In my English class, we are focusing on archetypes. When I was in college one of my English classes was all about examining archetypes in literature. This was the first I had heard of such a concept. It blew me away. I recognized there were common threads, but giving these names brought it to life and empowered me to be able to identify them.
Character names, plot details, settings…..these all may change, but essentially the heart of story after story after story is the same. No matter how original an author or a director tries to be, they will likely develop a storyline that will borrow or mimic (in some ways) thousands of other stories.
How true this is of us. So often I feel as if my victories and my personal defeats are so personalized. My pain or my joy feels so amplified beyond others’ comprehensions. I feel alone in my doubts, or set apart by my successes. But this is foolishness. The four Ds — death, divorce, disappointment, and disease are the things that usually shatter a life. These can take even the most confident, outgoing individual and turn them into a shell of their previous self. Yet these four Ds have happened to generations upon generations. Sure, the cause of these events may be different, but the emotions are the same. And yet, we separate ourselves….we withdraw from others when going through these events. Sometimes it’s because we don’t know how to communicate our pain; sometimes it’s because of pride; sometimes it’s because we want to wallow just a little bit longer. Regardless, we feel that our emotions and experiences are unique. But they aren’t.
Character archetypes such as the Damsel in Distress, the Hero, and the Villain have been found in stories from all cultures and time periods. How could this be possible? How could civilizations that had no contact with each other feature the same basic characters? Because archetypes are simplified models for the human experience. They are representations of real life. And that’s because the basic human experience is not unique. There will be pain. There will be joy. There will be sorrow. There will be shock. There will be laughter. Often, we will feel like heroes and we will feel like the one who needs saving. At times we will be wise and at times we will be foolish. We are not alone.
And that should provide us real comfort. No matter what you’re dealing with or how alone you may feel, you are likely surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through.