I love to create villains as a way of putting myself into a heroic position of false moral superiority and thus avoid the messiness of meaningful and lasting relationships with people. Basically, if someone is a villain then when they disappoint me, do something with which I disagree, have a differing opinion, or seem to be antagonistic to my goals and desires, I can vilify that behavior, assume the role of savior, and find a way to win some artificial game I’ve created without ever having to actually communicate how I am feeling.
I get to win without actually playing the game of relationship building; and I’m really good at winning, even if it’s only in my head.
I wish I could say that I had some kind of larger plan or purpose when I do this, but I have come to realize that creating a false duality of good versus evil gives me a briefly transient but extremely addicting sense of order and structure to what is so often a beautifully disordered and chaotic world of people just being people.
The psychologist Carl Jung defined 12 basic archetypes, each of which emerges from something he described as the collective consciousness. These archetypes ebb and flow into a shared understanding of history, literature, culture, religion, and science, and eventually define our behaviors within consciously and unconsciously recognized patterns.
In other words, we find meaning in acting a certain way and seeing similar actions and behaviors in others. As individualistic and unique as these actions and behaviors may feel, Jung offers that in fact, every type of personality can be grouped into very standard, and very common constructs.
The constructs shift. Their boundaries bleed in and out of one another. A healthy personality moves seamlessly between these different boundaries and exists in a synchronous relationship of anarchy. Anarchy is the villain I love to hate.
Last week I mused on the concept of multiplicity and how the gym is a place where you get to safely show up and be seen as whatever self you want to be that day.
However, this past week, I found myself struck by a common tendency to create villains and to shift responsibility to some mythical “they” in situations where I wonder what emotion the speaker, often me, was actually feeling.
- “They” didn’t erase their boards.
- “They” put their weights away in the wrong places.
- “They” left their square sweaty.
- “They” told us that we would be safe.
- “They” said we wouldn’t have to wear masks anymore.
- “They” are all fucked up.
- “They” failed me again.
What if we lived in a world where there were no villains? What if we recognized our shared fragility? What if we accepted our universally held imperfections? What if anarchy served a function of healthy and productive growth?
What if instead of a bunch of “they” statements, I honestly reflected on what I was feeling at that moment and expressed that?
- “I” feel disrespected when “I” find a board put away without being erased.
- “I” feel unseen when “I” have to put weights and plates back in the previously labeled positions.
- “I” am scared that this workout will hurt more than “I” want when “I” see the amount of sweat left in a square from its previous occupant.
- “I” am frustrated that “I” must still navigate the uncertainty of knowing when “I” must choose to put my mask on or take it off.
- “I” miss the feeling of safety when “I” innocently believed that everything had a purpose and clearly defined answer.
- “I” am afraid of being vulnerable.
And what if I actually said those things OUT LOUD to another human being? Wouldn’t it be easier to just…
Taking a deeper, inner dive on those emotions ironically creates a greater sense of connection with the world around me. “They” become “I” and the villain disappears. Something else, something new, something unknown fills the void.
I fear the unknown. It makes me feel like a beginner. It requires that I accept a high degree of failure, that I ask for help, that I lean into vulnerability as I stumble along without a plan. Without a sense of stability that comes from the illusion of the villain who will I blame when things don’t go as expected?
That dualistic struggle between hero and villain makes perfect sense to me.
Smashing that construct will require some courage.
Good thing there’s plenty of courage to go around down here on the Creek.