BUILDING A BETTER MAN IN THE 21ST CENTURY

 

 

In college at Penn State, my roommate majored in Psychology.  I chose English.  Upon graduating, we both joined the Marines and, early in our careers, lamented over the fact that neither of us felt like we were getting much out of our degrees.

         Ten years into my career, I flirted with the idea of getting a master’s in psychology from George Mason University.  After serving in combat and having been exposed to people from all different parts of the world, the idea of understanding why people did the things they did enthralled me.  My pursuit of this goal was put on hold when I spent two years obtaining back-to-back master’s degrees from the Marine Corps.

         Fast-forward fifteen years to the pandemic, and I found myself wrestling with my faith, and what I believed about a deeper truth to life.  That journey led me to getting familiar with the work of Carl Jung.

         In the paragraphs ahead, I’ll give an overview to Jung’s work, taking time to highlight the four primary archetypes that arise from it, share the challenges men today face in integrating the various aspects of their psyche, and light a path on how men can overcome these challenges.  The outcome?  A roadmap to becoming a better man.

         Born in 1875 In Switzerland, Jung was a colleague of Freud.  His interest in psychology, or the clinical approach to understanding the human soul, developed early in his life.  Besides giving us the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” Jung is famous for having developed his own school of psychology, known as analytical psychology.  This approach emphasized the exploration of the deeper layers of the unconscious.

         Through his work as a psychologist and psychoanalyst, Jung discovered that, while his patients came from different parts of Europe and had noted different backgrounds, their dreams all shared common themes.  This led Jung to the conclusion that there is a “collective unconscious” shared by all humans; this collective unconscious contained the entire history of the species.  To start things off, let’s look at a simplified understanding of how the mind works.

The Mind at Work

         In a simple sense, there are two parts to the mind: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.

 

  1. The Conscious Mind – The conscious mind is where we consume all information from the outside world.  Our five senses draw information in.  The conscious mind is where short-term memory resides.  This part of the mind is responsible for 10% of all mental processes.
  2. The Subconscious Mind – Thoughts get deposited into the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind holds our emotions, our beliefs, and habits, and is home to long-term memory.  90% of mental processes take place in the subconscious mind.

 

When we repeatedly take in a thought, it becomes hard-wired in our physiology as a belief or habit.  Significant emotional events, through the intensity of the emotions experienced, will embed themselves in the subconscious mind.

 

Archetypes

       This led Jung to introduce the concept of archetypes, universal symbols and themes that reside in the collective unconscious.  Please refer to the diagram below.  There are four components worth noting here.

  1. The Self: this represents the unified psyche, the center of the personality.  The Self symbolizes integration and wholeness.
  2. The Shadow: the shadow contains the repressed or hidden aspects of oneself. The Shadow is often perceived as the darker or less acceptable qualities of one’s personality.
  3. The Anima and Animus: Men have an Anima represent the feminine aspects of a man, while in women the Animus represents her male aspects.
  4. The Persona: This is the social mask or façade we present to the world. The persona protects the ego and influences how one is perceived.

King, Warrior, Lover, Magician

 

         From this work, there were derived four archetypes of the mature masculine: the King, the Warrior, the Lover, and the Magician.  These archetypes are different aspects of a man’s psyche.  Per Jung, each of us has all these archetypes present.  I’ll address each first individually, then offer how integration takes place.

 

 

The King: The King archetype is characterized by benevolent leadership. A wise and just ruler, not just politically, but in areas of community, famiy, and mission. The King focuses on nurturing and protecting, providing guidance, support, and a sense of security to those under his care.  He emphasizes vision and order, lighting a path towards the future while establishing harmony in his domain.  Most importantly, the King emphasizes care and concern for the well-being of others, without seeking personal gain.  Lastly, he leaves a legacy of wisdom, integrity, and positive influence for future generations.

    1. Shadow Aspects: When a King is imbalanced, it can manifest as either a cruel tyrant, or a weak and ineffective leader.
    2. Integration and Healing: The King heals and is integrated into the psyche by recognizing and developing leadership qualities that serve the greater good.
    3. Key point: THE KING ALWAYS DOES WHAT IS RIGHT

 

The Warrior: The Warrior is characterized by strength and courage, embodying physical, mental, and emotional strength.  It symbolizes the courage to confront challenges, whether internal or external.  The Warrior is protective and disciplined, protecting what is important – family, values, and the vulnerable – while embodying discipline and a code of honor.  This archetype emphasizes action and decisiveness, acting when necessary, guided by a clear sense of purpose and duty.  The Warrior is a master of facing fear, confronting fear and adversity head-on, transforming these energies into focused action and determination.

    1. Shadow Aspects: In the shadow, the Warrior archetype might manifest as aggression, violence, or destructive behavior – either being overly aggressive or passive, lacking courage and initiative.
    2. Integration and Healing: Integrating the Warrior archetype involves channeling strength and courage in constructive ways, finding a balance between assertiveness and strength.
    3. THE WARRIOR ALWAYS DOES WHAT IS NECESSARY

The Lover: The Lover embodies passion and sensuality, and a deep appreciation for beauty, not just in romantic relationships, but in all aspects of life. It involves connecting deeply with emotions and experiencing life fully, embracing both the joys and sorrows without reservation.  The Lover archetype values intimacy and meaningful connections, nurturing relationships, and fostering emotional bonds.

      1. Shadow Aspects: In its shadow form, the Lover archetype might manifest as addiction, obsession, or escapism – seeking pleasure without regard for consequences or becoming overly dependent on external sources for fulfillment.
      2. Integration and Healing: Integrating the Lover archetype involves embracing emotions, finding balance in relationships, and appreciating beauty without losing oneself in it.
      3. THE LOVER ALWAYS DOES WHAT IS LOVING

 

The Magician: The Magician is characterized by wisdom and insight. It symbolizes an understanding of the mysteries of life and the unseen realms.  It encompasses the ability to bring about positive change and transformation, both within oneself and in the world around.  The Magician uses knowledge and understanding to heal and grow.  This archetype is associated with creativity, innovation, and the ability to manifest ideas into reality, using knowledge and insight as tools for creation.  The Magician explores the realms beyond the obvious, delving into the unconscious and spiritual dimensions, seeking a deeper understanding and truth.

    1. Shadow Aspects: In its shadow form, the Magician archetype might manifest as manipulation, intellectual superiority, or the misuse of knowledge for selfish or destructive purposes.
    2. Integration and Healing: Integrating the Magician involves seeking knowledge without humility, using wisdom for the greater good, and healing wounds that hinder the pursuit of deeper understanding and transformation.
    3. THE MAGICIAN ALWAYS DOES WHAT IS TRANSFORMATIVE.

From Jung’s perspective, the ideal for any man would be to fully integrate these archetypes, thereby fortifying one’s psyche.

Challenges

         The challenges men face today in integrating the different archetypes to realize a greater sense of Self are not many, but they are considerable.  In earlier generations, societies have very distinct rites of passage, where the boy was ceremonially “killed” in order to arrive at his manhood.

For one, in the modern age, there are no uniform rites of passage.  I can attest that going through Marine Corps Officer Candidates School was a rite of passage, and that the military may be one of the largest institutions still standing today that afford one.  Fraternities would be a dim and distant second.  There are activities like Tough Mudders and Spartan races, yet collectively, very few people attend these events.

As a result, immature approaches to leadership flourish; the weakling or tyrant manifests in the absence of a healthy and balanced King.  Without the King, there can be no integration of the other archetypes.

Part of this immaturity comes from men’s propensity to externalize their Anima, or the feminine aspect of themselves.  Denying the Anima and believing the feminine energy only exists outside a man leaves a man feeling perpetually incomplete.  If, as a man, you’re laughing at the idea that you have feminine aspects to you remember, half of you came from your mother.

This further frustrates the King’s ability to integrate the archetypes; denying the Anima, the King is unable to accurately perceive a sense of the greater good.  Part of this integration from a King’s perspective requires a reliance on and acknowledgement of a “transpersonal other”; a greater consciousness other than the individual which helps define the greater good.

Applications for Men

  1. Self-Reflection and Integration: Men can introspect to identify which archetypes dominate their personalities and which ones may need development. They can then work on integrating these archetypes to achieve a more balanced and mature masculinity.
  2. Leadership and Purpose: Applying the King archetype involves nurturing leadership qualities in various aspects of life, whether in familial roles, professional settings, or within communities. Men can seek to lead with wisdom, fairness, and a vision that serves the greater good.
  3. Personal Growth and Healing: Understanding and integrating the Warrior, Magician, and Lover archetypes contribute to personal growth and healing. Men can strive to embody courage, seek wisdom, nurture connections, and find passion and appreciation in life.