For the most part I tend to read to poke my nose into the lives of other people, fictional or otherwise – a little escapism from one’s own world to someone else’s is always welcome, although when your world is spa it does beg the question, where exactly are you escaping to?
Nonetheless it makes for a rather different experience when the book you are reading has the opening gambit: “Who are you?” embossed on the front cover – such is the case with Caroline Myss’s Archetypes.
As you have no doubt already ascertained, this is not the sort of book one reads merely for entertainment, this is a book with a mission to help you maximise your potential and become your true self by identifying your archetypal patterns, or at least beginning to. In its most basic format, the book looks at the idea that there are certain types of people – athlete, intellectual, artist, etc, and within those main categories a series of sub categories to which we all belong. However, if we try to force ourselves into the wrong category, or choose to construct a ‘myth’ for our lives that is not innate to who we are it can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing, careers, or even our health.
With a forward by Christina Carlino, the founder of skincare brand, Philosophy, and co-founder of website ArchetypeMe.com – which takes the book’s message and allows you to begin it’s practical and interactive implementation to your life (namely identifying your own ‘archetype’ – which provides a good level of entertainment if nothing else), is compelling. As a woman at the head of an international brand who found herself forcibly removed, she shows how acknowledging who she was and where she had lost that connection helped her to get up and start again, describing the discovery of archetypes as “one of those miracles”.
Reading the book, I oscillated in what I thought of Myss’s concept, part of me thinking that this is simply another way of telling people to really listen to themselves, which, as an avid believer in the power of time to yourself from the interfering horrors of mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook, email and so forth away, I tend to believe it is not a case of anyone not being able to listen to themselves, but simply not having the time to do it. My feeling is, isn’t this telling people something that they already know?
Then again, perhaps this is the where Myss has been rather clever, because knowing something and recognising it are two completely different things. What we are aware of on a passive level isn’t necessarily an easy thing to bring into one’s consciousness, and sometimes to really kick start our thinking, what we need is a new structure or perspective from which we can get to grips with it. Sometimes you really need someone to hit you on the nose with an idea to actually see it.
If nothing else, reading through the different archetypes has the sort of narcissistic pleasure that reading through the horoscopes of a magazine can bring – it allows a certain amount of speculation and dreamy faith to develop as you think – ‘does this apply to me?’ – mentally trying on a few different hats to see if they fit. Going to the website adds another dimension to this, indulging you in the ability to be told, based on a series of questions, which archetype you do indeed belong to. Of course, once you start reading the questions you don’t have to be the brains of Britain to realise that you can pretty much engineer the results to what you want by answering the multiple choice questions strategically – the onus being on you to answer them honestly.
The upshot of all of this is that I remain uncertain as to whether I think Archetypes is supremely helpful or sort of reinventing the wheel. Then again, that might be indicative of my archetype. Does she know that that’s what I might think? If nothing else the book does encourage you to think, and my sneaking suspicion is that that is at the root of it all, helping you to figure out what, if anything, isn’t quite as you would like it to be in your life and giving you a new set of navigational tools with which to find your way, and that is something that we could all do with considering.
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