Rachel and Leah – Wife and Mother

Rachel is the wife that wants to be a mother and Leah is the mother that wants to be a wife. Both women fulfill their archetype but are unfulfilled by their archetypes.

We are all balancing our archetypes
The story of Rachel and Leah has helped me to find some compassion for myself and others as I realize that the only way to fulfill an archetype is to abandon all other roles and in turn be an unfulfilled self.

Source: Rachel and Leah – Wife and Mother

From Wife to Mother to Married Mother

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Rachel and Leah, sisters married to the same man and in eternal competition with one another is not the most action-packed or exciting story in the Bible but it is one that speaks to me in a profound way.  There are some parallels between the sisters’ stories and my own but not enough to explain the draw that I feel to this story.

In order to understand why this story became so personal for me, I turned to the archetypes.  By looking at the story on an archetypal level, I was able to recognize Rachel and Leah as wife and mother archetypes that are in eternal competition within soul of every married mother.  The lessons I learned from writing that paper are helping me find some balance and to be more compassionate for myself and others as I realize that we are all struggling with balancing our archetypes.  By looking at the archetypes through another lens, I hope to further my understanding of these archetypes and create a new, more attainable archetype for married mothers because they are not and cannot be only wives or mothers and need to find balance.

The Story

The story of how Jacob came to marry both Rachel and Leah and the fallout from this action is really tragic for the women involved.  While in search of a wife, Jacob saw and fell in love with his cousin, Rachel.  Jacob agreed to work for Rachel’s father, Laban for seven years in order to marry her.  He “served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Gen 29:20).  On the wedding night, Laban sent his older, less attractive daughter, Leah, to Jacob.  The following morning, Jacob realized that he was tricked into marrying the wrong sister.  Laban dismissed his trickery as custom and agreed for Jacob to also marry Rachel.  With this act, Leah became doomed to live the rest of her life as an unloved wife.  Not even a second choice, but only wed through deceit.

Things did not fare much better for Rachel.  Although she was loved, she was also infertile.  She wanted a son.  Leah had son after son hoping that each birth would finally gain her favor with her husband. All Leah wanted was for her husband to love her and recognize her contributions to his household.  “The names that Leah gave her sons reflected her hope that Jacob would come to love her because of the sons she was bearing him” (Otwell, 52).  With each birth, Rachel grew increasingly desperate. “When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no children, she became envious of her sister; and Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die.” Jacob became incensed at Rachel and said, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you fruit of the womb?” (Gen 30:1-2).  Rachel’s discontent threatens her only archetypal role as wife.  In the end of the story, Rachel does have sons but she does not really get to experience archetypal motherhood. She died in childbirth with her second son.

On an archetypal level, Rachel represents the Wife.  She is able to devote herself entirely to her marriage and her husband loves and desires her.  Leah represents the archetype of the Mother.  Since her husband is not interested in her as a wife, she is able to devote herself entirely to her children.  The problem occurs because these women are not archetypes, they are people.  Rachel is a wife that wants to be a mother and Leah is a mother that wants to be a wife.  Both women fulfill their archetype but neither is fulfilled by their archetype.

 Interpretation and Lenses

The stories of Genesis are specific and at the same time, they are general enough to be open to a variety of interpretations.  They are archetypal, both personal and universal.  In this story alone, the range of interpretations is vast.  For example, some critics see Rachel as a sympathetic character, desperate to become a mother and contribute to her husband’s lineage.  Others have viewed Rachel as a once-beloved wife that becomes intolerable in her single-minded desire to best her sister in a competition for sons that in the end, kills her.  My interpretation is personal.  I see Rachel and Leah as archetypal mother and wife in competition with each other because I identify with the struggle of these archetypes in my own life.  Like many mothers, I was first a wife and the shift between archetypes is a struggle I live daily.  This is the reason I was so drawn to this story, I identified the sisters as the archetypes within myself and other married mothers.

So many women fill the dual archetypes of wife and mother without realizing that they are separate archetypes. There are subtle differences between these roles, shifts that are made that need to have balance.  In order to gain balance, the archetypes need to be understood.  Archetypes are tricky because they can be so personal in interpretation.  For this reason, I used Craig Ballard Millet’s book In God’s Image: Archetypes of Women in Scripture to look at the archetypes of wife and mother in the original paper.  Her archetypes are based on the scriptures and on modern women.  Her lens gave me an understanding of the archetypes but I wanted to go deeper and understand more.  To do this, I will attempt to look at these archetypes through another set of archetypes.

Simply by choosing a set of archetypes to use as a lens, I am making specific and personal decisions that will color the findings of this research.  For this reason, I will acknowledge why I chose to look at the archetypes of wife and mother through the lens of individuation.  Along with the roles of wife and mother, I am also a doctoral student and community college teacher.  It is in these areas that my interest in archetypes meets my interest in individuation.  For my dissertation, I am working on a curriculum that includes literature to encourage individuation.  This is what sparked my interest in Carol Pearson’s Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World.  To further understand both wife and mother archetypes, I will use the lens of the archetypes from Pearson to see where the shifts occur and where the need for balance comes in for the creation of a new, more realistic archetype for women balancing wife and mother.

Millet writes, “The archetypal wife is not simply a mirror reflection of her partner.  She is a woman who innately has within and who intentionally cultivates skills of intimacy, commitment, and love.  These are difficult skills to cultivate and difficult ones to exercise.  They require constant attention and constant work, but the rewards are also generous” (78).  These are some of the very same skills required for motherhood but the attention and focus for these skills are changed.    Wives and mothers contain elements of all of these, some more than others.  This lens is my own and is therefore limited by my knowledge, experiences, and interests.

The Journey

In her book, Pearson divides the hero’s journey and the archetypes as follows: the preparation for the journey – innocent, orphan, warrior, and caregiver, the journey – seeker, lover, destroyer, creator, and the return – ruler, magician, sage, and fool. “The journey of the Ego (preparation) teaches us how to be safe and successful in the world; the journey of the Soul (journey) helps us become real and authentic as we encounter the deepest mysteries of life; and the journey of the Self (return) shows us the way to find and express our authenticity, power, and freedom” (Pearson 27-28).  While a mother and wife can contain the elements of all of these archetypes, I argue that she is most likely in the second stage – the journey.  As a person, she may develop and experience elements of the return but as the archetypal wife and mother, her role is dependent on relationship with others and Soul, not of Self.  It is important to keep the distinction between the archetypal wife and mother and the “real” wife and mother.  For this reason, I will not include the last five archetypes in this paper and will conclude with our most complicated aspect in a life, love.

Married Mother

Not all married women are mothers and not all mothers are wives but those that are inhabiting both of these roles know that there can be direct conflict of these archetypes.  In fact, Millet never mentions children in the chapter on wives.  Children automatically change a woman’s role to include the mother archetype so she can no longer be a pure wife archetype. If a married mother tried to be a wife archetype, her children would suffer and that would not be good for the marriage just like a mother completely switching to the mother archetype is not good for a marriage.  In order to give married mothers an archetype that is more about balance, I identified a third archetype, I simply call it the Married Mother.

The Married Mother realizes that in order for her husband to be happy, she needs to be a mother and in order for her children to be happy, she needs to be a wife, and most importantly, in order for her to achieve her own happiness, she needs to find self-awareness and balance. The Married Mother needs to balance the relationships and archetypes.  A mother simply cannot spend the amount of time and attention on keeping the house clean, making meals, having relationship time with her husband, maintaining her appearance, or on any of her many former activities from her wife archetype days.  In reality, this balance is not possible but this is the ideal. The Married Mother is one that has managed to attain this balance.

When the wife becomes a mother, the husband also becomes a father.  She can easily lose herself in her new archetype to the point that her husband feels unloved and uncared for.  He has also had a transition of archetype to deal with and has his own new needs.  He may become angry or frustrated at the situation and since he loves his new children, he takes his anger out in other ways which harms the marriage.  Both parents are dealing with the loss of their old archetype but they are also dealing with the loss of the other’s archetype.

This disconnect from the former archetypes of the new mother can lead to problems with the other areas of her life, like it did for me with my classes and marriage.  I became so immersed in the Mother that I let the other areas and relationships slide, to a point, this is expected.  The problem is when the mother does not return her attentions to her former archetypes that she risks losing those roles.  If the mother does not realize that she has lost her wife archetype, she becomes at risk of losing her husband’s affections (like Leah and even at one point Rachel).  She may lose the relationship that creates the archetype and would simply live without that part of her Soul.  Some people lose other archetypes when taking the new role as mother, many quit school or work, and some, often not by choice, quit the archetype of wife.

How do we avoid losing our archetypes when we take on new roles?  It is all about balance. This is the question for every person, no matter what archetypes they are living.  To balance school, work, motherhood, family, my need to create, and all of the things that make me who I am will be a constant struggle for balance.  I will never be able to fill any of my archetypes without feeling dissatisfaction with my performance in other areas of my life.  This is true for everyone, it is archetypal.

The idea that we can balance the two archetypes, the idea that Rachel and Leah can unite, and the idea that any person could or should ever BE an archetype are not realistic but we can hope for clarity.  To do this, I will look at seven archetypes as applied to Wife, Mother, and Married Mother.  Some of the archetypes are important for the roles of wife, mother, and married mother but other archetypes have more to do with the lack of balance that can occur when a married mother attempts to fill either the role of wife or mother alone.  For these second, more crucial elements of the mother and wife archetypes, it will benefit us to look in depth at the interplay between the archetypes within the described role and how they apply with subtle differences across the archetypes.

The Innocent

“The Innocent is the part of us that trusts life, ourselves, and other people.  It is the part that has faith and hope, even when on the surface things look impossible” (Pearson, 71). This archetype is important for wives, mothers, and married mothers but doesn’t change profoundly as a woman transitions from wife to mother and optimally, to married mother.  Love takes trust, it takes a level of innocence, of hope and sense that the impossible can be possible.  Innocence is not forever and in order to grow and mature, some innocence must be lost.  Traditionally, in order for a marriage to become legitimate, sex must occur.  Sex is a loss of innocence.  The innocence is lost but it can be something wonderful and more beautiful than the original purity.  In order for a wife to become a mother, sex definitely has to occur and the innocent, uncomplicated love the couple enjoyed without children becomes something different.  Once a woman has a child and enters the mother archetype, there is no going back – the love shared with the couple will always be different – not less or more, just different.  The new love is more complex, it is deeper in many ways because it is shared with children and complicated because it requires balance.  “When Adam and Eve choose knowledge over innocence, they open to receive life in all its fullness, which includes both pleasure and pain” (Pearson, 109).  The Innocent will maintain the balance of hope, love, and trust but as a woman becomes wife, mother, or married mother – she steps away from the world of maidenhood and innocence.

The Orphan

The Orphan also experiences a “fall,” a loss of innocence but it has a different effect.  “The Innocent uses the experience to try harder, to have greater faith, to be more perfect and lovable, to be more worthy.  The Orphan sees it as demonstrating the essential truth that we are all on our own” (Pearson, 82).  The Orphan seems, to me, inappropriate for our archetypes.  It is in direct conflict with the idea of relationships which is the basis for these archetypes.  There is no wife, mother, or married mother without others, without relationship.

The Warrior

“The Warrior within each of us calls us to have courage, strength, and integrity; the capacity to make goals and stick to them; and the ability to fight, when necessary, for ourselves or others. … Warrioring is about claiming our power in the world, establishing our place in the world, and making the world a better place” (Pearson, 95).  This one gets tricky and must be looked at through our archetypal lenses.

Warrior Wife

As a warrior, the Wife expresses these traits in her marriage.  “Part of the problem in discussing the archetypal wife is that we tend first to think in terms of stereotypes, and the stereotypical wife is very different from (the archetypal wife).  The little woman who sacrifices her name and herself to her husband’s every whim, and who cannot know herself apart from his reaction to her, is a negative and destructive picture of what should be an archetype of considerable power” (Millet, 77).  An archetypal wife is powerful and it is an important part of her role that she have the strength to care for her husband, household, and marriage.  The wife must also be a challenge for her husband.  The partners need to challenge each other over time in order for growth and maturity to occur.

Warrior Mother

The Mother as a warrior has profound differences than the wife.  The mother will fight for what is best for her child(ren) above anything else.  This includes fighting with the husband and thus abandoning her role as wife in favor of mother.  Just like Millet’s chapter on wives does not speak about children, her chapter on mothers does not mention the father until it gets to the shadow side of the archetype, in other words, what happens when a person loses themselves in the archetype.

Warrior Married Mother

The warrior mother will at times need to assert herself with her husband in order to do what she feels is best for her children but she will also need to be firm with her children in order to protect her marriage.  She will know how to balance the two as to not harm the relationships with her husband or child.  Not all battles are worth fighting and as a warrior, this married mom knows when to battle and when to strategize.

The Caregiver

“The ideal of the Caregiver is the perfect, caring parent – generative, loving, attentive to noticing and developing the child’s talents and interests, so devoted to this new life that he or she would die, if necessary, that it might thrive” (Pearson, 108).  This archetype is clear for the role of mother but how does it apply to wife and married mother and how does the shift effect the relationships?

The Wife

A caregiver is more than an ideal parent, it is an ideal giver of care.  As a caregiver, a wife takes care to the needs of her husband.  She shows him love and takes care of his needs.  Unlike with a child, the husband can thrive on his own but like with a child, her support can aid in the success of the one receiving care.  The caregiving wife puts the needs of her marriage above all other needs.  If it is in jeopardy, she will give it what it needs to thrive; including time, energy, and love – even at the cost of other relationships or self.  This is ideal for the archetype but not for the mother or the self.

The Mother

The caregiving mother, apart from being ideal for the child, is not ideal for the husband or self.  Pearson says the caregiver would die in order that her child could thrive.  By extension, it can be assumed that the caregiving mother would allow relationships to die in order for a child to thrive.  Since the mother is only concerned with her child, she only cares for her child.

Married mother

As a married mother, the caregiver expresses her dual role with balance.  She is able to give her marriage and her children the proper amount of care.  Not too much care as to smother them and not so little that they don’t feel loved.  There will be times that the needs of the child and husband conflict but the ideal married mother knows how to balance these needs.

The Seeker

“The Seeker seeks to find a better future of found a more perfect world” (Pearson, 124).  There are many ways in which the wife, the mother and the married mother are seekers but there is no real conflict between the archetypes and what is being sought.

The Destroyer

“Seeking is active; we feel like we choose it.  But initiation, especially under the reign of the Destroyer, chooses us” (Pearson, 136).  Like the Seeker, the Destroyer is also an important part of Wife, Mother, and Married Mother.  It is what allows for metamorphosis and growth.  The creation of the new roles, from mother, wife or married mother is also a sense of destruction.  The wife archetype is destroyed by creation of the mother archetype and the adoption of the married mother is to destroy the attempt toward mother or wife.

The Lover

“Without love, the Soul does not engage itself with life” (Pearson, 148).  It is love that makes us human, it is love that makes us complicated, and it is love that brings us our deepest sorrows and highest levels of bliss.  “We know Eros is at work when our connection with something is so strong that the thought of losing it brings intolerable pain.  Without Eros, we can be born but never really live: our Souls simply never fall to Earth.  It is Eros – passion, attachment, desire, even lust – that makes us really alive” (Pearson, 149).  Love is so complicated and so personal. Within the archetypes the Lover is easy to see.  As the Wife, the lover loves her marriage and her husband.  As the Mother, the lover loves her child(ren).  And as the Married Mother, the lover shows love to both her husband and child(ren) equally.  It is love and our very humanity that complicates this archetype.  Humans express love in different ways and they interpret loving actions in different ways.  Husbands can feel unloved if the wife spends more time or affection toward their children and children may feel unloved if the mother spends more time or affection with their father.  It is only the Married Mother that can find this balance.  We are not archetypes and we cannot so easily maintain balance in any of the archetypal elements but hopefully by looking at them more closely, we have discovered ways to help us maneuver that delicate dance.

Works Cited

Artwork – http://www.deviantart.com/art/Identity-I-212547776

Millett, Craig Ballard. In God’s Image: Archetypes of Women in Scripture. San Diego: LuraMedia, 1991. Print.

Otwell, John.  And Sarah Laughed: The Status of Women in the Old Testament. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977. Print.

Pearson, Carol. Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. Print.

Plaut, W. Gunther, Bernard J. Bamberger, and William W. Hallo. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981. Print.

 

 

 

Rachel and Leah – Wife and Mom

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     The story of Rachel and Leah from Genesis, sisters married to the same man and in eternal competition with one another, resonated with me in a profound way.  The parallels with my own personal experiences, especially Rachel’s painful years of infertility, were obvious but it felt like a deeper connection than just shared infertility woes.  I didn’t grow up with sisters, so it was strange that I felt so connected to this particular story and not Sarah who had a much longer period of infertility to contend with.  It wasn’t until I looked at the story on an archetypal level that the message went from just personal relation to a larger lesson about human nature and relationships that, for me, were both profound and timely.

The Story

In the story, Jacob went to the land of his mother’s people to find a wife.  When he arrived, he saw and fell in love with his cousin, Rachel.  An agreement was made between Jacob and Rachel’s father, Laban.  Jacob would work for Laban for seven years and at the end of that time, be given Rachel as a wife.  He “served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Gen 29:20).  On the wedding night, Laban switched Rachel for her older, less attractive sister, Leah.  Jacob woke to find himself married to the wrong sister and Leah was doomed to live the rest of her life as an unloved wife.  Distraught and still in love with Rachel, Jacob agreed to work another seven years for Laban in order to marry her.   It was agreed however, that Jacob only had to wait one week to marry Rachel and so it came to be that Jacob married the two sisters.

Jacob loved Rachel but she was unable to give him any children.  This was a problem since Jacob had been told by God that he was to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is also a problem because Rachel desperately wanted a child.  Then there is Leah, Jacob does not love Leah but she is abundantly fertile.  She takes her solace with her children but she desperately wants her husband’s affection. “The names that Leah gave her sons reflected her hope that Jacob would come to love her because of the sons she was bearing him” (Otwell, 52).

The Archetypes

In both of these women, we see not only a woman that embodies an archetype but also a woman that wants to fill both archetypes fully.  Rachel is the wife that wants to be a mother and Leah is the mother that wants to be a wife.  In the end, Rachel has children and so is given the opportunity to fill both archetypical roles but not after many years of anguish and the feeling of competition for offspring was firmly established between the sisters.  Instead of feeling simply gratitude at the birth of her first son; she is already unsatisfied and wants another son.  Her final son comes at the cost of her life as she dies in childbirth and so never reaches the final destination.

Archetypes are tricky because they can be so personal in interpretation.  Many critics of the scriptures claim that there are only two archetypes represented for women, the Madonna (mother) and whore (sexual object) but there are many archetypes for women throughout Genesis alone.  Rachel and Leah are an example of the predominant archetypal roles traditionally assigned to women, mother and wife.   Leah, conceived her children not out of purity like the Madonna, but out of incomplete sexual relations, sex without intimacy.  She is not the Madonna, she is purely the mother archetype.  Since Jacob does not love or desire her, she is free from the obligations of wife that would distract her from the role of mother.  Rachel, on the other hand, is most certainly appealing to Jacob sexually, but she is much more than a sexual object and not at all seen as a whore.  Rachel is the archetypal wife, Jacob loves her and she has the ability to devote her attentions to him since she does not have children to mother.  Both women fulfill their archetype but neither is fulfilled by their archetype.

The stories from the Torah are complex and at the same time, they are general enough to be open to a variety of interpretations.  With just this one small section of the story of Jacob, the range of interpretations is vast.  Some see Rachel as a sympathetic character, desperate to become a mother and contribute to her husband’s lineage while others have seen her as a once beloved wife that becomes intolerable in her single-minded desire to best her sister in a competition for sons that in the end, becomes the cause for her death.

Genesis does not tell us how Rachel feels about Jacob but we know he loved her.  Her desire for children seems to be driven by status but that may be the way it is presented because of the fact that Leah was so fertile and Jacob was only prophesized to have twelve sons.  This is a complicated issue and because we are only given a small glimpse into the lives of this family, I like most readers, will use the lens of my personal experience to fill in the blanks.  I found many connections to the story of Rachel and Leah.  While I never had to compete with a sister, I think Rachel and Leah also represent two sides inside the soul of married mothers.  While they are represented as two women, I argue that they can be viewed as the archetypal individual struggle to act as a mother or a wife.  The competition between the sisters can be a metaphor for the competition within the self to find balance between the archetypes.   Since it is impossible for me to separate my story from the sisters’ story, I will tell my story as it relates.

My Story

My story is similar to the story of Rachel.  My husband and I met when I was only fifteen years old and both of us felt an attraction to one another just on first sight.  Early on in the relationship, we felt that we wanted to be married but we waited almost eight years because we were young when we met.  After a couple of years of marriage, we felt ready to start a family but it just didn’t happen.

After eight years of trying and ten years of marriage, I became pregnant with our son.  For that first ten years of marriage and the eight years of dating, I was predominantly the wife archetype.  I was also a student and a teacher for many of those years but my husband also had his studies and career to build so this in no way detracted from my role as wife but actually was beneficial since it added money to our household and going to school was a way to build for our future.  We balanced each other well but we were uncomplicated and easy to balance.

I was able to be the “cool” wife that did fun things because I didn’t have kids to take care of like the other wives.  At gatherings, we could stay late because we didn’t have tired little children wanting to be home.  I was self-sufficient and independent.  If I needed to go to work, I went to work.  If I wanted to go see a friend, I went and saw her.  I never had to worry about who was going to watch the kids or work around nap schedules.  In many ways it was wonderful, but it became unfulfilling and each month brought another disappointment and failure.

My husband and I had never really fought up until this point in our marriage.  Like Rachel, I felt like I would die if I didn’t get to be a mother and was willing to take drastic medical and financial measures, but my husband was hesitant.  I saw so many others become pregnant so easily like Leah did and I became envious and angry with the world.  “When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no children, she became envious of her sister; and Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die.” Jacob became incensed at Rachel and said, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you fruit of the womb?” (Gen 30:1-2).

Rachel did not have the advantage of modern medicine but she did have an option like surrogacy and she gave her husband her maidservant to bear children for them.  In this way, she had two sons but it was not enough.  Later in the story, there is a fight between the sisters over some mandrakes.  Mandrakes were used for two things, as an aphrodisiac and as an aid for infertility.  Leah wants the plant so that Jacob may have attraction to her, even if it is medicinally induced and Rachel isn’t satisfied merely having claim over two children.  She wants more sons and she wants to carry them and bear them.  In the contest for the plants, Rachel trades an evening with Jacob for the plant and both sisters become pregnant.  The sisters continue to compete with each other for children and in the end, Jacob has twelve sons and one daughter by four women, two of which were his wives.

Wife

What does it mean to be a wife?  This is a tricky question and one that I do not intend to answer on my own, Craig Ballard Millet wrote a book on six archetypes she saw represented in the scriptures, two of which were the wife and mother.  I will be using her definitions of these archetypes and merge them with my own experiences and observations to help define these roles.     “Part of the problem in discussing the archetypal wife is that we tend first to think in terms of stereotypes, and the stereotypical wife is very different from (the archetypal wife).  The little woman who sacrifices her name and herself to her husband’s every whim, and who cannot know herself apart from his reaction to her, is a negative and destructive picture of what should be an archetype of considerable power” (Millet, 77).  The stereotype of the wife is a doormat and not a partner for her husband, merely a servant.

Millet writes, “The archetypal wife is not simply a mirror reflection of her partner.  She is a woman who innately has within and who intentionally cultivates skills of intimacy, commitment, and love.  These are difficult skills to cultivate and difficult ones to exercise.  They require constant attention and constant work, but the rewards are also generous” (78).  For the archetypal wife, it is all worth it because she has shared her life and her love with her partner.  “She will feel that her role as wife has far outweighed in value any money, success, or even fame that she has earned in a career.  For her, that one primary relationship defines her life and is her life” (Millet, 78).  I’ll admit, my first reaction to that quote was a negative one but then I had to understand my objection.  Millet is speaking of an archetype, not a person.  It is hard and not recommended for a person to attempt to fill only one archetype and neglect the other parts of themselves.  People are more complicated than archetypes which is why we struggle when trying to fulfill our roles.  We have multiple roles to fill and it becomes impossible when conflict arises between these archetypes just like the sisters battled for supremacy, so too do those archetypes struggle for supremacy within us.

Being an archetypal wife may be difficult but it becomes a struggle for time and balance when the wife’s role changes and she also needs to incorporate the archetype of mother.  In fact, Millet never mentions children in the chapter on wives.  Children automatically change a woman’s role to include the mother archetype so she can no longer be a pure wife archetype. If a married mother tried to be a wife archetype, her children would suffer and that would not be good for the marriage just like a mother completely switching to the mother archetype is not good for a marriage.  Before I talk about the wife that transfers all of her energies toward the mother archetype I need to address a crucial aspect of the wife archetype which is how a wife archetype becomes a mother archetype, sex.

Sex

Sex is an important factor of the wife archetype and often the way a marriage is made legal is sexual union, as was the case in the time of Rachel and Leah.  It was because Jacob had sex with Leah that he was married to her.  It could not be undone.  Sadly for Leah, this was probably the only time in her marriage that Leah experienced a loving sexual union.  For every other sexual encounter with Jacob after the first, the purpose was procreation and possibly a bit for recreation but never for expressing love.

The Battle between Sisters – The Battle for Balance in Self

The reason I feel it is important to mention sex as part of the wife archetype is because it is a part that may get lost when the wife becomes a mother. Whether the couple stops having sex altogether, it will usually decline with the arrival of children.  This is natural but the reaction from the husband is also natural – he feels neglected by the wife.  She is tired, her body is different, and if she is nursing, her body isn’t even her own and she may not be interested in sex.  In the animal kingdom, as with lions and many primates, males have been observed killing the offspring of nursing females to make them ready for sexual activity quicker.  The nursing offspring is seen as competition for the female.  This seems brutal when put to milder terms, the nursing child is competition even for the father.  The mother must spend her time and energy on the new life but also, her love becomes shared.  In humans, we recognize this so men do not kill their offspring in order to regain their wives but they do still exhibit jealousy.

Archetypal Loss

Sex is just one of the many important elements to the wife archetype that change when she steps into the mother archetype.  A mother simply cannot spend the amount of time and attention on keeping the house clean, making meals, having relationship time with her husband, maintaining her appearance, or on any of her many former activities from her wife archetype days.  She can easily lose herself in her new archetype to the point that her husband feels unloved and uncared for.  When the wife becomes a mother, the husband also becomes a father.  He has also had a transition of archetype to deal with and has his own new needs.  He may become angry or frustrated at the situation and since he loves his children, he takes his anger out in other ways.  Both parents are dealing with the loss of their old archetype but also the loss of the other’s archetype.

This disconnect from the former archetypes of the new mother can lead to problems with the other areas of her life, like for me with my classes and marriage.  I became so engrossed in my new archetype that I let the other areas slide, which to a point, is expected.  The problem is when the mother does not return her attentions to her former archetypes that she risks losing those roles.  If the mother does not realize that she has lost her wife archetype and that she was in jeopardy of losing her husband’s affections, she may lose the relationship that creates the archetype and would simply live without that part of her soul.  Some people lose other archetypes when taking the new role as mother, many quit school or work, and some, often not by choice, quit the archetype of wife.

The Mother and Me

This leads me to Leah, the mother that wants to be a wife.  In the soul of the married wife, Leah is a warning of what happens when we lose ourselves in motherhood and no longer attempt to fill the wife archetype.  This part of the narrative becomes painful for me because it is still fresh in my life that I recognize I have become like Leah.  Like many mothers, I fell in love with my children and want to spend all of my time and energy on them.  Especially after waiting for so long to become a mother, once I was given the opportunity to fill the role, I went into it whole-heartedly.  My body was not my own for almost six years of pregnancy and nursing.  It became soft as I never quite lost my “baby weight.”  I had a mom’s body.  Our kids slept in our bed, it was nice for the kids but not for my marriage.  This is not limited to me or my experiences.  Most women struggle to maintain intimacy with their husbands while balancing the new responsibilities of motherhood.

I had neglected the wife archetype for too long in order to fill the mother, student, teacher, and other archetypes.  I recognized the changes in our marriage but I did not see them through the eyes of the man that once had a wife but was now married to a mom.  Luckily, I think the revelation came in time that I will not completely lose my role of wife but it definitely will take time to repair.  Today, I relate more with Leah than Rachel.  I wish my husband loved me the way he did before we had kids.  When sex occurs and a woman becomes a wife, it can’t become undone.  The purity is lost but it can be something wonderful and more beautiful than the original purity.  Once a woman has a child and enters the mother archetype, there is no going back – the love shared with the couple will always be different – not less or more, just different and as a former Rachel, I miss that kind of love.  The new love is more complex, it is deeper in many ways but it is also shared with the child(ren) and complicated because it requires balance.  The purity of love between just the two is gone but it can be something wonderful and mot beautiful than the original purity.  “When Adam and Eve choose knowledge over innocence, they open to receive life in all its fullness, which includes both pleasure and pain” (Pearson, 109).

The Mother the Archetype

The mother archetype is the ideal mother for a child but not always ideal for herself or for others.  “Integration for a woman whose archetypal nature is maternal will mean consciously expanding her role beyond home into other areas of her life beside her children” (Millet, 105).    Like with the pure wife archetype, the mother only cares about fulfilling her archetype. One danger with total identification with these archetypes is that they are based on relationships and are therefore based on other people that are also flawed and human.  The archetypal wife may have a job but it is not her focus, her marriage is the most important aspect of her life.  An archetypal mother may have a husband but her focus is on her child(ren), not her marriage except for how that relationship may affect her child(ren).  In this last aspect, a mother archetype may not recognize that she can harm her children by engrossing herself too much in her new role.  “Putting all her energies into her own family may not be healthy for her or for them” (Millet, 105).   Children need their mothers to be more than archetypal mothers.  Their mothers and fathers are their role models.  If the mother is unfulfilled like Leah, the children will see this as a way to live life.  There is also a danger that an archetypal mother will have difficulty releasing her role once her children are ready to stop being mothered.  “She will need to intentionally cultivate the strengths of one of the three independent archetypes in preparation for the time when her children are grown” (Millet, 105).  If a mother fails to have balance and devotes herself entirely to her archetype she risks a loss of identity when her children become independent or she takes a risk that they do not become independent and she mothers them even as adults. This is why there needs to be balance.  A person can’t be an archetype and as seen with the story of Rachel and Leah, only filling one archetype tends to lead to discontent, bitterness, and even hostility.

To further this metaphor, it is interesting to see that Joseph, the firstborn of Jacob and Rachel becomes a great figure in later stories.  “The child born out of the love match was more important than all the other sons put together” (Sanford, 34).  The others did not thrive like the son born out of wholeness.  Leah’s sons were raised by an archetype that was unfulfilled.  There father favored the sons of Rachel because he loved their mother.  Probably even more so after her death, he looked to them as an extension of her and for this reason, they thrived.

Balance

So, how to find balance?  This is the question for every person that exists no matter what archetypes they are living.  In the story, Jacob can also be seen as striving for balance.  Craig Sanford argues the metaphor of the story is about Jacob striving for balance.  This is an example of how these complex stories can represent different things to different readers.  “There is a sense in which every man has a Rachel and a Leah within him.  It is as though there is a pull within each man towards social conformity and adaptation to outer demands and expectations” (Sanford, 35).  He argues that Jacob’s steadfastness to Rachel demonstrates that Jacob is a man of love.  He cleaves to the wife he loves over the wife that gives him sons and status.

Like most of the stories found through Genesis, the interpretation of a story is more telling of the interpreter than it is about the story itself.  I maintain that this is a story of balance and as a wife and a mother, I identify that balance as the balance between the archetypes because I am currently trying to find that balance.  By working on this paper right this minute, I am not folding the clothes that have been sitting in the dryer since last night and by doing so, also letting the clothes I washed last night sit in the washer.  I didn’t get them folded and put away last night because I fell asleep putting the kids to sleep and neglected both my archetypal wife roles of keeping the house clean and orderly and going to sleep with my husband.  To balance the student archetype, I have to neglect things like laundry.  To balance the wife archetype, I have to make my children grow and become independent by sleeping without me. This balance, it is what allows them to have cause for independence and lets them see it is okay for a person to put their needs first sometimes.

To balance school, work, motherhood, family, my creative side, and all of these things will be a constant struggle for balance.  I will never be able to fill any of my archetypes without feeling dissatisfaction with the other areas of my life.  This is true for everyone; for Rachel, for Leah, for Jacob, for me, and for you.  This is a universal truth and why reading this on an archetypal level is so beneficial.

Archetypes are universal.  The truth that we are human.  That we can’t and shouldn’t even try to live our lives devoted to a single archetype because we are complex, like the stories of the Torah.  To me, I read this as a story about balance between mother and wife because I live those archetypes but it can be read as a need to balance any archetype.  The story works for so many people on so many levels.  This is why so many have argued these texts were divinely inspired.  The texts balance the historical aspect with the literary elements, they speak to us personally and universally, they were carried through the oral traditions of a people yet said to have been written by the hand of God – they achieve balance where we cannot.

I wish my conclusion was more definite, one that gave an answer but this is a research paper, not an argument paper.  My need for balance will leave you with the lesson I have learned.  It is okay that I fail because I am human, but I need to strive to not fail too often in any one archetype or I risk losing that role.  We all struggle to maintain this balance.  We can’t expect ourselves or others to always fill the archetypal role we want them to fill because they too are balancing their archetypes.  In the end, I guess this story, my struggles, and this lesson which on the surface seem sad and difficult have all come together to become something better, something nicer.  This has all been a reminder to be a little kinder to myself and to others and a reminder to focus not on an archetype but to focus on balance and let the rest fall into place.

 

Works Cited

Millett, Craig Ballard. In God’s Image: Archetypes of Women in Scripture. San Diego: LuraMedia, 1991. Print.

Otwell, John.  And Sarah Laughed: The Status of Women in the Old Testament. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977. Print.

Pearson, Carol. Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. Print.

Plaut, W. Gunther, Bernard J. Bamberger, and William W. Hallo. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981. Print.

Sanford, John A. The Man Who Wrestled with God: Light from the Old Testament on the Psychology of Individuation. New York: Paulist, 1981. Print.

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Lovers, Fools, and Sufism

When I turn on the computer and read the news, I see a world in incredible pain.  It has become acceptable and even encouraged in our society to get the most for the self, even at the cost of others.  Greed and consumerism have begun to replace integrity and compassion.   People seek to fill the void but remain unsatisfied, so what is the answer?  In a word, love.  Our society needs more love.  It may sound simplistic or foolish but Sufism does not seem to have a problem with foolishness.  “Without love, the Soul does not engage itself with life” (Pearson, 148).  It is love that makes us human, it is love that makes us complicated, and it is love that brings us our deepest sorrows and highest levels of bliss. “It is Eros – passion, attachment, desire, even lust – that makes us really alive” (Pearson, 149).  The problem is how we define love, how we show love, and how we receive love. Sufis have been teaching us about the heart for centuries so it makes sense we can turn to them to learn about love.

What is love?

Love is impossible to define because it is something beyond words.  “Love is not primarily an emotion.  Sometimes the greatest enemy of love is sentimentality, the cheapening or trivializing of the greatest power in the universe” (Helminski, 46).  Love is powerful, it can make people do things that are contrary to logic, foolish even.  It is universal but it is also cultural and personal.  Love can only be talked about or understood metaphorically because it is an experience, it is a feeling, it is an action – it is beyond words.

We often try to define love by the way it makes us feel or by the way we express our love.   Another way we try to define love is by the relationship that it serves but this is also not a way to define love; this defines relationship or degrees of loving feeling but not love itself.  Love is complicated just like humans are complicated.  Since love can’t be defined with words, I will do what I do when I need understanding – I will look to the archetypes.  For the archetype of love, I turn to the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.

Aphrodite

Dr. Ginette Paris said that Aphrodite is “the smile personified.”   When I think of how it feels when a person smiles at me, I think of love.  There is a small tickle inside, a happy spark, and a connection – to me, this is what love feels like.  There are degrees of love, but I think that a smile is a small dose of love.  Aphrodite is as complicated as love but in knowing her, we can know love.  I will admit, I did not always see the importance of Aphrodite.  Just like the word love has become trivialized by overuse and misuse, so had Aphrodite in my mind.  For me, it took the absence of Aphrodite to understand her importance.

There is a scene in a popular movie, Casino, where the main character is describing his future wife.  He says how she makes every person feel like the most important person in the room.  She has charm and grace, to me, this is Aphrodite.  Love is showing care and Aphrodite makes each person so cared for that they feel loved.

Paris asserts that the lack of Aphrodite is depression.  “When depression takes root, only those gestures indispensable to survival persist. The depressed person no longer devotes any of his or her energy to Aphrodite” (32).  Since everything is for function, Aphrodite is considered unnecessary. The person lacks care, they are apathetic.  Love is caring, it is how to show love.  When we care about something, it shows just as when something lacks care, it also shows, “everything that is nice, gracious, or fragile is sooner or later broken, tarnished, or ridiculed” (32).  To find Aphrodite, I had to first lose her.  Sufism asserts that to know love, one must first have your heart broken. Just like everything else we have learned about love, it seems contrary to logic that to find something it must be lost or that in order to be whole, one must first be broken.  All these truths we gain from Sufism and love, because they seem to be illogical appear foolish.

The Fool

In the royal court the fool was entertainment.  His job was to express joy and enjoy laughter but he really did so much more.  “Fools have a license to say what other people would be hanged for, to puncture the Ruler’s Ego when the Ruler is in danger of hubris, and to generally provide balance to the kingdom by breaking the rules and thereby allowing an outlet for forbidden insights, behaviors, and feelings” (Pearson, 220).  Many say that lovers are fools.  Love, like the fool, breaks the rules.  We don’t always fall in love with the person we should or we do things that don’t make sense because of love.  To love someone is to put that person’s needs before your own.  Some would call that foolish but to the Sufi, it is foolish not to care for others because the truth is that we are all one.  “Only Love can tame the ego and bring it into the service of Love. … The lover, the beloved, and love itself are all one in reality” (Helminski, 49).  Since we are all one, showing love to another is the same as to show love to the self.

Another reason love is foolish is because it vulnerable.  “Love is the absence of defenses; it is emotional nakedness” (Helminski, 50).  That is scary and powerful.  Our clothing protects us and our emotional clothing separates us from others but love is a stripping away of otherness, there can be no clothing between that which is one. This makes us incredibly vulnerable and in this society, self-imposed vulnerability is incredibly foolish.

How do we show love?

To be love, to attempt to embody the Aphrodite archetype, is to care for others.  The true way to show love is to give care.  When we do this, we give of ourselves and our time and these are truly the only things that are ours to give – our greatest treasures.  Caring for others is not so simple.  To care, one must first know what the other person needs and wants, and knowing takes time.  Therefore, it can often be said that a people grow to love each other.

Showing love is difficult because often a person doesn’t even know what they need or want.  Also, many times a person may think they know what the other person needs and they attempt to give it to them only to find that it isn’t really what was needed. To care about a person is to get to know about that person, to care for a person is to use that knowledge to give them what they need, and to love a person is to want to do those things.

How do we receive love?

Just like showing love is different for each person, so is receiving love.  It is hard to know how to love especially when a person doesn’t know how to receive love.  To be loved, a person needs to be vulnerable.  To be truly loved is to be known.  Allowing someone to know you is scary.  What if they do not like what they learn? This is especially true for people that do not know or love themselves.  How can another know you or love you if you don’t love yourself?  It is possible to show love to those that do not know the love they need but it is more difficult.  By giving a person love, even when it is difficult for whatever reason is not an easy thing to do but I argue that this is the time when a person needs love the most.  “May my imitation become real.  By practicing the fruits of love, by showing kindness, patience, and generosity to others, especially when it doesn’t come easily, we may summon the cause of these fruits, namely, real love” (Helminski, 50).  That is why I argue that including some love, by sharing a smile – we can foster good feelings with each other and in the long run, learn to love each other again but unless we learn how to receive love, we are only doing half of the work.

Why do we need love?

Life is about balance.  I am not proposing that we all become fools and surrender completely to love but I think we have gone out of balance.  Aphrodite cannot exist for long without Ares to protect her beauty or Apollo to figure out how to do things.  The problem is I feel our world is not in balance.  We have become too hard and too concerned with function.  We have lost sight of beauty for the sake of beauty, love for the sake of love, and compassion for each other.  “Love has many fruits: kindness, patience, generosity, courage, self-sacrifice.  Love will produce these fruits; and these fruits will engender love. This is a two-way street.  The effect can produce the cause” (Helminski, 50).

When I think about people in our society that are sad or angry or generally unhappy and I wonder how can we help them?  When a person is suffering; above all else, they need love, they need care, and they need Aphrodite.  It is not easy to love, it takes your soul.  Some people would think it foolish to give love to those that don’t “deserve” it for whatever reason but those are the people that most need the love.  As Helminski pointed out, giving love creates love and by spreading it to those that are most unable to show it, we can help create the change toward love.  It makes no sense to only share love with those that are easy to love because they already know love, it is those that are difficult to love that need it the most.  Even if it seems foolish.

Works Cited

Helminski, Kabir.  The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999. Print.

Paris, Ginette. Pagan Meditations. Dallas: Spring Publications, 1993.

Pearson, Carol. Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991. Print.

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