The Lover Archetype
When people hear the word “lover,” their first thought is likely to be of Don Juan, Romeo and Juliet, or something about romance. In Shadow Work, however, we use an expanded definition of the lover archetype. By “lover,” we mean that part of us which loves. It is the part that seeks to connect, to bond. It includes our sexual nature and our sensuality, but it also encompasses what is sometimes called our “inner child,” that is, our vulnerable, tender feelings. Generally speaking, when we talk about the lover archetype in Shadow Work, we are referring to how we relate—how we relate to our emotions, to our body, to other people, to the universe, as well as to a Higher Power. When the lover archetype is lively in people, they are usually in touch with their feelings and express their emotions freely. They may also be expressive physically, such as through dance, athletics, or massage. They tend to be at home with their sexuality and to enjoy sensual pleasures. They may also have a childlike spontaneity, openness, and vulnerability.
Lover energy is flowing, like water. People who are functioning from their lover archetype will usually go with the flow instead of adhering to a pre-set structure. They let their emotions flow through them freely and, because their feelings tend to bubble up in them, they can have a quality of being “juicy.” They also tend to be comfortable with a great deal of intimacy, and so they are usually the ones who seek greater closeness in a relationship. Their openness to experiencing feelings, both emotions and bodily sensations, can make them highly intuitive, as well as spontaneous. It also gives them access to their creative “juices.” The lover archetype thus includes artists and other creative people. They can be like a fountain that has tapped into the wellsprings of creative energy.
The gateway into the lover archetype is the emotion of grief. This does not mean that people are grieving or sad when they this archetype is enlivened. The lover archetype, in and of itself, is about love. However, feeling the sadness of a loss seems to lead us to a tender, vulnerable place where it is easy to feel our loving connection with others. Thus, while the lover archetype itself is not sad, our experience of sadness and grief open a doorway to it.
When lover energy is weak or deflated, people often report that they are cut off from their emotions. When asked what they are feeling, they are likely to have a hard time knowing. They are likely to have even more difficulty opening up and being vulnerable. As a result, they can have a hard time connecting with others and forming or sustaining relationships. To others, they often appear to be stoic or just ‘in their head.’ Within themselves, they may feel lonely and cut off from people, and they sometimes have given up on ever finding love, much as they may long for it. It’s as if they are “all dried up,” lacking the watery energy of the lover archetype.
On the other hand, people with too much, or inflated, lover energy are likely to be drowning in their emotions. They often report that there is way too much going on in their lives, as if their life is a constant drama. These people overflow, like a dam that has burst, and they may appear to others as if they are drowning in their emotions. Unlike the person with deflated lover energy who becomes stoic, the person with inflated lover may go to the opposite extreme, indulging themselves to the point of hedonism and addictions.
The wound that gives rise to both inflated and deflated lover energy is the shaming message that they don’t really love or connect right. Maybe they believe that they aren’t loving enough, or sensual and sexual enough, or emotional in the right way. Most simply, they seem to have the false belief that says, “I’m not really a loving person.” In reaction, they either give up on loving, or they try exaggerate any behaviors that look like loving to compensate for their shaming belief.
The main tool we use with people who have an imbalance in their lover archetype is to work with their body. We might, for example, start with whatever physical sensations the person is experiencing at the moment, and then use that as an entry point into their emotions . Or, we might develop a metaphor for the sensation and work with that to locate what is needed. There are a variety of techniques that we draw on in Shadow Work to help bring people into balance with the lover archetype.