy goals, she can show more energetic enthusiasm for a shared larger vision, while also stressing her capacity to enact those policies.
  • Reveal her Jester, which is the umbrella archetype for the Trickster (the subject of my June 6th blog). Americans like to be entertained and clearly want to be cheered up, which is part of Trump’s appeal to a certain segment of the population that wants its views mirrored and promises of easy answers. Therefore,
  • Balance the Ruler with the court Jester—telling the truth with a comic twist, making her rallies fun, with humor, music, and dancing in the progressive tradition[3], and meeting people’s desires for answers. As Disney’s Mary Poppins sang, “a spoonful of sugar” could make the medicine go down. The medicine is what we need to do to narrow the income gap, create good jobs, become safer at home and abroad, and address climate change. The sugar is the fact that answers to these problems do exist and these problems can be solved.

Beyond politics, each of us can increase our chances of success by noticing our archetypal strengths and then balancing these with archetypes that are needed in the cultures in which we live and work. These can include our families, neighborhoods, friendship networks, workplaces, or religious organizations.[4] The following can help you analyze an archetypal challenge in your own life and work.

Step One: Pick some situation in which you would like to be of help or otherwise make a difference.

Step Two: Identify a strength that you have that makes you a good person to contribute to achieving a positive outcome.

Step Three: Imagine a character (from literature, mythology, the media, or real life) that has the strength you would bring. Come up with a generic name for this kind of archetypal character (as I chose Ruler for Hillary). Don’t worry about whether the name is correct according to some archetypal system. As long as it feels right to you, it is right for you.

Step Four: Identify an adjective to modify this archetypal name that reflects something important you bring that might not be true of everyone else (as with Hillary’s “womanly Ruler”).

Step Five: Consider the attitudes prevalent in the environment and situation in which you would like to achieve success toward the archetypal qualities you are offering them. If some are negative, how might you combat that problem by modifying the way your archetype is expressed?

Step Six: Identify the people in that environment who are getting most of the attention and why. (For Hillary, it would be Bernie and Trump.) Link them to characters you associate them with, and then with archetypal names. What positive qualities of these archetypes can you tap in yourself and use in your situation to achieve an ideal outcome with ease and grace.

Step Seven: Overall, what does this tell you about what you would need to do to succeed?

[1] The archetype names I use here are from Awakening the Heroes Within and What Story Are You Living?

[2] This research is discussed in Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within.

[3] See Barbara Ehrenreich’s Dancing in the Streets, which I also discuss in Persephone Rising.

[4] For help in applying this idea to your own situation, you can take the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator and read What Story Are You Living? (available at www.capt.org).