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The Frog, the Dolphin, and the Giraffe

This past weekend, I found three stuffed animals in a storage box that I had kept since I was three years old. Now 50 some years later, I pondered why I had kept them so long. There was a Frog with a crown, a silvery yet furry Dolphin and a speckled Giraffe with a little red tongue dangling outside its mouth. Presently, they were sewn together piles of dust that “should” be tossed. In the middle of a cold, wet Lake Michigan day in April I could not bring myself to do so, despite my sense of urgency to get my spring cleaning done. As I stood pondering, struck by the fact that they were still with me and wondering why that might be. Remembering that Socrates was attributed with saying “the unexamined life is not worth living,” I continued to reflect. I realized I had not examined the difference between the lifeless artifacts in front of me and the life-filled archetypes they had represented to me as a child. They had somehow remained one in the same, my childhood imaginings captured somehow in these dull lifeless forms.

What is an archetype and why is it important? In Jungian psychology an archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, or image which is universally present in individual psyches. For instance there is an archetype of a Mother, Father, Hero, and Victim that are well known to most of us. Literature uses these archetypes through their fictional characters to speak to us about their greater truths that lie beyond fact. The media uses archetypes to create connection with their ideas and views beyond what might come about with an interaction with a simple product or consumer item. Individually, we have archetypes which are generalities or stories about ourselves and the world. These stories form scripts that we often follow unconsciously, whether they are correct or not. Many times they operate out of our awareness, guiding us without our knowing. The more closely we examine our stories and scripts, the more we will have examined our lives. My hope is that we all move away from “living a life of quiet desperation” (Thoreau).

To what archetypes did my dust balls speak? It was easy for me to understand the Frog – he was the smart one who could be relied upon for logical, practical and straightforward advice. He was wise and kind, a natural and benevolent leader. He saw things as they were, made things happen and had a realistic view of the world. The Dolphin was equally easy to understand as she was at the opposite end of the continuum, a free spirit looking for adventure, love and laughter with a sweet sense of humor. She had a good nature and was supportive and loyal to her friends. She strived to make her impact positive on those whom she met.

But the Giraffe, named “Baby Giraffe” was a mystery. What had he represented? He was awkward looking, could not stand on his own even when he was new and had big soulful eyes too large for his oversized head. His neck was too long, even for a giraffe, and his back too short, his tiny feet were incapable of holding his weight, his legs too weak. Through the years his long neck had buckled under the weight of his head and his tail had been chewed apart by a dog. Yet, he had been my favorite of the three despite his apparent imperfections. Baby Giraffe had been the joyful one, who ran about getting into mischief, going places he was not supposed to go and saying things he was not supposed to say.

My realizations when I looked at what each represented was that I was all those things, but had let the Frog dominate most of my life and only recently had I reacquainted myself with my dolphin self. She had reentered my life as I tried to free myself from issues that held my energy down. This had occurred through several significant life changes that still have me reverberating. Yet, they had set me off on adventures of travel and love I had only dreamed of. Now, perhaps it is time for me to acknowledge that the frog and the dolphin were really servants of the flawed, fragile, beautiful yet ugly giraffe I had always felt I was underneath it all, but was afraid to acknowledge. Baby Giraffe, the playful, wounded mischievous one, is fully formed as the archetype I adore most in my life, now that the Frog and the Dolphin have made it safe for him to come out and play.

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