Queer Archetypal Lifespan Development Theory & The “New” Myth: Re-visioning The Hero’s Journey through the Practice of Terrapsychological Inquiry
Symptoms represent important unconscious messages to oneself and should be managed—if necessary, through psychotherapy or pharmacology or both—but not indiscriminately silenced. Symptom is one way by which the psyche tells us that we’re not listening to its deeper voices. (Chalquist)
I have been attempting to study the psyche of queer-identified peoples since I was 19 years old, doodling zine ideas in the back row of Gay and Lesbian Studies. From my undergraduate escapades in queer theory and Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues to the doctoral dance of Mark Thompson’s Gay Spirit and Mitch Walker’s Radical Faerie ideology, my understanding of queerness and psyche has been a continuously evolving construct, malleable in definition and subject to the zeitgeist. Despite its adaptability, or perhaps because of it, the construct of queerness, psyche and queer psyche remains an elusive topic of study. I had been writing about the queerness and the psyche for over a decade when my client named The Collective came into my life. By the time I met them, I had already spent years researching and writing about the nature of queerness, Queer Spirituality, Queer Spirit and The Queer Archetype. I had come to a type of understanding, for better or worse, on the key facets of these constructs. By the time I met The Collective I had already conducted research on the role of queer spaces in Queer Spirituality and published a theory of Queer Archetypal Lifespan Development. I had been down the proverbial rabbit hole with the queer psyche, argued for its existence through historical presence in indigenous cultures, gathered data on its representation in myths and societal customs, as well reviewed literature on its depictions in spiritual traditions, legends, and folklore. Throughout all of this, through this lengthy academic journey, the assumption of the singularity of psyche, whether stated or implied, remained. That psyche, queer or otherwise, referred to one soul, one psyche per person, per human incarnation. Enter The Collective.
In March of 2017 a female presenting person walked into my office. This person, referred to as Patient Q (PQ), revealed that they identified as a “queer, copresent multiple,” an individual who identified with the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID), and as a unit, they were queer.
As a practicing psychotherapist and depth psychologist, I am constantly in dialogue with the way unconscious processes express themselves in society and culture, and how, in turn, that culture affects the psyche. Depth Psychology functions under the premise that “the mind is an arena or interplay of dynamic, passionate forces connected to a somatic base” (Chalquist).
In my work with clients I come from the vantage that my clients are experts of their own perspective, regardless of “empirical truth.” From this interdisciplinary lens, literature, spirituality, philosophy, mythology and the arts affect my conceptualizations of cases, their diagnosis and treatment methods.
That being said, dissociative identity disorder is a controversial mental health diagnosis characterized by the presence of more than one sense of identity within a single human body. These alternate identities, commonly referred to as “alters” or “dissociated parts,” are conceptualized in modern clinical psychology as elements of a single fragmented personality. This personality is able to be experienced by the person and others as different people, able to function independently, and conventionally thought to be the result of childhood trauma (“Alters”).
Depth Psychology advocates for the exploration of conscious, semi-conscious and unconscious material in order to heal social, emotional and spiritual wounds. In approaching The Collective’s queer psyche from this lens, I utilized their own framework to guide our work. It is beyond the scope of this paper to assess the evidence for the existence, etiology and treatment methods associated with DID as a clinical disorder. What follows is an exploration of queer psyche as PQ believed it to be. It is in no way comprehensive and intended to serve as a jumping off point for future research.
As PQ and I got acquainted, I was told that PQ preferred to be referred to as she; however, as a unit, preferred I refer to them as “They.” PQ indicated that she was a cisgender (gender identity corresponds to sex assigned at birth) woman, as were all the other members of The Collective. She also stated that though she as an individual identified as queer, the other individuals did as well. She continued on to indicate that the queer identity went far beyond any of their individual sexual orientations or gender expressions, but it was the core of their multiplicity. They were not one queer psyche or many queer psyches, but the group of psyches as a unit were, in and of themselves, queer.
From this moment, all of my previous work with respect to queer psyche suddenly felt inadequate. Was multiplicity in psyche queer? How could one even know, when queer psyche itself felt like Jell-O, always moving and moderately cohesive. It felt as if the container I had been using to hold the construct of queer psyche was not extensive enough to hold this amorphous construct to be accurate. I needed to break it all down from the beginning.
The term “queer” is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “odd, strange, unusual, funny or peculiar” as well as “an umbrella term for a coalition of culturally marginal sexual self-identifications” (Jagose 91). It is of note that the term “queer” refers to “nothing in particular,” resulting in the notion that the “fundamental indeterminacy makes queer a difficult object of study; always ambiguous, always relational” (Jagose 96).
Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives defines “queer” as non-normative logics and organizations of community, sexual identity, embodiment and activity in space and time that specifically emerge within postmodernism and transcend “bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, risk/safety and inheritance” (6). Halberstam indicates that queer time and space are critical to the understanding of queer subcultures as a whole, in that queer life modes, existing outside of heteronormative timelines, offer an alternative to living within the parameters of child-rearing practices.
The term psyche, derived from the Greek psȳchḗ, meaning literally “to breathe,” refers to the construct of “the mind, soul or human spirit” (“Psyche” Dictionary.com). Psyche, represented in both Latin and Greek mythology as a beautiful woman, is made immortal by the love of the Greek God Eros, also known as Cupid. Pictorially represented as a butterfly, the concept of the psyche in modern psychology references the center of “thought, feeling, and motivations consciously and unconsciously directing the body’s reactions to its social and physical environment” (“Psyche” The New Dictionary).
According to Craig Chalquist in the article “What is Depth Psychology,” psyche is more indicative of a process, “a verb rather than a noun,” existing as simultaneously conscious and unconscious. He indicates that “the unconscious, in turn, contains repressed experiences and other personal-level issues in its ‘upper’ layers and “transpersonal” (i.e. collective, non-I, archetypal) forces in its depths.”
In order to utilize the most expansive definition of the term, for the purposes of this discussion, the term “queer psyche” refers to the process of a fluid and evolving construct of soul, mind, and/or consciousness which has the potential to incorporate all facets of life including time, systemic structures, attitudes, and ideas that are not associated with heteronormativity. This is inclusive of sexuality, sexual expression, and gender identification, but is not limited to it.
One of the primary tenets of queerness as a construct is the notion of a gender-sexuality spectrum. Non-binary genderedness can be understood as a conceptualization of being and consciousness whereby the illusory nature of the separation between genders dissolves, creating individuality that can be differentiated but not split. Non-binary genderedness assumes the differentiation between biological sexes is a static chromosomal characteristic, as opposed to gender, a fluid sociological construct (Blackmore 3).
The manifestation of non-binary genderedness, according to Edwin Johnson in the book Gay Spirituality: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness, is referred to as spiritual androgyny (123). Spiritual androgyny, or the ability of consciousness to incorporate and therefore overcome opposites, is present within the queer individual. This “potent blend of male strength and competence with female sensitivity and feeling” makes a more complex and fascinating human being (124). At this juncture, I have found no reference for or against multiplicity being a component of spiritual androgyny.
According to Mark Thompson in his book Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning, nonbinary genderedness and the ability to transcend polarities have been an honored and integral component of queer individuals historically across a variety of cultures. Named bote by the Crow Indians of Montana, nadle by the Navajo, and lhamana by the Zunis of New Mexico, these “two-spirited” individuals have been revered for their capacity to embrace characteristics of their non-biological sex (53). Within indigenous cultures native to the Americas, cross-dressing often meant “entering a magical state involving taking on a persona or spirit of a god,” as well as assuming a variety of roles such as healers, leaders, and mediators of spiritual life (67).
One of the most famous examples of the confluence between non-binary gender expression and elevated social roles is the tale of We’Wha, the Zuni Berdache (two-spirit), who rose to diplomatic prominence in Washington DC’s elite social circles in the late 1800’s. According to Will Roscoe in the book The Zuni Man-Woman: We’Wha and the Zuni Third Gender Role, We’wha was an accomplished potter, weaver and a recognized expert in Zuni religion whose success culminated in an 1886 meeting with then-President Grover Cleveland. According to Roscoe, it came as no surprise to the Zunis that We’wha would travel thousands of miles, overcoming the obstacles of language and culture, to live and mingle with the leaders of a powerful nation as “Berdaches were expected to be extraordinary” (Roscoe, willsworld.org). Examples of non-binary gender expression, two-spiritedness, and third-gendered individuals appear in myth and folklore across cultures, locale, and time. Within classical Mayan cosmology (200-900 CE), a deity known as the Tonsured Maize, depicted as an “effeminate young man associated with art and dance,” was considered to embody the culture’s third gender, while gender variance and same-sex eroticism in Aztec mythology was depicted through representations of Xochipilli, the patron god of “art, games, beauty, dance, flowers, maize, and song” (Connor et al. 351). During the same relative period, pre-Islamic Arabic and Oikoumene cultures worshipped the third-gendered trio Mukhannathun, Al-lāt, Al-Uzza, and Manāt as divine creators, while the Akan people of Ghana’s deities manifested as the androgynous celestial beings Abrao, Aku, and Awo (Connor et al. 40).
In the forward of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit, Gloria Anzaldua refers to a similar construct as the Queer Spirit (vi). The Queer Spirit is a vast community of jotos, or sacred queers which participate in the mythic dimensions of life. The sacred queers engage in beliefs and practices woven together from Shamanism, Buddhism, Christianity, Santeria and numerous other traditions (vii). From the “effeminate drag queen” psychopomp Haitian Voodoo spirit Ghede Nibo, to the Australian Aboriginal rainbow-serpent transgender god, Angamunggi, evidence of jotos can be found in a multitude of mythologies (Connor et al. 157). For example, third gender, or gender variant, spiritual intermediaries are found in many Pacific island cultures, including the Bajasa of the Toradja Bare’e people of Celebes, the Bantut of the Tausug people of the south Philippines, and the Bayagoin of the pre-Christian Philippines (Connor et al. 85). The Bayagoin’s polytheistic religion included the transgender and/or hermaphroditic gods Bathala and Malyari, whose names means “Man and Woman in One” and “Powerful One” respectively (Connor et al. 84).
The Queer Spirit is simultaneously a belief system, energy, and an embodied manifestation. The Queer Spirit contains the idea of a spiritual mestizaje or shapeshifter as its central mythology. “It is a spirituality that nurtures the ability to wear someone else’s skin in its disturbance of traditional boundaries of gender and desire with a narrative of metamorphosis” (Anzaldua viii). Hindu mythology contains numerous examples of deities changing gender, manifesting as different genders at different times and incarnations, combining to form androgynous and/or hermaphroditic beings, as well as embodying the opposite sex in order to facilitate sexual acts. For example, Ardhanarishvara, a god created by the merging of the god Shiva and his consort Parvati, has a name which literally means “The lord whose half is a woman” (Connor et al. 67). Representing the “totality that lies beyond duality,” this form of Shiva is associated with communication between mortals and gods as well as men and women (Connor et al. 67).
Multiplicity, while not specifically referenced in any he above described examples, appears to be able to be absorbed into the logic of the larger context. If It is possible to embody more than one gender or biological sex, perhaps multiplicity could follow.
Non-binary genderedness is also a crucial component of the queer psyche and Queer Spirituality in the larger context. Queer psyche, falling under the umbrella term of Queer Spirituality, which as its own entity, addresses the notion that the containing myths, which have held societies since the birth of organized religion, are inadequate to address the needs of modern consciousness (Anzaldua ix).
Taking its fundamental precepts from Queer Theory, Queer Spirituality calls for a new paradigm, a “new myth” in which the fast-paced evolution of consciousness and the environmental concerns of the planet can be addressed. The new myth of Queer Spiritually assumes an earthrise perspective; that human consciousness was forever transformed by the capacity to witness the planet from outside and above. This vantage, displayed most prominently from Apollo 8’s 1968 images of the Earth from outside its orbit (“Apollo 8”), corresponds with Queer Theory’s notion that “outside” perspectives of society provide avenues to insight that were previously unavailable. It could be argued that this line of reasoning applies to multiplicity as well.
Situated within the container of Queer Spirituality exists the Queer Archetype, embodying the physical, spiritual and psychological elements of queer sexual expression, practice and gender identifications (Blackmore 2). The Queer Archetype is the embodiment of the concept of the Queer Spirit. It embodies the academics of Queer Spirituality while simultaneously focusing on the mythic and spiritual aspects of erotic and gendered experience (Blackmore 3).
As my relationship with The Collective deepened, we began to “treat” what they had come to therapy for in the first place. PQ indicated that she was what she referred to as “co-present”—conscious, but able to “take a back seat” to whoever was in charge of the body at any particular moment. PQ’s goal for therapy, contrary to psychiatric recommendations, was to co-exist harmoniously with all entities that she shared a physical form with. She absolutely did not want to “integrate” herself. Integration of the alters into a singular personality stems from a clinical understanding that the alters are merely fractured elements of the primary patient’s psyche (“Alters”). PQ felt that integration of the others would be analogous to “killing her family.”
PQ was aware, however, that some of the others, were in fact, alters, that is, fragmented components of herself. The Collective, as a unit, was able to both acknowledge and differentiate between types. Referencing historical child-like alters that had been integrated years earlier, The Collective became even more convinced of the others’ “soul status.” The Collective’s beliefs center around the understanding that there are several whole human souls inside her singular body, distinct from PQ as an individual. It is PQ’s assessment that there are other components, which they believe to be whole, non-human unrecognizable entities. They were not sure if they were souls, per se, but indicated they were a form of consciousness other members of The Collective has exposure to.
At that moment in time, The Collective had a long history of satisfying relationships with cisgendered men, but an almost exclusive sexual attraction to queer-identified women. Some of the souls had names (Hope, Rosa, etc.), while others preferred to be called by their primary function (The Researcher, Survivor, The Robot, etc.). One even identified as differently-abled (she was blind and PQ’s vision would literally go dark when she was in charge). The fragmented alters were also present; however, PQ functioned as their mouthpiece, discussing them as personifications of feelings (Sadness, Rage, etc.) PQ retained executive function over the alters.
We decided to work with the others as a family, a closed system. As I gained each individual’s trust, we negotiated their role in the family, the autonomy of their decisions, established a democracy on dating, and created safety rules.
Quickly, The Collective was able to function like a well-oiled machine, each soul maximizing their contribution to “PQ’s life” through the implementation of their specific skill at its most necessary time. Once we had addressed some of the resentment stemming from PQ’s early life “body choices,” a safe space was organically created to dialogue. According to PQ, once the others “felt seen and heard” and were “able to be validated as real” there was a motivation to work together.
With this increased visibility and validity, a new world emerged. Rosa, the extrovert, went to work, The Researcher paid the bills, PQ nurtured the children. I began to see this way of being as potentially the next evolution of humanity. One member of The Collective would rest and another would take over. Their physical body functioned on 3-4 hours sleep. One soul went to work for 8 hours, another wrote poetry for several more. PQ cooked, cleaned and tended to the needs of the children, while The Researcher studied metaphysics throughout the night. They were able to accomplish more per day then I had ever seen a singular human accomplish. I began to wonder. If queer people could be viewed as healers and revered for their two-spiritedness the world over, is perhaps singularity the next duality to transcend? Perhaps with modern technology moving ever faster, our souls could evolve, could transcend our own singularity for maximum productivity. If queerness transcends duality by embracing polarity, does this now transcend singularity by embracing multiplicity? My mind began to swim.
In researching some of my own questions, I tried to find examples in other cultures’ myths, lore or legends. Soul dualism is a range of beliefs that a person has two (or more) souls or kind of souls existing in one physical body (“Soul Dualism”). Thus far, I have found evidence that the concept of a dualistic shadow-soul exists in Estonian, Hungarian, Finnish and Baltic-Finnic folklore, as well as in the Kalbo and Caribou Inuit cosmology (Ibid.). These groups believe that people have more than one type of soul inhabiting the body simultaneously. For example, in Hungarian folklore, the disease spirit of “Iz” is referenced and associated with the presence of decay in the mouth and gums (Lükő).
In addition, traditional Chinese culture differentiates between hun and po souls, which correlate with the concept of yang and yin respectively. Within this soul dualism, every human has both an ethereal (hun soul) that leaves the body after death, as well as a substantive physical (po soul) that remains with the corpse. Chinese traditions differ over the number of hun and po souls per person, with the Daoist tradition claiming three hun and seven po per physical body (“Soul Dualism”). Described as a historically pivotal concept which remains today, hun and po are commonly understood to be the key to understanding Chinese views of the human soul and the afterlife (“Hun and Po”). It is thought that the identification of the yin-yang principle with the hun and po souls occurred sometime in the late fourth and early third centuries, when hun and po compounded with qi “breath; life force” and xing “form; shape; body” to combine the words/concepts hunq and xingpo (“Hun and Po”).
One of the ways multiplicity has been most commonly understood is by shamanic practitioners who view the phenomenon as a type of soul loss or spirit possession. One of the essential aspects of shamanic healing across all cultures is the shaman’s journey in search of these lost soul parts. The shaman seeks help in getting the spirit or soul part to move to where it will best serve his patient. (Gucciardi). Michael Harner, in The Way of the Shaman, indicates that in almost all pre-industrial societies a “person’s physical illness or erratic behavior often has its roots in loss of an essential part of oneself” (5). This loss can be compounded by the fact that trauma, which is often referred to as “the triggering event for soul loss” (6), can also allow the entry of foreign spirits into a person’s psychic space, disrupting the individual’s mental and physical health. It would then be the role of the shaman practitioner to retrieve the “lost soul parts and restore them to the individual” (10). The performance of various healing modalities, such as dispossession or extraction, will remove the occupying spirits (10). It is of note that this line of thought is still seeking to return the soul to singularity, not multiplicity.
While not addressing the concept of soul multiplicity in one physical body specifically, support for the notion of a single soul in multiple bodies simultaneously lends credence to the idea that soul incarnation is not necessarily a one-to-one phenomenon.
Michael Newton, a counseling psychologist, master hypnotherapist and researcher for over 40 years, provides additional support for the notion of many souls in a singular physical body in his pivotal work Journey of Souls. Through his experimentation with a deeper state of hypnosis deemed the “theta state” Newton compiled thousands of session transcriptions over the course of 30 years. What he claims to have discovered is a methodology for hypnotherapy that allows for the transcendence of past life regression into the space he deems “the lives between lives.” Utilizing 29 specific cases, specifics on life after death, reincarnation and other mysteries emerge with astounding consistency.
In asking a patient (S) about soul dualism and the ability of souls to exist in multiple spaces and in multiple planes, they state:
Dr. N: How did you know you were ready to be a caretaker and begin assisting others spiritually?
S: Its an…awareness which comes over you after a great number of lives… that you are more in balance with yourself than previously and are able to aid people as a spirit and in the flesh.
Dr. N: Are you operating in or out of the spirit world as a caretaker at this time?
S: I am out…In two lives
Dr. N: Are you living in two parallel lives right now?
S: Yes I am. (151)
Dr. Newton indicates that the majority of his colleagues who do past life regressions have overlapping chronologies from people living on earth in two, and very rarely, three parallel lives (155). He continues to indicate that souls may be capable of living in different dimensions during the same relative time.
Dr. N: I wonder how you can function effectively as a spiritual guide for the nine members of your company and still incarnate on Earth to finish your own lessons?
S: It used to affect my concentration to some extent, but now there is no conflict.
Dr. N: Do you have to separate your soul energy to accomplish this?
S: Yes, this capacity (of souls) allows for the management of both. Being on Earth also permits me to directly assist my company and help myself at the same time.
Dr. N: The idea that souls can divide themselves is not an easy thing for me to conceptualize
S: Your use of the term divide is not quite accurate. Every part is still a whole. I’m just saying it takes some getting used to at first since you can manage more than one program at a time.
Dr. N: So, your effectiveness as a teacher is not diminished by having multiple activities?
S: Not in the least. (179-180)
In writing this I am left with vastly greater questions and literally no answers. It appears that the concept of queer psyche, as a vast and fluid entity, is, at the very least capable of holding the construct of multiplicity, though it remains unclear what a practical manifestation of that would look like.
As debates on nature/nurture elements of sexuality and gender continue, and academic discussion of DID persists, it is not likely that these questions will be answered any time soon. That said, what has come of this inquiry is a desire to know more. It is the wish of The Collective that their story be told in the hope that other practitioners will allow space for the continued existence of multiple souls in a singular body. It is my intention that this future research be collaborative and transparent, exploratory and descriptive. Such research, particularly on the transcendence of singularity, has the potential to highlight the power of mythology in our modern psychological understanding.
“I think a lot of people of my generation are discomfited by the assertion of neutrality in the mainstream media, this idea that they’re the voice of God. I think it’s just honest to say, yes, you know where I’m coming from but you can fact-check anything I say.” Rachel Maddow, from “Rachel Maddow: I’m definitely not an autocutie”
Narrative. It has become a social science buzzword in recent years. Through narrative-based research methods, narrative-based therapies, or simply via hipster jargon, the concept of “the story” is having a modern day renaissance. Existing simultaneously as literal, metaphorical, deep and allegorical, the story being told and who’s telling it matters. As our rulers declare objective facts “fake news” and the very real threat of election interference holds the global community hostage, journalistic transparency and the rebels who foster it take on an increasingly important role. Questionable news sources, which flourished during the 2016 presidential election cycle, have nourished a micro attention span propped up through algorithmic segregation and groupthink social media commentary. As a result, the American populace has been left with a collective crisis fatigue and an inability to discern news from propaganda. If ever “We the People” needed a rebel, a hero to help us make sense of it all, it’s now. Enter Rachel Maddow.
As a San Francisco based psychotherapist, depth psychologist and queer-identified woman in one of the nation’s most progressive locales, I have been on the front lines of the post-election liberal psychic collapse. I lived deeply in the trenches with the left-leaning coastal progressives as we bore witness to the unfathomable, counseled through the incomprehensible and re-emerged at the dawn of what is now widely referred to as the “post-fact era.” I have had a front row seat to the psychological meltdown of entire communities whose narratives are being rewritten. As the tellers-of-tales reconstruct populism, feminism, patriotism, republicanism, conservatism, liberalism and progressivism to serve their own agenda, over half the population attempts to comprehend the dystopian reality. Every night, like clockwork, the mainstream media outlets report on “unprecedented” events, conflicts of interest, tweets, court rulings, and handshake speculations. Every night there is something outrageous, devoid of fact, peddled as truth, and repeated ad nauseum until normalized.
In the midst of this media hurricane, Rachel Maddow is thriving in the eye of the storm. Somewhere in the chaos of the Republican primaries Maddow emerged at the front of the journalistic pack; a savvy, witty, voice of reason. Though successful by conventional journalistic and television standards for over a decade, the 2016 presidential election provided her the opportunity for a greatly deserved breakaway moment (“Rachel Maddow Biography”). She stopped giving “alternative facts” airtime, curbing the presumption of validity by repetition. She deemed the daily sound bites a “The Silent Movie,” reporting heavily on actionable events. Maddow emerged from the insanity of the election cycle as a beacon of light, simultaneously embodying both free speech and critical thought.
Rachel Maddow told us, the American public, a story. She placed events in context, hooking us with killer historical monologues that were devoid of condescension and ravaged by facts. She told it to us with humor and creativity, packaging complex current events into digestible portions. Her methods created a political breadcrumb trail leading viewers to ask questions and use their own deductive reasoning. She helped the average American news consumer to critically read news articles, evaluate their sourcing and “follow the money.” She stopped parroting news and started reporting what the news means.
While shifting the narrative, Maddow remained true to her queer self. Relatable and warm, this androgynous queer woman in a trendy black blazer chuckled her way to the number one cable news slot. Referring to her viewers as “friends,” she rebelliously challenged the formality of the news while delivering the astonishing information with precision and grace. By doing so, she began to change the form, format, structure, and face of the news itself.
Myths are defined as tales believed as true, usually sacred, set in the distant past or other worlds or parts of the world, and with extra-human, inhuman, or heroic characters… Cosmology’s concern with the order of the universe finds narrative, symbolic expression in myths, which thus often help establish important values or aspects of a culture’s worldview. For many people, myths remain value-laden discourse that explains much about human nature. (Magoulic) Rachel Maddow is representative of the iconic protagonist of Joseph Campbell’s monomythic hero’s journey in the archetypal battle between good and evil. An Oxford-educated Rhodes scholar with a “wicked” sense of humor, she is the personification of the mythic badass who unabashedly speaks truth to power. Forging a coalition of engaged citizens, she empowers her viewers to be critical observers of the powers that be. She also represents more modern American values than her predecessors. Managing to tear at the seams of the patriarchy five nights a week in Manhattan, she spends her weekends relaxing in western Massachusetts with her partner Susan and dog Poppy (“Rachel Maddow Biography”). She is a real-life representation of a woman prioritizing work/life balance and the importance of family.
Her personal mythology is as fascinating as she is freakishly smart. Rachel Anne Maddow (whose initials spell “RAM”) was born April 1, 1973 (“Rachel Maddow Biography”). Her astrological sun sign, Aries, is pictorially represented by a hugely horned ram, or male sheep. In addition, the word “ewe,” the female equivalent of a ram, is the literal Hebrew translation of the name “Rachel” (M. Campbell, “Behind the Name”). She is the perfect ram trifecta: A physical and energetic embodiment of masculine and feminine energy represented simultaneously as neither, yet both.
Featured prominently in many ancient societies, Aries the ram is the first sign of the Zodiac. Celebrated for its prominent and continuously growing horns, it is a symbol of ever-increasing mental activity, curiosity, and investigation (Venefica). Rachel Maddow has done this spirit animal justice. Just as the horns of the ram grow larger with the passage of time, so have Maddow’s ratings, viewership, and “street cred.”
The jaw-dropping synchronicities don’t stop there. The name “Maddow” can be derived from the root words Mat, Ma’at or Mad (M. Campbell, http://www.behindthename. com). Interestingly, “Maat” is the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess of truthtelling, the deity responsible for traveling the underworld in order to keep society balanced (“Maat”). Symbolized by an ostrich feather in place of her head, Maat is fabled to have delivered the Egyptians from the chaos of the universe by weighing the hearts of the deceased against her feather of truth. If the heart weighed in lighter or equal to the feather, the deceased person was deemed as having led a truthful earthly existence, thus to crossing over into the afterlife and keeping the universe in balance (Hill).
In everyday understanding, sheep energy represents the tendency to follow the mainstream (hence term “sheeple”) as well as the fundamental opposite of independent thought (Venefica). If we put Maddow’s surname first, like a variety of cultures do, the name literally becomes “truth teller to the sheep.” Rachel Maddow’s name by definition is the speaker of truth to the masses.
The ‘new’ myth—a new paradigm in which place, space, psyche, and Spirit are entwined with the evolution of ecological consciousness, sexual fluidity, and non-binary genderedness in a way that provides queer-identified individuals a means to understand themselves and the world in which they live in. This ‘new’ myth calls for a revisioned ‘Hero’- a revised narrative with a new set of normative experiences and developmental milestones that exist outside of traditional reproductive life markers. I am calling the ‘Hero’ of this new narrative the Queer Archetype. (Blackmore 6)
I tend to see Rachel Maddow, the first openly gay news anchor to host a prime-time show, as the physical embodiment of the Queer Archetype, a spiritually androgynous mythic figure which transcends the duality of the binary gendered experience (Blackmore 2). In essence, they are man, woman, neither, and both. Able to transcend the experience of binary sex and gender, they encompass any and all traits necessary to thrive.
I originally wrote about the queer archetype in a theory I published regarding queer lifespan development in 2015. The article, published in the Journal of the International Association of Transdisciplinary Psychology, argues that through the lens of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, a spiritually androgynous, sexless, genderless archetypal construct emerges which displays the ability to transcend duality by embracing their polarities (1). The fabled hero of the tale, representative of the queer archetype, queers the hero well through the journey’s phases. In addition, by applying this concept to the basic pattern of narrative in world mythologies, we queer the narrative itself (3).
Enter Rachel Maddow once again. By queering the narrative, she has set journalism up as the clean-energy alternative to “fake news.” She has diversified the construct to include systemic structures, attitudes, values, and ideas that are not associated with hetero-normativity. Simply put “to queer” the narrative is to make it inclusive of the vantage of the “other.”
Shifting the narrative to the more historically feminine meaning-making construct and blending it with the classically masculine notions of truth and justice, a non-binary tale emerges. Setting up meaning-making as the electric car of informed viewership, Rachel Maddow has moved toward leveling the proverbial playing field, thus adding an additional layer of depth and sustainability.
In studying qualitative research methods, I have developed an intense appreciation for the role of the researcher in the research. Instead of denying its existence in the first place, a variety of academic disciplines have embraced the subjectivity of the researcher as a strength, utilizing it to increase validity and provide additional measures of triangulation. In psychotherapy, we have a long history embracing the therapist as crucial to the therapeutic process. Perhaps as a society, we are ready to embrace the power of the transparent narrator as essential in generating a more holistically accurate story.
In this sense, Rachel Maddow has utilized her role as the narrator to highlight the effectiveness of subjective transparency, as well as the faux objectivity of the entire journalistic profession. She delineates what is opinion, states what is known fact, clearly indicates what elements are speculation and invites the viewer to draw their own conclusions. She does not even bother to feign objectivity but rather accounts for the inevitability of subjectivity.
Perhaps Maddow’s journalistic paradigm, which antiquates the very idea of objectivity itself, is the next evolution in our collective narration. Fox News, which purports objectivity despite its bold and blatant bend to the right, is a prime example of the power of the faux-objective narrative. Furthermore, the recent demise of Bill O’Reilly and the once beloved O’Reilly Factor highlights the collective shift toward transparency with subjectivity. However, it should be noted that despite the impact of this shift, Bill O’Reilly remains an iconic journalistic figurehead for Republican politics.
To create space for the new journalistic paradigm and an energetically balanced society, the “objective” narrative and the patriarchal institutions that support it must allow for the mythic death/re-birth process to take its natural course. Our current leadership, one that is waging war on the very concept of truth, has inadvertently created a rebel with a cause. Through the queering of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, we make room for the Hero construct and the fusion of masculine and feminine elements, thus creating space for voices that are either, neither and both. By metaphorically trimming down our societal ram horns, we transcend all things binary, making way for our collective story of truth, transparency, and rebellion to be told. Cheers to you, Rachel Maddow!
If you’re inclined to read this article, chances are you already know that healthy communication is the foundation of any relationship. Whether it’s your bae, boo or boss, communication can feel like a complex web of intonation, body language, sarcasm, and satire. Despite the nuanced complexities of interpersonal communications, one simple skill can improve your communication exponentially. The Shit Sandwich.
We know from the research of John and Julie Gottman, founders of the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, that one of the major predictors of divorce is an element of communication they call the “harsh startup.” It’s the idea that when people start conversations in a manner that is perceived as aggressive, the other person immediately feels defensive. Defensiveness can quickly lead to interpreting words and actions through a negative filter. Generally speaking, most folks are only able to hear the first few words and the accompanying tone before their fight or flight responses kick in and they are busy crafting a retort. More often than not, conversations that begin harshly result in the other person being unwilling or unable to listen. If they do hear your words, you will most likely encounter a negative reaction by the third or fourth word in. The “cure” for this is to intentionally start discussions in a complementary fashion. You can think of this as the bottom slice of bread, or the foundation of the Shit Sandwich: Start off by saying something nice, so the other person is ABLE TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.
For example, I drive my wife crazy with what she calls my “nutty professor-isms,” the absent-minded things I do when I’m not paying explicit attention to my actions. After learning the Shit Sandwich, my wife now starts her conversation with “I love your nutty professor-isms, but….” Because she’s prefacing with a personalized statement of love and respect, I can actually listen to her request instead of the age-old habit of defending my absent-minded in the first place. The statement “I love your nutty professor-isms” is a double winner because it references “I” instead of “You. Try and be mindful of the “you” statements or backhanded compliments in disguise. Steer clear of starting off with statements such as; “You know, I think you could be amazing at…” or “You’re usually good about this, but…. “These type of passive aggressive statements are like a fart in the car and can set the conversation down the wrong path.
The shit in the Shit Sandwich is the unpleasant thing you have to say. You’ve already come in soft on the startup, so typically the other person is actually listening. If you are requesting someone do something, phrasing it as a question can be helpful, however, it can get dicey if you are proposing solutions. If you’ve got some shit to say, say it. Be direct and kind in your selection of words and tone, but get to the point.
This is the follow up to the original Something Nice statement. There may be hints of defensiveness or feelings of criticism spilling over from the Shit, so this is where you can really wrap it up with a positive intent. A few simple, genuine sentiments can really take the edge off.
Hey babe (cute, you are coming in soft!), you know I love your inner nutty professor (something nice), but it really pisses me off when you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing (the Shit). It’s just that I love you and I get worried you are going to hurt yourself! (Other Something Nice). Would you mind in the future slowing down and really being mindful when you are stressed out? (Optional: Potentially helpful solution)
Remember, too many words can muddle your position, or worse, make the person feel they are being talked down to. Serve your shit sandwich with compassion and allow it to digest. If you need to toss out a side of helpful solutions, proposing them as questions help the other person feel part of the collaborative change process. Be aware of solutions that sound like demands. In general, the follow up is optional, so when in doubt, leave it out! Good luck!
As a therapist in private practice I ask people daily to extrapolate and describe their inner world, to identify what they were thinking, feeling and what they are telling themselves about themselves. I ask them to run through a typical day with me–from waking up, to the first look in the mirror, to the last pore examining glimpse before bed. Overwhelmingly, people’s inner critic likes have a say in most of our daily duties. Some people’s inner voice is the internalized criticism of a parent, guardian or teacher, or a product of childhood bullying. Irrespective of origin, person after person describes their inner dialogue in a tone that has begun to sound eerily familiar. It is the same voice that we all hear blaring day after day, from morning till night, sucking up oxygen and your emotional bandwidth all the while gas lighting you with your own internal dialogue.
If your inner voice has been trumping your positivity lately, don’t despair. You can fire it Apprentice style.
1.) Control the Shit Show: Do you check your phone before leaving your bed? Are you checking out your social media feeds before you enjoy a shower or have coffee? Are you spending your breaks checking the news? Do you feel guilty if you skip a protest? You’re not alone. It’s a really important time to start having some firmer boundaries and discipline regarding technology and information. Don’t get me wrong, A LOT is happening right now and it’s important to engage and be informed but you have to put it away if you want to have less negativity floating around your brain. WHAT WE THINK– WE CREATE! Notice when you are most vulnerable.
2.) Slap the Bag: in the land of psychobabble this is called “negative thought stopping”. It’s a staple of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and fundamental way of firing the inner asshole. If you are anything like me, your inner asshole can be intrusive and it won’t stop its bullshit just because you want it to. I like to literally shake my head to interrupt the thought as a physical rejection, my partner imagines a giant eraser wiping the negativity away. If you like physical reminders you can wear a rubber band or hair tie around your wrist and pluck it when you’re bumming yourself out. Whatever your method, stopping the negative thought in its tracks is key!
3.) Create a Badass Bio: When you are trying to stop shitty thoughts from pummeling your psyche, you need a replacement thought. It’s damn near impossible to think of a an affirming thought when you are spending all your energy not having the crappy one. Keep a mantra on hand. A quick go-to that is easily repeatable and clearly conveys what you would like to think and feel. I personally like “you are a badass, you got this”. Choose something that you would like to believe about yourself, because remember WHAT WE THINK WE CREATE. Don’t worry if the mantra does not FEEL true right now–it will! I know, I know, you’re thinking “I can’t just make myself believe something that isn’t true”…YES YOU CAN. You have already made yourself believe negative things about yourself that aren’t true just by thinking them. Why wouldn’t it work in the other direction? It may sound cheesy, but it works.
4.) VIP Ass Anchor: There has never been a better time to build in some grounding routines. Morning meditations, yoga, exercise, sex, masturbation, prayer, nature, gardening, cooking and cleaning can all help you feel good in your skin and in your space. Invest in yourself everyday before you’re distracted by the rest of the world. If you treat yourself like a VIP, your psyche will follow.
5.) Support Beams: As overly simplistic as it sounds, the utilization or expansion of your support network is pivotal in fighting back against the inner dick. Reach out to old friends, join new groups, take classes, see a new type of practitioner or go to therapy. This thing called life is a weird ping-pong game of behaviors and insights which yield our perspective. Getting the right support can help shift our perspective to be more self affirming. The roof of your house would never weather a storm without support beams and you can think about your perception in the same way. If you fortify your soul, protect your positivity, accept help and offer it back, you’ll find that you’ve got a pretty solid shelter to survive the shit-show.