Archive for March, 2011

I continue to notice ways that I sit with the ambiguity in my life.  I thought I would make this mini-post short and sweet by sharing a few examples that have come up recently. 

Book club.  I have been wanting to join a book club, one that fits all of my particular preconceived notions about what it should and shouldn’t feel like, look like… that they should read books that look interesting, etc.  I began looking in December and sort of found this one or that one that might almost work.  I was ready to begin reading that month.  I couldn’t find one I exactly liked and felt frustrated.  I was tempted to create my own just to end my discomfort and begin to “get my way”.  Not being able to find “the book club” I wanted was tearing me up inside!  I know it’s an odd thing.  I was in an ambiguous place of wanting a book club but not being able to find one.  In the end, I sat with the ambiguity of not having one and started to get creative with finding a different book club I could check out each month.  I believe I invited growth in self by refusing to end my discomfort by forcing a solution. 

Painting.  I am almost finished with my second painting… ever.  I realize that I’ve come so far from the blank canvas of 4 months ago, now it is filled with colors and shapes that are pleasing to me.  In order to get from the blank canvas of months ago to now, when it is almost done, I’ve had to not psych myself out in the ambiguity of the white space.  I have succeeded in sitting wtih the ambiguity of the developing painting. 

Helping Clients.  Many of my clients are in situations that have little to no certainty.  Many are living with an abusive spouse planning to leave and not sure where they will go or how they will make ends meet.  Many are living in shelter having just left an abusive partner.  Some are waiting for the unknown outcome.  A huge part of my job as a counselor is helping clients navigate the ultra-frustrating (and perhaps growth-inducing) ambiguity of what they are going through. 


 narrow path to the light

current music faves:  beach house, scott pilgram soundtrack

current show faves:  shameless, house, community

breakfast today:  home-made berry corn muffin, clementine, coffee with peppermint mocha creamer

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Over the past few months we have explored some of the benefits of practicing sitting with ambiguity.  I discovered recently that there is an archetypal figure that is considered the embodiment of ambiguity; The Trickster.


So, let’s start with defining what an archetype actually is.  Archetypes, according to the work of psychologist Carl Jung, are fundamental human themes found throughout world mythology.  Archetypal examples include The Child, The Hero, and of course, The Trickster (just to name a few).  One way of understanding archetypes is to see them as characterological patterns our minds instinctually recognize and that perhaps can serve as lenses that contribute to how we each perceive and experience the world around us.  Archetypes can also be tapped as “guides within” on each of our individual journeys.  Each archetype brings with it, in any given moment, a lesson, a task, and ultimately, a gift.  Archetypes live in each of us, teaching us and reminding us how to live.  What the infamous tarot deck is truly presenting is a constellation of archetypes to work with.  If the whole idea of the archetype still seems hazy, feel free to read more here.

The Trickster Archetype

Reinvented from culture to culture in mythology and folklore tales, the Trickster is presented as god, spirit, man, woman, anthropomorphic animal, supernatural being or the occasional mischievous fairy who disobeys rules and conventional behavior, causing chaos while also inspiring some kind of change to occur.  Not just any rogue or antihero can be termed a Trickster.  As literary scholar Helen Lock notes, “the true Trickster’s trickery calls into question fundamental assumptions about the way the world is organized, and reveals the possibility of transforming them (even if often for ignoble ends)”.  The Trickster lies somewhere between the hero and the villain; in true ambiguous style.

As Terri Windling beautifully summarizes:

Trickster can be an agent of creation or destruction, a cunning hero or a predatory villain; most often he is an ambivalent figure, shifting back and forth from one mode to the other. In some tales, his tricks allow humankind to obtain fire, language, laughter, song, sacred rituals, hunting, and love–making skills, while other tales show how his tricks gone awry have resulted in death, disease, sorrow, and strife entering the world. He is often portrayed as a creature at the mercy of overweening vanity and prodigious appetites (for food, for sex, for social power and recognition), perpetually undermined by these things and yet also perpetually undaunted by failure. Psychologist Carl Jung viewed Trickster as an expression of the shadow side of a culture, the embodiment of all that is repressed and disowned — the greedy, needy rascal that lives somewhere inside every one of us …The Trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity, ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox.

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Trickster characters are known for doing the right thing, but not always for the right reasons. They are able to outsmart and outwit anyone, but they are often their own worst enemy.  The Trickster openly questions and mocks authority, encourages impulse and enthusiasm, seeks out new ideas and experiences, destroys convention and complacency, promotes chaos and unrest.  At the same time, the trickster often brings new knowledge, wisdom and new insights.

Examples of Tricksters

Let’s consider some common Tricksters.  Classic Trickster figures include Loki, Hermes, Coyote and Sun Wukong the Monkey King.  Loki is considered a Trickster God in Norse Mythology, an associate of Thor.  Sometimes Loki helps and sometimes he makes trouble, dressing in disguises and causing others harm.  Hermes from Greek mythology is known for stealing, tricking people but also known as messenger of the gods and one who protected and shepherded those into the underworld.  Hermes is one of only a few gods who were able to enter and leave the underworld without hindrance (able to traverse liminal spaces…).  Old Man Coyote in the Crow tribes (and Winnebago cycle, the coyote named Wakdjunkaga) often impersonated The Creator while also stealing fire to help humans.  Perhaps he is an ancestor of a certain Wile E. Coyote of cartoon fame?  He is a bit of a trickster, no?  Finally, there is Sun Wukong the Monkey King from Chinese and Buddhist lore.  Sun Wukong was endowed with supernatural powers including immense strength and the ability to shape-shift.  Hanuman, the monkey god of India shares many of Sun Wukong’s attributes.  Other more modern Tricksters include Robin Hood, Dracula, Jack Sparrow, Puck and Bugs Bunny.

Learning from the Trickster Manifesting in Your Life…

There are several overlapping archetypes that I believe bear mentioning here.  The Trickster, The Fool, The Magician, The Villain and The Destroyer are closely related in typology.  The Fool for instance tends to be misunderstood, reminds us of the importance of humor and playfulness, helps us see unconventional perspectives and the absurdities of modern life, and often encourages entropy and disorder.  The Magician tends to be linked with shapeshifting, is known for encouraging others to accept transformation and change, teaches us to connect parts of self to become an integrated whole, helps make inner and outer realities more visible and connected, and aims for making more of the unconscious conscious.  While The Magician archetypal figure can often change physical reality, The Fool cannot.  The Fool can change our perceptions of reality; perhaps sometimes that is more important.

The Trickster is also notable in his tendency to exist within the liminal space.   The Trickster archetype often appears in moments of passage, rupture, and transformation, helping us integrate apparently irreconcilable oppositions within ourselves and in life.  In this sense, there may lessons to be learned from noticing how and when The Trickster presents itself in your own life. 

The Trickster archetype—in all of its irrepressible charm, ability to create and solve problems and constant pressing of boundaries—speaks to the struggles and perseverance of human beings.  Carol Pearson, author of The Hero Within, provides an interesting quote regarding lessons from The Trickster, she notes “the well-developed Trickster helps us know how to do what we want; Shadow-Trickster lies about what is required for survival.”   We must always be careful of the Shadow-Trickster for he may tell us things like our feelings will be too much to bear if we do not numb out on drink or drugs, or tells us intimate relationships are a threat to our identity, or that we have to work all the time and never take time for ourselves.  She goes on to say “the best way to free oneself from a Shadow-Trickster is to befriend it, and in doing so… begin to develop in oneself the Wise-Fool.”

current music faves:  new pj harvey, of montreal, dance music

current show faves:  big love, modern family

breakfast today:  best blueberry muffins ever, soy latte

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