Understanding Our Core Nature Through the Three Archetypes

By | November 16, 2016

4822121599_97585d692c_bWe can understand the intertwined experience of the archetypes the same way we understand the harmony of organs within an organism. Our eyes are the Guardian; our hands, the Nurturer; and our mouth, the Communicator. Each serves a distinct role, and yet there may be times when we communicate with our eyes or see with our hands. Meanwhile, the role of the archetypes in our clan or community can be understood through the metaphor of the senses: the Guardian is sight; the Nurturer, touch; and the Communicator, voice. The archetypal role is fluid and interchangeable, although the purpose served by each role is very specific. For example, even if we are seeing with our hands, we still identify the experience as one of seeing.

Understanding the archetypal energy resonating in you can help you access part of your core self—the base of your healing. When you can better recognize your own archetypal energy, you can also better understand how to enter into relationship with others. With that in mind, below we will examine each of the three archetypes up close.

Guardian Archetype
Guardians have the ability to keep perspective, to organize, and to lead. They know how to put people into the right place. They are charismatic and other people are naturally inclined to follow them. They are also able to represent their people or certain interests and often serve as message bearers and emissaries.

Contemporary culture has exaggerated the role of the Guardian to a permanent character trait or position. In reality, it is much more dynamic. Leadership in the old way was based on the people deferring to a particular individual in a particular instance, and so it had more to do with contextual characteristics like knowledge, competence, skill in a particular area, etc. rather than simply aggression or entitlement.

Many of the people to whom we ascribe characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) would be apt for the role of the Guardian in hunter-gatherer cultures. ADD symptoms, such as the inability to stay focused on one thing or follow through on something, are actually desirable Guardian characteristics. The Guardian’s role is to keep tabs on what is going on all around the camp; however, if he gets lost in a project, things could slip by his attention. His role is to notice things that need doing, so that other people can follow up on them. That keeps him free to continue scouting and being on watch.

Guardian behavior is also often seen in organized team sports—with their fast-paced action, competition, and need to maintain perspective on multiple moving targets. In our present culture, team sports are often the only place people still have access to Guardian-like training and a clan-based mentality.

Nurturer Archetype
Nurturers naturally seek to create space around them that supports soul-to-soul communication and connections that go beyond a person and into the realm of ancestral relationship. Just being in the presence of a Nurturer can often feel like being in sacred space or enveloped in maternal energy. These individuals serve their clan by preserving and healing interpersonal bonds—they are the figures that hold the clan together and ensure its long-term survival.

In the old times, I imagine Nurturers were the people who “recognized” the new members of the clan and could “see” how they would come to serve within the clan. They also would have been ideally suited with helping their people in the choosing of mates, something I think we underestimate the value of in today’s culture.

Although a Nurturer may not demonstrate the sharp aggression of a Guardian or Communicator, she or he may nonetheless be assertive. At the root of this archetype is sensitivity or the ability to perceive and respond with a nurturing intent. Even if temporarily clothed in aggression or assertiveness, the Nurturer’s role is one of softness.

The archetype of the Nurturer figures strongly in interpretations of the archetypes through gender. The question then becomes whether you have the brain of a “nurturer” or a “provider”. Now, although nurturing is providing and providing is nurturing, we can consider them distinct roles, with nurturing associated with the female and providing associated with the male.

Behavioral gender differences are common throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. In only a tiny handful of animal species are male and female offspring raised differently, yet virtually all of them display specialized gender behaviors. Humans are one of those few species who tend to give gender-specific attention to their children. Yet we need to be careful about assuming that we have a nurture-vs-nature situation here—it could theoretically just as well be nurture magnifying nature.

Generally speaking, the evolution of gender roles goes something like this: women are generally the gatherers and men are the hunters; with women being oriented to the hearth and men drawn to scouting. With our early domestication, women turned to gardening and men to herding. The next stage found women spinning and men handling the draft animals. Setting aside the question of male and female capacities, what we know is that men and women served distinct evolutionary roles. In terms of our core nature, the gender roles are not in a hierarchy—much like the archetypes, they simply reflect our personal energy and the ways we may best serve our community.

Gender is a key factor in how our minds evolved and function, so it ought to be considered in recognizing who we are as psycho-emotional beings, and thus how it might also have affected our woundedness. With that said, it is only one factor and is not wholly deterministic, even though the archetypes are typically viewed as gendered: with Nurturers as females, Guardians as males, and Communicators as male. In actuality, the archetypal energies can manifest in a person of any gender.

Communicator Archetype
Plenty Coup, Chief of the Crows, is remembered for his ability as a leader to create consensus, maintain perspective on options, and for the loyalty of his people even in the midst of detractors and criticism. Each of these accomplishments speaks to his archetypal energy as a Communicator.

In our culture it is common to see Communicator energy warped into its raw form, aggression, which can then be channeled into power addiction, deception, demagogy and control. This aggressor energy is used to keep our hierarchical system running. Strong aggressors are most likely to make their career up to high positions in politics, economy or church. They are the most “successful” in our society.

In Traditional cultures, the Communicator mirrors the needs of the group, whatever they might be. She stands simultaneously at the fore and in the background. She knows that in order for the clan to flourish, all of individuals in the clan need to be flourishing. When complacency settles in, the Communicator injects chaos into the mix and in that way serves the precursor to change.

A small change orchestrated by the Communicator can send a ripple through the group that brings forth a transformation, so it is important that every ear be attuned to the Communicator’s conducting. Although either Guardians, Nurturers, or Communicators can sniff out what is out of balance and needs to be addressed, it is the Communicator who usually initiates the corresponding action.

The contemporary and traditional understanding of the Communicator stems from the two kinds of
aggression that exist. The Latin roots of the word ‘aggression’— ad and gredi—basically mean stepping forward. In regular usage, the term has two definitions:
Someone who attacks.
Someone who initiates a course of action.

Contemporary culture most often associates aggression with only the antagonism of the first definition. Traditional cultures, however, more often use the second (which in common parlance you might describe as assertiveness). Initiating a course of action depends on good communication. It depends on the ability to hear all the perspectives and see all the needs of the circle and from there discern what the circle needs and where it needs to go. Whereas Guardians will be more much cautious and skeptical, as their role is to be on alert for where the clan is vulnerable, Communicators are confident. They must be, in order to effectively lead the clan on a particular course of action or to negotiate on its behalf with another clan.

The three archetypes—the Guardian, the Nurturer, and the Communicator—are not concrete roles, but rather “patterns of energy” that emanate from our limbic system. Each of us exhibits an energy pattern that corresponds to one of the archetypes. Our archetypal energy provides us with an indicator of the role we may play to best serve our community.


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