Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sacred Contracts

This past Saturday was a very interesting day. It was the first session of a class that I am taking on the book "Sacred Contracts," by Caroline Myss. I've known about this book for a few years - very interesting to me, as it discusses soul archetypes but with enough detail that it is worth the study and not just a throw-away concept. Just recently, however, I met a woman here in Spokane who learned about "Sacred Contracts" from Caroline Myss herself, and who was teaching a class in it.

Normally people take the class for self-insight. For me, though, I was interested because of my writing. I wanted to learn more about all archetypes in general so that I can put interesting characters into my stories.

Okay, so what is this book? hmm... The way I currently understand it, "Sacred Contracts" is based on the assumption that we all enter this world with a destiny - an agreement about where we are headed. We either can let circumstances dictate where we end up, or we can create a consciousness about our future, claim our destiny, and be self-directive. And whichever way we decide to live our lives, we have within us a set of archetypes that we use - either consciously or subconsciously - to move through life from point A to point B and beyond. Caroline Myss identifies a total of 70 archetypes, with room to adjust and create nuances. We each have 12 archetypes (four standard that everyone has, and then eight from the larger list) and then we have 12 different types of ways each of our archetypes can be used (through work, through individual self, through the cosmos, etc.).

This past Saturday, the class focused on identifying each of our own 12 archetypes. Part of how we chose them was to isolate the ones that resonated into various classes of archetypes, so that we had one each of a female archetype, a male one, a divine one, a healing one, a wisdom one, etc. In the next session (a month from now - it's six sessions over six months, with study groups to be formed in between), we will "throw" the "wheel" - meaning, we will place each of our archetypes into one of the 12 categories described above (like work, self, etc.). It's called a wheel because the categories are listed in a circle split into 12, like slices of a pie. (Here's a link to Caroline Myss' explanation of all of this.)

So I have chosen my archetypes. I love them all. They all are very cool. It makes me wonder if I did this right. I mean, who ends up with all cool archetypes? I guess the Magician (my "wild card" archetype) has potential for trickery, which is a potential challenge. But still. Who doesn't want to be a magician, and then use their powers for good?

The main reason I took this course is to find out about archetypes in general. Yes, it will be fun to identify them for myself. But my bigger interest is understanding more about what makes people tick, for purposes of my writing. For instance, I just don't understand people who lie - who default to lying as the first step. I just don't get it. But - if I study these archetypes as a whole (which include the archetypes of Thief and Trickster), maybe I'll get some insights and I can design characters more fully.

Right now, I have a bias. I think characters in movies and television shows - especially television shows - are often unbelievable because their character flaws do not fit their actual characters. It's like the writer decides the story needs conflict, so suddenly conflict is inserted by making the main character do something dumb or mean or unforgivable, and voila - conflict. Unfortunately, the conflict action is not consistent with how that character would ever behave. So suddenly there's a whole lot of dissonance that doesn't make much sense. I've learned to write off that dissonance - chalk it up to a Hollywood fascination with making good people do bad things - but it's still there, and creates inauthenticity in storylines that just as easily could have been made authentic with a little elbow grease and creativity.

My own Achilles heel is making my heroes do bad things. I like my heroes. They are good. How could they behave badly? Perhaps an understanding of archetypes in general - maybe even their archetypes in particular - will help me get to my heroes' flaws authentically and tell their stories with conflict that makes sense. So this class is a step in the right direction.

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