Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Literary Psychological Archetypes

My sister recently posed an interesting question to me, to which I added a natural corollary. Her question:

"Which literary figures represent your Id, Ego, and Superego?"

My Jungian corollary to her Freudian question: "What literary figures represent your Shadow, Animus/a, and Mana Personality?"


Let me explain.

Freud's divisions:
Id is your instinctual, "primitive" side. Think Chaos.

Ego is the decision making part that moderates between the demands of the Id and the real world.

Superego is the conscience and perfectionist part of the psyche. Think Order.

Jung's divisions:

Shadow I took to mean your negative traits, amplified. I do not fully understand Jungian terms, so whenever I explained this one to someone they said "what, like the Id?" and I said "yes, I think so." But I do not think they are actually equivalent.

Animus I took to mean your complement. Not necessarily interpreted in a romantic way, just someone who is the sine to your cosine, with whom you work well.

Mana Personality I took to mean your elevated self. (See also my previous post investigating this from another angle.) Someone who is your good traits magnified, or your aspirational, idealized self. In Pokemon terms, your higher evolutionary state.

Caveat: I am not a psychologist in any capacity and these definitions are distinctly non rigorous. I read about Jungian archetypes a while ago but asked these questions without referencing my notes. Also, I don't seriously consider these psychological models as accurate in terms of what is actually going on between my ears. But they are interesting ideas to explore.


Here is what I came up with for me:

Reyna Avila Ramirez-Arellano, praetor of Camp Jupiter

Id:Turnus (Aeneid) [the prideful warrior]
Ego: Reyna (Heroes of Olympus) (pictured above) or Sabriel (Abhorsen Trilogy) [the serious and rational authority figure]
Superego: Morwen (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) or Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) [the sensible witch]

Shadow: Turnus again
Animus: Patroclus (Iliad), Horatio (Hamlet), Dr. Watson (Sherlock Holmes), Razumikhin (Crime and Punishment), Benvolio (Romeo and Juliet) [the reasonable right-hand man]
Mana Personality: Kazul (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) [the King of Dragons]

Just looking at this list, a few things stand out. First, wow, that is a lot of leaders or royals. This is what I mean when I say I am arrogant: not that I think I'm inherently better than everyone, or that I'm always right, but rather, I feel strong personal connections to authority figures and I think I can be like them. That, if you put me in the right situation, I could be an Augustus.

Second, that there are a lot of the benevolent, reasonable, sensible right-hand man types in literature. I list this type as my complement, as people whose skills and mine intersect in ways that create a more powerful team. But I am aware that I probably appear more like Horatio than Hamlet (and the one I actually identify with is Laertes), more like Patroclus than Achilles. I get compliments on having a calming presence, on being a bulwark. So why, by putting these reasonable fellows as my complement, do I cast myself in the role of the unstable, eccentric anti-hero in need of an anchor?

I don't, not directly. Reyna and Sabriel are eminently reasonable, down to earth, etc. But by inference from the animus, I get a different result.* I don't have the answer to this one yet; still, I think it can be interesting to ask the questions.

*One way to reconcile: I am an Augustus in search of an Agrippa.

Third observation: identifying with Turnus is a little awkward for me because Virgil seemed to indicate, and the Roman audience definitely inferred, that Aeneas == Augustus and Turnus == Antony. Thus I see myself strongly in Turnus, but even more strongly in Augustus. And I get that the times and the propagandic pressures reinforced the image of Augustus as chosen by the heavens to save Rome, but Aeneas won because of fate while Augustus, operating in the real world, was not filling in a predrawn pattern.


It took me a while to think of my people, and everyone I asked afterward also found it a tough exercise. I might have had an easier time of it because I make mental notes to myself when I run across a character who reminds me of myself. (I am also very self centered, and it amuses and irritates me in equal measure when people try to argue with me on this point. Who can know my interior life better than I can?)

The trouble, as Lieutenant Sarcasm pointed out, is that we don't write books about ordinary people. Thus, the situations that characters encounter is probably more extreme than what we encounter in our day-to-day lives, and given that much of our identity is wrapped up in what we do (and our memories are, I would argue, the foundation of our senses of self), it can be hard to relate to characters who go through stuff we never will.

LS stopped me when I said my Ego was Reyna, saying, "Dude, Reyna is way too intense to be you." Which reveals that 1) I think I am more badass than I really am (but this should surprise no one) and 2) these psychological archetypes or models or patterns are necessarily exaggerations. So yes, we can laugh at total nerd Nietzsche writing in fiery language about the Ubermensch, but he did accomplish something by carving new values and slaying some sacred ideas.

I named the Mana Personality as the aspirational self, but really, all of these are somewhat aspirational. Even the "negative" ones, the Id/Shadow. (Besides, these are not necessarily "bad," but rather, farther along the spectrum toward chaos.) Am I really a violent, honor-mad warrior-prince like Turnus? No. I am not that cool. But he exaggerates and endows with grandeur my traits of being ambitious, prideful, and impatient.

We tend to modulate ourselves more on the outside. Certainly, my internal world is noisier and more interesting than what I present on the exterior. This exercise, self-aggrandizing though it may be, is a way of externalizing that inside self. We make our lives into stories anyway; why not invite some stories back the other way around?


Don't Stop - InnerPartySystem

One of my favorite songs. Thank you LS! (Also, setting yourself up as "the closest thing to God" is pretty much the epitome of writing a grand narrative about your life.)

No comments:

Post a Comment