the archetypes: addict, magical child, hedonist

a magical child from brazilthe following is an excerpt from carolyn myss’ fascinating “gallery of archetypes”. most of us can recognize ourselves in one or more of these archetypes, or typical ways of being in the world. in her descriptions, carolyn myss tells us about the positive as well as the shadow (some would call them negative) aspects of these archetypes. what i really like about this gallery is that she also mentions movies, books, and other places where we might find these archetypes, for example the archetype of the “magical child” in alice in wonderland, or the archetype of the “hedonist” in babette’s feast.

below are a few of these archetypes as carolyn myss relates them – the addict who gains strength from breaking self destructive patterns; the magical child who can see beauty in all things; even in the face of horror and depression; and the hedonist, who celebrates sacred ecstasy.

the addict
every one of us is touched by the addict archetype. besides the usual suspects–drugs, alcohol, food, and sex–one can be addicted to work, sports, television, exercise, computer games, spiritual practice, negative attitudes, and the kinds of thrills that bring on adrenaline rushes. in its positive aspect, this archetype helps you recognize when an outside substance, habit, relationship, or any expression of life has more authority over your will power than does your inner spirit. confronting addiction and breaking the hold that a pattern or substance has on you can impart great strength to your psyche. discovering the empowerment that comes with perseverance has a life-long impact.

in evaluating your connection to the addict, review how many of your life’s challenges concern an external substance or a consistent, domineering pattern of trying to maintain order in your life.

films: jack lemmon and lee remick in days of wine and roses (alcohol); ben stiller in permanent midnight (heroin); dom de luise in fatso (food); claire bloom in the chapman report (sex);

drama: a long day’s journey into night (morphine) by eugene o’neill

fiction: basketball diaries (heroin) by jim carroll; under the volcano (mescal) by malcolm lowry.

religion/myth: soma (vedic god of intoxication, as well as the intoxicating drink itself and the plant from which it is made); tantalus (a son of zeus and king of sipylos in greece, he was invited to share the food of the gods but abused the honor and was punished by being “tantalized” for all eternity by food and drink he could not reach).

the magical/innocent child
the magical child represents the part of us that is both enchanted and enchanting to others. it sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things, exemplified by tiny tim in dickens’s a christmas carol, and by anne frank, who wrote in her diary that in spite of all the horror surrounding her, she still believed that humanity was basically good. her insights continue to inspire people to seek out the wondrous side of life, even in a crisis.

one might assume from the name that this archetype refers to only the delightful qualities of children, but as demonstrated by anne frank and tiny tim, it also embodies qualities of wisdom and courage in the face of difficult circumstances.

baudelaire wrote that “genius is childhood recaptured,” and in that sense the magical child is something of a genius too. the magical child is gifted with the power of imagination and the belief that everything is possible. the shadow energy of the magical child manifests, among others, as pessimism and depression,. they often emerge from an injured magical child whose dreams were “once upon a time” thought foolish by cynical adults. the shadow may also manifest as a belief that energy and action are not required, allowing one to retreat into fantasy.

films: drew barrymore in e.t.; margaret o’brien in meet me in st. louis; george du fresne in ma vie en rose; shirley temple in good ship lollipop.

fiction: the little prince by antoine de saint-exupéry; pippi longstocking by astrid lindgren; alice’s adventures in wonderland and through the looking-glass and what alice found there by lewis carroll.

religion/myth: merlin (in arthurian legend, the “child without a father” who was about to be sacrificed when he saved himself by displaying magic greater than the king’s sorcerers).

the hedonist
this archetype has an “appetite” for the pleasurable aspects of life, from good food and wine to sexuality and sensuality. as scientific research has shown, pleasure can improve our health and extend our lives and needs to be part of a balanced life. indulging the self is central to the psyche of this archetype, whether treating oneself to a health spa or learning the nuances of lovemaking. that the hedonist is generally thought of as someone who pursues extremes of self-indulgence is more a reflection of our puritan heritage than of the archetype itself. in positive terms, it inspires creative energy in the psyche to embrace the “good” things in life. it also challenges in a positive way the collective archetypal fear of being seduced and losing control in the physical world. the shadow hedonist may manifest as pursuing pleasure without regard for other people or one’s own good health.

the search for physical ecstasy parallels the search for spiritual transformation, a truth that is apparent in the dual identity of the famous greek icon of pleasure-seeking, dionysus (roman: bacchus). besides being a god of wine and fertility, dionysus also represents the goal of mystery religions, like those practiced at eleusis: ecstatic delivery from the mundane world through the physical or spiritual intoxication induced by secret rites. (see mystic.) the sacrament of soma (also a god of the vedic pantheon) played a similar role in ancient indian spirituality.

films: babbette’s feast; like water for chocolate; big night.

fiction: tom jones by henry fielding; the unbearable lightness of being by milan kundera; les liaisons dangereuses by p. choderlos delaclos.

religion/myth: oshun (yoruba goddess of love and pleasure who is generous and benign); bebhionn (irish patron goddess of pleasure); qadesh (western semitic fertility goddess and epitome of female sexuality and eroticism); bes (egyptian dwarf god originally associated with royalty and childbirth who became popular among the masses as a god of human pleasures of mirth, music, and dance).

for the full gallery, go here.

image by carf

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