• American Beauty & the Sedated Lover

  • Just as there is a Warrior in all men, there is a Lover in all men. The Lover in his full power is passionate, alive, enthusiastic, warm, affectionate, and sensual. He has a deep appreciation, compassion and empathy for himself, other people, and all things. He feels a sense of mystic oneness to all of nature. He sees beauty everywhere. This gives him a desire to experience it all: colors, forms, sounds, smells, textures. The textures of the physical world, and the textures of our inner psychological world. The Lover wants to be touched, physically and emotionally; and he enjoys this sensual pleasure without shame.

    The same energy that animates his hunger for sex, food, music, and procreation gives the Lover creativity, a sense of wonder, and a sense of meaning. The Lover is the one that makes all the other archetypes of the masculine humane. It is the heart inside the King that allows him to integrate the clarity of purpose and destructive tendencies of the Warrior with the wisdom of the Magician, in order to best serve his people.

    When a man is not in touch with the Lover in his mature form, he is said to be living in his shadows - The Addicted Lover, or the Impotent Lover - being controlled by them, unable to be the master or his own fate.

    The Lover archetype has become very weakened in our society, as we have moved further and further away from nature and separated more and more from each other. We are afraid of real beauty, and we have lost our ability to perceive it. We go to plastic surgeons to alter our outer beauty, because our inner beauty eludes us. The Impotent Lover is the the passive pole of the Lover archetype. A man living under this shadow is bored, listless, lacks enthusiasm, and feels that there is nothing to live for. He has a flat affect, and a monotone voice. He is cut off from himself, and alienated from others. He doesn’t know what he is feeling, because the shield between his conscious Ego and the emotions in his body is preventing him from integrating sensations into his awareness. His life is like a movie he is watching. He has no libido, and no sex life. Deep down, he has a smoldering resentment against others whom he perceives are holding him down, a resentment that is generalized to life itself.

    Recognizing beauty can trigger a lot of fear in a man. Because beauty is the realm of the feminine, it can threaten his masculinity. He will be tempted to either divorce it and go into Warrior mode, as Macho men do, or deny it and hide, thus losing touch with the zest for life all together. Just as with any repressed energy, when not owned, it owns you.

    In “American Beauty", the Impotent Lover owns Lester. The film opens with Lester watching the movie of his miserable life, telling us his story in a monotone, detached voice:“This is my life. I am 42 years old; in less than a year I will be dead. Of course I don't know that yet, and in a way, I am dead already… I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this... sedated.”

    Masturbating in the shower is the highest point of Lester’s day, “it’s all downhill from there.” As he watches his wife, Carolin, manicuring her garden, his seeding resentment against his own impotency and disconnection from life takes the shape of resentment against her. When a man lives in the shadow poles of his Lover archetype, his woman overdevelops her masculine energy as a protection mechanism. This is the modern template we’ve created in the last two decades for intimate relationships, one based on social and economic equality, and sexual neutrality. He is emasculated and without direction, and she is hardened an career-obsessed. And as most depolarized couples, they make each other sick.

    Invisible to others, Lester feels invisible to himself. “I wouldn’t remember me either”, is his honest comment. “I’ll be whatever you want me to be”, he tells his ball-busting wife, who pulls and pushes him around. “We have a very healthy relationship”, he sarcastically announces to the world. "My job consists of basically masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and, at least once a day, retiring to the men's room so I can jerk off, while I fantasize about a life that doesn't so closely resemble Hell.”

    As Robert Bly would say, Lester’s primal force, his Wild Man, is asleep. Bly’s Wild Man is a combination of Warrior and Lover energy, the source of a man’s vitality and truth. Lester lives in his small universe, maintaining a politically-correct attitude, inviting his woman to make up for his deficiencies, while she herself becomes cut off from her feminine nature. We soon learn that everyone in this little universe puts on a facade, in their effort to hide their secret wounds, chanting to themselves affirmation which don’t have the power to resurrect them from their sleep. This only amplifies the message presented through Lester that, when a man settles for a life of safety, dishonesty and facade, he disconnects from emotions, authenticity and vulnerability, and in doing so disconnects from his source of power, his mature Lover, thus losing his sense of meaning.

    Ironically, in this universe, where adult males lack authenticity and avoid vulnerability, a boy stands as an example of a mature Lover. Ricky is not only in touch with his Lover, but with all the other archetypical energies, since they all emerge from authenticity and vulnerability. He is “just a normal guy, with nothing to lose”, who “never gets scared”. Because he lives fully in his power, he is grounded in his vision and committed to his purpose. He’s got nothing to prove and needs no one to fight. He pursues his artistic interests no matter what others think or say. The beauty that is hidden to adult males, he sees everywhere: “Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.” With his camera, Ricky is the unblinking, nonjudgmental eye, the silent voice that reminds us of the inherent beauty present in all Creation. When such a strong masculine presence is felt, the feminine can’t help but surrender. There is a softness we haven’t seen before on his girlfriend’s face, as Ricky stands there, in front of her, naked”. This is the softness that’s missing in Carolin, who does not have a man to surrender to.

    However, there is hope. As Lester points out in the beginning of the movie, it is never too late to get yourself back. For Lester, it takes a young, blond, beautiful teenage girl named Angela to wake up his Wild Man from a deep sleep. In Angela, Lester sees perfection in female form. He feels alive again: “I feel like I've been in a coma for about 20 years and I'm just now waking up”. The sexual drive for Angela becomes a drive for life itself. Robert Bly talks about the boy stealing the key of his masculinity from under his mom’s pillow, and this is what Lester does with his wife. As he breaks a few dinner plates, Lester breaks free of his soul-sucking job and Carolin’s grip on his balls. He starts working out, he goes back to a life without pretense flipping burgers, and he starts pursuing his dreams. He is now a much more authentic man. Life is, again, beautiful. When faced with facade and dishonesty, he can now smile unaffectedly and ask: “Would you like some smiley sauce with that?”

    Lester at first lusts after young, pure, unadulterated female energy, as a way to wake up his Lover energy. He wants Angela for his own selfish pleasure, thus swinging in the shadow pole of the Addicted Lover, as it often happens when a man has been living in an archetypal shadow for a while. However, as he arrives at maturity, Lester realizes that is was never really about Angela. It is never about the girl, or the woman. What a man in fact wants to gain back through his lust over the feminine is his own Self; his freedom of expression, his power and his authentic “American beauty”; the true beauty that resides deep down inside all of us. As he is becoming a true Lover of everything alive, Lester’s selfish interest in Angela is replaced by feelings of care, compassion, and protection. The Impotent Lover, turned into the Addicted Lover, finally got his power back:

    “It's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.”

    How to get in touch with, and balance your Lover:

     

    • Spend time, at least twice a week for an hour, engaging in a hobby that brings you joy (e.g. drawing, painting, reading, writing, chess, photography, cooking, dancing, woodworking, playing an instrument, gardening, mechanical work, camping, fishing, sports).
    • Less is more: cultivate the virtue of moderation. Choose 5 things that bring you great enjoyment, and focus on them for the next two weeks. Commit to discovering aspects of them you never saw before.
    • Set an intention for one week every month to use no coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, or other mind/ mood-altering drugs. Use the senses that God gave you to experience your life.
    • Eat slowly, tasting the unique flavors and textures. Reconnect with your senses, rediscovering the hidden layers of ordinary experiences.
    • Read a good, long book.
    • Immerse yourself in literature and writings on a variety of subjects to stimulate your brain and provide it with something to ponder other than whether to have a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch.
    • Read biographies and study the work of great artists you admire (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci, Hemingway).
    • Read: “Wanting More: The Challenge of Enjoyment in the Age of Addiction” for example.
    • Take Tai Chi classes. They will make you realize how fast your mind moves, and how difficult it is for you to calm it down and be present with our body and the moment.
    • Look at the night sky, and ponder on the immenseness of the universe, and how well-orchestrated everything in nature is.
    • Get lost in nature, to gain a sense of perspective. Nature puts us in touch with the mysterious forces of life. In the large scheme of things, your problems are not as big as they are.
    • Go on a hike: the physical exercise, the fresh air, the sun, the inspiring scenery will invigorate your body and spirit.
    • Go for a run outside, in a park, without headphones on. Focus on your breath, feel your blood pumping, and your sweat dripping.
    • Go surfing.
    • Go camping. Touch real dirt, sit by a real fire, sharpen real wood, and listen to the pure sounds of running streams and the wind in the trees. Surround yourself with matter that doesn’t exist solely for human consumption. Experience things that just are.
    • Practice where in your body you feel pain when you are uncomfortable with or bothered by something/ someone. Identify that feeling by using an emotion label, not a thought. Write it down, or express it to someone else.
    • When at a party or social event, leave your phone in the car. Be fully present with the people you are with. Look into their eyes, and watch their bodies. Feel how it would feel in your body to be them.
    • For a month, do not share your daily life over social media. Post only inspiring or interesting information that does not directly relate to what you are doing with your personal life, or who you are as a person.
    • Plan a surprise date for your partner. Plan ahead, and pay for it.
    • Write your partner love letters, or a love poem.
    • Pay attention on how touching your partner’s skin feels.
    • Twice a week, fully immerse yourself in the enjoyment of your partner’s body and the beauty of intimacy for 30 minutes, without allowing yourself to reach orgasm.

    Lover and Warrior working together:

     

    • Use the next time your partner is overwhelmed or angry as an opportunity to practice being a rock, or an oak tree. Anchor you energy into the ground using your breath, and allow your woman to unload all of her emotions on you. If you find yourself running away or shutting down, breathe and focus on your roots going even further down to the core of the earth.
    • Talk to your female friends. Ask them for feedback on how present they feel you’ve been with them during a conversation. Women are natural “presence detectors”.
    • Choose one day of the week to do only one task at a time. Concentrate your senses and focus on that one task. When you get restless, take a deep breath, and connect your feet to the ground like a tree that grows strong roots. Stay with your breath.