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The Archetypal Father

Archetypes are unconscious universal forms and ideas that take on meaning within a certain culture. The Father is one of the main psychological archetypes.

Images of piercing and penetration such as a phallus, knife, spear, arrow and ray all relate to Father. The sun and rain symbolically represent the masculine principle of the fertilizing forces that impregnate the dark receptive earthiness of the great Mother.

Feathers, birds, wind, airplanes and everything connected to flying or height are symbolic of the masculine upper realms. Illumination of the face, crowns, and dazzling brilliance of any kind are symbolic aspects of the masculine.

The Father archetype takes the form of God, any god, giant, tyrant, king, judge, doctor, executioner, devil, leader, holy man, boss, wise old man, and of course, father. As with any archetype, both light and dark aspects exist.

The positive aspect of the Father principle suggests law, order, discipline, rationality, understanding and inspiration. When our inner authority figure is supportive, dreams bring capable, benevolent and helpful kings, firefighters, healers and guides.

The Father archetype combines the capacity for initiating with the ability to oversee others, whether a biological family or a group of creative people (e.g., staff). A positive father guides and protects those under his care and is able to put ideas into fruition.

Examples of the light Father archetype include Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Bill Cosby in “The Cosby Show,” and Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech.”

The shadow Father emerges when the caring guidance and protection turns into abuse of authority. The negative Father archetype involves rigidity, control and a cold intellectual way of relating. This leads to ego and intellectual inflation and a state of hubris (remember the Titanic!).

The negative Father has grandiose thoughts of transcendence and results in a fate similar to Icarus. Although warned about the dangers of flying too high, Icarus soared too close to the sun, plummeting back to the earth – restoring a much-needed degree of feminine groundedness.

Examples of the dark side of Father include Marlon Brando in “The Godfather,” James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos,” and Darth Vader in “Star Wars.”

Our fathers represent the figure of original authority and strength (or lack of it) in our lives. Therefore, the Father archetype we uphold in our psyches indicates how we feel about being capable, productive and creative in the outer world. What did you learn about ‘being masculine’ from your childhood and continue to learn from society or other sources?

How does the masculine appear in your dreams? Is he helpful or interfering? What qualities (e.g., greed, leadership) do you admire in the male figures you respect? Become aware of the messages from your inner Judge and King. What authoritarian scripts are ruling your beliefs and actions?

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.