If you’re looking for that creative spark, you need to welcome in the trickster archetype. Although the trickster brings chaos and unpredictability, there are many benefits to its presence in our lives. In this episode, we discuss:
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:27
Hello everyone. Welcome back to Soul Sessions with Creative Mind. I'm Debra Berndt Maldonado. I'm here with Dr. Rob Maldonado, founders. And we are so excited to continue our series on the great works of Carl Jung. But before we begin, don't forget to subscribe because we'd really love for you to catch every episode and the past episodes of our podcast. Today's topic we take great reverence in speaking about and honor in. We're talking about the trickster archetype. We're gonna go deep into what the Trickster archetype is, how to love the trickster versus not love the trickster, and embrace it for what it is, how it impacts our creativity and our creation.
Robert Maldonado 00:49
Archetype is not so much of a character. A lot of people use it as a character, but it's a behavioral pattern that’s part of our psyche, part of our collective unconscious. Where do we see it? We see it in mythologies, myths often portray the trickster in his varied ways, all the way from a clown figure that brings levity, irreverence.
Debra Maldonado 01:21
The joker, when you were in school, there was always one kid who was the class clown, everything’s serious, and they belt out a joke. Comedians.
Robert Maldonado 01:30
All the way to the devil, personification of evil, or the darkness in the psyche. That's the trickster. We're going to talk about, this is an interesting for us: how does the trickster archetype play into creativity? Because he plays an important role in human creativity. Often, he's not acknowledged for that, we misunderstand what the trickster’s role is in creativity.
Debra Maldonado 02:04
The first that everyone can relate to the most, the simplest example is evolution. Cells have a random switch in the DNA, and it creates a new form in that animal that could or could not be more adaptable. That's how we evolved, through this randomness of “Let's throw a little curve in this”, instead of making a solid copy after copy. If you think about all the species, we all came from a one-celled organism, and how different we are, even human beings, we’re all so different and so vast, how does that happen? We are not carbon copies of each other. We’re close copies, maybe samples of each other, but there's always that little uniqueness to each one. Even our thumbprint. We have all very unique fingerprints, which is why we use that for crimes, because we can identify people, but also this idea that it creates a unique individual experience in a vast world. What fascinates me is when you go into deep sea, those deep sea divers, you see these creatures you've never seen on the planet. The Divine is so creative. It is a creative force. How does it happen? Just a little shifted DNA, something becomes something new.
Robert Maldonado 03:28
Let's set up the stage first. What does the average person do with a trickster? Most of us are trying to get rid of the trickster. We're trying to create certainty, predictability.
Debra Maldonado 03:42
No randomness, risk averse, the risk management, that's what our ego likes to do, let's lower our risks.
Robert Maldonado 03:51
That is an impossibility. When we want to control things, we put most of our effort in trying to predict and control, we're pushing away the trickster element, the uncertainty principle, as it's called in physics. The fact that we can’t control everything because we can’t determine in physics the speed or velocity at the same time of a particle, we can never do that. It's an impossibility so far.
Debra Maldonado 04:26
So we can never create a life like we all think if we just put everything in order, and check all the boxes that everything is going to be okay.
Robert Maldonado 04:34
What this pushing away does, it’s one of the sources of human suffering because we can never do it. We're fooling ourselves. The more we insist, the more we try, the more we develop mechanisms, technology, systems, organizations, on and on, to try to keep that chaos artistic element out of our psyche, out of our lives, the more power we’re giving it to disrupt our lives, it becomes an unconscious element that plays into what we do, the things we create. If we're creating a business, guess what, we're building into it, when we push away the trickster element. We're stifling it, we're building in its own destruction. What happens in relationships when we try to control it and determine the outcome? We stifle it, we suffocate it, we don't allow it to breathe, to grow, to be its own organic way of being.
Debra Maldonado 05:49
A parent with a child, trying to bulldoze through, the helicopter parent that makes sure the child doesn't have any problems. Then the child doesn't have the strength within them to cope with problems when they're adults, because the parent did everything for them. It seems maybe to be nice to get rid of problems and avoid them. But in a sense, these trickster types, these obstacles, the drama that shows up in our life actually make us stronger, they build our immunity to our growth. We get our shot so we can build the strength to fight off disease. It's the same thing, we need to build resilience within ourselves. If we don't, something's just gonna knock us down when it happens if we don't have the resources. When people really design that predictable life that will never change, it’ll create boredom, a lack of passion, a lack of emotion, it becomes blah. Remember that movie The Truman Show with Jim Carrey? They made this perfect, choreographed life, then he woke up and was like “What is going on?” He became that trickster. No matter how perfect they wanted to have this person, it can’t be sustained. When everything's so choreographed and so structured, it becomes bland. Then we seek a way to invite the trickster in because we can't stand boredom anymore. How many times did that happen? For me with work, being stuck in that corporate job. It was like “But I don't want to leave because this is practical, it’s predictable, I can get that predictable income.” Then the trickster came in and said “Let's just lay off now. Now you're gonna have to figure out what you're gonna do with your life.” It seems like a terrible thing. But it also gives us the opportunity for reset.
Robert Maldonado 07:47
This is an archetype we're talking about in the Jungian sense. The archetypes live in the deeper aspects of our psyche. Jung says the archetypes construct the matrix of the collective unconscious. If you think, what is the inner universe of the psyche, it is built upon these archetypal structures that Jung started to identify. He put us on the right track of understanding there's a deeper aspect of the soul, the structure of the soul. The trickster, he says, if you look at mythologies all over the world, he's always there. If we look in our own backyard, Christianity, it's replete with the concept of the devil. He's a trickster figure who is known as the liar, the spoiler, the cheater, the one that toils and tempts people into committing errors, committing sins. Now, from the cultural perspective, it appears that we're talking about pure evil. But when you look at the trickster in other cultures, you get a better sense of what that archetype is about. In Hopi culture, when the warriors were preparing for their initiation, they had to march through the center of the pueblo, the town in a certain way and do certain things along the path, keeping a serious demeanor. While they were doing that, the tricksters, the clowns, were trying to distract them, make them slip up, miss a step, forget what they were doing. That is the function of the trickster. One of the great functions is that they're going to test you, the tricks are going to test you to see what you're made out of. It's not evil. It can be harsh because if you misstep, it means all that preparation, all that dedication, everything you thought you were accomplishing is lost. But it helps you become a better individual, a better person because it shows you exactly where you're at, what you're made on. But it's the interpretation, if we interpret it as evil, I have to push it away, get rid of it, not look at it, we're giving them more power to really come in in really important parts of our life, in relationships, work, spiritual life. It's going to come in and do it spoiling in the most important events in our lives.
Debra Maldonado 10:47
We reset if we’re open to the change versus “It was a terrible event in my life.” We often talk to people who've gone through a midlife crisis, or an illness, or loss of a marriage. They always say “At the time, it was terrible. But now, afterwards, I see how I needed to go through that to be where I am now.” When you're facing the trickster, if you want to resist it instinctively because it's doesn't feel comfortable, it doesn't feel right, you want to control things. It’s like you're wrestling with the chaos. The more you try to control it, the more chaos you're stirring up. I like organization. I’d catch myself in the beginning of working as a self-employed person and having my own business, the more I tried to control things and make sure things didn't happen, it was almost like I attracted more of that because I was pushing away. It’s about welcoming that uncertainty. Things are gonna happen. Every day in your business, if you're a business owner, things are going to happen, you just have to accept them. The challenge is this versus something's wrong. Because there's a challenge. It's part of being an entrepreneur, being someone who has a big goal in their life, you're going to reach obstacles.
Robert Maldonado 12:08
In the mythology of Christianity, going back to that theme, we see Jesus as the symbol of the hero, of the self in transformation, betrayed by Judas. He's a trickster element. Judas represents the spoiling element of the hero's journey, there's somebody opposing, playing a trick on you that's going to spoil your plans. You're not going to be able to play out the scene in the smooth, perfect way you intended. All this chaos is going to come in, you're going to have to deal with it. That's the trickster element. Think about the power we're giving it if we ignore that element, if we’re unconscious of it, if we say “I don't want to look at it, because I'm afraid of chaos. I don't want to admit it's part of my psyche, process of my growth.”
Debra Maldonado 13:13
Something happened and you cover it up, you don't want to look at it. Say, your finances are messy, you don't want to look at that mess, so you just keep going as if you're ignoring the problem. It’s gonna keep coming back to you.
Robert Maldonado 13:26
For the hero, for Jesus, there’s an element where he acknowledges that Judas is playing a role in his whole process. The mythology shows that becoming aware and accepting your fate that the trickster is playing an important role in the ultimate fulfillment of your fate, is an important element of the transformation. What is the transformation in the metaphor of Jesus being crucified? The biology of our being is transformed into a spiritual element.
Debra Maldonado 14:12
From a human to a spirit, or soul, psyche, the awakening of the soul.
Robert Maldonado 14:19
The old person must die in order for the new being to emerge. The trickster plays a central role in it.
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Robert Maldonado 15:48
The leader of nations, whatever you want, is there for you. That's the temptation, that's the testing of your resolve. Do you really want this transformation? Are you serious about doing your personal dharma, your work? Or are you just in it for the fame, for the money, for the glory?
Debra Maldonado 16:10
You love your life only when it's good, you don't want to resist any challenges, you don't see them as opportunities. That's the key. Another modern myth is Game of Thrones. Tyrion played the trickster in that show. Everyone was so serious, he'd always be joking around, getting drunk. Drinking wine was his mantra. It added levity to the whole serious situation of power and struggle and war. If you notice, in your family, there's always that one person that's the trickster, that's always stirring things up in every group. They could be light, fun, funny, and be able to break the seriousness, or they can be challenging you. It could be someone in a group or a community you have that's causing problems, because there's something that needs to come into consciousness. It appears as this problem person, when it's actually pointing to an opportunity for you to become more aware and grow. Nothing enters our consciousness without us being a part of it. There is no randomness, where there's this external person that's a problem and you're absolved from all connection. That person's issue is always connected back to us. If we're having the experience, we’re part of that experience. We’re connected to everything that comes in. When these stricture elements come in, we have to tap into our own inner archetype of trickster, the creativity within us that even in serious trouble, when we have something maybe devastating in our life, maybe an illness, or a loss of a job, or loss of a person that we love, it’s bringing in that creativity, “How can I turn this into something more powerful?” The trickster can have that devastating part but also the trickster invites us to look at it in a creative, different way. We talked about it in the last episode, there's no good or bad in the psyche, it's just a matter of balance.
Robert Maldonado 18:19
In dreams, the trickster often shows up as someone who is spoiling the game. They might be a shady character, they might be a clown, sometimes they come as an animal, a fox, a snake, a hawk, a bird of some kind, the crow’s a classic symbol of the trickster in many mythologies around the world. The trickster element is going to show up in or through the unconscious mind. But he's there to teach us, to help us. If we read it as an evil omen or something bad to get rid of, we're missing the point, we're misusing an opportunity, passing up a great opportunity for creativity, for growth, for transformation.
Debra Maldonado 19:13
I have a funny story. When we first moved to California, we had an apartment first and an office. Then we got this new house we rented, it was a block from the Manhattan Beach. I remember sitting on the deck, looking at the ocean. It's something I always envisioned in my mind of how I want to see my business grow, where I’d live, living in this great place, in this beautiful environment. I was sitting out there and I was like “I just feel so successful, my dreams have come true. I'm with the love of my life.” As soon as I had that thought, a giant crow sits on the handle and croaks. I was like “Don't get too attached. This doesn't define you.” You see the trickster, you know the archetype. When it shows up even in a physical form in your life, it's your psyche talking back to you, your inner world is always reflected in your outer world. It’s like “Don't take this too seriously, you're going to inflate your ego if you do that.” It’s a reminder to not get too attached to the things that are bad and to not get too attached to the things that are good in your life. Everything's ebb and flow. I thought that was a really simple lesson, just knowing that symbol avoided maybe some future catastrophe because I started letting go of that great attachment or thinking I'm so great now, because I have all these things.
Robert Maldonado 20:41
How do we work with trickster element? There's a beautiful poem by Rumi called The Guesthouse. I want to reference it. He's talking about inviting anything, any emotion that shows up, inviting it instead of judging it as either good or bad or toxic. They're just part of our psyche. Emotions, situations, people, symbols, work, everything that shows up for us. We invite it in, we accept it as part of our journey. It’s no different than any other thought I have. Come on in, tell me more about what's going on, how I can learn from you.
Debra Maldonado 21:31
It comes in the form of an uninvited guest because I didn't expect you to show up here. Then we invite it in. Often, it comes in as something we don’t want to call into our life but it's meant to be called in. We have to have reverence for these unexpected things that may seem negative. If you label them negative and keep pushing them away, more stuff is going to show up. Then you feel more and more of a victim of life. It keeps compounding, it doesn't stop. The event goes away, but you're still living in that, it becomes that for you. But if it becomes an invited guest, it becomes creative because that's what you put into it, how you cope with it. But most of us are conditioned by our ego to push away the negative, be positive. That's where positive thinking can get a little what they call toxic positivity, because you’re trying to be so positive all the time that you’re pushing away what needs to be seen that's not so pretty, not so clean, and a little messy. We want to be okay to look at that within ourselves and within others.
Robert Maldonado 22:41
Anything we push away, we're giving it power over our life. We're pushing it into the unconscious mind, which means it's going to have an impact without our awareness, without our participation in it. That's the real danger. The danger is not looking into the unconscious, the danger is not paying attention to it.
Debra Maldonado 23:06
A lot of people say “I'm afraid of what I'm going to uncover in my unconscious.” You should be afraid if you don't look.
Robert Maldonado 23:14
It's a natural process. Obviously, it's good to have a guide, we do need people that know what they're doing to guide us, teach us, help us. But it's a natural inclination in us to explore our own psyche, our own unconscious mind. As we invite this chaotic element into our life, making friends with it, accept it as part of our journey that’s going to teach us, guide us, give us an essential part of our journey. It's going to teach us that we have to be able to drop the negative and positive, good and bad. That's the hardest part, because the negative-positive function of the mind is ego. It’s its job, to tell us whether something is good for us. Is this pleasant, is this comfortable, is this leading me to safety and warmth? Or is it uncomfortable for me, leads me into discomfort, pain? When we live at that level, we're only in survival level. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we’re in the first level or a couple levels above. We're in either survival mode or social fitting in, the ability to fit into society, to be accepted by others. It's an important function, but it's not the creative ability in our mind. Creativity comes at higher levels where we're able to transcend our limited ego perspective and get into the higher mind, higher aspects of the psyche. That requires us to go beyond the ego. When we’re caught up in good and bad, right and wrong, toxic and non toxic, we're in survival mode. That's not going to do it for us. Once we start to accept that there is going to be a chaotic element, but that chaotic element brings creativity, then we see the function of the trickster. It gives us the creative power, it helps us participate in the creation of our own destiny.
Debra Maldonado 25:39
I find that non-attachment relieves all stress. When we’re stressed, we’re attached. We have anxiety, we're attached to something. You told me a long time ago, I always wanted to control everything, avoid the trickster at all costs. When we first met, we first started working together, I was constantly worried, you said “Sometimes you just have to say—,” and you cursed, eff it. I was like “That is so free.” It’s not like you don't care but I'm tired of controlling everything. How many of you would be like “It's so freeing.” I was on my way to work the day I got laid off. I was thinking about all the things I had to do with that job. I gotta get this work report done, I have to get this done, this boss I'm dealing with. It was all this noise in my head. Then when I got to the office, I got laid off, the layoff happened in the first hour, all that stuff just went away. I didn't have to worry about it. It felt so free. I was like “I need this feeling all the time.” How do we get that feeling? Because the mind will tend to look into those attachments of structure. You don't want to be completely chaotic, where you have no vision and no structure. But there has to be a balance between structure and creativity. You can’t create anything creative where you have no vision and no order. You can't create anything from that strict, rigid structure, it needs to have that flexibility. It was that feeling when you said it. So many times when I worry about something, you're always coaching me, then I realize “I'm worried about something that's like, who cares?” The first problem you're trying to solve, then you are like “What am I really trying to solve here?” When you get to the worst case scenario, that's the value of coaching, because it's hard to do it on yourself, because your ego’s feeding you the narratives, its inside job is trying to keep you from seeing it. But someone else reflecting and really questioning your assumptions gets to the root, it’s so powerful.
Robert Maldonado 27:58
Another mythology that's important in our understanding of the trickster is the Gita. In the Gita, there’s a great battle about to happen between two powerful families that are at odds with each other, fighting for the kingdom. Krishna is playing the role of the trickster. He's an advisor, but as advisor, he's egging on the battle, because again, it's part of what has to happen. It's a metaphor, of course, for the internal battle within us, the battle between our lower nature, our ego, and our higher nature, or spiritual self. That battle is represented in this mythology. Now, what Krishna advises Arjuna to do is to practice doing his duty with non-attachment. We're not dropping the ball and saying everything is chaos. Krishna advices Arjuna to do his duty in the best possible way that he can, to be the best warrior they can be. But to do it with non-attachment, you're not attached to the outcome, you have the right to experience your duty, to do your duty, but you don't have the right to its roots, to the result.
Debra Maldonado 29:38
It’s the creation process itself. I like to equate it to drawing a picture. If you're an artist, the process of creating is so beautiful, any type of those creative arts, but if you're thinking “I want people to like what I'm doing, I want people to appreciate it. I want this to start to sell for a million dollars,” it's going to destroy your creativity because you're stuck. We all feel that whatever creativity we do, whether it's writing, coming up with strategies for a business, coming up with paintings or sculptures, creative ways to work, when we're in that flow, it's that non-attachment, we love the action itself. When AI first came out, you were like “You could use that to write your books.” I said “I love the writing process. I love the process of writing.” I love that push and pull, digging into the creative force. There’s something in me, that’s created from me, it's not about getting the end result, getting a book out there. It's about me wrestling with my own mind and digging into my own creativity. You have to love that about everything you do. It's when you're pouring into that creativity, into being in the action and loving the action, not the result itself, that’s when great results actually happen. When we're too tied to being good, or everyone liking it, then it ends up being the opposite, often.
Robert Maldonado 31:07
Whenever you’re attached to the results, you're giving away your power, you're saying “I’ll be successful or I’ll be a failure, depending on the outcome of an external circumstance.”
Debra Maldonado 31:24
It’s like your identity is defined by it.
Robert Maldonado 31:27
You're giving your power away to external circumstances, which is insanity. We know the external world is always up and down. That's its nature. It's ebb and flow. The tide comes in and goes out.
Debra Maldonado 31:40
One day you're on the A list, the next day you're on the D list or canceled. If you get caught up in that, a lot of child actors got caught up in their fame and that money at such a young age. They didn't have the development of working hard to get things, the adult mind of the struggles. When they got older, that's when all the struggles started to happen. They didn't know how to cope with it, because they've always been praised. Or they go through where they don't get any roles anymore. Then “Who am I because I was this big star, now I'm not.” When we tie ourselves to external experiences to define us, we’re a prisoner to it. Even in corporate world, we have our title at work, we have a great salary, we have this great abundance. Then we're like “I'm not the VP of social services, I can't let that role go away, that's who I am.” When you lose it, then who am I? A lot of people when they get laid off, that’s the first question they ask, who am I? When I got laid off, I knew because inside I was already ready to leave. I just needed the trickster to step in and kick me out, play that little role because I knew already. When it happened, I was like “I know exactly what I'm going to do. I'm just gonna see what I'm made of.” That's a beautiful way to live. It's stepping into the unknown, knowing that no matter what happens, there's nowhere to fall, there's always something to catch you.
Robert Maldonado 33:11
In the myth Krishna the trickster is acting as the teacher. He's instructing Arjuna directly as to how to play the game without being caught up in it, without becoming imprisoned by the external circumstance.
Debra Maldonado 33:32
Always playing to win, I need to win. Or playing not to lose, that’s both attachment.
Robert Maldonado 33:39
What non-attachment does, it allows us to do our work in the best possible way that we know how, without falling prey to its results. If the outcome is successful, we can celebrate and say “That's great. Let's do it again.” We learn from it. But if it's not successful, we still learn, we say “This is interesting.” It is like somebody's experimenting. They're learning from their mistakes as well as their successes. The external is neutral. It's simply information that relieves the conditioning or takes away its conditioning effect on the psyche. We're not tied to the results anymore, we're able to act in a completely free way without worrying about the conditioning effect of the positive and negative, the success or the failure. That's a very different way of being in the world. It allows us to act in a creative way.
Debra Maldonado 34:46
If you have a vision, it's not letting your ego have to make all the plans. It's relying on your deeper inner self that already knows how to bring you there and trusting in that, trusting that even this thing that throws you through a loop is actually a part of the path, trusting that it showed up for a reason for me, I need to see what that is and see where I can learn from it versus my ego gotta strategize. The ego will strategize not to lose versus go toward what we really want.
Robert Maldonado 35:18
If we remember the uncertainty principle, it's always a play. Heisenberg said “Uncertainty is a fundamental element of the universe.” It's not just a side effect. It's built into everything we do. Everything is constructed out of order and chaos. If we can’t remove it from everything we're doing, what non-attachment then does is it allows us to see the creative potential in the so-called mistakes or failures, what most people would call failures, we see them as opportunities to bring in that chaotic, creative element.
Debra Maldonado 36:19
Not invite it in all the time, we don't want to be like “Come on in.” Not invite it in intentionally, just be welcome to it, not like I want some chaos to happen, so I can get the juice from it. It’s more expecting it will arise, when you least expect it. Often, it’ll happen in the most inconvenient time, something will come in. You know what happened in my life. When I first got the book deal for Let Love In, a month later, my father got diagnosed with cancer, he was going through chemo, it was a really serious time. I had this book I had to write. It's almost like the trickster was like “You've been wanting to write this book forever, we're gonna throw in this wrench.” Not that it created the cancer but the way the trickster works is it starts to give you an excuse of why you shouldn't go forward. It’ll use any event in your life to stop you. It can be a simple thing or a big tragedy. But what it did was it helped me focus, the book actually was a gift at that time, because I’d have been just worrying. The book gave me a purpose as I was going through that difficult time. It was something I could pour myself into. I remember feeling when I was in that space, it gave me a reprieve from all the worry that I was dealing with. Not to shut it out but it gave me some space to channel some creative energy while this thing was happening. Of course, we don't want to invite these tragedies into our life, but how can we use it in a creative way? How can these things that happen, people get sick, people die, people leave us, how do we use that as an opportunity versus say “I got to give up this.” We hear this so many times from people when a little thing happens in their life, it's the perfect excuse to stop. People that live their greatest dreams don't let those things stop them. Invite the trickster in to say “This is really happening. I'm not going to let it stop me.”
Robert Maldonado 38:18
But on the flip side of the coin, it also opens up opportunities that we hadn't even thought about in our planning and our vision, because we were going by what we've experienced in the past. We don't have access to all the possibilities, the infinite possibilities that exist in the universe. When we act through non-attachment, we're opening ourselves up to that guiding intelligence that is beyond our rational mind. We're tapping into it. We're including it in our actions.
Debra Maldonado 38:56
Not excluding it, not trying to avoid it. Non-attachment is the key. Knowing that it's a part of life. We all shut away the fact that we're going to die. It's something we see happen all the time but in our mind, we can't even think about our own death, pushing that away. We have to accept that bad things happen in the world, or so-called bad things, things are going to intervene with our beautiful plans. Napoleon Hill calls it the sly disguises of opportunity. When you're going for your dreams, you have a goal, there's always this thing that on the surface feels like bad luck but on the inside is really an opportunity. It's in disguise. We have to be willing to face it, look at it, and ask ourselves deeper questions of what this brings up in us and how we can use it in a creative way. This is interesting episode. Before we go, I do want to remind you to not forget to subscribe. Be open to change, be flexible, everything with chaos is always an opportunity to be more creative. Take care.
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