The Lover Archetype – Interview

With Marianne Hill – Healing The Shadow practitioner and Trainer

This is the transcript of an interview by Carolyn Clitheroe, a psychotherapy student who has developed an interest in shadow work and the archetypes. In relation to her studies she interviewed Marianne about the Lover archetype. This is the fourth in a series of interviews, the first was the Sovereign archetype interview, the second was the Warrior archetype interview and the third was the Magician archetype interview. Before the Sovereign interview transcript there is a simple overview of all four archetypes. If you’re not familiar with the four archetypes you may wish to take a look at this summary to help put this Lover interview in to context.

This interview took place in The Green Room in Frome, Somerset in May 2018 and focuses on our inner Lover. The discussions are wide-ranging and a variety of topics relating to the Lover are discussed – Intimacy and attachment, grief and loss, the inner child, body wisdom, addictions, sex and more… Inevitably the other three archetypes – the Magician, the Warrior and the Sovereign – are also discussed, since all four archetypes are interwoven and interdependent.

Marianne Hill interviewed by Carolyn Clitheroe (Sampritti)

June 2018 in The Green Room, Frome Somerset


1) Lover Connection and receiving

C.  Hello again Marianne. It’s a real pleasure to be with you today for our  Lover Archetype interview.

I know already that one aspect of the Lover archetype is how we feed and nourish ourselves. And it’s interesting – I have been really watching my food and my calorie intake over the last few weeks, but on the way here I just had to have a bar of chocolate, and I thought ‘Oh yeah – I’m entering into the Lover territory….!’ 

So I was wondering if, as with the other archetypes, you could talk us through what’s in the Lover corner and give us an overview of what the Lover is. Then we can dive deeper into particular areas.

M.  Well, the first thing I see in the Lover area is the little group of soft animals cuddled up together in the corner there. They have really been drawing my attention this morning. They look so snuggled up and content – happy with each other and safe and trusting… 

First and foremost the Lover is about this primal need that they’re expressing – the need to bond and connect with others. Quite clearly we’re born with that need. In order to survive we need to be able to connect to somebody else, usually our mother, very intensely and very deeply, because our survival can depend on that. 

So the sense of safety that comes from a strong connection is something that we all look for, and it is essential to us at the start of our life.

So the Lover really comes from that instinct that we have to connect and to love –  to look out and love everything we see around us, and to relate to the world in that way.

When we’re first born all we can do is receive. So the Lover is very much about yielding, about allowing, and about trusting. When we’re first born we don’t really have any other option than just to trust those around us and yield to what’s happening. To allow them to love us, and allow in the touch and allow in the food and allow in the nurture and allow in the nourishment. Of course not all of us are lucky enough to receive such love and care, and this is when our Lover archetype can get damaged. But if we are born to loving parents who have the time energy and resources to nurture and care for us then we learn how to open up and receive in this way.

The paradox here of course is that for many people having a baby is one of the greatest joys of their life, so the receiving that the baby is doing is actually a gift to the people around then. This is what many of us lose touch with, especially if we haven’t had that kind of start where the people around us have experienced us as a gift. In that situation we don’t learn that our yielding, our vulnerability, our openness, our receiving is a gift to others. And this is the first gift that we are meant to learn to give when we’re born – we learn to give the gift of receiving. To give others that pleasure of looking after us, nurturing us, connecting with us, caring for us.

C.  Yes, I’ve heard it said that we often think that the greatest pain is  not to receive love, but actually it’s even more painful not to be received, not to have our love received. I think there’s a truth in that.

M.  Absolutely. Yes. And society condones the idea that giving is a good thing and receiving isn’t – but how can anybody give if there’s no one there who’s willing to receive in an open, grateful and joyful way?

C.  And so that dual aspect of the Lover – receiving and giving – is what happens in romantic partnerships as well isn’t it?

M.  Well the Lover only receives. If you think of a baby the only thing they’re giving is the gift of their joyful receiving.

C.  Mmmmm!

 M.  So the lover connects, but it’s the Sovereign part of us that gives. So if you think of a mother/child situation then the mother is in that Sovereign role, the responsible one, and the child is in the Lover role – of receiving that care and attention.

C.  And yet that nourishes the Sovereign, so maybe the language is too restrictive of giving and receiving…

M.  Yes – it nourishes both. But there’s also something deeper going on than the giving and receiving, which is simply the bond, the connection, the sense of reverence and adoration of the other person, and I believe that happens both ways. The baby is adoring the mother, or the father, whoever they’re connecting with, and the adult is just adoring the child. That’s separate from this sense of giving and receiving. And that is the pure Lover connection. When you talk about intimate relationships, then the Lover part of the relationship is that connection that’s just about ‘being with’. It’s just about reverence of the other person, adoration of the other person, connection with the other person. It can also be about play, laughter, spontaneity, ’silliness’. These are the qualities, rather than ‘doing to’.

C.  Yes, it’s like a ‘field’ rather than a ‘doing’. 

M.  Yes. And obviously giving and receiving does happen in romantic relationships. We all want to be cared for, looked after, given advice to by the other person, but then we’re going in to a Sovereign/Lover dynamic where one person is caring (Sovereign) and we’re receiving that (Lover). That’s perfectly healthy so long as it can go both ways. But when both people are expressing the Lover aspect is just about ‘being with’ – where no one is really giving or receiving. So sex is a good example of this….

C.  Because you have to be in the moment with sex…

M.  Yes, ideally with sex you’re both in the moment you’re both enjoying. There’s just a really free flow – of presence and connection – that’s not about either person being in the Sovereign and being the bigger one and being the one who’s being responsible or caring or giving. That’s the kind of difference. 

It’s common for people to confuse caring or giving with connecting. I think this is because caring or giving can give us some sense of acceptance or approval without us having to face the vulnerability of deeply connecting. The Lover is a very vulnerable place to be. When we’re in this receiving place, as I described with a new born baby, we’re totally vulnerable. If we’re allowing ourselves to be in that open place of yielding, receiving, taking, we’re very vulnerable to the other person. 

So if we want to protect ourselves from that then one thing we can say is ‘I’m going to always be the one who’s giving.’ That way we find, as you said, some pleasure, some joy and some sense of connection by giving to another person. But we’re slightly bypassing something – we’re bypassing being in that Lover place and just ‘being with’ and being vulnerable to another person. So it’s good to be conscious of that and to sometimes come into this Lover place and just be in that, and connect from that place when it feels safe enough.

C.  Yes. That’s very interesting to think about. I see there are also some butterfly wings on the Lover corner…

M.  Yes, They’re there to represent play.

C.  Ah! Yes!

M.  And the imagination. The Lover, as I’ve said, is a very child-like part of ourselves, and gets developed – or doesn’t get developed – in childhood. So play is a very big part of the Lover. So I try to put some things there that represent play – and bright colours, sensual objects and fun objects…

C.  Yes, and texture. There’s that lovely sheepskin there, and those lovely round pebbles.

M.  Yes! Things that we can feel. Our Lover is very much about our body, so it’s about ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thinking’. We’re not really thinking when we’re just going with the feelings that our body likes – ‘Oh I love the soft rug.’ or ‘I love the cool feeling of the smooth stones.’ We’re being guided by our bodily response rather than any kind of intellectual thought and we’re just really being in the moment and enjoying those feelings. It’s the same with play. When children are playing they’re absolutely absorbed in the moment and just allowing their imagination to go wild and free. They’re not thinking about responsibility or consequences, so they’re able to just be connected to themselves and what’s flowing through them. This is a pure Lover place.

2) Attachment, unprocessed grief and loss

C.  Now I’m thinking about what you said about attachment, and that the Lover is very much about how we attach to the world around us and the people around us. So if there are traumas in that domain of the Lover then they are attachment traumas presumably?

M.  Yes, that’s right. Our ability to be in our healthy Lover depends on our ability to form attachments where we can trust another person and rely on them and receive from them. And it also depends on our ability to deal with loss of connection. We all lose connection in our lives at certain times, and if we can’t process the grief of that loss of connection then that’s when our Lover can really get damaged. Things stop flowing. 

I think of the Lover as being about the river of life. If everything’s flowing – if our Lover is a really vibrant strong healthy part of us -then we’re just flowing down the river of life and things aren’t taking too much effort. Things are generally flowing and we’re not really having to try too hard to follow our natural path. 

But if we have had a loss and we can’t process it then something gets blocked. That grief doesn’t flow. If you think of tears, which are a big part of grief, if those tears don’t flow it’s like the river’s been blocked. Then, in a similar way, the flow in our whole life can stop. 

When we’re not able to feel our grief we don’t just damn up our feelings about that one person, we kind of dam up all our feelings. That can stop us having access to all the aspects of the Lover – not just to connections but to play and creativity and sensuality spontaneity. And it seems like only when we’ve really mourned and grieved for our lost of connections can we be free to go on and form new connections.

C.  In attachment psychology, from my understanding, ruptures that are managed well create more resilience and more ability to receive love and create other bonds in the future.

M.  Absolutely. If we have experienced loss as overwhelmingly devastating then we won’t want to make any new connections – because we know at some point we will lose that connection, and the risk of the pain that loss might bring is just is too high. But what we need to learn is that when we lose someone we don’t actually lose connection with them. We may lose them through death or through them moving away, but we don’t stop our connection with them. We actually stay very strongly connected to them through our response to that loss. We may feel a warm connection or  painful connection – but we will still be connected.

C.  Yes. Yes.

M.  Because this Lover part of us is programmed to love, it’s programmed to connect. So even if someone’s died, that love is still there and that connection with them is still there.

C.  Yes. I saw a beautiful film with Ram Das a couple of weeks ago and he said exactly that. He has done a lot of work around grief and dying and working with people who are recently bereaved and he said when you’re in the feelings of grief milk it for all it’s worth. Really let yourself have all of those feelings and express them fully and be in all of that. Then, he said, there will be these small moments of stillness where you realise that that person hasn’t left you. I thought that was so beautiful, there was such a truth in that – that you haven’t actually lost connection to the source of the connection that was between you and that person. Beautiful.

M.  It is really beautiful, and it shows how strong this archetype is. We will go to just about any lengths to maintain a connection with someone that we’ve loved and lost. 

The problem is if we’ve lost someone painfully, or without, as you say, the support that we need to help us process the grief, then we’ll hold on to them through some painful memory, something painful that will connect us with them. So quite a lot of us carry around that kind of a connection. It can really interfere with our lives because we’re unconsciously carrying something painful around – we’re actually clinging on to it for dear life – as a way of remembering that person.

C.  Yes. That’s really interesting because for me that brings up a kind of loyalty, a loyalty to that connection. In family constellations work they find that if somebody in the family, for example a great aunt, has say committed suicide or died a violent death, and if this hasn’t been processed in the family system, then somebody at some point will unconsciously find that connection, and they will express that loyalty by dying in the same way, or dying on the very same date. There will be some very obvious connection with the aunt’s death. So that really plays out systemically as well as in the individual’s life.

M.  Absolutely. Human beings are so connected. In a way the Lover is the archetype that’s most in shadow in our society because we don’t acknowledge these kind of connections. We live in a society where the individual is believed to exist as an isolated unit. But these deep connections play out in many ways. For example it plays out in major tragedies in what is sometimes known as survivor guilt. if someone is the only survivor of a plane crash the chances of them killing themselves are very high. Because they’re so connected with the other people who died that they can’t bear to go on living when the others have died. There’s a sense of wrongness that sometimes just doesn’t go away. 

So we stay connected in these painful ways because we haven’t processed the grief, we haven’t had the support to process the grief. I’m working on this personally at the moment regarding my father, who committed suicide when I was a young girl. I have suffered from a lot of irrational fears and terrors in my life, and at the moment I’m working with the idea that they might be a way of staying in touch and connected with my dad – because I lost him in a very terrifying way that wasn’t explained to me. Also he himself carried a lot of terrors, that is one of the reasons he was so unhappy.  

So because that grief has remained unprocessed in me it’s possible I may have been carrying these terrors as a way of staying connected with my father. 

So I’m now working with processing that grief and finding a different way to stay connected with him. A way where I can have an image of him as somebody loving. Then I can carry that memory around instead. He was a loving person, but I disconnected from that in the trauma and I chose (unconsciously) to hold something negative in his memory instead.

C.  Do you think that can be because it’s too painful to hold the positive image sometimes as well?

M.  I think certainly for me that was true. There was a need, at that age, and with no resources, for me not to stay in touch with the goodness and love because the pain of that would have been too much. So only now in my 50s do I seem to be able to really touch in to some of that pain. And as I let that go I can take hold of a more loving, joyful memory of him. I’m remembering more and more times when he was warm and loving to me, and those are memories I can hold on to as a way of staying connected to him. 

I do this work with people surprisingly often actually – helping them really grieve the loss and let go of that connection, of that old way of connecting which is so painful. There’s no way I would suggest letting go of the person and the connection completely. It’s about letting go of the old way of connecting and really grieving as they let go of that. Grieving all the reasons why they took on such a painful way of remember ing them Grieving everything around the death or separation that was so difficult. Then, when that process has been completed they’re free to stay connected to the person they lost in any way they want. They can then choose a joyful way of staying connected to them.

Something is freed up then, and we can go out in to our life and start forming new connections. It’s very hard to form a new connection when you haven’t grieved for the old connection, so we can get very dry and very stuck and very isolated in that place of not having fully grieved. And then the Lover goes completely in to shadow for us.

3) Body wisdom, shaming of Lover qualities

C.  I’m always struck with the Lover just how physical and embodied this side of us is. This seems to be where the Lover really lives. There’s a such a wisdom in in our bodies that we aren’t generally encouraged to connect with. Many people don’t really know how to connect with their bodies and listen to their bodily sensations. There don’t seem to be that many ways of really learning  to be with the Lover.

M.  No, traditionally not so many. I love your word wisdom – body wisdom.

There are more and more places these days where people can learn to be with their body and what’s happening in their body, and they can get in touch with that kind of wisdom. There are people who offer bodywork, or yoga classes for example or Qi gong. Meditation can serve that purpose as well, though sometimes it can avoid the body, but at its best it can be an opportunity to really go in and be with the body. More and more people seem to want that. 

But there’s a problem with going into the Lover which isn’t immediately obvious. Let’s go through the Lover qualities: we’ve got sensuality, we’ve got playfulness, we’ve got creativity, we’ve got connection – deep connection, spirituality, spontaneity, dance. These are things that people are really drawn towards, their eyes light up! Most people long for these things, but they don’t have much of them in their day to day lives. So the question is – why don’t we all live in this wonderful place all the time? 

Well, as you’ve just said Lover is about being embodied. It requires us to be in our bodies –  and in our bodies live all our feelings. As well as facilitating shadow work I also work directly with the body as a shiatsu practitioner. My experience of this work has given me a direct understanding that our feelings are stored in our bodily tissues. There’s also lots of scientific evidence now pointing to that idea. So as soon as we start to really connect with our bodies we have to really connect with what we’re feeling. For a lot of us that’s scary, or at least unpleasant, or inconvenient.

C.  Yes. ‘Inconvenient’ seems to be a word that always comes up for me around Lover. I’ve used that word a lot in the last couple of weeks about my feelings, and how I imagine other people are seeing me when I’m in this Lover space.

M.  Yes, that’s true. I went through an interesting process this morning before this interview. I was feeling quite a lot when I woke up, and a lot of it wasn’t pleasant. I wanted to push it away with a good few cups of coffee – because I had an important interview to do! But  then I thought ‘Well hang on a minute, the interview is about the Lover. Let’s try and be a bit more congruent here.’ So I took some time to lie down and put some music on and see if I could allow the feelings to be in my body and deliberately allow myself to move towards that Lover side. But I was really aware of the ‘inconvenience’ of having and allowing these feelings, because they put me in a more vulnerable place to do this interview. My instinct was to push them away.

So the Lover is quite ‘inconvenient’ for the kind of lives that we live these days – where we’re taking on responsible roles, where we have to do things in a set amount of time and get them right within that time frame. School, for example, doesn’t encourage children to develop their Lover side. There’s less and less play these days, less and less art, less and less music, and even when there is, it’s in the confined limits of certain time boundaries – and that’s just not the way that the Lover operates. The Lover wants to flow with what is happening, and that might mean playing one particular game for 3 hours. Most schools wouldn’t allow for that within their structure.

C.  Yes, when I want to tap in to that side of myself I always have to tell myself at the beginning that I’ve got all the time in the world, and if I don’t do that I can’t really access it properly.

M.  No. And I think it’s lovely that we set up this interview today so we had plenty of time. Neither of us has got any time limits and that works really well for the Lover. The lover really doesn’t want to know about boundaries or responsibilities, and the Lover aspect doesn’t flourish under those conditions. That’s the opposite of being with the flow and following the river of life.

C.  So what happens when the Lover isn’t balanced – what kind of shadows form then?

M.  Well, if we’ve had a loss which we haven’t been able to process then this whole Lover side can go in to shadow. It becomes unsafe territory. 

If we don’t trust that others are going to be there for us and that the world is a safe place – where we’re going to receive love, where we can relax and yield – then no Lover qualities will feel safe. It won’t feel safe to play. It won’t feel safe to connect, to relax, to flow. It certainly may not feel safe to be as open as is required for a sexual relationship -where we’re really very vulnerable – we can’t plan and we don’t know what’s going to happen and we have to be in the moment. It may also not feel safe to express our emotions, because we don’t believe that someone’s going to be there to support and hold us in that. So we can become quite dry, quite closed, quite stoic. There can be a lot of shame. 

If we look at how our society views Lover qualities then we see that there’s a lot of shame around what might be called ‘neediness’. If we’re in touch with our Lover we’re likely to feel ‘needy’. Then we feel frightened that this might not be welcome. We might well be shamed for our ‘neediness’. 

In truth we are all ‘needy’. We all need love, connection, care and support if we are to thrive.  It can be very helpful to try to find other expressions for this which have more positive connotations. For example: ‘I’m someone who enjoys to connection. I am someone who likes to be listened to. I’m open and authentic. I’m in touch with myself and my feelings.’

C.  Yes, it’s a bit like ‘inconvenient’ being a shaming words that’s used for Lover qualities.

M.  Needy and inconvenient, yes. They are words that are used a lot to shame people. It’s wonderful to try and re-frame both of these. Similarly with expressing emotions, ‘I’m a very emotional woman,’ is, I think, a positive thing to say, as opposed to ‘overemotional’ which is a shaming term that is often used.

But if we fear being shamed for these sides of ourselves then we will put them in to shadow. We’ll cut off, deny or repress these sides of ourselves and then we’ll just be very dry, very disconnected – from our bodies, from our feelings, from other people, maybe also from nature. Were forced to live much more in our Magician, thinking everything through and getting answers that way rather than feeling. Or we rely on a very strong, attacking Warrior to set very tight boundaries to keep us safe. Alternatively we might inflate our Sovereign side and always be the supportive one, so that we don’t ever have to show any vulnerability.

4) Alcohol, co-dependency and other addictions

C.  I’ve become really aware that in our society a lot of people access Lover through drink. Culturally that seems to be an ordained way to access emotions. Also many people seem to need to drink before they can make love because it numbs everything out doesn’t it? It numbs things out to a certain extent so that the pain doesn’t have to be so unbearable and some of the openness of the Lover come through.

M.  Yes, that can be the case. I think alcohol does different things for different people.

C.  That’s true. That’s very true.

M.  It can help us let go of that responsible side of us that might see risks in being in our Lover. For me I would say my experience is that it lets the responsible, Sovereign/Magician, sides of me have a bit of a rest, so I can more easily be in my Lover. Quite often for me that means more emotion can come out. So that can be not such a safe thing – but also quite a relief.

C.  Yes, I see. And some people go straight to Warrior with alcohol don’t they. If that’s what’s actually there. If that’s the thing that they’re having to manage all the time then that’s going to be the first thing that comes out isn’t it?

M.  Yes, alcohol is likely to allow out whatever is being repressed. 

However it does seem to particularly give some relief for the Lover part of us and allow us to express and experience this side of ourselves more freely. Although of course not necessarily in a safe or balanced way.

That makes me think of addictions.  These are another sign of Lover qualities being in shadow. Addictions can occur when we find we seem to need ‘too much’. Most of us have some kind of experience of feeling that one or more of our needs or wants is just ‘too much’. And if we believe that what we want is too much we might give up looking for it from other people – we lose hope of finding it in a healthy way. Whether it’s our need for connection, for talking, for expressing emotions, for play, for being held, for sex. 

If we have a sense that our needs are too much and not acceptable then we might try and look for them to be met in a way that’s not going to ‘bother’ people. Again the idea of being ‘inconvenient’ comes up. So if we find we get relief from alcohol we can look to form a connection with alcohol – where alcohol becomes something that we can depend on, that makes us ‘feel better’. It’s somewhere we can go to get our needs met, without having to make ourselves vulnerable to another person.

C.  Yes. That makes sense, yes.

M.  So we can form a dependency on something else, something non human and non natural…

C.  Ah, that’s why they call it a ‘dependency’. Gosh yes, I never really made that connection before – a dependency on a drug or on an addiction.

M.  Yes. And there can often be quite a sense of ritual around this as well. It’s something that’s very special and meaningful to the person. It’s interesting, when I work with addictions, if we take alcohol as and example, it doesn’t seem to be the amount of alcohol that defines whether or not it is an addiction, it is the person’s relationship to the alcohol. People who are addicted know they’re addicted because there’s something about the quality of that relationship. 

Of course the problem with that way of coping is that they’re getting something from the alcohol, yes, most certainly. But they’re not getting the warm human connection that they really want. So that hole never gets filled – that need never really gets met. So that’s why it becomes an addiction, because then they go back to try to fill it again but again it never fully meet the need.

 And drugs and alcohol are only one example of this. People get addicted to just about anything. Work addiction is a really common one. Anything that we can rely on, in the way that we might not be able to rely on other people. Work addiction is quite sanctioned in this society, which is why it’s quite common. We can have some sense of having our needs met – maybe for connection, a sense of working closely with others, or for a sense of approval, but it doesn’t really hit the mark, because it’s not a true Lover connection. And so we just keep going and going, working harder and harder and for longer and longer. However when we really get our needs met we reach a point of satisfaction – we don’t need to keep on and on going back for more in that way.

C.  And what about co-dependency? That’s a really subtle one isn’t it – because we do need other people.

M.  It’s a very very tricky one, yes. This whole Lover territory is very very tricky because we absolutely do need other people. Some forms of therapy or personal development work try to encourage people to become self reliant, but I absolutely tell people the opposite. I think it’s really important that we have support and that we look for support. That’s a natural part of our human nature. 

The problem though is that our outer world reflects our inner world. With my clients I work a lot with their inner worlds and the kind of picture or the dynamic that’s going on in there. The way our inner world looks is usually based on our formative experiences in life. So if our inner world contains a picture of broken, dysfunctional or cruel connection, then that’s what we’re likely to find in the outside world. So even if a healthy connection is available we’re likely to not move towards it. 

There’s something about human nature where we attract what fits with the picture inside us. So I encourage people to work with their inner world and create a different picture there. They learn how to support and care for themselves, not so they can stop looking for this in the outside world, but so that they can successfully find it in the outside world.

C.  That’s really wise.

M.  So we do need to be able to do it for ourselves – and we need to be able to find it in the outside world too. If we’re co-dependent it’s a bit like having an addiction, because we’re not finding what we really want in the other person. We’re not finding a genuine connection there. We’re trying to fill up the hole of not having that picture inside us of a healthy connection. So we keep going and trying to connect over and over with the other person because we’re not finding a true Lover connection there.

C.  And that other person will feel that something is a little off – I think that’s an issue too. For example, if you come across as demanding support rather than requesting it, this may result in a negative response. You can then create a self fulfilling prophesy of being rejected and not having your needs met.

M.  Yes. As you said it is really subtle, because we do need to be able to depend on others, and yet this is different from being totally dependent on them. And that’s something that every person needs to explore in themselves. But if we have these broken connections in childhood then it’s certainly going to be harder for us to get to that place where we can allow other people the right to connect with us on their terms – rather than in the demanding way that you describe. And to trust that they will choose to connect with us freely, rather than needing to manipulated or coerced into a connection. 

C.  There’s something about having a sense of being connected to source I think. If there’s an overall feeling inside us that we are connected to something, then it’s less anxious and less fraught when we’re looking for that in the outside world, and therefore likely to be less problematic.

M.  I think that’s very true. Again it’s the picture that we carry around inside ourselves. If we believe that the universe is full of connection and that the world’s a place full of people who would love to connect with us, then that’s what we’ll experience. So we need to try and get some of that in to our inner world.

However we’ve got a paradox. In order to get a sense of connection into our inner world we need to experience it – but how do we get to experience it? The groups that I run are one way out of that paradox. People get to be part of a group where they connect with others very safely and deeply and they then have an experience which they can take away with them. Then they have that image imprinted in their inner world, and they start to believe in a deeper way that they can find that in the rest of their lives. They begin to trust that it is possible.

C.  Yes. Which is why it’s important to have community in that way.

M.  There’s a phrase from the bible that has always struck me around this, when Jesus said ‘Whenever two or three are gathered in my name – there I’ll be.’ And although I’m not a Christian I think there are some spiritual truths that are expressed in nearly all religions, and I think this is one of them. I often think of that phrase when I meet with groups – the power of two or three gathered together – with a particular purpose to connect with something bigger, something higher, is very powerful. Something gets created there which is quite magical.

C.  Yes, and I think experiencing deep connection in that way can bring out deep grief. Somehow it reveals the grief of not having been connected up to that point. It sort of melts something that has been frozen. 

I remember doing a very joyous dance workshop once and I felt really connected with my body and I felt really ecstatically joyful. Then there was just this one moment where it switched, and I tipped in to an abyss of grief. Things that you’ve already said in this interview have shone a bit of a light on that for me. Because it touches in to that same place when you do re-connect. It touches back to the place that’s been wanting it for so long.

M.  We have to grieve our losses before we move on. So if we’re simply given what we want sometimes we can’t receive it, because we haven’t grieved for the fact that we haven’t had it. Grief isn’t just about things that we’ve had and lost. Grief can be for things that we’ve never had too.

C.  Yes.

M.  So when we finally get something that we’ve never had we may at last be able to release that grief around never having had it. This is an important part of the process of recovery from addiction. In order to replace our addiction with true and real connection we must first grieve for never before having had the connection we needed.

5) Processing grief and trauma

C.  For myself I know that grief can go very very deep and it can be difficult to remember the reality outside of it, or to trust that it has its own process and that’s ok – that it will come to an end at some point. Sometimes it can be like being in the middle of an ocean and there’s no land anywhere, and I think that requires a lot of holding.

M.  Yes. Grief can take a long time to process as we go down in to it and come out. Unfortunately most people don’t feel confident to hold someone in their grief – they don’t know how to just ‘be with’ it. In a way grief doesn’t actually take much holding, it just takes a presence and a being with, sitting alongside. It also takes some knowledge of that place in themselves, otherwise being with the person in grief will trigger that place in them and they’ll be scared to be with it. 

So it’s a paradox, it almost requires nothing – it requires a presence, it requires that Lover presence. But so many people find it hard to do that ‘nothing’. They’d rather do something – get you out of the room….

C.  …tell you to breathe! 

M.  Yes. That kind of response is likely to come from someone who doesn’t trust their own deep grief. They haven’t learnt to trust the process of grief and therefore they fear it may be overwhelming or never ending. A lot of people cannot just sit with someone’s grief and trust the process, and trust that the person will come out of that depth. 

If that process gets stopped and isn’t fully allowed then the person is not going to come completely and naturally out of it. The process won’t be complete. So, paradoxically, it is not allowing grief to be expressed fully that causes it to persist.

C.  Yes. 

M.  But grief isn’t the only emotion associated with the Lover. Our Lover is the part of us that can openly and freely express all our emotions – joy, anger and fear as well as sadness. So another sign that the Lover is out of balance is when we have a lot of emotion generally – a lot of drama – that never reaches completion.

C.  Yeah – I think that’s what I was trying to get to taking about the grief. I was trying to get to that experience I’ve seen in myself and other people of endless cycling of something, and that makes you wonder.. OK what’s really going on here?

M.  Yes, I’ll tell you what I believe is happening there. I think the person is following a natural inbuilt wisdom that tells them that catharsis is going to help and is going to heal. But the reason it gets stuck is because the catharsis that’s happening is not about their deep pain that really needs the healing, it’s about more of a surface pain. 

C.  Yes, I can see why that might happen. I’ve heard about research which suggests that if people go back in to the emotional world of a traumatic event too soon afterwards it can actually exacerbate the traumatic effects of what they’ve experienced. So that explains why people might hold back from full catharsis.

M.  You have to have a psychological strength that’s able to hold that trauma.

C.  Yes, otherwise you’re re-traumatised aren’t you? You’re going back to it and you’re still not feeling held.

M.  This is why most people wait til adulthood. Most people come to trauma work in their 30s -70s rather than teens or twenties for example. Because they need to have developed those other sides of themselves – work, relationship, home and so on, so that they have some sense of safety and strength and success – so that you can hold the trauma in the context of all of that and it doesn’t totally overwhelm you.

C.  Yes. In the type of therapy that I was studying the question that we always always asked at the beginning of the session was ‘What’s resourcing you right now?’  As you were describing, you have to have built up a reservoir of resources before you go deeply in to the Lover place. 

M.  Yes, and the bigger the trauma you are processing the more adult maturity and confidence and wisdom that you need in yourself to hold the trauma while you process it. Also the more emotional strength is needed in a friend or therapist who is supporting you.

So let’s go back to overwhelming emotion. When I come across people who are really overwhelmed with emotion, in a way where it goes on for many years, it seems that what’s really going on is they’re unconsciously skirting around the deep pain rather than really feeling it. This is why they never get the release they are looking for and the cycle continues – just like with addictions. 

When I do grief work with people I find that if we manage to discover the real core of the grief and place our attention there then it does have its natural process and people come out of it quite naturally. Although of course it may take some time.

C.  My experience of that as well is that it doesn’t look as dramatic. When I’m in that place of really coming down to facing the reality of the situation it can seem very quiet somehow, after all of the tears. There’s a very quiet place where something can change.

M.  Yes, a lot of the dramatic side of it can be around what is sometimes called ‘pushing the river’. Pushing for this change, trying to get this catharsis, but it’s not flowing in the way that emotion naturally flows when we’re really connected with what we’re grieving.

6) Our deep unconscious connections

C.  It’s interesting how our metaphors are all very watery around the Lover isn’t it?

M.  Yes, water is the element that I tend to associate with Lover. We cry tears of water when we grieve. The image of the river of life is a Lover image too. So the metaphor of water seems to work really well. Our bodies, which hold our feelings, are made mostly of water. Water is also associated with the unconscious, and strong currents of unconscious, unprocessed feelings flow within our bodies.  

And of course water is life giving – no life can exist without water, and the Lover really is the key, life giving archetype. Nothing is stronger than our desire to connect and our need to love, and everything we do is somehow driven by our Lover…

C.  Yes, the Lover is like the conductor isn’t it? A liquid conductance between all of life somehow.

M.  Yes. Yes, and often we’ll find it has a lot of quiet power. For most people, if we inspect our greatest aspirations, our greatest achievements in life, we’ll find out that what’s underneath, what we’re really trying to do, is give the world what our inner child wants and needs. We’re trying to provide for our Lover part and that’s what gives us the drive to actually do what we’re doing.

C.  That’s interesting… Yes, I can see that. The connective power of Lover leads me on to wondering about empathy and sympathy. Sometimes if I’m with somebody who’s grieving and crying I find that I have that feeling passing through me too. I don’t know whether that’s because it’s resonating with my own wounds or whether I’m resonating with them because I’m being compassionate or empathic. 

What is that in the world of the Lover? Is that mirroring? Is that true empathy? What is that – if you sit with someone who’s in pain and you feel that you’re feeling it with them?

M.  I think the Lover is… let me put it like this – underneath the Lover is the concept, the idea, that we’re all connected. Everything’s connected, we’re all the same, we’re all intimately connected to everything else. And again that’s an idea that’s been backed up now by modern physics. So if we’re listening closely to someone else who’s sharing something emotional and we feel that same emotion, well we’re really feeling our own emotion, but then we’re all the same, we’re all connected – so who’s emotion is it anyway? 

However if we’ve got that emotion in shadow in us then we probably won’t want to be feeling it. So if you’re angry, and the person you’re talking to is in denial of their own anger, then they won’t want to be feeling your anger, so instead they’ll try to block it. They’ll have a reaction to it – demonise it or cut it off somehow – or they’ll try to placate you and make everything ok. 

Really it would be much more supportive and empathetic to say ‘Wow– you’re angry! What’s going on? Something’s not ok for you.There’s real anger here.’ But I can only do that if I know my own anger. So it’s a bit like when we were talking about grief, someone can’t really be with you in grief unless they know their own grief. Because there’s a danger that theirs might be stimulated. It’s the same with all the emotions. 

I need to have an understanding of this in my work, and to be aware of times I might want to push someone’s emotion away. With clients I often feel the emotion they are feeling. It’s not that I’m feeling their sadness, it’s that I too have sadness. We are all so deeply connected. So when they feel sad I feel my sadness in resonance with their sadness, and I understand them better. I don’t know their sadness, but I know sadness, and I feel and recognise that inside myself. 

Of course as a therapist I could easily block people’s emotions, because if I’m not comfortable with that particular emotion in me they would unconsciously pick up on my unwillingness to be with them in that. So they might not express it. I work very hard to be able to be with my own emotions and be comfortable with my own emotions so that I can welcome whatever aspects of people show up in the room. Their emotions will resonate with me but they won’t overwhelm me, and nor will I have to push them away.

C.  And what’s happening if, say, somebody’s sadness triggers your sadness and then it becomes uncontrollable – and it definitely is yours. It’s not in shadow but it’s there – and very strong! What’s that?

M.  I would imagine that if someone reacts in this way it’s because they have  some work to do still in processing that particular emotion. So maybe something isn’t processed for that person around sadness in their own life and they can’t keep that back anymore – in witnessing the other person’s sadness it’s been given the opportunity, and it kind of bubbles over, it is a sign of some unprocessed emotional trauma.

7) Lover expressed via the body

C. The Lover really is so powerful. It’s interesting because when I first came to do work with you I think I saw the Lover as an bit of an afterthought – quite nice, a bit whimsical, in the corner, a bit of candy floss. But then when I started doing group work with you I found I always wanted to sit in the Lover corner, and lots of us sat in there snuggling up and eating chocolates while other people were doing their work on the carpet. I thought Mmmm… culturally maybe it’s sidelined, but actually that’s where people want to be, and it seems to inform so much else as you were saying.

M.  What comes to mind as you talk is body language. That’s a really good expression of the power of the Lover. For example, we may go to a work meeting, dress ourselves up all smart, research our facts well, choose our words carefully and so on, but actually 55% of our communication is in our body language, which is largely outside of our conscious control. Another 38% is our tone of voice which is also largely out of our control. So 93% of our what we communicate in that meeting is our Lover speaking to the other person through our body. 

In our society we have Lover so much in denial that we tell ourselves we’re not having anything to do with it, but take the above example of two people in an office having an important business conversation – largely it’s their Lovers interacting with each other! Hardly anyone actually admits or recognises that. Even so this Lover communication can have a huge influence over the outcome of the meeting. So we can begin to understand how the Lover really does drive everything. 

C.  And it really shows up when there’s incongruence doesn’t it? When somebody’s saying something or making promises and you’re not feeling it. There’s this kind of ‘Mmmmm I don’t know about that…’ you can get sidelined by their Magician, but something inside, which is your Lover part, is saying ‘I’m not feeling convinced by this conversation.’

I remember having a weekend with a lover where we talked about how we were going to get back together, and we had a whole long conversation about how we were going to get back together again. He was living in London and I was living in Bristol and after the weekend we drove off our separate ways – and I just laughed – because I knew we weren’t going to get back together. We’d just made this negotiation with each other and I absolutely knew we weren’t going to see each other again. I just had to laugh and I thought ‘What on earth was that all about!’

M.  That’s a great example. If we haven’t integrated our Lover then what we do will be empty in just that way. 

I read a good book about leadership recently and it talked about listen to the different bodily sensations, which I thought was quite unusual for a book on leadership. It talked about listening to sexual feelings in the workplace and recognising those as creativity flowing through you. This idea had been really helpful to some of the teams that the authors had worked with. So often in the work environment sexual relationships take place that can mess up people’s work and personal lives. This idea of recognising those sexual feelings as being to do with creativity, which is a Lover quality, was really helpful. Then being able to work with that with the other person, recognising that that’s what the feelings are about, and they may not actually be about the need for the two colleagues to have a sexual relationship.

C.  Yes. That’s very interesting.

M.  I thought that was a good way of working with the Lover in the workplace rather than denying it.

C.  Yes. I find it really interesting as well about the other physical processes that go on. Sometimes my digestion just seems to come to a complete standstill. Then, if I really engage with another person – for example I have quite an exciting conversation about something – I can feel everything kicking back in to place. I’ll feel hunger again. It feels like ‘Oh – my digestion’s just come back on line.’ There’s been lots of research in to the polyvagal nerve which is a central nerve in our nervous system that connects lots of things together in our body. Apparently it also responds to connection with other people. When you’re connected with somebody else it’s really good for your nervous system and for all sorts of unconscious processes in the body. Certain physical processes start to kick in and work really well when you’re in connection. So there’s this flow between people. It’s the process of life as you keep saying – it’s this river of life.

M.  It’s fascinating how basic and essential the Lover is. There is well documented evidence from orphanages which shows that if babies don’t get physically held they can fail to thrive or even die, despite all their other physical needs being met….

C.  And that’s because their biological functions start to go off line isn’t it? They actually start to break down.

M.  They actually need that holding for their physical well being, which is something that we in our society find very hard to recognise – that something as ‘Lover’ as holding could be essential for life.

C.  I think often people only wake up to that when they’re dying or when they’re very ill. For example, someone who hasn’t been very connected to Lover during their lifetime often starts to value these things toward the end of their life. They value the fact that their children want to actually spend time with them. Or they want to spend more time in nature.  They often realise right at the end that intimacy and connection really were the most important things in their life.

M.  Yes, people often recognise the really important things in their lives right at the end don’t they. They often appreciate touch more then too, and that kind of physical connection. 

I was thinking about touch when we talked about emotions earlier, and I was thinking about the body work that I do. A big part of our training was to be aware of what we were feeling and to be able to be comfortable with that and allow that to flow. Because when you’re touching another person’s body you can’t hide what’s going on inside you. 

So if I’m not feeling very comfortable with my feelings I’d much rather be doing shadow work than body work – because the body work really challenges me to be with what’s going on inside. It’s not about having to hide it, it’s about allowing it to flow. If I’m trying to hide it I can’t connect with the other person. So I have to be with what I’m feeling and be reasonably comfortable with that in order to put my hands on that other person and really connect. I can’t hide anything when I’m touching them as they will unconsciously pick up on everything that’s going on in me. So literally what I’m giving them  in that moment is my being and presence. There’s no way I can avoid or circumnavigate that, or use any of the other archetypes to ‘protect’ from that Lover connection.

C.  Yes, that’s interesting. That makes me wonder as well about what we pick up from other people – images that we might suddenly have sparking in our minds when we’re connected to another person. That’s quite ‘Lover’ isn’t it? It’s a way of receiving information that isn’t cognitive.

M.  Yes, I myself very often ‘know’ that a person’s going to phone me before they phone. Science still doesn’t have a great rational explanation for this kind of connection. Although theoretical physics has shown that instantaneous action at a distance is possible, we still can’t explain exactly how. However if you talk to a particle physicist they’ll certainly say that it’s not impossible, which is what physicists used to believe. 

We’re only just beginning to understand these kinds of connections. There are experiments that have been done with water showing that the shapes of the crystals change in response to the emotion that is going on close by. I find this quite fascinating. If you remember our bodies are mostly water, so this means we’re having an impact on the water in other people’s bodies all the time via our emotions. 

We really can’t hide from all of these connections, which is probably why we do our best to minimise the Lover in this society – because it’s actually so powerful, and we have very little control over it.

8) Gender associations and the other archetypes

C.  I think Lover is more associated with feminine power isn’t it?

M.  Well what I see is that it’s much more acceptable for women to express their Lover side. This leads people to link it with the feminine. But out of the 4 archetypes I work with the Lover is associated just as much with masculine energy as it is with feminine. The Sovereign, Magician, Warrior and Lover all have an equal value for men and women, and I support people in developing an equal balance of all the four archetypes in their inner world. 

However, in our society I see men being strongly dissuaded from embracing their Lover sides. There were quite a few times like this when I was bringing up my son when I realised that even at a very young age boys aren’t allowed access to this soft, snuggly, pretty pink glittery part of life. My son used to love pink glittery clothes and shoes and so on, but it’s an absolute ‘no’ for many parents to allow this. Boys are also encouraged to be less carefree and and less creative. So we can start to understand why there are a lot of men who aren’t very connected with their Lover. 

A lot of young boys are also told, ‘boys don’t cry.’

C.  I know, my son’s already got that. He’s just turned seven and he’s been told at school that he’s not allowed to cry.

M.  I find it desperately sad that so many men have been taught to cut this off in themselves. As I’ve said, my belief is that these are innate and essential parts of the male psyche, I don’t think it’s men’s natural way of being to be cut off from Lover.

C.  No, and in other cultures you can see that it’s very different, you can see men holding hands, or men dressing much more expressively and hugging each other – many of the things we associate with the feminine here.

M.  Yes. I’ve heard about indigenous cultures that used to hold special grief circles for men – where they could regularly get together and express their grief. It was recognised that, given the warrior roles they were being asked to play in their daily lives, the men couldn’t safely express grief, so a special place was provided where they could deliberately and consciously come together and share this Lover side of themselves.

C.  That’s really interesting because I feel that there’s a connection between a lack of Lover energy and shadow Warrior energy. I recently watched a film called ‘Once were Warriors’ which was about a Maori family. The father came from a family who had been slaves, so he had completely lost his Maori roots and he’d been outcast. He had incredible power in him but he didn’t have any real guidance, and you can see that there was a huge amount of grief and beauty in this man but it wasn’t finding any acceptance anywhere and he became really violent. I sensed a connection between low Lover and shadow Warrior there.

M. Yes, it sounds like he had lost his deep Lover connection with his tribe and his land, so his Warrior wasn’t guided by anything meaningful. Although he was a ‘Warrior’, his Lover side was still just as essential, and just as integral to him as his warrior side – it’s not possible to separate the two. So when you take away his Lover connection you deeply damage his Warrior.

A  lack of connection with the Lover affects the purpose of the Warrior. Because the Lover, in a deep way, guides everything. For example, one role of the Warrior is to protect. But who or what are they protecting? The warrior needs to be connected to what he protects – to the vulnerable children for example, or the lands which serves his people. If their action is not driven by that kind of softness and real purpose then it can lose its way and become attacking and destructive. Equally their warrior may go the other way and lose energy and direction and simply fizzle out due to a lack of meaning. The Warrior is driven by deep love and loyalty – without this it is most certainly out of balance.  

Ultimately it’s our Sovereign that decides on our vision, where we’re going at a certain point in our life and what we’re wanting to achieve. But as I said earlier, if we inspect this vision we usually find it is driven by the needs of our Lover. The Sovereign directs the Warrior and to carry out this Lover driven vision. 

C.  Right, that’s interesting. So I imagine the Lover whispering in the Sovereign’s ear, the Sovereign commanding the Warrior and the Magician witnessing the whole thing – is that right? Where does the Magician come in to that picture?

M.  Well the Magician brings a bigger perspective and sees different options. She brings a kind of wisdom…

C.  Like the ancestors…

M.  Yes. The Magician brings a steadying influence in that way. And the Lover softens everything. The Lover gives everything purpose. 

To understand this better we can imagine an inner archetypical family living inside each of us. Parents, children and grandparents. We can see that nearly everything the parents do is based around the needs of the children. They may go out to work to earn money to feed and clothe the children. They may arrange trips out to please and delight the children. If a child is ill or unhappy they may visit hospital, or even travel to different countries and do large amount of research to try to help and support the child. Whilst the parents are working hard in their Sovereign and Warrior roles of caring for for the children, the grandparents have a more stepped back view. The grandparents have greater wisdom and perspective – they’ve walked the path themselves before and are a little more distant from the emotion and the drama. They provide a vital Magician or ‘Elder’ role. 

What’s interesting here is that although almost everything is driven by the children the children are not ‘in charge’ of the family. They are not making the rules or doing whatever they please. 

Clients often say to me that they can’’t give their inner child parts a central place because then all they would do is lie in bed all day and  eat ice cream! The analogy above is a helpful way out of this misconception. 

The lover IS central to our lives – whether we like it or not. In the same way that children are central to a family. If you have a child but try to put yourself first all the time it simply doesn’t work – the child will act out, or get ill, or depressed or there will be some way where the attention gets pulled back on to the child and they end up taking up even more of the parent’s time than previously. So it is with our inner worlds. It works best if we give our inner child parts the attention they need. We are then parenting them effectively, and they can develop into happy, affectionate, loving family members! If we ignore them they will drive our lives anyway, but in unhelpful ways, through addiction, illness, lethargy or ‘bad behaviour.’

So let’s take an example. Imagine that our inner Lover is asking for more quiet and space. Our Sovereign, Warrior and Magician can step up and make that happen. Our Sovereign sets the vision of having regular time and space. Our Magician see options for how that could happen and does some research. She may find out about a monthly retreat that would give our Lover the rest she needs. The Warrior may work some extra hours to pay the cost, she also arranges the transport and other practical details. But the Lover is at the core of all this action.

If we ignore our inner child’s need for quiet and space then she is likely to find ways of getting that anyway via more disruptive means; making us ill, getting us drunk so we ‘can’t get out of bed’ or having a break down which enables us to get the space we need. 

Also if you are not listening to the needs of your Lover side then your ‘inner Warrior’ may be going out to work and earning lots of money, but since the action is not driven by your Lover, then there will be an emptiness to what the Warrior does. The money may pile up but never really make you happy or bring you peace. If your Warrior endlessly cleans and tidies the house, but there is no deeper purpose behind this and it is just an ever repeating cycle then this may feel empty, because the Lover is not at the core of your actions.

C.  Yes, equally the purpose could be having a hobby, being part of a group or organisation, finding a lover or deep friendship.

M.  Yes. The purpose could be anything that delights and cares for your inner child. And of course, in the analogy of the family the parents need to remember to come home and actually be with the children, not just working constantly, otherwise they’re not reaping the rewards of all their efforts and they may forget the reason why they’re doing what they’re doing. 

So the Lover gives that deep reason and purpose – whether it’s caring for your inner child, healing trauma,  connection with spirit, with nature, with creativity, or connecting with and caring for other people. The Lover really is the most essential and life giving part of us.


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One thought on “The Lover Archetype – Interview

  1. Amazing interview! I really enjoyed it. Very helpful. Thank you soo much!!! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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