Understanding Story Archetypes Can Provide A Whole New Interpretation of Your Story
Welcome back to the Love Your Story podcast. Today we are getting real with the parts of story. This is going to be fun. Have you ever been blocked in life? You’re cruising along in life, headed toward your goal or something you want, and bam, something challenges you. Of course you have! It’s a part of everyday life. So, let’s talk about a perspective shift here on this topic.
First a definition. What is an archetype? An archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif. In story there are 7 character archetypes. Carl Jung called the archetypes of story the ancient patterns of personality that are the shared heritage of the human race. His claim is that within the human mind all 7 of these archetypes are a part of each of us. Sometimes we’re the hero, sometimes the mentor, sometimes the Herald , the shape-shifter, threshold guardian, or the trickster. Sometimes we must even deal with the shadow – the repressed part of the hero that must be loosed or destroyed or redeemed and turned into a positive force. But, I’m getting ahead of myself… Tune in for our discussion about the troll on the bridge.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee, and I’m excited for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Story power serves you best when you know how to use it.
As mentioned there are a handful of archetypes, but today we’re going to delve specifically into the Threshold Guardian – the symbolic troll, or knight, or witch, or voice that challenges your forward journey.
Last year I was having an on-line conversation about how we are the heroes of our own stories and my high school boyfriend popped into the conversation and made a comment about how sometimes we are also the dragon or the antagonist in another person’s story (I’m not sure if there was an ulterior message in that comment). This got me thinking about the roles we play. Sometimes we are the extra, sitting at the table in the roadside café of someone else’s story. Sometimes we are the herald – the one who brings the message or call to adventure to another person – like Gandalf bringing the invitation to adventure for Bilbo. Sometimes we are the mentor, providing inspiration to someone on their journey, providing them with gifts – like Yoda in Star Wars. Always in our own story we are the hero, even if it’s an anti-hero, but understanding the roles we may be playing in other’s stories, and recognizing the roles that other’s play in our stories gives us a perspective shift that often is the key to breaking through something, or finding a solution, or having a little more fun in the creation of our life story.
By understanding the parts of story, we can begin to see our lives through different eyes. We can begin to see our stories as real stories and that makes it sorta fun.
A couple months ago I was speaking to an associate who was not on her game. She said, “I’m just thinking that maybe being a Realtor isn’t for me. It’s hard finding clients,” she said. “The other day I was knocking doors for my open house and the first door I went to the man who answered acted so put out that I was there that I almost froze up. I put the fliers in my car and just quit inviting people. Maybe this isn’t for me.”
So, I launched into this concept about archetypes. “In story,” I explained, “there are archetypal characters. One of them is the Threshold Guardian. This is the character that is placed to keep the unworthy from entering. Often times this character is a lieutenant of the villain, a naysayer or an internal demon, sometimes it’s just someone putting up resistance, but their function is to test the hero/heroine (you) to see if they are determined enough to gain the prize. These Threshold Guardians pop-up whenever you are headed toward something you want.” I told her. “This is one of your Threshold Guardians. How badly do you want to be a Realtor? Will you push past the resistance?”
Thomas Edison said, “I never did anything worth doing by accident. Nor did any of my inventions come by accident: they came by work.”
One of the truths about our stories is that as we are writing them, in order to be the hero, we must expect challenge, resistance, and opportunity for growth and learning. That’s what the hero’s journey is all about. That’s how he/she becomes the hero. The Threshold Guardians will guard the path forward, and the stories you create in your mind about who you are, what you want, what you are capable of, and if you can get there will determine whether you make it past the guardians. Once my friend could see the fear and discomfort she felt as a Threshold Guardian, it ceased to be that she was afraid and inadequate for the job, and instead, the resistance became the hobgoblin who was guarding the treasure. That was something she could work with. How do I get around this hobgoblin?
So, what resistance are you up against right now in your journey? What Threshold Guardian is challenging your determination and your forward movement, and do you really want what is on the other side of that resistance, enough to figure out your way around it? Oh, this can become a game – it can become fun instead of getting stuck in frustration, which is the main emotion when something stops us in our path.
What do you want really bad right now? What stands in your way – mentally, physically, emotionally, logically, monetarily? There could be all kinds of blocks, all kinds of guardians. They can even be created by you. If you were the hero/heroine of a really great movie what creative and crazy interesting things could you implement to make your way past the threshold guardians in your story?
In the story of the three billy goats gruff the mean ugly troll was the guardian of the bridge. The three billy goats were trying to cross the bridge to get to the hill of green grass to fatten themselves and enjoy the summer sun. In order to do this they had to cross the bridge, but the troll – the threshold guardian—would stop each one as they tried to pass and threaten to eat them. Well, short story shorter, the three billy goats worked together in creative out-of-the-box solution finding and as the first two small billy goats went to cross the bridge, the troll assaulted them, and the conversation went something like this, Troll: “How dare you cross my bridge, I’m coming to gobble you up.” Billy goat: “I’m too small and scrawny, but my big brother is coming along and he’s much fatter and much tastier and you’ll want to save yourself for him.” The troll, enjoying the idea of a large and delightful meal of fresh raw billy goat let the two smaller billy goat brothers pass by in succession. When the big brother billy goat came along he didn’t go down without a fight. He used his horns and poked out the troll’s eyes and crushed his bones to small bits and butted him off the bridge for a gory end to that threshold guardian. You thought this was just a fairy tale, but as with all fairy tales there are actually morals and deeper meanings that teach us how to approach life. In this case, the moral of the story is that threshold guardians are mean, scary, will eat you for dinner, and if you are crafty enough you can turn the tables. How bad do you want to cross the bridge? Well, get creative then.
The word Hero comes from Greek root that means to protect and serve. A hero is born from self-sacrifice – a sacrifice of their comfort, their lives, time, and health for the greater good. A hero starts out as all ego with a shadow side, but as he heads out along the heroes journey he transcends and works one day at a time, one challenge at a time, one dragon at a time to become the hero we know he/she is. The shadow archetype is a part of every hero character and in each of us. The shadow, as I mentioned earlier, is the repressed parts of the hero that must be loosed and turned positive. Wow – we are so multi-dimensional! But it is these threshold guardians, among other archetypes, who help the hero along the journey where he conquers the shadow side and becomes deserving of the big prize, the happily-ever-after, the golden crown.
Barbara Bush and Mary Kay Ash are both credited with saying, “When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.”
It’s all a part of the big story, the challenge, the creative solutions, the persistence roadblocks/threshold guardians create. So, this week’s take away – if you can see your road blocks as the archetypal threshold guardian, there to keep the unworthy from entering, there to challenge how badly you want the green grass and the warm sun at the top of the hill, the challenge becomes more of a game and less of discouragement.
Consider your current threshold guardians and the creative solutions to get around them.
Have fun creating your story out there and don’t forget about the 21-Day Challenge now available for you to sign up for on the website: www.loveyourstorypodcast.com. This challenge was created to help you test out a new story tool, every day for 21-Days and I guarantee you’ll walk away with a handful that you want to work into your everyday life to create more connection, possibility and satisfaction with your life. USE IT! And, of course, pass this podcast along to someone who might find value – share the love!