Embodying the Trickster: The Archetype that Sets You Free

Who is the Trickster?


Traditionally, the Trickster narrative skews negative. He is painted as a rebel without a cause, causing mischief and misfortune to others just for the sake of it.


Even Jung describes the Trickster as foolish, animalistic, and even subhuman. But curiously, he hasn't faded out over the centuries as many useless characters have. Modern cinema still obsesses over the archetype. Jung concluded, "We can see why the myth of the trickster was preserved and developed: It was supposed to have a therapeutic effect."


In truth, Trickster energy has both positive and negative potential - it's a wild card, a question mark, an up-in-the-air type of energy. The outcome largely depends on who is wielding it and why.


Robert Moore explains it brilliantly: "Fearless and uncompromising, the Trickster exposes pretension and pomposity wherever it is manifest—either in self or other. Meant to be an agent of liberation and the ally of new creations, the shadow expression of this psychological structure becomes the enemy of both creativity and creation itself."


At worst, when unconscious, trickster energy destroys things in our lives (need examples? um.. check out these coronavirus pranksters). At best, it liberates us to create the new.


Let's give you, the reader, the benefit of the doubt - You're a good person, with good intentions, right? So rather than harping on stories of the Trickster gone wrong, let's talk about what he does well. In my opinion, that is disrupting what needs to be disrupted.


Think of embodying the Trickster like this: What is the most useful, positive, and impactful thing you could possibly do on April Fools Day? This odd question puts you right in the mindset of the Trickster, about to do his best work.


What does the Trickster archetype have to do with de-programming yourself?


It's no secret we've all been heavily subjected to societal programming and cultural conditioning, most effectively from the families we grew up in. As we talk about in the Shadow Workbook, this programming cuts us off from the 'unacceptable' aspects of ourselves, creating a 'shadow' self. Without integrating the shadow and de-programming ourselves from some of these outside influences (beliefs, rules, stigmas, etc), being your full self is impossible.


Lucky for us, the Trickster is the ultimate de-programmer. Associated with rule-breaking and chaos, the Trickster is a pattern disruptor by nature. He turns norms and traditions on their head and has no qualms with stepping far outside the box.


He is a contradictory fellow you can't quite put your finger on - and that is precisely the point. His only behavioral pattern is that there is no discernable pattern. He has no role to play in the current social system, nothing to gain or lose. He is a purist in this sense - The trickster is bullshit free.


I didn't understand the purpose of trickster energy until I recalled it in myself. When I was young, I'd spontaneously come up with tricks, jokes, or nonsensical stunts when my mom would begin lecturing me. I always felt that my mom was far too wrapped up in rules and social norms that only brought pain. So my trickster would pop up out of nowhere and say or do something ridiculous - bonus points if I could get her to laugh (freeing her from the pattern as well as myself).


At the time, I had no idea what I was doing, and I especially wouldn't have suspected a hidden intelligence underneath it.


In the Myers Briggs personality structure, there are 8 cognitive functions, 4 conscious and 4 unconscious, that help us make sense of ourselves and others.


The 7th function is referred to as the trickster or "deceiving role" and confirms my suspicions about the trickster's value: "It is a reaction against being controlled or put upon." (If you know your Myers Briggs type and want to see exactly how your trickster function works, have fun!) Because your 7th function is in your shadow, or subconscious, its expressions are almost always awkward, comical, or even disastrous.

Which leads us to the question: But what if we wielded our Trickster energy more consciously?


Embodying the Trickster


"Through their antics, Tricksters help us question life, embrace uncertainty, and become open to seeing everything just as it is." - Aletheia Luna


How do we use the Trickster archetype to de-program ourselves from the stifling patterns we don't want to be stuck in anymore?


How do you bring more of this energy into your life in a way that's truly useful?


#1. Stop trying.


As Jung explained, the Trickster "manages to achieve through his stupidity what others fail to accomplish with their best efforts."


Yes, this can be maddening when we're on the observing end of this - watching someone breeze through accomplishments we've struggled toward for twice as long. Life can seem downright unfair without trickster energy in your corner. Sound familiar? This is a perfect indicator you may need to resuscitate your inner Trickster and lighten up.


#2. Drop your agenda - for now.

It might seem risky, but embodying the Trickster requires putting down any tightly-held agenda, judgments, and maybe even deeply-held convictions. Why? Because the Trickster is amoral. He isn't there to establish a new mode of being or decide what is right or wrong. That's too much structure too soon.


When we're stuck in a pattern that doesn't feel good or isn't getting us anywhere, most of us want to jump right into something better. But instead, we need to let things be shaken up, break the rules of the old pattern, and simply learn that we can exist outside of it and still survive. We must literally teach our nervous system that it won't die outside of the old pattern.


#3. Burn your rulebook.


"He is the wise-fool who openly questions and mocks authority, pokes fun at the overly serious, creates convoluted schemes that may or may not work, plays with the laws of the universe, and is sometimes his own worst enemy. He violates principles of the social and natural order, playfully disrupting normal life and then re-establishing it on a new basis." - Dr. Denise R. Ames


Sometimes it is only Trickster energy that can free from the prison of our mental constructs - what is "supposed to" happen for us. Whether in relationships, career, healing work, or anything else, the dismal pressure of not living up to expectations, not doing it right, not getting enough done, or not succeeding in the rat race is familiar to us all.


Trickster energy couldn't be further from these societal traps that keep up chronically unhappy. The Trickster is present now, in his power now, living for the moment, and slave to no one and nothing (yes, even when he's up against a challenge).


The funny thing is that because Tricksters burn the rulebooks an agendas, they can't fail - literally. They haven't set themselves up for it. They have no criteria from which they're judging their success, and so the question, "Am I successful?" doesn't even apply to them... liberation, am I right?


Embodying the Trickster doesn't necessarily mean adopting a new habit or creating a new ideology to live by. It's about freeing yourself of systems and patterns that aren't you. It's about rebelling from the disciplinarian within us that constantly quips, "Do better, do more, follow the rules, evaluate yourself, judge others, etc, etc."


It's about getting off that treadmill and seeing what else there is in life.


So how do you do that? Start by inviting spontaneity in. Tired of feeling trapped in workaholism? Play hooky for a day. Tired of relationships that feel like all give and no take? Turn your phone off for the day. Tired of living in a depressing city? Grab a globe, close your eyes and point to a spot. Go live there for a year, or just visit for a week. Trickster embodiment can be as subtle or as drastic as you need it to be - It is there to suit you.


The question is simply this: Are you disrupting your programming or staying enslaved by it? With the Trickster, your only task is: disrupt.

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