King, Warrior, Wise Man, Lover

Archetypes of Masculinity

In dealing with failing out of Pharmacy School, I’ve been trying to figure out who I am and what values I should have.

In particular, it’s hard to figure out what kind of man I should be or want to be. When looking into this I found some interesting archetypes.

The idea of masculinity can have different meanings depending on your culture. Throughout western culture, there has always been a trend to characterize masculinity as distinct masculine archetypes.

There are societal pressures on men, personally and professionally. These pressures can be conflicting based on our limited characterizations and expectations of what men are supposed to be.

This, in a way, can put a limit on men. This can limit the ability to characterize internal dispositions such as depression.

In our society men are supposed to be strong and stoic, especially during a time of crisis.

This can leave men vulnerable to a variety of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety when we feel like we can’t live up to these expectations.

Modern challenges to archetypes

Modern times has challenged the classic archetypes by presenting new challenges for survival (from actual jungle to corporate jungle).

When dealing with losses or significant failures, it can feel like there’s no outlet for men to address strong internal feelings. This can be further restricted based on expected archetypes. It’s my opinion that these rigid models of masculinity are failing modern man.

It’s our job to adjust our self-view and use the archetypes as a guide or supplement to define masculine behavior.

The modern era presents us with a dynamic environment. The key to excelling in this environment is by being a more dynamic person rather than a caricature of an archetype.

In this way, I’ve been very interested in the life of Theodore Roosevelt. I think he can be a good example of a modern man incorporating the archetypes presented below, in a dynamic way to address situations as they arise.

An archetype is based on Carl Jung’s theory that there is a model of human nature people can be divided into.

You can look at almost any movie or book and find archetype models based on Jung’s theory and Joseph Campbell’sThe Hero’s Journey” (Star Wars is a great example).  In this post, I am going to focus on four archetypes I think are important for defining modern masculinity.

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words” ―Mohandas Gandhi

Archetypes of masculinity

Archetype roles I’m going to focus on are: King, Warrior, Wise Man, and Lover (take the quiz to see your archetype)

King / Modern Rugged Individual Lawman

The King is typically a loner. He can be the power above it all, working as the source of order out of chaos.

We see this in modern depictions of the romanticized wild west. A lone person coming into a distressed town to provide justice and order (almost any Eastwood western).

Modern presidents can also be an archetype. Other branches of government have members but the executive branch only has one lone member, the President, charged with the execution of laws

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Warrior / The Soldier

Before there were kings, there were warriors of the heroic archetype.  These were often common men farming and hunting, waiting to protect the tribe or state at any moment.

I think America has a warrior ethos born from the challenges colonial America faced.

Many of the colonists were militia members when they weren’t living their lives as merchants, farmers, etc.  This type of living continued during western expansion into lawless territories.

The warrior lives by a code/rules and commanded by the king to protect the group at all costs.

There is often a “romantic” quality to the warrior; the one who faces danger and returns with glory.

Hemingway and others of the “Lost Generation” volunteered for service in World War I and found the true horrors of war; people returning home broken, physically and mentally.

This is reflected in Hemingway’s writing. The Sun Also Rises is a story of people coping with PTSD though alcohol and escapism (travel).

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” ― William Shakespeare

Wise Man / Magician

The Wise Man is typically the elder member of a group, one with experience and wisdom to guide leaders.  He is the thinker, knowledgeable in technology, science, and logic.

The wise man is a statesman with the ability to understand the meaning or context of events and explain what they mean and their relevance.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Lover

The Lover lacks the toughness of the Warrior, the order of the King or the oratory skills of the Wise Man. Yet, this archetype is the “human” archetype, the “heart” of the group.

He is the person who can read others and understand what they want or need.

This can be the everyman, the man who takes care of his family and others, the one who reminds the group about what is really important.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” ― Marcus Aurelius

Final thoughts

What does this mean for men in modern times? Each has important lessons to teach us about being men.

From the Warrior, we learn about a duty to the community and courage.

We learn from the King the importance of and rules.

The Wise Man teaches us about learning to get to the root cause of a situation. This strategy to make decisions, based on the best available information, is for the benefit of the community and ourselves.

From the Lover, we learn to have “heart”, to have a reason why we have order and the reason why it’s worth protecting at any cost.

When I think about what it means to act like a man, there are many examples of traits to choose. This may be part of the problem.

People are multi-dimensional, a mix of these archetypes in a dynamic state of change depending on the situation.

My goal is to recognize the archetypes in myself. Then to use them as a tool or guide and apply them, the best I can, in appropriate situations.

I should also recognize that as I am managing these archetypes, some archetypes may be stronger than others. A balanced archetype, I hope, will be my model of a resolute gentleman.


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Learning new things about myself after failing out of Pharmacy School

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