Aspen Archetypes of Interconnection

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”

The Overystory, Richard Powers

Richard Powers’ book, The Overstory, is about trees.  One of his main characters, is a women ecologist, named Patricia Westerford, who finds out that trees communicate with each other through mychorrhizal (fungi) networks, sharing carbon and other nutrients.  When one tree of a certain species is in need of carbon another will send some to others even those of a different species.  This character was based on true life forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, who discovered this communication, and was rejected by the scientific community for many years.  But others besides her have documented trees communication, or should I say interconnection. Willow trees when attacked by insects alter their leaves’ chemical makeup of terpenes and tannins to repel the insects.  It turns out that willow trees 200 feet away start the same chemical defense.  In this case it is not the mychorrhizal network that communicates but pheromones moving through the air.  One of the themes of Powers’ book is that trees have millennia of wisdom to teach humans the cooperation of interconnection. He hopes his stories will change people’s mind about their forests and themselves.

I particularly like aspen trees.  I live in two places with lots of aspen.  Flagstaff, Arizona at 7,200 feet and Nederland, Colorado at 8,200 feet, where aspen abound.  In Flagstaff I ride my bicycle up a road to the San Francisco Peaks, sacred mountains to the Hopi and the Diné.  For the Hopi, the Katsina, the spirit beings, live there and come out for ceremonies.  The Peaks have ponderosa pine, aspen and at upper elevations firs, but I love the aspen.  I’ve learned a lot about aspens bicycling by them as I heave with heavy breaths up the inclines.  They like flat places to grow.  There are very few flat places on this road. So it is a relief when I see the aspen, since the incline mellows out. Aspen do propagate by seeds, but mainly root sprouts. They like the flat places so their offspring can grow. The new trees from these sprouts are genetically identical to the parent. True interconnection.

Marion Woodman, one of my favorite authors, a Jungian analyst, talked about the upcoming paradigm shift in human consciousness as one of interconnection. Not matriarchy, not patriarchy but androgyny, where humans have awareness of their interconnection.   I think the aspen teach us this by their very being.  When I hike in the aspen I say, “hello sisters and brothers, teach me your way.”  Next time you hike in the forest, or do forest bathing, as the Japanese say, be aware of your interconnection with them, as a lesson of interconnection with other humans.

The U.S. Election and the Archetype of Justice # 8

“Justice restores balance and rights wrongs. This archetype signifies the settlement of legal matters and contracts. Old scores are settled, and karma is achieved. Actions receive their logical reaction. This can either be positive or negative depending on what has come before.”  Pg.102, Nelson, 2014, Archetypal Imagery.   

This archetype comes from the major arcana (the cards without a suit, like the joker) of a tarot deck and is the number eight. I like multiples of four since this number connects with the wisdom of the wheels that indigenous people used to help humans align with their place on the earth.  Multiples of four are important, as there are four cardinal directions. Humans need to pay attention to each direction to make the wheels of life turn symmetrically. Multiples of fours, as in eight, make this even stronger. Balance and more balance.

The quote above talks about karma. Justice restores karma. There are a lot of misconceptions of what karma is, and it is bandied about in New Age jargon. Often some might say, “good karma” or “bad karma”.  The idea of karma is that there is a reaction to a given action, so it is not bad or good, it just “is”.   The justice archetype stands for the balance to settle what has happened in the past.  As a feminist I love that the archetype of justice is  a statue of a women holding a scales to denote balance. She is blinded so she cannot be influenced by her sight. She also has a sword to strike down those that would not agree to justice.  She holds the scales to balance what has happened in the past.  Possibly if the scales are out of balance something needs to be added to the other side of the scale to restore equilibrium.

Using this archetype for the U.S. elections, the thought presents itself of what is the reaction to the action of the past, and what is needed now to restore balance?

Certainly economic disparity is out of balance. The 1% keep getting richer and the rest of society stays the same.  I worked in India as a Fulbright Scholar in the 1990s.  I had romanticized India, since I was a yogi for many years, practicing Iyengar Yoga, and going to San Francisco and Scottsdale for special classes.  I had also been a vegetarian for many years.  At one point I argued with my friends who had become vegetarians through their practice of Transcendental Meditation, that is was natural for humans to eat meat. After all, humans were omnivores.  But then I had an “aha” moment, that it was natural, but humans could make the choice of living without killing animals.  I was struck by the one of the basic yamas (guidelines of how to live life) of Hinduism. The yama of ahimsa, which is to do no harm. Thoreau used this in his teachings of living in accordance with nature, and Martin Luther King and Gandhi used it to practice civil disobedience to remove prejudice and oppression from society. I was happy to go to India, but the reality of what I experienced was not a match to my romantic idealistic view. Children laid on litters by the street, developmentally delayed from lack of nutrition and emotional support. Children were pimped out to beg. The highest rate of rape was by police. Simultaneously my female colleagues where I taught were the most brilliant and beautiful women I had ever worked with.  The problem was of course overpopulation, but also it was the unequal distribution of wealth.  My boss moved me around to gain stature as if I was an object, and he had Dilet, untouchable, families camped out by his house for handouts. I woke up one morning having a dream that the U.S. had become India with this great disparity.  Economic imbalance needs to be restored.

Of course with intersectionality of poverty is the structural racism of our society.  Equality and justice could be restored on some level with the election. 

Blacks are imprisoned five times the rate of whites. I was raised by a very religious Methodist mother. My grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. In Kansas City, Missouri in the 1960s when redlining was happening in our neighborhood, our religion was civil rights.  Multiracial groups met for dinners for understanding, marched to support Martin Luther King. I took this teaching to my graduate work in community psychology. I wanted to open education to under-served groups.  As a graduate student, I worked as a consultant to urban districts of Kansas City, Mo., Indianapolis, Bronx, and Philadelphia and  the Indian Nations of Northern Cheyenne and Hopi.  I knew there was racism, and we needed to work to help kids growing up in poverty. But I was unaware of how I helped contribute structural racism.  I got a grant in 1995 to use a storytelling approach to prevent substance abuse on an Indian Nation in southern Arizona, the Tohono O’odham.  It was a great program funded by HHS, SAMHSA, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.  I also wrote a curriculum for community groups on using cultural storytelling for empowerment. I went to anti-racism and diversity training across the U.S. and one women really captured my attention.  She used a video, The Color of Fear, where men from different racial and ethnic identities talks about their lives.  I brought her to Prescott, AZ, a very white town, probably around 1995.  This was an “aha’ moment for me.  I learned I was racist, since I unconsciously supported an unjust society, and white liberals did much to perpetuate structural racism.  Since then, I’ve been trying to navigate my role in deconstructing this racism.  I think voting is one way we can do this, to bring justice to those who have been oppressed.

Needless to say, structural sexism is another item to balance. And structural prejudice for LGTBQ, and structural ethnicism for Latino/Latinas, andeven go into to structural specism for how humans treat animals, and humans effect on climate change making the earth uninhabitable for many species. I have many stories here, but I’ll save them for a later date.

The point is that election can help Justice take the stage to balance what is happened, and it can be a positive or negative The scales could go way out of balance, so a more drastic set of events would be needed, or they could be re-balanced.

There is a lot to balance now.  So thinking of the U.S. election as symbolized by the archetype of Justice, I wonder what will happen, what will be restored, what will be balanced, or what will continue to be out of balanced?  So as each of us goes to the polls either with a mail in ballot or by actually going to poll, thank about what you think needs to be balanced.  Poor vs rich; black vs. white; women vs men, freedom vs government regulations, animals vs humans, nature vs civilization, heterosexual vs LGBTQ, the northern hemisphere vs the southern … What can be brought into balance?

COVID 19 and the Shadow Archetype


My blog is about archetypes and using awareness and identification of archetypes for emotional integration and spiritual awareness, wholeness. Carl Jung created a psychological theory sometimes called analytic or depth psychology. Central to this theory is the existence of a collective unconscious that humans share.  It is an invisible, energetic dimension where archetypes reside.  Archetypes are patterns of being that humans manifest and wisdom of solutions. The collective unconscious is a repository of human knowledge, and the connection that each of us as humans have is usually unconscious. Humans are influenced by the collective unconscious outside of conscious awareness. By consciously working with archetypes, humans open this connection to find power and the wisdom of these patterns.

Jung explained that there are three main archetypes, animus (male), anima (female) and the shadow.  In my book, Archetypal Imagery, I define an archetype as an energy pattern or a way of being:  hero, seductress, teacher, healer for example.  But as an energy pattern it could even be a symbol of a Celtic knot.  But for purposes of this blog I stay with Jung’s basic three.  That’s a nice sound, right? the basic three.

The shadow stands out for me as the archetype of COVID 19.  The shadow is what is unknown. Hiding in the shadow is what humans and society deny about themselves and itself.  What’s in the shadow is revealed about what is denied about the self and society.  In the foundational work on Jung’s thinking, Man and His Symbols, the authors note that what resides in the shadow are…

“unreal fantasies, schemes and plots, carelessness and cowardice, inordinate love of money and possessions” (pg. 171)

This, yes this is what the U.S. is experiencing during the COVID 19 pandemic.  What is coming out of the shadow archetype are the basic inequities of the U.S. society…

-some have propelled a fantasy that the virus will go away magically

-schemes and plots of racism and poverty, people of color and poor people are dying at three times the rate of those with resources

-the love of money has prompted the federal government from doing national policies to suppress the virus

Opening the shadow to allow and accept what is the COVID 19, the shadow, can unleash the human potential of awareness and acceptance. If humans can look unflinchingly at the devastation of COVID 19, that which has been denied can then integrated and healed. The U.S. society does not need fantasies, schemes, cowardice or the love of money.  By looking into this shadow, the U.S. society can embrace those suffering with COVID 19 and use this awareness. Health care can be created as a human right for all.  The love of money can be replaced by the love for equity.


Jung, C.G, von Franz, M.-L., Henderson, J.L., Jacobi, J. & Jaffe, A. (1964) Man and his symbols. London: Aldus Books.

Transformation thru Embodied Knowing

Embodied knowing is tapping the wisdom of the body and the emotions to expand and inform the conscious mind’s awareness for insights and for decision making. Embodied knowing enlists creativity and intuition, and sometimes presents “ahas’ that can happen outside of conscious awareness. Using images, metaphors and emotionally-rich stories accelerates and sustains change. These strategies create a way of expressing what a person might not understand.  Through embodied knowing something that has been unknown becomes known. Novel insights can pop up into the mind to solve intractable problems.

Psychologists like Carl Roger, the father of humanistic psychology, propose that there is a creative force in the unconscious which can generates creative insight. The “aha” comes from not logical reasoning, but from a felt sense in the body that includes emotional markers. In my wise mind-body model (Archetypal Imagery, 2014), I propose four bodies: 1. mental; 2. emotional; 3. physical; and 4. spiritual.  The physical and emotional bodies know things hidden from the conscious mind. The conscious mind, the stream of thoughts rolling like the breaking news tape on the bottom of the screen on CNN, only has access to limited perceptions and awareness. The ego doing its job for stability, curtails awareness blocking insight from the creative force in the unconscious. Embodied knowing in the form of images, metaphors, body awareness and emotionally-rich stories soothes the ego to open the mind to wisdom.

My Fielding Graduate University colleagues and myself just completed a chapter in the book, Innovations in Leadership Coaching. If you are a coach or therapist check out the book on amazon, link below. Our ideas are in Chapter 9, Transformation Coaching: The Use of Metaphors, Archetypes and Life Story in Embodied Knowing.   Authors besides myself are: João Noronha, Consultancy and Coaching for Change at INSEAD; Lee Palmer, Palmer Leadership; andKristen Truman-Allen, PULP Leadership Coaching.  What follows are some adaptations of the four embodied knowing coaching methods that you might apply in your own life.

Anxiety transformed by the visualization of metaphors in the body: For example, you feel a lot of anxiety about a decision.  If asked to find the place in your body that you felt it, you might visualize a black hole in the chest.  If asked if you have any resources to overcome the anxiety you might visualize a water pump near the black hole in your chest. The pump can produce a stream of water that fills up the black hole.  Being filled with water, the image in the chest changes to an immense landscape of mountains and rivers.  The anxiety dissipates, your mind is clear ,you feel calm.  You might have insight of what to do about it or might be able to release the anxiety. (adapted from João Noronha’s section)

Work stress transformed by visualizing a word.  Another example might be when you are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure at work.  You want to find some resiliency in yourself to overcome anxiety and manage the stress of the job.   You realize that if you could adapt to the stress, you might relieve it. As a result, you ask yourself the question, “What image comes to mind when I think ‘adaptation’?”   In a journal you might write all the words that come to mind thinking about the word adaptation, and even make drawings, for example an image of trees shaped by the wind.  After that you might go outside and see the wind and watch trees.  This might prompt you to embody the word adaptation and realize you can be as flexible as the trees. The stress is relieved, and possibly you have some other insight about the situation. (adapted from Kristen Truman Allen’s section)

Frustration and disappointment transformed by an earlier life story. Further when you experience frustration and disappointment over a particular setback or rejection you might think about your life as a story.  You might recall other instances in your past which involved similar circumstances or feelings of defeat, almost as if it were seeing your life as a story, asking yourself questions, “What wisdom did I gain about rejection from a previous story?” Journaling, reflecting, sitting with these feeling adds insight.  Asking more question gives strategies for transforming your rejection. “How can I rewrite the story of rejection to strength? What could I do now for positive change to rewrite the story of rejection to one of resiliency?” (adapted from Lee Palmer’s section)

Inadequacy transformed by bringing the archetype of Gaia into your daily life. The final example for this blog might be when you might feel inadequate to do your job or help someone.  Sometimes with inadequacy come hopelessness.  To use this embodied knowing technique, think of an archetype that could be a salve for inadequacy. This might be an archetype that embodies confidence.  Maybe Gaia the Greek Goddess of Mother earth might come to mind. Think back to a specific situation when the inadequacy was the strongest. See it unfold like a move in your mind.   See sensory details of the situation, colors, sounds, checking who is in the image and what they are saying. Seeing perceptional details in an imagery prompts the brain to think that the event is actually happening and activates the emotional centers of the brain.  Find the feeling of inadequacy in your body, it might be a tight fist in the belly. Then Gaia comes into the imagery.  What might you do with her help, what insight do you have, what might you do or not do?  The knot in the stomach releases, insight comes, and confidence grows. (adapted from Annabelle Nelson’s section)

Through embodied knowing there is a shift, a transformation, and as this happens through images, body sense and story it can accelerate change.  The drag of the ego in the conscious mind trying to control inner world is relaxed. The shift happens in the realm of the unconscious creative force and the resultant change pops into the conscious mind for transformation.  Much of embodied knowing is getting a fix on emotional and bodily experiences so that the uncomfortable, the confusing, the negative can be transformed to clarity. New awareness can be embodied for problem solving, peace and calm.

The book with our new chapter!

Chapter 9: Transformation Coaching: The Use of Metaphors, Archetypes and Life Story in Embodied Knowing 




Changing Worry, Fear, Anger to Clarity

WORRY          to           SUNSHINE

spinning-tops-2__71187.1459892345 sunshine-500536_600x4001




FEAR            to               THE MOUNTAIN`

the-drum  mountain


ANGER       to                 THE LOTUS FLOWER

California-volcano-eruption-earthquake-1093008lots flower

During most times, but particularly during this time of the covid19 pandemic, emotions can rage.  As a psychologist, I’m interested in helping people navigate emotions. Much of my work over the past many years has been transforming emotions, and ultimately releasing emotional patterns from the unconscious that interfere with a person’s health and clarity to create the life wanted. Emotions always come. They are messengers of something to pay attention to.  But if they are too big, taking us over, they prevent us from clarity to take good care of ourselves.

My path has developed this technique:

-recalling and visualizing a recent event that has evoked a strong emotion

-finding the emotion in the body, visualizing the emotion in size, shape and color

-visualizing a change in this image

-releasing the emotion

This is a powerful technique as it deals directly with the emotional center of the limbic system in the brain, and avoids the ego controlled conscious mind that can resist sensing emotions. Working with the non-rational mind in the unconscious accelerates transformation, so the mind can be clear to let emotions go or take action.

I learned this technique through many twists and turns.  First was the practice of yoga of bringing awareness inside the body during yoga poses or asana. This body is a laboratory to transform the mind to spiritual awareness. The chitta or the mind stuff unwinds to create a clear mind. Next was my study of Carl Rogers’ humanistic psychology which taught me to trust what was inside. If I could release emotional chatter, I could contact a creative force would lead me to emotional health.

Building on this was the teaching of Fritz Perls, another humanistic psychologist, who said that to change an emotion one had to feel it and accept it.  Thank about that for a second. To change an emotion one needs to feel it. Takeshi Masui, a Japanese psychologist, gave me a technique to do this. He was the one who taught me to find an emotion in the body, visualize it and then transform it, clearing the mind for clarity.

In this period of heightened emotions, my emotional transformation technique may come in handy.  I’ve simplified it for covid19 imagery, by giving specific images for the emotions. Try some of these visualizations out.

Relaxation vivifies imagery, so before trying these exercise out, get in a comfortable chair.  Take 10 slow breaths. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold breath for 4, exhale through the nose, Scan the body, starting with the toes, legs, groin, stomach heart, back, hands, arms, shoulders head, face, unlock your jaw.  Feel your whole body getting warmer and heavier.

WORRY Think about something that happened in the last few days or weeks that worries you.

See worry in the head like a spinning pinwheel, then see a sunrise in your heart as the sun feels your whole body.

FEAR Think about something that happened in the last few days or weeks that you are afraid of.

See fear in your heart like a drumbeat, then see that you’ve become a mountain with granite growing out of the center of the earth into your feet and up through your body as you become a mountain.

ANGRY Think about something that happened in the last few days or weeks that you were angry about.

See a volcano in your belly erupting into the head, then see that you are standing in a calm body of water up to your shoulders and the water is gently swaying.  A lotus flower appears in the middle of your chest.

Once the imagery has shifted, the mind clears, and one has more clarity about the message of the emotion and what one wants to do about it.

I’ve made video of these shifts.  They are designed for children but adults with the young at heart may enjoy it.




Coronavirus Imagery: Increasing White Blood Cells for Adults & Children

Healthy_Human_T_CellImagery (or thinking in internal sensations) can definitely help you relax and decrease anxiety during the Coronavirus Pandemic. To the left is a healthy T Cell which can attack and destroy the Covid19 virus. Imagery talks to the body and may increase immune response.  I made two videos, one for adults and kids, both about 12 minutes long each. Enjoy! I want to thank my wise daughter, McCoy Dodsworth, for encouraging me to share my expertise to help others during this stressful time. Imagery is best if it is playful and you don’t try too hard so. Just take 12 minutes to listen and settle into your mind-body. We can generate health from the inside out.  Thank you for spending a few minutes with me watching these videos for yourself or with your children. The first one is for adults, the second for kids.



Much of my work as a psychologist is about imagery, the mental process of thinking in internal sensations: vision, smell, sounds, movement and touch.  I’ve written two books about it, Living the Wheel: Working with Emotions, Terror and Bliss through Imagery (1993) and Archetypal Imagery and the Spiritual Self: Techniques for Coaches and Therapists (2014).  So I have lots to say.

But the point I want to get across here is that imagery can accelerate relaxation and can talk to the autonomic nervous system which may actually change blood work on a molecular level.   Thinking in pictures (the simplest way to express the process of imagery), communicates directly to the part of the brain that activates restoration and relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system. Its opposite and inverse structure, the sympathetic nervous system, has an arousal function that sometimes gets out of control with anxiety.  Using imagery to talk to the part of the brain that is restorative can quiet the sympathetic system and decrease anxiety in these trying times.

From biofeedback research we know that imagery is more effective than thinking in words in changing autonomic body functions such as in lowering blood pressure. For example, telling oneself to relax doesn’t work, but visualizing oneself in a relaxing scene, such as floating in a calm body of water with the water gentling rocking, does work.  Imagery talks directly to the body.

Another example is mental rehearsal for elite athletes. When athletes image their performance in vivid detail with all senses, their performance improves.  There is some controversy if the imagery actually activates the same neural pathways as the movement or serves an arousal function, but the outcome is increased performance.

With the boon in brain physiology research in the 1990s, researchers like Candace Pert documented that neurotransmitters, like endorphins, could lock into immune cells and change their speed and direction.  This opens up the possibility that imagery that evokes positive emotions can change blood chemistry and possibly increase white blood cells.

A study March 16, 2020 in Nature Medicine (url below) documented bloodwork from an Australian women who had covid19 and recovered.  Her white bloods spiked during her body’s valiant fight, particularly T cells and NK (natural killer) cells. Use the YouTube videos above to encourage your body to relax and think positive in your body’s ability to protect and defend you by increasing the production T and NK cells by the bone marrow.


Pert. C.B  (1999) Molecules of emotion: why you feel the way you feel. Pocket Books

16 March 2020 Naturemedicine article



Ram Dass: Archetype of “Highs”?

Ram Dass recently died at the age of 88 in December, 2019. It caused many of us to remember his work and his influence on us boomers.  The “okay bomber” phrase, might be “okay Ram Dass”.  But I think there is much to celebrate in Ram Dass’ teachings.

Many peoram-dass-e1567577410497ple know his life story.  Richard Alpert was a Stanford PhD in psychology and became a professor and therapist at Harvard. He wrote a book about child development.  At Harvard, Richard Alpert met Timothy and began experimenting with LSD, hence my proposition that Ram Dass might be an archetype of highs.

I was drawn to Ram Dass during graduate school, as I was getting my PhD in psychology and child development and practicing yoga.  I had spontaneous “highs” from yoga practice without LSD or other hallucinogens.  Ram Dass’ book, The Only Dance There Is, spoke to me in many ways. It documented what “highs” were like, feelings of bliss, timelessness and interconnection with other life, and the loss of ego boundaries. With LSD there were hallucinations, but I was not so interested in that hallucinations. I was interested in changes in consciousness which I had experienced through yoga practice, contacting human potential.

LSD for Ram Dass was a way to open the inner world to love as a state of consciousness.  He saw that this individual work was a way to change group consciousness as well.  Similar to the Beatles’ spiritual teacher, Maharishi’s ideas. Maharishi, the Transcendental Meditation guru,a  said that if 10% of people in a city meditated that crime would decrease.   An unverified claim, but notable to show that Ram Dass, and other spiritual teachers of the time, were interested in a bigger picture than “highs”.

Ram Dass went to India because he realized that the highs he found through LSD wouldn’t last, as he would always come down. He wanted something more sustainable, a true transformation of consciousness.  He found his teacher Maharajji who gave him the new name, no longer Robert Albert.  Now called Ram Dass, he reported that the yogic breathing practice of pranayama created the same changes in consciousness as LSD.  He also said there were another means to change consciousness including “right action” and “karma yoga”, Buddhist and Hindu concepts of acting in service to others.  In my work with storytelling, I have found telling stories and listening to stories also changes consciousness. Joseph Campbell the wizard of stories, says that the hero in stories goes through “process of self-annihilation, and undergoes a metamorphosis” (pg 77).

Michael Pollan in a 2019 book, How to Change Your Mind, has rekindled public interest in psychedelics making a case for psychological healing and ways to expand consciousness including a method to move beyond an ego-restricted perception of reality.  In his own experience of taking azzies, a nickname for Psilocybe azurescens, a psychedelic mushroom, Pollan says, “I had “a drug experience”.  The psilocybin in the mushroom unlocked 5-hydroxytryptamine 2-A receptors in my brain…waking dream, interesting and pleasurable.” (Pg. 135).   He details research and many people’s experience with hallucinogenics. But he is not only interested in “highs”, Pollan says that his experience was not magical or divine, but a new slant on reality.

Ram Dass’ initial interest in highs mutated to an interest in altering and sustaining a changed consciousness, that of love.  He says, “The only thing you have to offer to another human being, ever, is your own state of being…. But everything you do…. You’re only manifesting of how evolved in consciousness you are.” (Pg. 6)

So the point of Ram Dass’ early psychedelic experiences, and even possibly Pollan’s interest in the same, may not be about the highs, but changing human consciousness for healing and opening the potential of love and service to the self and other. Ram Dass changed his journey from the highs of psychedelics to the meditative practice of pranayama.  For me, I’ve moved from yoga to Zen meditation to storytelling.  The point isn’t to create “highs”, but finding ways to move human consciousness to the energy of love and service to others through a sustainable practice. And truly, Ram Dass is not the archetype of highs, but the archetype of the transformation of consciousness.

Ram Dass, (1974). The only dance there is. Anchor Press

Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces. Yogi Impressions.

Pollan, M. (2018).  How to change your mind.  Penguin Books.

Jane Fonda: Archetype of Women’s Liberation?

Liberation is setting someone free, and an archetype is an energy pattern that emanates a given characteristic. Jane Fonda might seem an odd choice as an archetype of women’s liberation. She predates the surge of Women’s Liberation, marked by the publication of MS magazine in 1971. One might think Gloria Steinem one of the founders of MS magazine would be a better choice.  But I like Jane Fonda as an archetype because she is complicated.  Women’s liberation is complicated.

When I was 12 in 1960, I saw Jane Fonda in the move, Tall Story, I was transfixed, I wanted to be like her.  At 12, I hadn’t yet questioned the societal feminine stereotype of sexual objectification.  Jane projected that stereotype but there was something else, a strength that emanated resiliency. Her own life story has been complicated as she was vilified for seemingly supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, and at the same she has set up a non-profit to empower young women in their health choices.

Like Jane, my path to women’s liberation has been complicated.  In the 70s, I found my voice with MS magazine.  One of the first issues was “why do women shave their legs”.  Seeing that, I thought, right, why?  Growing up my brother seemed to have liberation, and I wanted that as well. The feminists of the 70s were all about ripping up the patriarchy.  We would hiss when speakers would use the words “mankind” or “he” in their talks. But we also wanted to be sexy, and mothers, and loving wives and have careers.

Jane Fonda has been married three times, and so have I.  My sister says I ruin family pictures, with different husbands.  I’ve always questioned my choices, which don’t seem to jive with my desire to be a loving partner and a good mother.  But in thinking about women’s liberation I realized part of my protesting the patriarchy was trying to figure out how to be free within a marriage. I wasn’t able to successfully navigate this and I felt I was living a dissonance. But now I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve realized I, like Jane, was seeking liberation.

I know the current generation of feminists are figuring this out, to find liberation in their own way within marriage. It will remain complicated but they will do a better job. They know more.

In Oct 2019 at 82 Jane was arrested three times for civil disobedience protesting for climate change.  She is now working on setting the Earth free from human pollution and continues to emanate resiliency in finding new ways to stand up for liberation.  I’ve been resilient as well, and I hope even though the feminists of the 70s didn’t solve how to integrate women’s competing roles, that we can at least pass on our resiliency.


Cinderlad and Cycling Hills


I just returned from Quebec from a trip with Discovery Bicycle Tours.  This was one of the best cycling experiences of my life, and the story of Cinderlad from my childhood got me up quite a few steep hills. The tour was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.  We started about 15 miles south of the Canada in the town of Montgomery Center, Vermont.  A tiny town with just a few buildings, but two hip bicycle shops, telling me we were in the right place to begin. In less than an hour we were in the hills, lakes, vineyards and the maple forests flaming in reds, yellows and oranges of Canada. Threading disarming inns, and luscious wine tasting rooms, were hills and more hills.  Even though slow, I am a strong and steady climber, living at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona. I cycle up 2,000 feet to Snow Bowl a few times a summer. These climbs spice up my longer 35 and 40 mile trips out to Lake Mary where my eyes dance with the Osprey fishing.  But it is still a challenge to do miles of hills each day.

I was motivated this year to do the extra loops, sometimes with steep hills. The maple splendor, l’erable spectaculaire, was so awesome that I couldn’t quite grasp it.  I relied on my summer training, but also the story of Cinderlad to help me get up the hills.  Cinderlad says in this story, “if it doesn’t get much worse, I  can manage to stand it.”

Let me explain how this came in handy. Cinderella’s story is woven into Western society’s zeitgeist, but there is a similar Italian fairy tale, with a different slant.  In this story there is a farmer with three sons.  The youngest sits in the cinders in the evenings, hence the name, and only has rags to wear. He is relentlessly bullied by his two arrogant older brothers, and Cinderlad’s hardworking father who has lost his grip after the death of his wife, doesn’t seem to notice.

Life has a miserable routine for Cinderlad. He labors all day making up for the work his brothers shirk, and is berated each evening by them. He finds protection buried in the cinders of the hearth each night.  Things change on St. John the Baptist’s Day, falling on June 24 each year, It is what Joseph Campbell’s deems a “call to adventure.” There is a great horrible sounds in the night, and the next day all the family’s grain has been chomped down to a nub. This creates dire straits for the family, struggling without a crop for year.  The next year, the elder, dandy son brags, “I’ll go out on St. John the Baptist’s night and slay whatever creature there is.”  But in the middle of the night, he comes screaming home, his hair one end in fright.  This repeats the next year, as well, with the next older son.

The family is becoming destitute, and the fourth year, Cinderlad steps up, not bragging, but with quiet determination. His brothers scoff.  Undaunted, Cinderlad goes out into the middle of the fields to a small hut. At midnight the noise begins, and the earth shakes.  At that point, he says to himself, “if it doesn’t get much worse, I can manage to stand it.”  After his words there is a sudden dead, still calm.  Cinderlad comes out of the hut, and remarkably standing there is a study horse with a knight’s bronze armor hanging from the saddle.  Cinderlad goes back in the hut, and the earth shattering noise begins again.  This happens a total of three times that night, and as Cinderlad stays with his post all night, he is rewarded, with a total of three horses, yes three, with three suits of armor, one bronze, one silver, one gold.   The grain is saved, and Cinderlad’s life explodes into glory. He wins the hand of kingdom’s princess in a competition with the horses and suits armor, defying expectations and leaving his brothers in the dust.

Cinderlad’s example of steadfastness helped me get up those hills in Quebec.  I know some climbing techniques such as paying attention to the breath, inhaling and exhaling, saving the legs by gearing down, rolling down the shoulders, relaxing the upper body, counting a rhythm, “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.”  But really I wanted to be like Cinderlad, I wanted to stay with the moment, a beautiful hill in a startling beautiful place, and I did say Cinderlad’s quote to myself, “If it doesn’t get any worse, I can manage to stand it.”    Maybe a cognitive psychologist might minimize this as merely self-talk, or a positive psychologist might judge this as negative and counterproductive. But what I call it is a way to stay present time and a way to steady myself amidst difficulty to keep going for a goal. Being steadfast.  I did it, I got to the top of many hills.  I felt beauty inside and out.


Archetypal Imagery Coaching for Wisdom

I recently did a webinar for Fielding Graduate University’s Evidence Based Coaching program on how coaches could use Archetypal Imagery to prompt clients to contact their deep wisdom.  It seemed to work really well. Participants liked it. These were my topics…

  • defining archetypes,
  • leading imagery,
  • picking an archetype, and
  • using an archetype to find wisdom for daily life.

I started with a story to show how the mind is full, flooded with perceptions, reactive from buried emotions, worries and more.  Because of this, coaches’ clients can’t connect their deep wisdom.  I often use the story of the six blind man and the elephant to emphasize this. In the story, there are six blind men. They are asked to feel what’s in front of them and say what it is.  One by one, they say the following after feeling:

the side, a “wall”;

the tusk, a “spear”;

the ears, “fan”;

the tail, a “rope”

the trunk, a “snake”;

the leg, a “tree”.

Not one could perceive the essence of the elephant.

In day to day life, coaching clients only perceive a small portion of reality.  However, coaches can help clients contact their deep wisdom so they can see clearly. Archetypal imagery can do this.

figure 7.6

An archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a given characteristic. Usually one recognizes an archetype right away.  The characteristic just pops out right away. For example, the Greek goddess Gaia conveys PROTECTION.  In Gaia’s story she protects life even when her mate, Ouranos, tells her to kill their deformed children the one-eyed cyclops, or when her son, Cronos, wants her to kill his son Zeus because of the prophecy that Zeus will take over Cronos’ throne.

In its quest for stability, the ego keeps consciousness tied up with a busy mind. But the ego likes archetypes since they are part of a natural psychodynamic for organizing personality. Visualizing an archetype quiets the ego to open the mind to deep wisdom.  Wisdom is lifeability, or making one’s life work. Coaches can help their clients gain this lifeability to solve problems.

It is not complicated to help coaching clients find an archetype, since it can happen in a playful and intuitive way. I have an archetype quiz on my blog, quizzes in my book, and cards available. Also, a 13-minute pod cast on the front page of my web site leads a person on an imagery exercise to find an archetype.

It is particularly powerful to image an archetype.  Imagery is a magical way to relax the mind. One participant at my webinar asked, “What do you do with clients who think imagery isn’t the thing for them?”    I think sharing data on its physiological effects is the way to encourage a client to try it.  According Martin Rossman M.D

“Whether it’s for relaxation, problem-solving, healing, or self-development, learning to use your imagination skillfully can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make with your time.”

After choosing an archetype a client can work with it.  Psychologists like me call this amplifying an archetype. Coachees can draw it, find stories about it and tell the coach its main characteristic.

Then, the coach can prompt the client to imagine a current stressful incident. The coach asks the client to tell about the incident in detail, telling about perceptual details of the scene, describing the scene blow by blow.  Eventually the coach prompts the client to find the main feeling that the scene evokes in the body.  After the feeling is named, then the scene is repeated, this time the client is asked to bring in the archetype.  What would happen in the scene, if the person embodied that archetype’s characteristic?  How would things change?  The coach then  has the client check in with their body again and see  what has happened to the feeling in the body?  What insight emerged? What wisdom did the client bring to the situation?

figure 6.49To show how this might work, I had the webinar participants pretend that their archetype was “The World.”  Its main characteristic is fulfillment.  I asked the participants to imagine a recent stressful situation in detail.  Then I asked them to imagine that they embodied this characteristic -fulfillment. What might they do differently, or how might they shift their perception? What might they do in a similar situation the next time?

Archetypal imagery can be a powerful tool for coaches to help clients contact their deep wisdom for transformation.


Imagery Quiz & Finding an Archetype & Relaxation Imagery Podcasts

Annabelle’s 60 min webinar on Using Archetypal Imagery for Accessing Deep Wisdom with Coaching Clients