What Do I Do?
My Mission: Through my work, I help individuals and groups realize their potential by trusting their authentic motivations and strengths and remain open to growth through interaction with diverse others, situations, and challenges. This process also includes harvesting unconscious material for protection and/or positive transformation.
How Do I Do This?
My strengths come from an ability to think and write creatively and clearly, combined with my interest in understanding people and the interconnectedness of human consciousness and culture. I express these in my work as an author and educator.
Profession and Reputation:
I am best known as a professor, higher education administrator and executive, and author of books that apply archetypal psychology to personal and organizational growth and development, most notably related to my 12-Archetype System and its uses.
I have made a choice to offer you my biography in a way that:
Overall, the archetypes of my calling have been Lover (why I do it), Magician (my motivation to heal and transform), Sage (seeking truth), and Creator (writing about psychology and story). My Myers-Briggs type is INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving).
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and moved with my parents to Houston when I was two years old. They were first-generation Americans. My mom grew up in a Swedish bubble in Chicago, my dad in another in a farming town in Louisiana. They were devoted Christians—the real kind, believing that God loves us all equally, and that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. (Idealist/Caregiver) We read the Bible every morning and every night before going to bed, and sang together around the piano and in the car. Mom was a teacher, dad an avid reader, and I loved school.(Sage) All this well-supported my MBTI type: Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. While my theology has expanded, my religious background may explain my interest in the spiritual side of Jung’s work, viewing archetypes as they are expressed through a healthy ego but also how spirit calls us to evolve them and soul calls on us to treasure everything that we love.
We were a loving family but not well-to-do, so I thought a miracle had happened when I was admitted to Rice University, a world-class institution that also was so wealthy that it did not charge tuition (if you got accepted). I always loved stories and how I could learn more about people through them, so I majored in English, gaining my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in a department that analyzed literature from a psychological perspective, with emphasis on the work of greats like Jung and Campbell. My doctoral dissertation focused on heroes and fools in modern American literature.
Likely my humble background explains my passion for getting this work on archetypes to people who do not come from privileged circumstances, as well, of course, to those who do.
I married right after gaining my B.A. Bob and I had a very companionable marriage for six years and parted amicably. While I was completing my Ph.D., I visited Colorado with friends and fell in love with it. The choice to move to Boulder ignited a huge growth trajectory. (Seeker) I was hired as an English professor at the University of Colorado, met and married my colleague David Merkowitz (Lover), and became part of a family with his two wonderful little boys, Jeffrey and Stephen. (Caregiver)
Coming as I did from a city and social group where Christians were assumed to be the norm, my views were expanded by being married to someone Jewish and by living right next to Naropa University, a Buddhist school. Women’s issues were on my mind, so I co-authored two books with a colleague, Katherine Pope: Who Am I This Time? (1976), about images of women in literature, and The Female Hero in American and British Literature (1981).
Boulder was then a hotbed of revolutionary thought and action, and in 1974 I became the founding director of CU’s Women Studies Program. Becoming a feminist activist at that time was great fun. (Revolutionary with a bit of Jester) However, David was pining to go East, and senior professors were threatening that I’d never get tenure if I did not quit this feminist nonsense, so I applied for a tenured position at the University of Maryland, where I was hired as the first director of its Women’s Studies Program. Soon after arriving there, I gave birth to our wonderful daughter, Shanna.
The University of Maryland was a more Ruler culture than CU had been, so I had to learn to go through channels (which I’d not had to do at CU) and act less like a revolutionary and more like a professional academic. As Director of Women’s Studies, I learned a great deal from my dean about leadership. He eventually recommended me for an American Council on Education Fellowship, which was to prepare me to move up the higher education leadership ladder. After that experience, I spent the following year at ACE consulting about what higher education leaders needed to do to provide an education that was actually equitable for women. My work with colleagues Donna Shavlik and Judith Touchton eventually resulted in a co-edited book, Educating the Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education (1989). Soon thereafter, I became the Vice President and Academic Dean of Goucher College (then a women’s college). I was hired to help Goucher catch up with feminist changes in the world, but it turned out that what they really needed was for me to help the school go co-ed, which I did.
However, in what was a classic midlife transition (as Jung wrote about it), the year before I took the position at Goucher, archetypes began calling to me to write about them as a means to liberate men and women from limiting roles and to achieve genuine fulfillment. I then wrote The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By (1986) for my students and submitted it for publication. Much to my surprise, it became a HarperCollins grassroots bestseller. (Magician) I then was called to a new vocational purpose: archetypal work, which became a full-time job.
Necessity required me to expand my (INFP) extraversion (E) and thinking (T) capacities in order to respond to the request that I be a speaker, workshop and team-building leader, and consultant. Being very much in demand further necessitated that I develop my judging (J) preferences so that I could manage my schedule. For a time, I did this work through Meristem, a nonprofit I founded and ran. I also wrote Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World (1991) and, with Hugh Marr, developed the prototype Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® instrument. Recognizing that my training had been about Jungian approaches to literature and I was now working with people, I threw myself into studying Jungian psychology through post-graduate trainings, mainly those provided for psychologists. I continued taking various such trainings until I was invited to teach for a week at the original Jung Institute in Zurich. That was when I realized that my work had been fully accepted in the Jungian field.
This period also called upon me to merge my interests in leadership and organizational development and culture with my work on archetypes. I created the Organizational and Team Culture Indicator®, which subsequently was acquired by IBM; founded, directed, and served as the senior editor of a quarterly magazine, The Inner Edge: A Resource for Enlightened Business Practice; directed the Institute on Women and Work at Mount Vernon College; and taught in a Transformational Leadership Certificate Program that I also founded and directed, offered through the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. In addition, I was the primary author of Magic at Work: Camelot, Creative Leadership, and Everyday Miracles (1995), a book designed to inspire companies and individuals to use creative practices to overcome seemingly unsolvable problems in the workplace.
Remembering the University of Maryland nostalgically, I eventually returned there, taking a position as Executive Director of the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership and as a professor in the UMD School of Public Policy. At the Academy, we helped incubate the International Leadership Association, including gaining a major Academy/ILA Leadership for Transformation project grant from the Fetzer Institute, until ILA was ready to go out on its own. During this time, I was privileged to collaborate with Margaret Mark in writing The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes (2001), which applied the 12-archetype theory to branding, and with John Corlett in applying the theory to leadership and organizational development in Mapping the Organizational Psyche (2003). (Magician/Ruler)
In 2009, I had been writing in my journal that I’d like to do more with places where my scholarly field was primary. I told no one, but out of the blue got a call from a search firm. As it then happened, I left UMD to take a position as the Executive Vice President and Provost, and then President, of Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA, which provided the opportunity to lead an institution devoted to depth psychology, the larger field to which my scholarship and writing contribute. There, I was able to oversee a successful reaccreditation effort and many innovative curricular and assessment improvements. (Lover, Magician, Creator) Because Pacifica had an Introverted Intuitive Feeling Type culture and an Extraverted Intuitive Feeling Type founder, I felt at home. However, in my job, I needed to compensate by doing many of the school’s sensing (S) and thinking (T) functions, which furthered my type development but also created stress.
During this period, I also completed an edited book, The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-first Century (2012), that grew out of the aforementioned Leadership for Transformation project. The book is a collection of cutting-edge essays on the challenges facing leaders in current times, and provides a wide contemporary intellectual context that can assist in the use of 12-archetype and other leadership work. I was pleased, as were the essayists, when The Transforming Leader was honored by the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Educational Services for making a significant contribution to the field of leadership. (Magician/Creator) The book also was my final project for completing an interfaith Doctor of Ministry degree. During this program, I also studied Jungian dream analysis as a spiritual practice. Separately, I took up Nia Movement dance as a spiritual embodiment practice. (Jester)
Just as I was ready to leave Pacifica, I got a call out of the blue from HarperOne, offering me a contract for a new book to build on The Hero Within and Awakening the Heroes Within, which they previously had published. The result was Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within (2015), which integrated my work on the heroic journey, leadership and culture, and gender partnership and equality, utilizing a well-known archetypal myth to comment on contemporary gender issues. I was delighted when Persephone Rising received the gold medal in the category of books for women from the Nautilus Book Awards, an annual accolade of books in the genre of social and environmental justice. (Creator)
After I retired from Pacifica and from academia, David and I moved back to the Washington, DC area, where we are closer to our extended family, which now includes our three grown children, their spouses, and six amazing grandchildren. I remain engaged as an author, completing What Stories Are You Living?, and advisor/mentor to those utilizing my 12-archetype theories and models for socially-desirable ends. Over a long period of time, Patricia Adson had been one, with her brilliant books on psychotherapy and coaching. I miss her greatly, as she passed on in 2020 at age 91. David serves as my primary editor, the editor of my newsletter, and my business partner. Our virtual assistant, Dorene Koeher, herself an author, completes this team.
In retrospect, I see how my various studies have linked knowledge about narrative, along with knowledge about people, soul, and spirit. These came together to assist me in developing archetypal narrative intelligence (NQ) theory and models. I am thrilled by how many of my books have been translated into multiple languages. I very much hope this website and the tools and models it brings to your attention will be of great help to you. As for me, I’m aspiring to reinforce my inner Jester as I continue to write, teach, learn.
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What Stories Are YouLiving? guides you through the journey of discovering and understanding the archetypes active in your life. These universal themes may be invisible to you now but through this book you will learn how they inspire the behaviors and relationships that drive your life story. As you become conscious of your archetypal potential, you can cultivate the hero or heroine within you by living your stories consciously, in your own unique way. This book provides a roadmap for achieving deeper self-understanding, and includes clear steps for reshaping your life stories, awakening your authenticity, and finding meaning, direction, and purpose.
This initial work was a grassroots HarperSanFrancisco best seller about the heroic journey that any of us may be taking in today’s world. I began writing it because its archetypes were talking to me, demanding that I capture what they were communicating in an accessible book. Now in its 3rd edition, The Hero Within remains timely and makes a great gift to anyone seeking purpose and meaning, whether they are starting out or in transition.Learn More
The 12-Archetype System began with this book and is the basis for the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) assessment and many follow-up applied works. It links archetypes to the hero’s journey to offer an accessible, gender-balanced human development theory, updating the work of C.G. Jung, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and Erik Erikson to reflect changing attitudes and roles.Learn More
This assessment does for Jung’s work on archetypes what the Myers-Briggs does for type. The featured book, What Stories Are You Living?, supports the PMAI instrument by helping you to fully understand your results and use these insights in your life journey. For additional information beyond this site, see the instrumentation website, www.storywell.com.Learn More
The heroine in the subtitle refers to women and to the feminine within both men and women. The plot shows how psychological balance is restored through greater gender equity and partnership. Each of the four mythological characters matures with the aid of three of the 12 archetypes, thus providing models for how you might live the three reported in your PMAI results as most active in you.Learn More