This is the transcript of an interview by Carolyn Clitheroe, a psychotherapy student who has developed an interest in Shadow Work. In relation to her studies she interviewed Marianne about the Sovereign archetype. The interview took place in the Green Room in Frome, Somerset in July 2017 and focuses on the inner Sovereign. The discussions are wide-ranging and a variety of topics relating to the Sovereign are discussed – self compassion, authority and leadership, the inner child, trauma, joy and more. Inevitably the other three archetypes – the Lover, the Warrior and the Magician – are also spoken about, since all four archetypes are intimately related.
Below is a simple diagram showing the archetype displays in the room which are referred to in the talk, and giving a brief description of the qualities of each archetype. This diagram may help you to get more from reading the interview. For a video giving more detail about each archetype please follow these links:
July 2017 at The Green Room, Frome, Somerset.
C: I’m looking around the room and that’s obviously the Sovereign corner (pointing to one of the displays in the corner of the room) and I suppose because of the work that I’ve done with you, when I think of Sovereign I think of it as kind of in the middle, directing things. Is that in any way accurate or is it because I particularly love the Sovereign archetype that I see it like that?
M: The Sovereign is, as the name suggests, in charge of everything, so the Sovereign’s rightful place is to be in charge in the same way that a parent is in charge of their family or of their children or, for example, that the ‘Sovereign’ is in charge of their kingdom. I’ve never heard it referred to as being in the middle, because we also say that each of the four archetypes has equal importance and is equally necessary. So although the role of the Sovereign is to be in charge – that isn’t necessarily any more important than the role of the Lover over there (pointing to the Lover display) to be in connection or to be vulnerable. Maybe with our western take on things we might think that the one in charge is the most important!
C: Interesting, yes. Where does the Warrior Archetype come into it then?
M: Well the Warrior takes action, so the Sovereign is no use without the Warrior to do her bidding. In the same way that an old fashioned kind of Queendom where the Queen would decide she wanted certain territories and she would send her warriors off to gain those territories. The Warrior takes the action. So we see we have something called the Mission Loop which works between the Sovereign and the Warrior – where the Sovereign is in charge, she has the heart, the morality, the wisdom to make decisions, to decide what needs to happen. And then she will tell the Warrior what to do and the Warrior will take action. And so in that way missions, or visions get carried out – with the Sovereign and the Warrior working together. So the Sovereign is no use without her Warrior..
C: …Otherwise she would be almost sort of fangless or clawless? – That is the image I have of a Sovereign without real ‘oomph’ behind her.
M: Yes and very ungrounded with lots of ideas and lots of enthusiasm but nothing actually happening.
C: And so between the other archetypes are there other loops that have a name – what else is connected to the Sovereign?
M: There’s another really important loop with the Lover which is called the Connection Loop, because if you think of Sovereign’s job as the parent, then the Lover carries the inner child – the vulnerable parts of us or the vulnerable parts of other people. So there’s a loop there where the Sovereign cares for, supports, accepts, nurtures and blesses the inner child. That can be our own inner child or vulnerable parts, or those of other people. Internally the Sovereign is taking care of, and looking after, our own vulnerable parts.
C: So presumably the Sovereign can engage the Warrior in protecting the Lover?
C: And it can kind of triangulate in that way?
M: Yes exactly, the Warrior’s job is to protect and the Sovereign’s job is to care for, to understand, to accept, to give unconditional love to those parts of ourselves and to those parts of others.
C: On the flip side of that then, what are these loops like when they are going wrong?
M: Well with the Mission Loop, if it’s only the Sovereign, if the Warrior isn’t online as we call it, then as we’ve said the Sovereign just is ungrounded – lots of ideas, lots of excitement maybe, lots of passion but it’s got no oomph behind it and nothing actually happens, nothing actually changes. If we just have the Warrior with no direction from the Sovereign then we can do a lot of hard work, a lot of action, but it’s not going anywhere, it’s not achieving anything – it’s a lot of action or busyness for the sake of it, with no direction.
C: And then what about Lover without the Sovereign then? I’m imagining collapse or something like that – self pity maybe?
M: Yes. I was just going to say it’s the abandoned child without a parent. I think what happens to the inner child when there is no Sovereign is that she doesn’t get to grow. So those wounded parts of us that have been stuck as a child without the Sovereign there don’t get to grow up and become integrated into the whole of us. They stay stuck as wounded parts at the age where we got wounded and they kind of got trapped in there.
C: That’s interesting – that brings shame to mind and I remember you’ve talked about shame being something that can infiltrate anywhere.
M: Yes but it’s very much to do with the Magician. Because shame is about fear. For most of us, if we’ve been wounded in childhood in a way that hasn’t been healed, it’s because the Sovereign hasn’t been there – the parental influence hasn’t been there, or the role model influence or the nurturing care – not necessarily just from a parent but someone playing that role. So we’ve been through our trauma and had to make sense of it in the way that we can – which tends to mean relying on our Magician because the Magician is the part that tries to keep us safe and deals with fear.
C: And shame is part of keeping us safe – socially?
M: Shame is part of keeping us safe because its a way of taking control of a scary situation. If a child is being abused for example then that’s terrifying: They’ve got someone way bigger than them, way more powerful than them doing things to them that they really shouldn’t be doing physically, emotionally, sexually. If the child was to sit with the terror of that, psychologically they would go under. So what is very common is that the Magician part of the child reframes it – which is the job of the Magician; to look at it differently and says ‘No, this is happening because theres something wrong with you – you’ve done something bad or wrong – that’s why this person is doing these things to you’.
C: So then the person would keep going back to their Magician and keep trying to work out, cycling it round, trying to work out how they can adjust themselves?
M: How they can hide their ‘badness’ or not be ‘bad’ – it gives them some control. Because if it’s them that’s bad, not this big scary person, then all they need to do is try and take control of themselves, try not to be ‘bad’, try not to do that again. And along with that of course comes this shame which is a feeling, a belief that there is something wrong with us, which isn’t actually true, but it serves a purpose in childhood when the Sovereign isn’t present. If a child has a trauma and they have a loving parent around them, that can mitigate a lot of that because they can understand and explain and let the child feel what they are feeling and then they know it wasn’t about them.
C: I’m interested in theories of trauma and I’m trying to think of these four archetypes through that kind of lens. I think from your description I would associate Magician with dissociation.
M: Yes, absolutely. Anything to keep safe. So dissociation is very common because the Warrior is completely not present in trauma.
C: Really? – Oh because theres not enough safety to engage that aspect?
M: Yes, that’s one of the definitions of trauma: that we carry it. If we can shake off trauma – the fight or flight response…
C: …yes mobilisation…
M: …then we don’t tend to carry the trauma with us afterwards
C: …because its been processed and resolved?
M: Yes. So the trauma that’s got trapped in the body – the Warrior has gone completely offline because it wasn’t safe. You may be physically able to fight or flee as a child but you just can’t because you are so totally dependent on the people around you. The fear is that it could then just cause something even worse to happen. Or sometimes it’s a trauma where we can’t move because we are literally pinned down or trapped in some way. So the Warrior is completely off line and we have to totally rely on our magician – and we go into that freeze place – and yes part of that is dissociation and seeing it from a distance, that’s one thing that can happen. Confusion is another.
C: And a sort of preoccupation?
M: Yes and working it out, what we call the ‘risk manager’ – the part that’s constantly looking out for risks to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
C: And that leads to sitting on the fence about things?
M: Yes. Because making this kind of decision evokes this kind of childhood belief that you could do something that could cause something [bad to happen].
C: And therefore thinking you could actually do something to stop something as well – trying to take responsibility for the situation.
M: Yes and then being in that paralysed space of ‘no I can’t speak, I can’t move I can’t do anything because it might make this worse’.
C: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. In the context of trauma then what would Lover be – would that be the grieving element?
M: Lover is the feelings, all the feelings that can’t be expressed – the vulnerability of the trauma – which is what the Magician is trying to protect you from because it’s such extreme vulnerability in that situation that literally all the feelings that go with that – sadness and grief, yes, but there’s going to be rage and anger as well.
C: So rage and anger can live in that territory too?
M: All emotions live in the Lover. With the other archetypes we always talk about the ‘gateway emotion’ but the emotion doesn’t kind of ‘live’ there if you see what I mean. It’s the gateway emotion that we need in order to feel able to experience that archetype.
C: I remember you saying that grief was the gateway emotion for the lover.
M: Lover represents all the emotions that we feel. Its where our ability to express our emotions lies.
C: And shame tries to block those emotions, to try to stop the processing because its not safe enough – or at least that is the perception…
M: …and theres no one to listen – so that’s where the Sovereign comes in. There’s no one who is going to receive those emotions and still love and care for you unconditionally and give you the correct response.
C: So if you’ve grown up in a situation where there wasn’t enough of that Sovereign energy around how do you heal that and develop that later on in life so that you’re not constantly going back into these traumatic situations?
M: Well it’s interesting because a lot of the time we’ve been talking about Sovereign I’ve been thinking – ‘well this is what a therapist does – this is the role that a therapist plays’ – and it’s not the only role that a therapist plays because you also hold a Magicians role – stepping back and allowing people to see perspective and reframe things. But a lot of the time I think a good therapist is modelling that unconditional love, that acceptance, that lack of judgment….so that someone can be free and the inner child parts are free to come up. Certainly in Shadow Work that’s what we would do. Almost always the first thing we do with anybody is to bring in a strong Sovereign so that they can learn to be that way towards themselves. That’s the sort of double whammy: if you haven’t had that from the outside then you don’t treat yourself like that – you talk to yourself from a more critical place in a way that maybe your parents or those around you treated you. And so you can’t even bring love for yourself to those parts until you’ve had it modelled somehow or experienced it in a piece of Shadow Work.
C: Yes I mean I’ve done Shadow Work Groups with you where as an individual I’ve done pieces of work and then I’ve also done couples work. I’m wondering though, how it works in a group dynamic where there’s transference between people in a group that’s quite complex because it involves more than one person, or more than two people. Is there any insight from the Sovereign perspective on those sort of situations?
So far we’ve talked about an individual’s inner world so I am asking how does that mesh – for example, if there is trauma present and somebody is not mobilised, how does that interact with someone say who has a very strong Warrior?
M: Do you mean not in Shadow Work but in a group dynamic situation of some kind?
C: How would you work with the Shadow Work principles with that kind of thing or would you avoid them because they are too complex and its actually better to work with individuals and couples separately?
M: There’s no reason to avoid it except that it would be complicated but that in a way that only ups the potential for healing. But I think the Shadow Work communication model (which I think you have come across) – that would be my first port of call so that everyone can start to see, especially the people involved, and I would work with two at a time within the complex dynamic I think to try and simplify it a bit and when you’ve got an understanding of that then you can look at the bigger picture so that everybody involved, including the two people, can start to understand why each person is behaving in a certain way. Because the person who is being Warrior is likely also to be carrying some pain or some trauma from the past that’s causing them to behave that way that’s expressing differently, that for them is expressing as Warrior – the person who is traumatised will be behaving maybe in fragmented ways or confusing ways to other people because of their reaction to the situation that they are perceiving as something from their traumatised past. And so the communication model is one way – or just talking about parts of people and helping them to see what parts are ‘out’: What is it that’s stimulating the traumatised person? Where is that coming from? Why are they feeling that way and having that usually quite extreme response? And equally what is it from the Warrior person’s past that is causing them to react to it? It maybe that they carry something very similar themselves that they don’t want to see and so the Warrior is protecting them from seeing that by attacking. Or it could be a multitude of other reasons. But the first thing – the Sovereign’s job – is to bring off the shame, that has to be done. So the Sovereign’s job is to hold the belief that everybody in that room is absolutely sane and perfect and loving and loveable and is behaving as they are for totally understandable reasons. It’s in that sort of cauldron that then everybody can step back – you know that doesn’t mean that the pain and the anger and the resentment and hurt and everything won’t be there …
C: …but if the shame’s not there then people can own their part in it or their history of what has led to that behaviour can’t they, and not have to keep defending or dissociating or hiding.
M: But you know equally it’s important not to force someone to do that if they aren’t ready for it. They may just stay entrenched in their position because that’s less risky than revealing to themselves, as well as to other people, what’s gone on for them in the past and what they’re trying to struggle with in their unconscious. So it’s very important that everything is always done with people’s permission. In a group there may be a risk that there is pressure on someone to admit or acknowledge something that it’s just not the right time to admit or acknowledge. So that would have to be done very sensitively.
C: So Sovereign then is also compassion?
C: What’s the gateway emotion for Sovereign?
M: Interestingly it’s Joy.
C: That is interesting! Yes because joy resonates with higher emotions doesn’t it? I mean I know that might sound judgemental of more negative emotions which serve their own purpose, but in terms of having vision – that comes from joy doesn’t it? It comes from an opening to life, an opening to possibility and to things being different in the future. Rather than keeping on cycling through trauma, Joy is the opening out into some other expansion, some other life – positive experience that would make it worth doing the work, you know, worth putting in the effort for, or thinking through, or planning it or feeling the fear of it or whatever (gesturing to the relevant archetypes represented in the room).
M: Exactly! Yes so there’s the joy that’s the real excitement, really kind of heightened – ‘Yes! Im going to build myself a Shadow Work room!’ – you know that kind of joy, and there’s the kind of joy that comes – say I’m working with a couple where I know that they are both good and lovely and wonderful and worthy people and I know that I’m a good and wonderful and lovely person and so its that more quiet, almost you might say peaceful joy of knowing and coming from that place which I believe is really important when you are working with a group or an individual.
C: I’ve also experienced when I’ve been in real pain and very deflated this very subtle feeling of self compassion which feels like the sort of ‘thin end of the wedge’ of joy.
C: You know it’s like rather than insisting that I go from 0 to 60 and feel absolutely ecstatic and want to dance – just that tiny little thread at the bottom of self compassion is the beginning of climbing back up into feeling in tune with vision and genuinely optimistic and energised.
I feel like we don’t have enough words for joy – I’m on a a bit of a mission to try and find more words for it because I think it is only understood as a kind of ‘out there full volume’ thing and actually I think that dishonours what it is – and it makes it unreachable.
M: I think it does – yes and it forces people to be in a place, like you were saying, it sort of latches onto that idea as something higher and better than any other form of emotion – whereas I think the really important one for Sovereign is just that knowing that you’re OK, that you’re loved and that you are good and that just brings a real peace and gentle joy and then everything else can come from that. And Sovereign has this two sided nature as well – so the one side is the vision and the passion which is the masculine – and then the feminine is the blessing and the care and the support – and both are needed, both are equally as important – and there’s joy related to both of those which I think is the two different kinds of joy that we are talking about. So if you just have the blessing and the care and the support then you have that warmth and safety but not much growth and then if you just have the passion and the vision then you burn out – you just get excited and excitable and it doesn’t have any strength behind it because then you collapse. Manic depression / bipolar is a kind of inflation and deflation of Sovereign. So having loads of great ideas and then collapsing into that really depressed place of ‘Well who am I to do that?’ you know ‘Who am I to even be breathing?’ kind of thing because there is not that love and sense of self worth there…
C: …and sort of continual blessing in the background.
M: Yes exactly there’s not that bedrock.
C: Do you see any particular patterns in your work around the Sovereign? For example people needing to have connections to other archetypes in place before they can access Sovereign or you said that normally you try to bring Sovereign in quite early on because actually Sovereign is the one that opens things out.
M: The main thing that I notice when I am working with Sovereign is that it sounds so easy and wonderful and lovely to bring in a part that’s going to love and bless and support you, but people tend to find it quite hard. So quite often if I encourage people and they really want to bring in this Sovereign part that’s going to really support them, then when they first try it, it quite often looks like the parenting that they received as children. So their version of caring, their version of loving may be really quite critical and judgemental and harsh. Or it may be a bit more subtle than that or it may be kind of ‘well you didn’t do badly but if only you’d done…this and that and the other … then that would have been great’. So people need a lot of coaching and they need to step back and see that from the outside and see what they are doing to themselves. That their idea of nurture and blessing is not really what they would want, it’s a little bit off because its what they learned from a parental figure who themselves was getting it a little bit wrong or even very wrong. And so then we have to try again.
C: And do you – because you’re the one in charge in these sessions – are you modelling Sovereign in a way?
M: In a similar way as a therapist I think I use a lot of Magician, to help the person get perspective and see and reframe things but I think probably the most important thing is that I’m modelling Sovereign. So I am bringing that to hold the whole session. And I’m accepting all the different parts that come out on the carpet. Trusting that they are there for a reason. Trusting that they are there for the good of that person and trying to find out what it is they want and why they are there and giving them my unconditional attention and care and positive regard.
C: Can you remember what your first experience of Sovereign was?
M: Apart from my very first piece of Shadow Work which was a Lover piece, a grief piece, for the next few years my memory is of there being a black coloured part of me on the carpet that was completely covered with black cloth like a mushroom and the group bringing some kind of Sovereign to support that part – I couldn’t do it myself. I couldn’t – I just thought she was just …unspeakable…which is something that happens with trauma apparently – the verbal part of our brain gets completely shut down…
C: …so having other grown up Sovereign brains online…
M: So yes my memory is of ending up being held by people and having some sense of being loved and cared for but I remember very much not being able to bring it to myself for a long time…
C: Was it something that you had to kind of grow from the ground up? Or is it something you think is innate in everyone and it’s just a question of accessing the Sovereign archetype?
M: I think it’s a question of finding out what’s in the way – you know I thought I had a lot of Sovereign from being a teacher, from being a single parent, from being a Shadow Work facilitator and couple’s counsellor – clearly I could turn the Sovereign out to other people but it was a case of what was in the way of it coming in towards myself really – and I think a lot of that was the shame that you’ve talked about. That sense of there being something to be gained from ignoring that part and turning against that part of myself and denying that she was part of me and working with that.
C: I’m interested to know as a follow on to that – what have you noticed people working on in their inner world in this way impacting on their outer world?
M: I think – I mean I know this is a Sovereign interview so I don’t want to be artificially skewed towards the Sovereign, but I do think that the most common feedback is just people being able to be kind to themselves – and give themselves a break and feel less shame in their interactions with other people, and having compassion for the parts of themselves that they are really ashamed of that they really don’t like that they really don’t want people to see. Just being able to be gentle – to turn that corner of not judging themselves, of having some compassion and acceptance for those parts.
Then they have that kind of relaxedness and joy that I was talking about and they can say ‘Well I am a bit of an angry person’ or you know ‘I do lead quite a limited life, I do get quite frightened’ or whatever it is they’re ashamed of they are able to speak it and speaking as I already said with trauma is such an important thing. So to lessen the shame so that people can speak about themselves and to be able to hold themselves and talk to others as though they respect and care about themselves is a really big step and a lot seems to follow from that.
C: I’m just wondering about the cultural or social approval or disapproval of people being in their Sovereign. How much is it related to status? You know, if you are given the status where Sovereign seems to correspond for example being a teacher, or being a therapist or something – people expect you to be in your Sovereign don’t they? And that seems to be a cultural norm. But if say you are a student or you have a lower status within a group for whatever reason, how do you use Sovereign without almost inviting external aggression or indignation or something like that?
M: I mean it’s a good question because Sovereign is generally very wounded in our society and that starts – I mean it may start in peoples homes depending on the parenting they get, but it definitely starts at school where we are expected to be subservient and give in to authority: We have no right to speak unless we are spoken to – or we have to put our hand up. Our joy, interestingly, our joy of learning, our joy of self expression is crushed. We are taught to control ourselves and to bring the Magician online out of fear – doing something we have to do that we have no choice in. So all of these are smothering the Sovereign and it’s based on conditional acceptance, if you write well: ’good girl’, if you can sit still: ‘good girl’, there’s no unconditional love involved – there’s no place for that. You pretty much can’t have unconditional love in a class of 30 children, it just wouldn’t work!
C: Something about institutionalisation and Sovereign really not meshing very well then.
M: Yes and getting warped into this kind of thing that you’ve talked about where one person is the Sovereign and in control and must be looked up to, which isn’t what Sovereign is about at all. It’s much better to think about the family and the kind of leadership and support that a loving mother would give to her children. Instead it’s got warped into this massive authority figure, which is really bad for the authority figure because they feel they have to take all the responsibility and do everything themselves and get no support because support is out: in school you are not allowed support because you can’t ask a question in an exam, you have to learn to do it on your own. So we get that message reinforced really – you know we look down in our society on people who need support. So the bigger an authority figure you are the more trapped you are into that kind of situation, where you to have to look like you know it all and you can do it all…
C: …and be invincible in some way
M: And you get this difficult dynamic going on. Then what does that authority figure, who is backed into a corner, do with someone who starts piping up and having ideas of their own and, you know, thinking that they know stuff – it’s terribly threatening to their very fragile position.
C: And presumably then all the rage of the people who haven’t piped up against the authority before starts to be directed at the person who has piped up because ‘how dare they?’ when nobody else seems to have the right – how dare they give themselves the right?
M: They’re not playing by the rules. These rules are very strong in our society. There are very few examples of healthy Sovereign because healthy Sovereign has two sides to it: So there’s leadership as a side of Sovereign. Following is another side of Sovereign – to be healthy in your Sovereign – you have to do both. To be a good leader you have to follow, you have to have as much of your life as you have leading, following. Following others, getting support, getting care, learning, whatever ‘following’ means to you.
M: You know the Sovereign needs their ‘court’ to use the old fashioned term. But you know she needs to be supported as much as she is leading and when that doesn’t happen you get this brittleness because the leader needs somewhere to go to say ‘Oh I don’t know how to cope with this person because she is having ideas that are sometimes better than mine / different to mine. What should I do?’ You know the odds are that the leaders don’t have somewhere to go with that – so then they either have to resort to their Magician and some kind of cruelty, manipulation or control or to their Warrior and some kind of outright kind of attack. In some cases they might resort to their Lover and form a kind of fake connection where they lose their authority and say ‘Oh I want you to be my friend’ They sort of come down to the same level which isn’t their role either because their role is to be the one that’s in charge. So it’s terribly confused for us. How do I stay in charge but still give another person respect and still listen to them and still allow them to speak? What is it? What is subtly different about my role as a leader here if I give away my power and let other people have ideas and speak and even contradict me, then how am I still the leader? And people don’t know the answer to that question.
C: I suppose its’s about including. It’s a quality of leadership is to be able to include isn’t it? Quite enlightened leadership maybe, but to include different perspectives and be able to integrate them and sort of model that way of integrating to the people that they are leading.
M: I think it’s helpful to think of a family and to think of a mother with several children and she will listen – say they’re wanting to go on holiday – listen to all the children’s ideas and what they all want to do and she may very well do some of them or take some of them on board but she takes the final decision because she knows she’s the leader, she gives as much attention as she can to what they are saying and what they want and it may very well turn out that they can have what they want. That doesn’t in any way diminish her authority.
C: I’m wondering how Sovereign applies to the politicians we have at the moment – people’s perspective of them and the scapegoating of them and the abuses of power that they get tempted into – we’re seeing a shadowy Sovereign being played out here (in the UK) and in America at the moment.
M: We are, and I think again its interesting to think of leadership and Sovereign as involving both the leader and the followers – they’re all involved in that dynamic so we put them up there – we vote them into power – (unless there really is some vote rigging going on which we’ll leave out of the equation for now!). You know we choose these people and in a way we then want and expect impossible things from them. Now where the dynamic starts I don’t know. It may start with them promising impossible things, but somehow the dynamic gets skewed so we actually, as the ‘little people’, are looking up to our leaders in a way that’s backing them into this corner of being perfect. You know, if you look at Jeremy Corbyn being criticised for not wearing a tie or not being super decisive or not having some of these leadership ‘qualities’ that we believe are what a proper leader should have. It shows what pressure other leaders are under to be in this – the best word I can think of is a sort of a brittle, backed into a corner way of having decisive answers for everything, for never getting anything wrong.
C: Always towing the line and wearing that tie. Which to me doesn’t look like leadership. It looks like obedience and conformity which you could equate to almost a lack of responsibility and self directed thinking. It’s quite flummoxing to know that other people have this totally different world view where they think those qualities are qualities of leadership whereas from another perspective they don’t look like that at all. I wonder whether when we put all the responsibility on ‘official’ leaders whether then we disown Sovereign in ourselves.
M: Absolutely, Yes. And then we get ‘king slaying’ as we refer to it in Shadow Work: We put someone up on a pedestal and then we just really enjoy pulling them down because we don’t have that power and authority ourselves because we’ve given it away. So we don’t want to see someone who has it. So we will criticise and pull them down rather than get behind them, you know, because how leadership works in a healthy system (in theory, if there is such a thing!) is that all the followers are behind their leader they are blessing and supporting their leader and not wanting them to fail – quite the opposite – wanting them to succeed. So they are there behind them and the leader is receiving this rich resource of support from every single person who is in that community or, who is a hundred percent behind them and then it looks and feels very different.
C: And then if the Sovereign knows those people are behind them, when they bring their own ideas or they bring autonomy or their own impulse, it’s seen as a contribution to moving forward rather than as undermining.
M: And an essential contribution as well because one person can’t possibly have all the answers. They are just in a role for whatever reason and it’s quite healthy if that role is quite fluid as well I think, over time, so it’s not one person for too long. So coming back to your original question you know there’s very little that an individual person can do if they are in an organisation or a set up which is organised in this dysfunctional Sovereign way. There’s very little power that they have to be able to change that dynamic so that if they speak up then they are almost certainly going to be got at in some way if they are operating inside an organisation like this. It’s kind of built in to the unwritten rules and it’s a very difficult dynamic to change. I can’t emphasise strongly enough how much that comes from the school system, especially the private school system, the boarding school system – where independence is everything. Independence is ‘God’ because you’ve been severed from your parents and severed from your Sovereign quite often at the age of 8 and so there’s no way you are going to be able to form healthy leadership from that place. You are going to be relying totally on your Magician.
C: And then often the people who form the leadership of our countries come from those establishments.
M: And if they don’t, it is soaked in the ethos. I mean state schools are soaked in the ethos of boarding schools – they are influenced by that.
C: And then church schools have their own formalities.
M: And Sovereignty is where our higher power lives as well so any religious organisation is affecting the idea of Sovereign by bringing in a higher power that maybe has even more influence than parents – someone we believe who ideally unconditionally loves and cares for us but there are other messages that come down with that in religion.
C: Yes I’m finding that with my own son who is 6 and who goes to a state school which is also a church school – actually quite a religious one. The only image he is given of God when they worship is of a male god. So all the prayers are said to a male god and I’ve asked for that to be changed (because it has been changed now in a lot of churches) and ‘No absolutely not’. Its a big responsibility because I’m in charge of his view of what Sovereign is and I don’t want that being done in my name. It’s a clear example of what you are saying.
M: It’s a very good example that his idea of authority will now be a man – probably a white man as well..
C: …Undoubtedly sporting a beard..
M: …and that goes in very deep. I think one of the core things for me about Sovereign is that it’s impossible to truly give out what the Sovereign gives out if you haven’t received it yourself and also if you are not able to give it to yourself. There’s something really important to understand there. If we look at some of our wounded leaders who maybe have been to boarding school, or who clearly haven’t received the kind of unconditional parental love that we would hope that they received, and if they’ve never done any work to heal that then it’s literally impossible for them to love themselves enough to be able to stand up and lead in a healthy Sovereign way. So it’s not for want of being willing or trying or it’s not even from negative intention, it’s from literally, psychologically, that being impossible. Same with parenting, same with being a therapist – we can’t sit opposite someone and give them unconditional love until we’ve learned, to a reasonable extent, to do that for ourselves. I mean none of us obviously has ‘got there’ to total unconditional love – but to know that place, to know what that feels like.
C: I guess one’s relationship to a sense of ‘source’ or overall goodness in life is important for that because once we’re grown up it’s unrealistic to expect to be nurtured from a Sovereign place by other adults in a consistent way I think?
M: I don’t think so – no, not at all. In fact I think that’s what we should be looking for. But we are not likely to find it unless we are doing it to ourselves first.
C: Why is that? Is it the idea that until you resonate with something yourself then even if it’s right in front of your face you don’t let it in…?
M: …It’s going to feel wrong, it’s just going to feel wrong somehow or the other stuff is going to feel right.
C: I remember having this experience at the end of a really intense workshop where we formed a kind of human arch and one person at a time walked through the arch and they had their eyes shut and we could whisper acknowledgements or blessings into their ears as they passed through and there was one man who had been through all kinds of abuses as a child and he shook with kind of terror and vulnerability all the way down this line of people, shaking, sweating, because he was really having to reach and open a place in him that had been so wounded and he was offering it back up to the light again. It was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen.
M: I mean that’s a great demonstration of how hard it is. In the real world he would avoid that – because who wants to be shaking a sweating and going through all that in the middle of a meeting or you know, when you’re on a date or whatever. It is a question of we can’t recognise something until we’ve seen it inside. It might even feel threatening or not real or not trust- worthy. So we generally have to go through quite a big shift internally before we can start receiving that from outside but then yeah my God! Have as much of it as you can, you know! It doesn’t cost anything! And a lot of people have a higher power that resources them as well in a different way. But you have to be careful with that because we have a piece called a ‘God split’ (in Shadow Work) where we get the higher power of that person out. So we may have someone very spiritual who believes in ‘love and peace’. So we get ‘love and peace’ out on the carpet and lo and behold it is saying: ‘Well, you’re not very loving and peaceful are you?, You’re not actually a very calm person…’ and we find out that even their higher power is actually giving them messages that are subtly critical or judgemental and they are not really getting that full acceptance. So in a similar way we try again and we try to get them in touch with a real higher power.
C: That’s very interesting because in terms of trauma work I can see that Sovereign is resource, is being here in the body, being connected, feeling blessed, feeling permission, feeling safe. There’s something I’ve been learning about called ‘titration’ – being able to re-experience some feelings of trauma but in the light of resource. Being able to go in and out of those painful feelings and keep on touching back into resource so that re-traumatisation doesn’t happen.
M: I do that a lot with one to one clients – so we have a lover part – a traumatised part, sometimes from a very specific age or event on the carpet and then we have the Sovereign part of them and so first the Sovereign will go and make a connection with the smaller part, the vulnerable part and let it know that it’s a safe space and that part is welcome and so on and then they’ll switch into that part and be able to experience some of the trauma and at that point I take the place of the Sovereign or ‘I remind them what the Sovereign was saying and so on and then they come out again to be in the Sovereign and so we work between the two.
C: Yes that reminds me of the poem you read out at the beginning of the groups I was in – Everyone is welcome here. I realise now that’s actually Sovereign isn’t it? You were bringing that in right from the word go.
M: Sometimes we even do it with a candle and each person in the group goes to each person with a candle and says ‘Welcome – all parts of you are welcome here’- it’s really nice. And very Sovereign! In fact fire is the element associated with Sovereign in Shadow Work. I lit a candle for us today and there is something that really speaks to me about Sovereign. You were talking about the importance of Sovereign and almost the centrality of Sovereign and almost you could say that it’s our pilot light – the spark of life inside us…
C: …I’m thinking of the expression of ‘keeping the candle burning’ for someone or something, you know keeping the faith with something, an alignment to a higher vision of something, intention, purpose, all of that is symbolised by a candle. Even the life force within us is often described as a candle that’s either ‘snuffed out’ or ‘re-kindled’.
M: It’s that love or that warmth – obviously it can be really raging or really burning as well when we are really on fire with an idea or something but I more often think of that warmth, gentleness and life force.
For more information about Shadow Work and Marianne’s practice, including Group Workshops, 1-2-1 sessions and Couples Work please see: Marianne’s Website