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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd

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The Father


It is only later, with the growth of ego consciousness and the formation of attachment bonds with both parents that the parental archetype becomes differentiated into its maternal and paternal poles.

In myth, legend and dreams, the father archetype personifies as the Elder, the King. the Father in Heaven. He is the living embodiment of the Logos principle: his word is law. As Defender of the Faith and of the Realm he is the guardian of the status quo and bastion against all enemies. His attributes are activity and penetration, differentiation and judgment, fecundity and destruction.

It is through the father-child relationship that gender-consciousness emerges. Slowly the boy replaces his mother-identity, as he comes to realize that his bond to father is based on equivalence ('I and father are one'), and this transformation is crucial if the boy is to actualize his masculine potential. The girl comes to appreciate that her bond with the father is based on difference - the father constitutes, both spiritually and sexually, her first profound experience of the 'otherness of the male', confirming her femininity.

The fathers influence over the development of his children extends far beyond the question of sexual identity and relationships. In most societies, he acts instrumentally as the bridge between family life and the life of society at large, in contrast with the mothers more expressive role, concerned with home and family. He encourages the development of skills necessary for successful adult adaptation, while at the same time communicating to the child the values and mores prevailing in the social system.

Whilst the archetypal Mother is outside time and dominates the realm of feelings, instincts and the unconscious; the Father is concerned with events occurring in the tangible world in the context of space and time - events that are approached, controlled and modified through consciousness and the use of will.

“Un-dominated children are naturally assertive; they play freely and their games and fantasies are about being grown-up, strong and effective.”

It is not just that a father's attitudes to work, social achievement, behavior, discipline, politics and the law condition the developing attitudes of his children, but that he constellates for them the whole extroverted potential of the world as a place- to-be-known-and-lived-in. This fosters the necessary autonomy (ego-Self axis) for effective living; the second, emotional-territorial program is imprinted according to the child's experiences as he 'sticks his neck out' on issues of dominance and willpower.

For her part, the mother's expressive function continues to provide emotional support, enabling the child to go out and meet life's challenges with a secure bio-survival program in place. Although in practice these roles may be more flexible, archetypally the mother's love is unconditional; the father's love has to be won through achievement. With both of their support, the child develops a secure ego conceiving of itself as being both acceptable to others and capable of coping with the eventualities of life. Good parents facilitate their child's attempts to explore, for the drive to explore the environment and the drive to actualize the Self are two aspects of the same thing, and both require aggression. Un-dominated children are naturally assertive; they play freely and their games and fantasies are about being grown-up, strong and effective. In as much as they have established confidence in a secure base, they can sustain a balance between their wish to be free (exploration) and their wish to be loved (attachment).

On the other hand over-authoritarian parents tend to have a 'toxic' effect, not just by providing too much coercion and not enough love, but through their customary hostility to two fundamental attributes of the maturing Self: sexuality and aggression. As a consequence the individual is blocked in the realization of much of his emotional, sexual and cognitive potential. In the interests of a quiet - or safe - life, he develops a false persona, one that is modeled on the demands and expectations of the parents and not on the needs of the Self.

Parental distortion of archetypal intent (such as absence, unresponsiveness, parental dependency, domineering, etc.) can result in anxious, insecure individuals who report themselves to be 'lacking in confidence', 'shy', 'inadequate' and 'unable to cope'. They often have difficulty forming and maintaining lasting relationships, seem overly dependent and immature, and have sexual uncertainties. Under stress they are prone to develop neurotic symptoms such as persistent anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive phenomena and phobias. The primal failures of the first few years, underlie secondary neuroses and problems that arise in later years.

The archetypally frustrated child usually feels obliged to control his anger and inhibit its expression. The (largely unconscious) resentment that this induces tends to persist into adult life as a 'chip on the shoulder'. Hostility that could not be expressed is displaced on to some other group (e.g. the bosses, the unions, the blacks) or on to someone perceived as weaker (e.g. the spouse, child or employee). As Bowlby says: 'The individual is apt to do unto others as he has been done to; the bullying adult is the bullied child grown bigger'. The unconscious yearnings for love reveal themselves in some aberrant form of care-eliciting behavior (e.g. threats of suicide or leaving, attracting pity by illness or misfortune).

Parents, being human and not gods, are by their very nature imperfect and incomplete; all that any parent can ever realistically aim to be, is 'good enough' to provide the key that opens the archetypal lock, and in doing so, profoundly influence the child's outlook. As we ourselves discover when we grow up, children always expect more of us than we have to give them, and when we disappoint them, they go off and seek what they want elsewhere. As Oscar Wilde said: 'Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.' It would be cruel and ungrateful were it not that each generation repays what it owes to the last by giving to the next.

Whatever archetypal potential we as parents fail to activate in our child, still persists as potential and must continue to seek actualization in reality. There is a danger though that a person will seek to bypass actualization of native archetypes in order to achieve what appears to be a higher freedom. The repression of a yet to be attained archetype will manifest itself through ill-fated dreams, illnesses and depression. The transcendence of archetypes, becoming more than human, is not possible until existing archetypes are actualized - a conflict against the collective psyche of the human race (expressed through archetypes) is too great for an individual to take on. The way to the transpersonal is through the personal.

Times are changing for our species and we must keep abreast of them or perish. Women are being freed to make increasingly significant contributions to our society and to discover new possibilities within themselves that reach far beyond their reproductive function. But it is imperative that this new female expansiveness should take due cognizance of what is archetypally feminine, and not seek to achieve fulfillment by mimicking the male. The woman who negates or over-rides her feminine nature in order to become a pseudo-male sustains critical injury to her ego-Self axis, a self-inflicted wound that causes sterility on the psychic no less than on the physical plane; she risks becoming alienated from her own inherent resources and from the meaning of her life. Archetypes are the decrees of nature; we flout them at our peril.

The contemporary decline in the position of the father has coincided with an anti-authoritarian movement amongst the young, which manifests itself in a blanket hostility towards the traditional patriarchal values enshrined in our Judeo-Christian culture for millennia. What have been rejected in this instance are those aspects of the Father and the archetypal Masculine that relate to the maintenance of law and order, discipline and self-control, morality and responsibility, courage and patriotism, loyalty and obligation, the exercise of authority and command, all of which have been under attack in the last two decades as being inimical to individual freedom and creativity. If manifested neurotically, they are. Yet an archetype cannot be hacked off from the Self and disposed of like an amputated limb. If it is rejected by a negative conscious attitude it returns to the unconscious only to return in subversive or anti-social forms. The archetypal components exist because natural selection has put them there; without them no population could hope to survive. The only way that the race can evolve is through surviving more effectively, through actualizing the lessons of the past and then building on that, by making breakthroughs in the ways of living that benefit the majority and create lasting happiness for generations, and are therefore encoded in the genetic line.

In the absence of direct paternal instruction in practical life and the loss of a dependable paternal tradition, individuals orient themselves by reference to each other, thus giving the peer group its contemporary significance, with its infantile gestures of envy, rivalry, and trendy 'other-directedness'. Increasingly the State takes over the paternal roles of protector and provider, without encouraging the development of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency, and without teaching the economic fact that all things, whether luxuries or necessities, ultimately have to be earned. This causes a sort of fixated and collective adolescence.

“A loosening of the mother-bond is necessary before mating can occur, and the imprinting of the fourth (socio-sexual) program.”

A loosening of the mother-bond is necessary before mating can occur, and the imprinting of the fourth (socio-sexual) program. For the normal adolescent, the terrifying 'otherness' of the sexual female is her 'never seen before' aspect, both physically and in the sexual nature of her femininity, but he is nevertheless brave enough to penetrate her, to 'know' her. The boy's emergent masculinity renders it imperative, therefore, that he conquer his fear, turn from his mother (whose female sexuality is taboo) and seek the feminine sexuality that he craves in a receptive female not yet encountered in the outer world. Now he is archetypally prepared for the encounter with his mate; his initiation from boyhood into manhood. As the mother archetype wanes, so the Anima, a sequentially linked archetype of the feminine nucleus, waxes; under this influence the quest for the soul-mate begins.

Move on to Personal Identity

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