New Year, New Theme: Getting Unstuck from Old Habits
Archetypes are patterns infused with energy. When you look at your patterns, that is, your habits of mind or behavior, you may not realize they are powerfully affecting your life. The “stickiness” of your habits reveals how much energy they hold.
Some behavioral patterns can be like a sticky note, easily changed with conscious effort. Such habits are often new. A friend of mine asked her husband to stop piling dirty dishes in the sink and stock them in the dishwasher instead. It was a new habit of his he had developed after reading an article that said washing dishes by hand uses less water and energy than washing them in a dishwasher. After a conversation with his wife, who didn’t want dirty dishes kept in the sink, he agreed to change this habit, which had developed over the course of a few weeks. Had he been stacking dirty dishes in the sink instead of using the dishwasher since before he met and married her ten years before, such a habit would not be so easy to break!
The stickiness of our habits is imprinted in the neural networks in our brains. Each time we act according to an old pattern, we reinforce a neural network and the stickness of the habit. Our brains are efficient at developing habits, but breaking them isn’t so easy when the neural networks through which information travels are like thick grooves worn into the snow on a sidewalk by pedestrian after pedestrian reinforcing the path.
We hold on to patterns that may no longer serve us, and we do so because their energy makes them “sticky.” A mother often has a very hard time letting go of her old mothering habits after her children leave the nest. She may have very strong mothering energy that has engrained those habits. The same is true of fathers. A man may have great difficulty not lecturing or advising his newly adult children when his fathering energy continues to be very strong. Even if you are not actually a parent, a strong parenting energy may be influencing the way you interact with others in ways that aren’t working for you or them. However, you can become unstuck from old habits that are no longer serving you or the people around you.
The secret is not to discard mothering or fathering energy, or any other archetypal energy, altogether, but to change how you express it—or to reduce its influence on you. You may need to release some of that energy into the energy field we all share and that connects us all. You may need to change the way you express it in your life as you begin the process of releasing the energy. For example, your need to nurture, advise, guide, and comfort can be applied to new situations. Mentoring others, serving as grandparents to one’s own grandchildren or to children in the community or nurturing and guiding a group that’s devoted to a particular cause, whether it’s for profit or not for profit, all can be satisfying ways to express parenting energy.
Recently, I read of a suggestion to replace New Year’s resolutions, which are notoriously lacking in stickiness, with New Year’s themes. I have another suggestion. Why not take a theme you have already been in synch with and apply that theme differently? Themes are always associated with archetypal energy. Here are three parenting themes you might apply differently in your life in the coming year to reduce the stickiness of your old habits and the archetypal energies associated with them.
The overly doting parent or grandparent. To “dote” is to be fond of and uncritical of someone. If your children or grandchildren aren’t comfortable with your doting, is there someone in your life who would benefit from your uncritical, encouraging ways?
The stern father figure. To be “stern” is to be disciplined, serious, and unrelenting. Could you apply your “stern” father energy to a project rather than to a person who has expressed discomfort with how stern, serious, and unrelenting you are in your mutual relationship?
The enmeshed, “smothering” mother or father. To smother is to cover something so completely as to prevent air from reaching it, while to become enmeshed is to become entangled and trapped. Could you bring more air and freedom into a relationship or situation where your mothering or fathering energy has become too intense?
One way to reduce the strength of an archetypal energy that’s affecting you is to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and imagine yourself breathing out that energy on every exhalation. Imagine returning it to the greater energy field that connects us all. Ask this energy field to use it for the highest good. Continue to breathe out the energy until you feel that much of its power has been released. Relax your muscles as you breathe in refreshing energy and as you exhale excess archetypal energy you don’t need. In this way, you will loosen the grip of this archetypal energy, making it less sticky for you. Bit by bit, you can change the influence of archetypal energies on you and start to write and live according to a story that’s more pleasing to you and Source.
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist funding over 60 charities and more than 850 past and current Greer Scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.