Q: After months of acrimony in Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are joining together to try to reform the financial system. In your experience, is compromise and collegiality the road to success, or to neither-here-nor-there mediocrity? When has being single-minded and uncompromising helped you, and when has it hurt you?
Archetypes are unconscious forms or patterns, narratives that give our life experiences context and meaning. The partisan tension that has Washington D.C. -- and much of the nation -- in lock-down mode these days suggests that we are in the grips of the Warrior archetype.
This is a narrative or mental model that sees life as a contest, a struggle to be engaged and won. While engaging in a battle or contest can call up or activate the Warrior archetype, the archetype also works in the other direction. Being in the Warrior archetype can cause you to see as contentious and oppositional things that are not necessarily (or don't have to be). That is what is happening in the bitterly partisan halls of Congress.
Other archetypes offer different approaches to governance and legislation.
The Magician archetype would allow for transformational thinking, in which new frameworks and ideas realign not just individuals' views but the way problems are even approached; the Magician is an alchemist. The Caregiver archetype would be a narrative that sees the American public as needy dependents and elected officials as a benevolent force that helps with decisions and laws; the Caregiver is the concerned parent. The Sage archetype is the narrative that seeks knowledge, wisdom and understanding --noodling all sides of any given issue in search of the eureka solution.
Effective governance -- which Congress may or may not be an example of -- could come from any number of archetypes, but the current atmosphere makes it clear that we are seeing a Warrior's tale play out.
Among the benefits of the Warrior archetype are the themes of courage, struggle, strength and perseverance -- good things for sure. But a big liability of the Warrior archetype is that this is a narrative that requires a bad guy or an opponent. The Warrior story does not allow for easy compromise. Knights don't partner with their dragons; they slay them. Soldiers don't collaborate with the enemy; they toil to defeat them.
While crushing fiscal deficits, multiple wars abroad, a broken immigration policy and a host of other national problems could all qualify as worthy dragons to unite the most ideologically opposed legislators to craft a middle path, the Warriors in Washington have taken aim at each other instead.
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