Gods in Everyman, by Bolen, Jean Shinoda
- ISBN: 9780060972806 | 0060972807
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 2/23/2010
Archetypes That Shape Men's Lives
There Are Gods In Everyman
This book is about the gods in Everyman, the innate patterns--or archetypes--that lie deep within the psyche, shaping men from within. These gods are powerful, invisible predispositions that affect personality, work, and relationships. The gods have to do with emotional intensity or distance, preferences for mental acuity, physical exertion, or esthetic sensibility, yearning for ecstatic merger or panoramic understanding, sense of time, and much more. Different archetypes are responsible for the diversity among, and complexity within, men and have much to do with the ease or difficulty with which men (and boys) can conform to expectations and at what cost to their deepest and most authentic selves.
To feel authentic means to be free to develop traits and potentials that are innate predispositions. When we are accepted and allowed to be genuine, it's possible to have self-esteem and authenticity together. This develops only if we are encouraged rather than disheartened by the reactions of significant others to us, when we are spontaneous and truthful, or when we are absorbed in whatever gives us joy. From childhood on, first our family and then our culture are the mirrors in which we see ourselves as acceptable or not. When we need to conform in order to be acceptable, we may end up wearing a false face and playing an empty role if who we are inside and what is expected of us are far apart.
CONFORMITY AS A PROCRUSTEAN BED
The conformity demanded of men in our patriarchal culture is like Procrustes' bed in Greek mythology. Travelers on their way to Athens were placed on this bed. If they were too short, they were stretched to fit, as on a medieval torture rack; if they were too tall, they were merely cut down to size.
Some men fit the Procrustean bed exactly, just as there are men for whom stereotype (or the expectations from outside) and archetype (or the inner patterns) match well. They find ease and pleasure at succeeding. However, conformity to the stereotype is often an agonizing process for a man whose archetypal patterns differ from "what he should be." He may appear to fit, but in truth he has managed at great cost to look the part, by cutting off important aspects of himself. Or he may have stretched one dimension of his personality to fit expectations but lacks depth and complexity, which often make his outer success inwardly meaningless.
Travelers who passed through the Procrustean ordeal to reach Athens may have wondered whether it had been worthwhile--as contemporary men often do after they "arrive." William Broyles, Jr., writing in Esquire, wearily described how empty success can be:
Each morning I struggled into my suit, picked up my briefcase, went to my glamorous job, and died a little. I was the editor in chief-.of Newsweek, a position that in the eyes of others had everything; only it had nothing to do with me. I took little pleasure in running a large institution. I wanted personal achievement, not power. For me, success was more dangerous than failure; failure would have forced me to decide what I really wanted.
The only way out was to quit, but I hadn't quit anything since I abandoned the track team in high school. I had also been a Marine in Vietnam, and Marines are trained to keep on charging up the hill, no matter what. But I had got up the hill; I just hated being there. I had climbed the wrong mountain, and the only thing to do was go down and climb another one. It was not easy: my writing went more slowly than I had expected, and my marriage fell apart.
I needed something, but I wasn't sure what. I knew I wanted to be tested, mentally and physically. I wanted to succeed, but by standards that were clear and concrete, and not dependent on the opinion of others. I wanted the intensity and camaraderie of a dangerous enterprise. In an earlier time, I might have gone west or to sea, but I had two children and a web of responsibilities.
This man had power and prestige, goals that take the better part of a man's life to achieve and that relatively few actually succeed in reaching. But, he suffered from the major ailment I see in many men in midlife: a pervasive low-grade depression. When you are cut off from your own sources of vitality and joy, life feels flat and meaningless.
In this culture, men have the upper hand and seem to have the better roles. Certainly they have the more powerful or remunerative ones. Yet many men suffer from depression masked by alcohol, or by excessive work, or hours of television, all of which are numbing. And many more are angry and resentful, their hostility and rage touched off by anything from the way someone else drives in traffic to the irritating behavior of a child. They suffer a shorter life expectancy, too. The women's movement clearly articulated the problems women have living in a patriarchy; but judging from how unhappy many men are, living in a patriarchy seems to be bad for them, too.
THE INNER WORLD OF ARCHETYPES
When life feels meaningless and stale, or when something feels fundamentally wrong about how you are living and what you are doing, you can help yourself by becoming aware of discrepancies between the archetypes within you and your visible roles. Men are often caught between the inner world of archetypes and the outer world of stereotypes. Archetypes are powerful predispositions; garbed in the image and mythology of Greek gods, as I have described them in this book, each has characteristic drives, emotions, and needs that shape personality. When you enact a role that is connected to an active archetype within you, energy is generated through the depth and meaning that the role has for you.Gods In Everyman
Archetypes That Shape Men's Lives. Copyright © by Jean Bolen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Gods in Everyman: Archetypes That Shape Men's Lives by Jean S. Bolen
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