The Lover Archetype
What do you see?
Two vague silhouettes merging, a picture of two bodies curling around one other, a couple on a bench in a garden looking lost in their world as they lovingly and smilingly look at each other’s face, a young couple standing in a naturally scenic place, looking down at their held hands – looking deeply connected?
When you see this image – whether similar to the ones described above or a little different – you are inadvertently accessing the lover archetype. This specific archetype evoked goes by the name of lovers/ partner/ friend/ intimacy/ etc. To capture the essence of this symbol in as few words as possible, I call it: “The Archetype of Human Connection”.
Many Sides of the Lover Archetype
The desire to fully experience a passionate connection is evident in the most intimate of symbols that depict unison and warmth- as seen in the picture above. This archetype represents our ideas of genuine companionship and of seeking this connection. It symbolizes our want of having someone to do things with, share moments with and someone who would truly understand us. This connection can be found in a diverse palette of relationships encompassing romance, friendship, team mates, colleagues, etc.
When the lover archetype finds its expression through a meaningful, intimate relationship, we feel fulfilled, joyful and satisfied. However, its shadow side sometimes arouses a desire to remain perpetually connected (to varying degrees in different individuals). The shadow side of an archetype contains its weaknesses, repressed desires and qualities that we find difficult to accept in us. To know more about the shadow archetype, do read our previous article on the same.
When the shadow of the lover archetype becomes too overpowering, outcomes such as dysthymia, existential crisis, depression, panic attacks, difficulty moving on from a relationship, fear of commitment – are what I see in the Counseling room. When we look closer, it becomes clear that such a need for passion and joy brings with it, an ‘emotional dependence’ on the selected few, with whom the ‘seeker’ is closely associated. While most of us from time to time, do function out of this need inherent in the lover archetype, some of us might be more governed by its shadow and thus, suffer from an ‘addiction’ or an unhealthy obsession of it. In extreme cases, the result is the opposite: conscious detachment and staying aloof.
When this need to connect is sought after and not met with, the result is pure loneliness. Imagine going through your life, experiencing various moments and a range of feelings – all of which, go unacknowledged and unshared. Such loneliness can make a person feel truly disheartened. Also, if the experience of ‘togetherness’ had been richly absorbed in the past, but at present not accessible, the intensity of emotional pain could be even worse.
Over time, the unfulfilled desire to feel close is yearned for in every experience that promises or partially satisfies.
At this point, it is important to note an important difference between the yearning for closeness expressed by the lover archetype and the need for validation and belongingness felt by other archetypes such as the orphaned child or the ordinary person. The lover archetype too, feels the need for validation, belonging and being accepted, albeit in teams, groups or by deepening intimacy with a partner or closeness with a friend-that one likes. In case of the orphan child or the ordinary person archetypes, there is a sense of desperation to get accepted, liked and acknowledged in a more general, global sense – without which the person may feel his/her existence challenged.
In both these scenarios, though loneliness is a common fear, a sense of fear and insecurity of not being accepted or not ‘fitting in’ is compounded in the the orphan and the ordinary person archetypes; while the despair and fear of not being wanted is present only in the lover archetype. Having said that, fears and insecurity could arise in the lover as well, but stemming from a desire to feel loved and wanted.
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To speak of it poetically, is to reiterate- “where there’s love, there’s pain; where there’s pain, there’s love”. Realistically speaking one can’t exist without the other: the duality in life must be acknowledged. And my dear reader, you’ll be happy to learn that you’re not alone in this rough journey. Your fellow travelers are so many, that movies are made on the subject: The Holiday, Inside Out and Good Will Hunting – to name a few.
The Lover’s Dilemma
Knowing this, brings to light the inherent dilemma of this archetype: whether to want and involve the self in this passionate connection or run a risk of despair and feeling lonely. When I think about this dilemma, I can’t help thinking about the French film Amelie, where the brittle boned old man hints an advice at the young introverted heroine – that she can still take these blows to life, she is not brittle and fragile as she thinks – she can go ahead!
In the long run though, when headed down this path, it’ll help to keep a few simple thoughts in mind to reduce the suffering:
The need for companionship need not supersede other needs required to lead a meaningful and wholesome life. By acknowledging the different facets within us, as well as of our lives, will we hold a more realistic view and sense movement in life, versus finding ourselves being stuck in a rut.
On that note, life can be about experiencing most, if not all of human needs. Consciously or otherwise striving all the time to somehow ‘fit’ the reality into the imagined/expected idea of a connection, is common and at the same time, a recipe for mishaps. John Lennon’s quote can help: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
So I say, go ahead, enjoy the warm connections that life has to offer you; and when you find yourself in the pursuit of a constantly satisfying environment of togetherness and ‘love’- think about what parts of your life you may be missing out on – they have a sneaky way of catching up!
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