when the world is puddle-wonderful
– e.e. cummings
Spring has finally arrived – and none too soon!
It’s been a long, hard winter, in terms of both the weather and the national political climate. To escape both, David and I spent a month in Santa Barbara, CA, where we lived for six years, visiting friends, walking on the beach, going to movies, eating at wonderful restaurants, and getting lots of exercise. There, I had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time with Pat Adson, author of Finding Your Own True North and Depth Coaching. In those books, she applied my work on archetypes to solution-based psychotherapy, coaching, and personal growth. At 89, she is busy writing her memoirs, running the mindfulness program in the retirement community where she lives, and seeing the humor in everyday situations. What a great inspiration she is to me!
The weather in Santa Barbara was not totally cooperative (it actually snowed in Los Angeles the day we left!), and several severe rainstorms caused mandatory evacuations in areas most in danger from mudslides. Fortunately, none of the worst fears was realized; the only major damage was a number of washed-out roads, and no lives were lost, in contrast to the disaster of the year before. But we had a wonderful time, and from California, I went to Ashland, OR, for five days to visit a close friend who had moved there recently, while David went to Florida for a retreat with his men’s support group. The people in Ashland see it as a promised land, showing what the future could be, and I was inspired by the eternal flame there that dedicated this town to being a force for peace in the world.
When we returned to Maryland, we had to confront our own mini-disaster: a pipe above our garage had frozen and burst, causing extensive damage to the ceiling and walls. Fortunately, a guest who had been staying at our house spotted the problem early on, and one of our sons, who lives close by, came over and did damage control and dealt with the insurance company and contractors until we came back. A lot of repair work remains to be done, but otherwise things are mostly back to normal.
My birthday is on or around the spring equinox, and this year was one of the best I have had. I am so grateful for David’s love and support, our wonderful family, and my many very good friends, as well as people like you who follow my work. In the spirit of spring, I feel ready to give birth to many new projects that have been germinating for the past few years.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been working intensely on revising the support materials for the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator (PMAI), the new version of which should be released this summer. This has given me a chance to integrate a lot of what Hugh Marr and I have learned over the past 20 years from reviewing the results of the tens of thousands of people who have taken the instrument and my own more advanced thinking about the role archetypes play in our lives. I’m very excited to see the final product, and will keep you posted on when it becomes available.
Next Tuesday, April 2nd, I will join the Triangle Organizational Development Network in Durham, NC, at its annual conference for a day of insight and inquiry to understand how to lead differently in today’s complex and chaotic environment. The goal of the conference, entitled Leadership for Transformation: Building the Capacity to Meet 21st Century Challenges, is to help participants see the big picture and gain a full, integrated understanding of leadership for transformation. It will address such questions as: What are the core capacities leaders need to tackle known problems as well as unanticipated challenges just on the horizon? What is the pathway forward from where and how we are now, to where and who we need to be? In leading off the conference, I will attempt to equip attendees with a framework to organize their learning throughout the day. In doing so, I will draw upon the ideas in my edited book TheTransforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, and update it to introduce and demystify the capacities and practices required of contemporary leaders.
Back to Houston
The Houston Jung Center, with its beautiful facility, is one of my favorite organizations, and over the years I’ve had the opportunity to present there several times. Most recently, I taught an online course through the Center entitled “What Stories are Living You? Archetypal Awareness, Growth, and Fulfillment.” However, presenting in person at the Center not only allows me to interact directly with attendees, it also gives me the opportunity to return to my hometown and catch up with lots of my relatives. For both those reasons, I’m excited about the prospect of offering another talk and workshop at the Center on September 13th and 14th of this year. The exact topic has not yet been determined, but I’ll let you know when it is. I’d love to see you there.
Women’s Studies Reunion
I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at a dinner to inaugurate the Charlotte Brozer Shapiro Scholarship in Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. The scholarship was endowed by Mindy Shapiro—who was my teaching assistant when I was Director of Women’s Studies and the first student to have a self-structured women’s studies major—to honor her late mother. The event gave me a chance to reunite not only with Mindy, but also with Claire Moses and Evi Beck, both of whom succeeded me as director, and Hilda Smith, who taught Women’s History in the History Department and through the program. Of course, that fledging program now is a full-fledged department, with a major and graduate degrees and several faculty members with much greater and needed diversity than we had back then. Being at this wonderful event, my life was flashing before my eyes.
In my comments, I recalled my relationship with Mindy and then paid tribute to Virginia Beauchamp, who served as coordinator of women’s studies before I was hired as the first director when the program was established. Virginia, who died recently at the age of 98, was a long-time advocate for women’s issues and for the establishment of the program at the University. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a doctorate from the University of Chicago, she was also a civil rights and community activist, and continued her scholarship and publication long after she retired from the University of Maryland in 1990. Subsequently, she was inducted into both the Prince George’s County Women’s Hall of Fame and the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.
On a personal note, Virginia also was the source of sound advice. When I arrived in College Park in August 1976 seven months pregnant to take over as Director of Women’s Studies, a prominent woman faculty member warned me that if I took more than one day off after giving birth, I would be letting down women everywhere. Afterward, Virginia took me aside and told me, “Don’t take her seriously!” I didn’t, and returned to work after about a week. My daughter, who was born that October, is now a professor and director of a research institute at the University of Rhode Island. Time sure flies! And, she just surprised me by flying in for my birthday, showing up totally unexpected at a restaurant where David and I were having brunch. Needless to say, I was shocked and moved!
In the Blogosphere
Have you seen the new movie Captain Marvel? I did, and enjoyed it tremendously. And so did Priscilla Hobbs, who last week contributed a guest blog to my blogsite entitled “Captain Marvel: Harnessing A Woman’s True Power.” In the blog, Priscilla discusses how the portrayal of the hero of the film represents a substantial advance over the traditional depiction of the Woman Warrior, who is “sexualized, taught to fight ‘like a man,’ and resonates with a near-fetishistic fantasy that likens combat to sexual desire.”
In contrast, Carol Danvers, the character who becomes Captain Marvel, draws on her internal strength, rather than external weapons, to perform her heroic feats. As Priscilla notes, she “doesn’t have to prove herself once she approves of her Self. She doesn’t have to be the sexual fantasy of the men who surround her; she is her own woman guided by her own principles. This is the element that’s been missing when it comes to women and superheroes. Women, regardless of their sexuality, have an internal power that can ignite a firestorm.”
The film can be read as a metaphor for human liberation. As is the case in so many corporations today, the hero’s male mentor is telling her to learn from him and suppress her innate power—translation: “Do things our way.” In the movie, she gains power from taking in the core energy meant to fuel a rocket. However, if you read “core” as a metaphor, we can see that so much of our society is telling men and women that we are not OK as we are, so we must be constantly working to be good enough, good-looking enough, savvy enough to be winners, not losers. And, yet, what the world needs from us is to deepen to find that core of identity. In the language of Marvel, that is where our superpowers lie.
In January, I posted a blog that explores how stories permeate our lives, shaping our understanding of the world around us and of our own experiences. In “What Stories Are You Living—and What Unconscious Assumptions Determine What You Do?” I note that awareness of this phenomenon, what I call “narrative intelligence,” is an essential skill for living optimally in the 21stcentury.
In this blog, I cover the basics that are likely familiar to you, so you may want to recommend it to those for whom these ideas are new: The stories we are living generally follow certain universal patterns, which the psychiatrist Carl Jung called “archetypes.” Jung identified such patterns “in his patients’ dreams and life stories that he also observed in ancient myths and in cultures around the world…. We know that a story pattern is archetypal if it shows up in symbols, images, and themes common to all cultures and all times. You see them in recurring images in art, literature, myths, and dreams. Jung, and many after him, realized that these stories are the same narratives we as humans live.”
When you gain the ability to recognize the archetypal patterns you are living, “these stories no longer can live you without you recognizing them. Then, you will be able to reflect upon whether their plotlines serve you and the situations you face.” As a result, you will gain the ability to shift your narrative to help you live the life that is right for you.
But then the blog shifts to what is less known, even by those who read my newsletter. If we look at the stories being told by our political parties, we can see that they are often being pulled back into the older versions of archetypes and of projecting evil onto each other in ways that make collaborative thinking difficult to achieve. Those of us who understand archetypes can be a force for coming together by updating our collective narratives to fit the contemporary reality of living in a global, interconnected, fast-paced world where many of the old rules do not apply.
Over the course of this year, I will continue to provide insights into how recognizing archetypes in society, in others, in situations, and in yourself can enhance your narrative intelligence, and in the process expand who and what you—and we—can do and be. My next blog, which I will be posting sometime in the coming weeks, will focus on the process of identity formation in individuals—through protecting boundaries or finding one’s center. It will then go on to show how nations all over the world are dealing with similar issues, for example, (1) the vast migrations of refugees escaping war, gang violence, and poverty and (2) cyber-attacks that could undermine democracy or even shut down whole cities or nations.
I welcome and encourage your comments on any of the blogs posted on my blogsite, several of which have inspired a rich exchange of ideas. Also, if you have an idea for a blog that you might like to submit, please send me an email with a brief summary and I will let you know whether it is suitable for my website and, if so, what guidelines you should follow in preparing it.
In addition to my blogsite, you can find many of my blogs on those of Psychology Today and the Depth Psychology Alliance, and you are invited to make comments on the former and on the latter if you are a member. The easiest way to learn when a new blog goes up on my website or any of the others on which I post is to follow me on Facebook at Carol S. Pearson, PhD and Twitter @carolspearson. Posts and tweets will inform you of the topic and how to access it. I also invite you to follow me on Instagram at carolspearsonphd. Just click on one of the buttons on the right to connect, and let me know what is going on with you.
As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to others who might be interested.
Carol S. Pearson