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 Magician archetype. This is the third in a series of interviews, the first was the Sovereign archetype interview, the second was the Warrior 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 Magician interview in to context.
This interview took place in Bristol in May 2018 and focuses on our inner Magician. The discussions are wide-ranging and a variety of topics relating to the Magician are discussed – transformation and trauma, truth and lies, shame and fear, power and abuse, wildness and freedom and more… Inevitably the other three archetypes – the Lover, the Warrior and the Sovereign – are also discussed, since all four archetypes are interwoven and interdependent.
Marianne Hill interviewed by Carolyn Clitheroe (Sampritti)
May 2018 in Bristol
1) Perspective, distance and transformation
C: Hello Marianne. I’m delighted to be with you for this interview about the Magician archetype. We’re here again in your room, where each of the four corners is dedicated to a different one of the four archetypes. Would you start us off by explaining some of the things that you have placed in the Magician corner of the room?
M: Well the first items to draw my attention are the feathers. I place feathers there because they represent the flight of the Magician. The Magician has this magical ability to rise high up in the air and look down and see everything that’s going on below with a new sense of perspective – we might think of flying carpets or broom sticks… This magician part of us is the power of our mind, our imagination and our intellect. It is the ability to step back, or ‘rise above’ a situation. To see things from a different perspective. To see different points of view. To have clarity. To reserve judgement. So the feathers represent that airiness and ability to rise above, to soar above everything.
The Magician is detached and not involved in the emotional connections that are part of being ‘down there.’ This allows the magician to see clearly without being clouded by strong emotions or relational ties. The magician doesn’t have the heart or morality of the Sovereign, so she is able to see things in a different, more open way.
C: That brings me to the first question actually, because there’s a confusion for me between the Sovereign’s ‘vision’ and the Magician’s sense of perspective that you talk about. I’m thinking about when people go on journeys such as a shamanic vision quest. There are often feathers or a sense of flight involved in those rituals as part of getting a vision – so how do vision and perspective work together. Are they different things?
M: Well. The way I see it is that the Magician, from her stepped back perspective, is able to see many different things, many options or possibilities for us and our lives. A vision quest opens us up to this magician side of ourselves. We are away from every day life and pressures and we’re taking ‘time out of time’. This is very important in helping us access our Magician – the act of stepping back from daily life enables us to see new and different perspectives.
The Magician may see many magical possibilities for us during this time. However it is the Sovereign who chooses one particular vision and makes this their path, or mission. The chosen path of the Sovereign is informed by the Magician’s ‘seeing’, but also comes from the Sovereign’s sense of morality and the overall way they choose to live their life.
The Magician doesn’t have that morality, so she can step right back and see all the different options without being attached to any of them. That detachment is quite juxtaposed with the Sovereign who has this heart and warmth and passion about what she is doing. The Magician will be above, and not be attached to any particular way of being, and be able to see all the different options available and all the different ways forward.
The Sovereign’s mission has heart and once she has chosen her mission she is attached to that and not looking for other options.
C: Ok, I can see the power in the Magician, but I can also sense the coldness of such distancing. I can see how the Sovereign’s morality is needed to balance out the detachment of the Magician.
Lets go back and see what else is displayed in the Magician corner.
M: Well, I like to put some pictures there that can be seen in two different ways.
C: Like those Escher pictures?
M: Yes. There’s one that I’ve got here where if you look at it one way you’ll see a young woman and if you shift your perspective and look at it in a slightly different way you see an old woman. People who have very low Magician energy will look at pictures like this and be very attached to the first image they see – they will really struggle to see the second image. People with highly developed Magician energy will be able to quickly change their focus and see a second picture, because they are familiar with making these kind of mental adjustments.
This ability to look at something and see it in an entirely new way represents the key role of the Magician – the ability to bring about transformation. Transformation involves a similar kind of shift in our consciousness – a shift of perspective that transforms our lives and the way we see the world. Another work for this is a Paradigm Shift.
The Sovereign doesn’t really hold that possibility because she is on her mission and focussed on that. Whereas the Magician can step up and above and see things from a different perspective. Transformation and raising of consciousness can take place because they Magician is not attached to a particular outcome or a way of being.
C: Is the Magician then from the world of the unmanifest? Are we talking about ideas and perspectives that are not yet born – maybe very new and radical ideas – is it that sort of world that the Magician lives in?
M: Yes absolutely, the Magician has the ability to generate new options for us and to see our lives and the world differently.
I have a strong memory of this from when I was a struggling single parent. I was talking to my therapist one day and I was full of anger and resentment about the situation I was in, where I was bringing up my son on my own and feeling stuck and restricted in that. She presented me with the idea that this was my choice. I really struggled with that because from my point of view I was a victim. But eventually I got into a Magician place where I could actually see that there were other options – I just hadn’t even considered them as options. I could see the option of sending my son to live with someone else, or putting him into care, or of letting go of the high standard of parenting that I demanded of myself. Once I could see all those different options I could see that I was making a choice to bring him up by myself in the way that I was doing. Once I saw this as an active choice I was able to embrace it with joy rather than with anger and resentment.
C: So Magician is choice and the Sovereign is decision. Is that right?
M: Yes, the Sovereign listens to the Magician’s options and then she comes to her decision. When we think of the Sovereign we see the image of a king or queen with their court. The Magician is one of the people in the king or queen’s court and the Magician will come and say ‘These are the different options available’ and then the Sovereign will choose.
C: So the Magician brings the options that haven’t yet been filtered by the values of the Sovereign?
M: Yes, exactly. And that detachment is necessary if we are to come across something that’s truly new and transformational. This is an important element of my work with clients. The overall aim in Healing The Shadow work is not to simply heal what is hurting, but it is also about transforming the root of that pain in to a rich resource – which contains our unique gifts and strengths. Our wounds are our gifts if we see and experience them in a different way and if we have the support and love we need to do this. This isn’t simply ‘making something better’ this is transformation – this is the territory of the Magician.
In the Sovereign interview I talk about how important it is to bring the Sovereign’s unconditional love and support to clients if they are going to feel safe enough to do this work. I believe this is the bedrock of therapy. You can’t build genuine trust without a sense of unconditional positive regard and acceptance for the person you’re working with. But no archetype exists in isolation. The love and acceptance of the Sovereign is limited if you can’t also step back into a Magician place, reserve judgements, and allow the possibility of something new and different to emerge.
C: So the Sovereign provides that trust that the person will be accepted unconditionally and this allows the person’s Magician to explore new ideas without the risk of negative feedback.
M: Yes. So it’s similar to the incident I talked about with my therapist, she helped me to step back into my Magician, she didn’t buy into the way I was seeing reality. But at the same time I knew she respected and cared for me and wasn’t judging me negatively, so I felt safe enough to explore new ways of thinking. So both the Sovereign and the Magician were needed. Using both she helped me to step back and see my situation from a different point of view. This transformed my day to day experience of my life.
We are all made up of many different parts. If a therapist or coach doesn’t have the capacity to reserve judgement then they can start ‘siding’ with one part of a client at the expense of other parts. In the interaction with my therapist – if she’d sided too strongly with the part of me that was resentful and angry about my situation I may not have got to experience the side of me that was passionately and joyfully committed to raising my son. She was aware that I had other parts that weren’t being expressed and she found a way to help me discover these.
When I’m facilitating I hold a Magician space for my clients and I allow and welcome all the different parts of the client into the room.
Sometimes parts of clients show up that are really cruel, mean and attacking, or extremely hopeless, weak and despairing. The Magician simply watches all this unfolding. If I were to come purely from a Sovereign place I may want to rush in and stop the mean parts, or I may want to rescue and support the weak parts. But actually I know from experience that such action can prevent transformation from happening. So from my stepped back Magician place I can see a higher truth and I can trust that those parts are all there to serve the client in some way.
Neither the client nor I can see exactly how that might be yet – so we reserve judgement and step back and allow those parts to be present and to express themselves. We explore all the parts without judgement, and in that exploration and expression we find the route to transformation. However we couldn’t possibly know beforehand what the transformation might look like, so it’s important to hold back and reserve judgement, and at the same time have trust in the unfolding process.
2) Wildness, freedom, masculine and feminine Magician traits
C: That’s very interesting. What I’m hearing in what you’re saying is that the Magician embodies a type of freedom, a kind of wildness that allows us to think about things without the conditions of culture and values.
M: That’s a lovely way of looking at it. In preparation for this interview I was reflecting on how I picture the Magician, and I was thinking about the image of the wild woman or wise woman. Someone who lives outside the community, as you are saying, and outside of the rules and the values of her culture. From that place people visit her to receive her wisdom because of her Magician detachment and perspective.
In the same way our inner Magician can think more freely than other parts of us and can help us to see lots of different options rather than buying into the options of our particular society, family or group.
C: It’s interesting that you imagined that in the feminine form because I think that the ability to flow with ideas and not be constrained by cultural rules often is something that the feminine symbolises. We have very different images for wizards than we do for witches don’t we? Witches seem to be much more to do with nature and natural processes, whereas wizards are much more to do with starlight and showmanship. Those are my childhood associations with the two aspects anyway. So are there different aspects of the Magician that are associated with more masculine or more feminine approaches or is the Magician beyond all that actually?
M: Well it’s helpful to think in terms of a masculine and a feminine aspect but it’s important to recognise that they’re not to do with differences between men and women. It’s just a way of thinking of two sides of something. Both men and women need to develop both the masculine and the feminine sides inside themselves.
The feminine Magician holds that wildness and intuition as you say, and the flashes of inspiration. I think of the masculine Magician as more ordered in the way he creates his magic. He has a precise recipe or rules to follow. Think of all the mathematical calculations and precise measurements required to build a spaceship and send it out to explore the planets – this is the territory of the masculine Magician. When we want to bring about transformation then ideally both the masculine and the feminine Magician are at play together. They form a powerful combination.
If we think about scientists for example, scientists transform our way of seeing the world and our understanding of nature. They do this by studying the world in a very precise and meticulous way. They also try to detach from their emotional involvement in the work. For example, they may detach from any religious or spiritual ideas that they’ve got about the way they think the world should be. They try to look at it dispassionately. To do that they follow a series of steps and they need to be very rigorous around them. This is the masculine magician. But if you speak to most scientists who have broken new territory they will also say that when they’ve discovered something new there’s been a flash of inspiration – a moment when they’ve suddenly ‘seen’ something – and that’s the feminine Magician – where there’s that intuition or inspiration that comes through that can’t be ‘rationally’ explained.
3) Bias, protection and risk management
C: What interested me when you were talking about scientists and how they are very detached, is that even the way scientists look at something will impact on the results of the test, so we can never be 100% objective. I suppose the more aware we are of what our perspective is the more we are able to take it into account – but our perspective is the water we swim in, we take it so for granted that it is very difficult to do that, and even those questions that scientists are asking have to come from somewhere!
M: Yes, I think our brains are designed so we will never be able to go right above and out of ourselves to that extent, and in a way I think the universe is designed like that. When I studied theoretical physics I studied the fact that the way that you set up an experiment effects the results. As you start studying it, or studying anything, you are effecting it, and this is proved at a quantum level now. So there is a limit to how ‘Magician’ we can be. We are part of the world not separate from it.
We are always limited in how objective we can be. In our day to day lives our Magician operates most of the time with a bias. She uses her skills in habitual ways that are there for good reason, usually from our childhood. So one of the key roles that the Magician seems to play is around safety.
In childhood most of us, in one way or another, will have learnt to look out for certain things that are unsafe for us, and these may be just about anything: It could be someone knocking on the door, it could be men with ginger beards, it could be sunny days, it could be a dog barking and a whole host of other much more subtle and nuanced happenings that we might learn as children to pick up on as signs that something isn’t safe.
So when our Magician scans around and uses this ability to see all the different options, then she is likely not to be scanning all the possible options, but to be scanning the ones that might be unsafe. So she is likely to be looking at the world through the filter of ‘what might not be safe for me’ and looking at all the options and possibilities that might relate to lack of safety for us, and pretty much disregarding all the other possibilities, because one aspect of the Magician is very much about survival.
Survival is a primal need, and especially as children the way that the Magician looks after that is to look out for things that might not be safe, so that we can take some kind of form of preventative action before that unsafe thing has happened. As a child we can’t usually use our Warrior because we’re not big enough, we’re not strong enough and we’re also utterly dependent on the adults around us. So to stand up to them and to set boundaries isn’t going to work.
We’re forced into a situation of relying on our Magician to warn us, to scan around and see if anything might be unsafe or if any of the future possibilities looks like they might not be safe, so that we can take action in a more Magician like way to try and prevent us from encountering that.
C: Yes that’s interesting. I recently heard a program on the radio about a Holocaust survivor who said that she has a capacity to always always remember a face and to always knows who is who in a room, and that that’s a burden but also a gift. She described how she can see somebody one side of town in the morning and see them 20 miles over the other side in the afternoon and she’ll know it’s the same person because she will never ever forget a face. That’s the kind of gift that comes from a childhood where your survival depends on that kind of ability to be vigilant or even hyper vigilant.
M: Absolutely, there can be a gift in these highly honed abilities once we can begin to understand why we behave like that and start to use it to serve us.
C: And if fear is the key emotion to the Magician’s then there’s this level of being able to be vigilant and to allay our fears that way, but is there actually a stepping through fear as well as part of Magician?
M: Yes there is. Let me just say a bit more about fear being the key emotion for the Magician archetype, because it’s very relevant to what we were discussing about childhood experiences: As I said before, when we’re children we don’t have the power, the kind of real-world power of the Warrior, behind us. So if something scary happens we can’t react in a way to defend ourselves, and we can’t usually flee either because we’re so dependent on our parents. So we can’t use the fight or flight response. The other response in dangerous situations is to freeze. So the Magician is associated with the ‘freeze’ response. And when we freeze we tend to leave ourselves, leave our bodies to a greater or lesser extent, and step back and see the situation from the outside. A lot of people who’ve experienced trauma report that sense of having been out of their body or of recollecting events happening as if they were watching from the outside.
When, in a shadow work session, I revisited a traumatic incident from my childhood. We set the room up just as it had been in my childhood, and I realised that I couldn’t have been standing where I thought I was standing, because I was seeing events from a really long way back, and when we set the room out we realised that I could not possibly have been that far away. So that was my Magician having just stepped back for my safety, so that I didn’t have to be really present and experience that trauma in a felt way, where I was in my body. But also where I could step back and see what was going on and look at options and try to somehow make that situation safer for myself. Usually the only way we can do that as a child is by reframing the situation, by seeing what’s going on through different eyes, by using different words that will make us feel safer.
C: So one way of naming what happened there would be to call it dissociation wouldn’t it? Which is normally seen as a pathology. It’s usually seen as something we shouldn’t be doing, in therapeutic conventions, but it seems to me that actually it is a type of resource.
M: Yes it’s essential. It’s essential as a child to have that option in frightening situations – because you’ve got no other way of getting out of there. Psychologically you’d be damaged if you allowed yourself to remain present and feel the feelings of that in your body, especially when you don’t have the support or the resources you need, or you’re too young to process it.
Let me describe one of the common reframes that people make if they’re experiencing trauma, especially when they’re being seriously abused in some way: physically, sexually or emotionally. First they step back and look at what’s happening from a distance. They see somebody doing something bad to them. However that is too scary for them to take on as a belief, especially if they’re utterly dependent on the person who’s being bad. So their Magician will find a way to look at the situation differently. It’s very common for the child to reframe what is happening by saying ‘No. They’re not a bad person. I’m bad. I’ve done something very bad and that’s why this is happening to me.’
It’s another way of seeing it. It’s actually not true, but the child will choose to see it in that way because then they feel safer. They feel safer because if they’re doing something bad then they have some power in the situation – they can try to stop being bad – and that gives them some sense of control over what’s happening to them. They can believe that if they can change their behaviour they might be able to stop the abuse from happening. Whereas if they see what’s happening as somebody just being bad towards them for no reason then they have no control over the situation at all, and that’s just too terrifying.
Many of us find that we’ve believed this kind of a lie about ourselves from childhood, and we grow up believing that we’re bad or dysfunctional or wrong in some way. Actually it’s just our Magician playing a very clever trick on us – not to harm us, but to help us survive by keeping us psychologically safe.
This is where perfectionism comes from – perfectionism develops because, if I believe I’m bad and that I’m causing bad things to happen, then it makes sense to try and do everything I can to be good. But, because I wasn’t ever bad in the first place, this becomes an impossible task, where I just have to be more and more good and more and more perfect in order not to be bad, in order to prevent anything bad from happening. So perfectionism is a common result of damaged, overused Magician energy from that kind of a traumatic childhood situation.
Another common survival strategy the Magician has to offer is to create a fantasy land in which we can live without emotional pain. For children experiencing on-going intolerable situations they may escape in to a world of fantasy. They create other people or situations or a whole new story about themselves. They can live inside their own head with these fantasies, and in that way they can protect themselves psychologically from the pain of what is happening.
In adulthood many of us come to a point where we wish to let go of these childhood survival strategies in order to live a fuller and happier life. As you’ve said, dissociation is commonly talked about as a dysfunction. That’s because it doesn’t serve us once we’ve reached a certain level of independence and maturity. In adult life we have access to our Warrior and the need for dissociation isn’t there in the same way. We now have other options in frightening situations – we can physically leave, we can stand up for ourselves, we can find support.
The way forward is not to try and stop the Magician from dissociating, but to try develop a strong and effective Warrior. If I know my Warrior is going to be there, and is going to be able to protect me in any situation, then my Magician doesn’t need to take other precautions, such as dissociating. I can protect myself in a real way, whatever that might look like – maybe standing up for myself with words, it may be setting boundaries, leaving the situation, or maybe physically protecting myself. There are all of those options available now that weren’t available in childhood.
C: And so that’s how you start to thaw the freeze?
M: Yes, and then my Magician, my poor overactive Magician who’s been working super hard for decades, can start to relax and recognise that her services are no longer needed in the same way. A lot of the work I do is actually helping people to make that transition. It’s not usually possible to do this in early adulthood because we’re still building our sense safety. We’re creating a home for ourselves, and/or developing a work life, so that we’re physically safe and independent from the trauma of our childhood. Many of us have to go through our twenties and thirties, probably even into our forties before we feel safe enough to rely on our Warrior to protect us and we’re ready to free our Magician from this protective role. We won’t want to let go of her protection completely, but we can release her from such extreme responses and super alert hyper-vigilance.
4) Badness – Warrior vs Magician
C: I’m interested in how we locate ‘badness.’ You talk about the Magician relocating the badness or threat to something internal, to make us feel less vulnerable. And am I right in thinking the Warrior does the opposite? the Warrior will re – externalise the badness so that it can be fought against or resisted?
M: Well, that’s such an interesting way of looking at it. It’s important to our childhood Magician to search out ‘badness’ as a way of keeping us safe. So yes, the Magician can internalises ‘badness’ as a protection mechanism in the way you mention. Equally she can attribute ‘badness’ to another individual or group of individuals. She can then protect us by avoiding such individuals, by appeasing them or finding ways to manipulate them or get one over them. The Magician protects in indirect, preventative ways, and one of these is to scan around for ‘badness’ – either internal or external.
The Warrior however takes direct action in response to real external threats. The Warrior may move us away to safety, or stand up for us verbally or physically. The Warrior has a job to do, her role is to set boundaries and keep us and others safe. The Warrior asks questions such as ‘Is what’s happening here ok with me?’ or ‘Has a boundary been broken?’ The Warrior puts us at the centre and sees the world through that lens, she doesn’t deal in terms of the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in other people. The Warrior doesn’t make that kind of judgement. It’s the Magician that brings in the concept of ‘badness’.
C: And so the whole world of legal battles – is that the world of the Magician?
M: That can certainly be a very ‘Magiciany’ world, but ultimately, when it’s done in a healthy way it’s the Sovereign in charge – because the Sovereign holds morality. This is different again to attributing ‘badness’.
C: So it’s almost as though the Sovereign holds the spirit of the law and the Magician holds the letter of the law – and the Warrior does the punishing or the incarcerating?
M: That’s a good way of looking at it, yes. But the Warrior doesn’t make the judgements about punishment. They simply follow the instructions of the Sovereign. If you think of the police force as being the Warriors in the justice system – they don’t make the decisions about who is guilty or what their sentence should be. They just operate according to the instructions of the state (which archetypally represents the Sovereign.)
If we want to think of balanced Sovereign energy we can think of a loving parent. They hold the Sovereign position in a family. A loving parent will discipline their child when necessary, but they won’t label the child as ‘bad’. In the same way our justice system punishes people, but doesn’t usually label them as bad. They are released when they have served their time. Once they are released they are free citizens with the same rights as everyone else and not considered ‘bad’ in the eyes of the Law. It is only really our childhood Magician who needs to label people as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ We need to do that when we’re young in order to try to keep ourselves safe.
Whether or not someone is bad is a judgement that can never be clearly proved – it’s a matter of opinion – it’s the Magician territory. Whether or not someone had broken a boundary, broken a rule is a much clearer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This is Warrior territory.
So Warrior and Magician can get confused as they both have roles in protecting us. However the energy of each is quite different.
A good way to know whether our Warrior or our Magician is in action is to notice if we’re making judgements about another person being good or bad, and or if we want to punish them. Judgement and punishment are Magician territory. The Warrior isn’t interested in punishment, she’s interested in protecting by setting boundaries. So our Warrior may want to put someone in prison because we need to protect people. But if we’re judging them as bad and believe they need to be punished – that’s Magician energy. It is helpful to notice whether we are coming from Warrior or Magician energy.
Of course in reality the two overlap as no archetype exists in isolation, but it is helpful to have a way of distinguishing between these different energies inside ourselves so we can understand ourselves better. Many of us have an excess of Magician energy left over from trying to keep ourselves safe in childhood, and it can be helpful to question how useful this still is in our current lives.
When our Magician energy becomes very punishing and blaming it’s often to do with the belief we took on in childhood that we were bad in some way. Of course we don’t want to be seen as bad, so we spend the rest of our lives trying to hide our badness, but in fact we weren’t actually bad in the first place.
We then end up in a very Magician tangle and we then get projection. Projection occurs when we’re trying to hide a side of ourselves. And one way we can try to hide our badness is to point out that other people are bad. Because if we can keep pointing out that other people are bad then we are less likely to be found out as bad.
C: That reminds me of the scapegoating dynamic.
M: Yes, yes absolutely.
C: Relocating the badness somewhere else to be controlled or eventually rejected completely…
M: Yes. And this is why abuse can sometimes perpetuate from generation to generation. Because when we’re abused we tend to take on an aspect of the abuser, we take on the ‘badness’ we perceive in the abuser, as I described earlier, and then generally we try to hide that in ourselves.
However, because that’s probably the only kind of power that we’ve ever known – an abusive power – that’s also our only route to power and protection. So when we’re very frightened, or feel out of our depth, we’re likely to protect or stand up for ourselves in that abusive way.
We’ll try and get rid of the badness in someone else in the hope that this will keep us safe.. …in a similar way to the way we’re trying to control the bad part inside of us. So our behaviour has this punishing, cruel aspect to it and there’s a real cycle that develops there around being abused and being abusive.
A common way of expressing this is the phrase ‘Hurt people hurt people.’ The perpetuation of this kind of behaviour is based on the idea of somebody being bad and somebody needing to be punished. This cycle is likely to continue in some way until the pattern is made conscious and different choices can be made.
Our Magician got us in to this mess but she can also get us out of it again. The role of the Magician is transformation and in our healing process transformation occurs when we see through the lies that we have believed in childhood.
Any painful belief about ourselves is usually a lie. But it’s also a lie that has been taken on for good reason during childhood, to protect us from an even more painful truth.
Transformation can come in a moment – and this is part of the magical nature of the magician – transformation can come when we are supported in such a way that we are able to see the lie, and to stop believing something painful or shaming that’s been holding us back in our life.
In that instant we stop believing this painful truth, and the web of misery and complex behaviours that has built up around that belief can begin to dissolve.
When people harmed by a shadow predator wound, can start to explore things from a safe, stepped back position in their adult lives, then their Magician can ‘see’ the truth – that they never were bad. (Nor were the people around them – although they may have done very, very bad things.) So then this pattern of believing that someone must be bad, and someone needs to be punished, can begin to dissolve, and they can come to experience themselves and the world in a different way.
5) Five Fields Model – Fears, Fantasies and Judgements
C: This talk of labelling people as ‘bad’ reminds me of the work you do with the Five Fields communication model and the way it supports you in making sure that your language isn’t ascribing badness to the other person. You can describe your reaction and your discomfort at what the person has done or said, but you’re encouraged not to start assassinating their character and ascribing all the badness to them.
M: Well, actually, if you think another person is bad you are encouraged to express that in the model, but the distinction is that you are asked to acknowledge that this is only a perception of yours, and not necessarily ‘the truth’.
This is the crucial step. To express our judgements, but to express them as our own fears and fantasies – which may or may not be true.
If we’re not allowed to say bad things about people then those thoughts we’re having go into shadow and we end up in a whole bigger muddle
- we believe someone’s bad but we’re not saying it
- we’re not saying it because we believe we are bad for thinking that they’re bad and we have to try and hide our badness.…
So not being allowed to express these thoughts doesn’t help!
So in the communication model we tease things out to explore what is really going on.
First we have a space where we put the undisputed facts. Now it is never going to be a fact that someone is bad. That can’t possibly be a fact because that’s not something that can be proved. What we can say is something like ‘You smashed the glass’. That might be the fact. And then we tell them the conclusion we’ve drawn from that incident – our perception of things.
Our perception may be ’You are a bad person.’ but we say that clearly, we say ‘When you broke the glass I started to think that you’re a bad person. Only a bad person would do something like that. That may or may not be true but that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to.’
So we say it, but we say it with a lot of ownership about it being our conclusion that we’ve drawn. In saying that it’s only our perception we’re accepting it’s not necessarily the truth. Then there’s this little gap between my perception of reality and what reality actually is, and then it becomes something that’s up for discussion between the two of us.
The other person may say, ‘I was really angry with you, I hated you in that moment and I just wanted to hurt you by breaking your glass.’ So they are acknowledging they did it on purpose, but they are also helping us understand a bit better. They were angry and upset and wanted to hurt us. Most of us can relate to that. It doesn’t make them a ‘bad’ person.
So in exploring with them we’ve got some more nuanced information. Equally they may say ‘It was a complete accident, I’m so sorry, I was tired and it was late and I just wasn’t paying attention.’ This equally gives us some new information.
C: So that’s the Magician part in the Five Fields communication model then?
M: That’s the Magician – the fears and fantasies we have in our head. The judgements that we make of others. This is where we’re playing with reality and it’s fascinating. If you take the example above of someone who smashed a glass, we’ve got a clear fact, that’s the Warrior. We can’t argue with that. We’ve got a broken glass on the floor! But if you had ten different people witnessing that event you could have ten completely different reactions.
- One person might think: ‘Gosh you must be tired, it’s probably good for you to have a rest this afternoon you’ve been working so hard.’ – so that’s the conclusion that they’ve drawn.
- Another person might be thinking: ‘You’re being really clumsy – I’m worried you may have some kind of neurological disease – we’d better get you to the doctor’s.’
- And another person might think: ‘You did that deliberately because you’re angry with me and you can’t say so, so you started smashing things.’
- Another person might think ‘Oh no, I’m sorry, I left the glass too close to the edge of the work top – please don’t be angry with me. I won’t do it again.’
…and so on.
That’s the power of the Magician, to have all of those different perspectives. A healthy Magician would be able to withhold judgement and see all of those different possibilities – and even be open to ones that she hasn’t thought about yet. But for most of us, as you described earlier, our Magician is limited, and we are likely to pick out one or two of those options and focus more on those.
If we’ve been traumatised in childhood by angry people throwing things or smashing things, then we’re likely to jump straight to the conclusion that the person who smashed the glass is bad or they’re cruel or they’re trying to hurt us or are angry with us, because that’s the option that’s going to keep us the safest, because then we can take some action to protect ourself from the ‘bad’ angry person.
C: It reminds me of the advert for the Guardian newspaper that was on TV about 15 years ago where you see a young man running down the street, then you see the young man again – the same shot of him running down the street but they widen the camera angle and he’s running towards an old lady with a handbag. Then you see it again with an even wider shot and you see that the young man is running towards an elderly lady with a handbag who is in fact just about to be run over. So in each version you get a bigger and bigger perspective and your understanding of the situation totally changes depending on the perspective. Even though it’s the same people taking the same actions you have more of a context and so this young man starts off looking like a threat and ends up being a hero and he’s doing the same same thing each time.
M: Yes, It might seem that we would be better to discount the bias, fears and fantasies of our Magician and acknowledge that they are just childhood preconceptions. However it’s not so simple. This would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We still need a sharp Magician in our adult lives. If we found out that our perfect new fiancee had had 5 previous wives who all died in mysterious circumstances then we may well want to listen to the fears of our Magician and ask a few questions before going ahead and making a life long commitment to this person.
For most of us it’s very hard to distinguish between ‘genuine’ concerns and ‘over the top’ reactions. The only way forward is to do some fact finding, and to talk things through with the other person (if we feel safe enough to,) until our Magician can get some more clear information from which to respond. If we’re coming purely from healthy Magician then we would be able to reserve judgement in that way the whole time. But actually that wouldn’t serve us because at some point we have to make a judgement about a situation. If a situation doesn’t look safe our Magician can still play an important role by alerting us to danger signs. We have to judge whether we’re safe and whether other people are safe.
6) Evolutionary responses – fear in the modern world
C: You’ve talked about development from childhood to adulthood and I can see a parallel with evolution as well. In the past human beings lived in quite a threatening environment where there were many predators, and we had what we now call ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’ where we had to make snap judgements. When something unusual or unexpected happened in the past we had to immediately react. We couldn’t afford to go and investigate because we might be dead by the end of that investigation!
Now we are less threatened by the natural world and most of us live in cities and in urban environments and we don’t need to be alert all the time to immediate threats. So if, for example, somebody walks into the room who’s dressed in an unusual way, we don’t immediately have to feel threatened. We can allow ourselves to have that moment of feeling threatened because it’s something unusual, but then we can go beyond that, allowing ourselves to feel safer.
We can include, or we can be open to the unexpected, in a way that the older, less evolved, part of the brain would not have been able to do. It wouldn’t have been a safe thing to do.
M: That’s so interesting. In the trauma work I’ve been studying I’ve found out something that fascinates me about our more primitive nature. Animals, it seems, feel safe all the time when there isn’t a threat. Then, if they see or hear or smell something that represents a threat, they’ll feel fear and take immediate action. However the rest of the time, when there is no immediate threat, their nervous system will be very calm and they’ll feel safe.
Somehow we’ve evolved so that we exist in a society where we almost constantly don’t feel safe because our Magician can imagine potential threats: we may be sued here, the house may burn down, the food we’re eating might have something poisonous in it… Whatever it is, it seems like there’s an almost endless number of invisible potential threats, and a lot of us exist with our nervous systems in a quite high energy state, even when there is no external obvious visual or auditory evidence of danger. I find that quite fascinating.
C: It sounds like in this more homogenised sterile environment we don’t know where to locate threat anymore so it’s all-pervasive. Whereas when we’re back in the natural world we know ‘OK these are the threats: this type of animal, this type of weather, this type of person’ say. And if none of those are present we are really free to rest because we know we’re safe. At the moment we are dislocated, in quite a literal sense.
M: Another way I’ve been thinking about it recently is that it’s possible in our current society that our nervous systems are taught quite a high level of activation from an early age. Most of us haven’t received the nurture and physical safety and protection that we could have had as a baby. We haven’t been held constantly close to our mother.
So as a baby our nervous system is being set, and if we’ve had the kind of parenting where we haven’t been constantly held and nurtured then we won’t have learnt that the world is a fundamentally safe place. Our nervous system will carry that belief in a lack of safety and will maintain a high activation energy.
Then – this is the really fascinating piece – our Magician will actually respond to that bodily sense of lack of safety by looking around for things that might not be safe. The Magician is looking for evidence to make sense of the lack of safety we feel inside.
So it’s a chicken and egg thing really as to whether it’s the ideas that come that the Magician generates that then make us feel unsafe, or whether it starts with the nervous system feeling unsafe, and then our Magician trying to protect us by looking around to see what might not be safe when there isn’t actually any any external stimulus.
7. The Magician and other archetypes – resolving trauma
C: I’m interested in the connection between the Magician and the other archetypes and the circuits between them. I’m thinking about how, if I get into a very threatened place, there’s a certain amount of tension that gets stored in my body, and it’s usually some kind of emotional release and being held that relieves that. So I’m imagining that’s a connection between Magician and Lover?
M: Yes there very much is. The Lover contains our most vulnerable sides and the Magician works to keep these vulnerable parts safe. When we are very young and when we’re in situations that aren’t safe we develop a strong and active Magician to try to avert disaster.
Now of course what’s needed in childhood that would really make the Lover feel safe is the Sovereign. The parent figure in the childhood who can be there in a loving, reassuring and nurturing way, and hold that child if there is trauma.
All children experience trauma and upset and distress at times, but if there’s a loving parent immediately available then they can allow us to cry and listen to us and allow us to process those feelings.
If we go back to the traumatic incident that I was working with from my childhood, then a significant factor is that there wasn’t another adult there. And if I’d had an adult there who could have held me and understood how terrifying it was for me and allowed me to cry and process what was happening then the emotions wouldn’t still be trapped in my body, and I wouldn’t still be dealing with that terror now in my life.
So the real healing for fear comes with the Lover. The Lover contains all our emotions, so if we feel fear then that Lover part of us, that vulnerable part of us, needs holding physically and emotionally so that the emotions can come: the fear and the grief and the anger and everything else. Then we feel safer, and the trauma doesn’t get held in the body.
When we don’t have that experience after something traumatic then that’s when the terror somehow gets held in our body because it’s not processed at the time. That freeze response requires it to be held in our tissues.
If we’re lucky, we might find a safe space later in life to process those stuck feelings. Then they can come out and the trauma can subside.
C: But otherwise we keep wanting to resolve it, we keep looking for opportunities to resolve it?
M: Yes, For many of us there seems to be a drive to move towards situations where we might meet similar traumatic situations and have the opportunity to experience a different result. We might unconsciously hope, this time, to get the comfort and reassurance we want. Then these trapped emotions can be released.
C: I seem to remember you talking in a workshop about the predator as an aspect of the Magician. You were saying there are different elements in each archetype that people are not comfortable with, and the predator instinct is the one that lies in the Magician.
M: Yes the predator is a human animal instinct and it fits best with the Magician archetype. We are animals, and we’re animals that can be predators. That’s in our history. The way we treat animals now is a little bit different as we farm them. But in a way that’s almost an ultimate Dark Magician action – using, manipulating and breeding animals for our own use and keeping them completely under our control.
If we go back to the hunting instinct then, as predators, we have to detach ourselves from our prey. So we don’t see them as living creatures that we could get attached to, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to kill and eat them. So the detachment of the Magician is related to predators.
Predators have to see what they’re going to kill or destroy not as ‘same’, but as ‘other’. Also predators are often intelligent animals who use a lot of skill and slyness and trickery to catch their prey. They’re not just using straightforward force. They use strategy and they’re often organised and working in packs.
This predator quality is somewhere within us all and it’s probably the most denied aspect that we have as human beings. Most people don’t feel comfortable going round saying ‘I’m a predator.’ They wouldn’t feel comfortable to go around saying ‘I like to control and manipulate, I use trickery and deviance, I detach myself from other living creatures.’ But these are aspects that are somewhere within each of us.
Some people would even say that because we don’t hunt now we don’t have an outlet for that predator side so it becomes even more put in to shadow in us.
Some of us have been predated on in this dark shadowy Magician way by people around us. Those of us who’ve experienced physical, sexual abuse or emotional abuse have had an experience of this, along with those of us who have been manipulated and controlled. These are some of the ways that shadow predator energy seems to come out now in our society. Most of us don’t want to admit to having sides of ourselves that could behave like this.
C: Financially as well I think people see it as a hunting and killing. You know people that say ‘We made a killing’ on that property or project…
M: …or completely controlling and destroying another company or completely destroying another person in court for example. It’s this really destructive punishing shadow predator energy that is the one that we find really hard to own. It has no obvious goodness in it. It just wants to destroy, it just is cruel, it’s just punishing. It likes to toy with others, to play around with them, to have them dangling on a string.
You know when we’re looking at the concept of the shadow what we’re looking at is the idea that if we don’t own an aspect of ourselves it controls us from the shadows. So because most of us don’t want to be predatory it’s likely to slip out in ways that are out of our control. Most commonly with cruel hateful comments, or bitching, gossiping…
C: …competitiveness in the wrong place as well …
M: …Yes, and you know deep underneath this predator behaviour is the survival instinct and it is trying to keep us safe. So we can often want to destroy someone or some type of behaviour that might be dangerous for us.
When I first got together with my partner I really valued his gentleness, softness and sensitivity, and I was also aware that there was another part of me that could at any point turn on him and absolutely destroy him and tear him to pieces because of this perceived ‘weakness’.
I realise that that’s come from a part of me that wants to protect myself because my Dad committed suicide when I was a child. He was ‘weak’ in my mind, and that really destroyed me. So I think this part of me that wants to really destroy someone who seems weak comes from wanting to protect myself.
However if it came out it would just be really thoroughly unpleasant and it could destroy our relationship. So I remember having an awareness early on in our relationship that that could happen. I think because I’ve had consciousness of it it hasn’t happened, and I don’t worry now that it might happen now. So this is the value of bringing those predator sides out of shadow, even though they are sides that we never want to act from.
If we can sit there and say ‘Well I have this side of me that might want to destroy in some way’ (and it’s different for all of us), then we can gain some conscious control over it. We can then choose whether to use that side of us or not. And also we can learn to let it out in safe ways – to let it out in a therapeutic situation or let it out of us by writing, or playing competitive games. We can find some ways to release that aspect of ourselves so we know it’s not going to be damaging. We can then enjoy our power and intelligence without being frightened of how we might use these sides of ourselves.
For further information about Healing The Shadow work, including details of group workshops, 1-2-1 sessions, couples work and the practitioner training please visit healingtheshadow.co.uk
Sign up here to receive a monthly newsletter with upcoming workshop information and other Healing The Shadow news.