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The Caregiver


graduate schools, you will see both male and female students carrying their infants and small children across the stage when they go up to receive their diplomas. Men and women are making time for their families a major factor in choosing jobs and in negotiating salaries and other conditions of work. We have just come through a time when the literature about codependence and enabling behaviors suggested that the Caregiver may be primarily dysfunctional. At the same time, the need for care was spiraling. Dual-career couples and single mothers were expected to perform as long and as hard at work as if they had no other responsibilities. Homeless individuals were beginning to line our streets. And people were complaining of feeling like strangers in a strange land, wishing for home. But, of course, the archetype of the Caregiver is fundamental to the human species. People do care about one another, and a strong sense of meaning comes from that care. You could then imagine that the Caregiver archetype would make a quick comeback. It is, once again, cool to care. The style of that caring, however, has changed. The success of a movie such as Mrs. Doubtfire, and of men who transcend traditional masculine and feminine roles (like Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, and Colin Powell), tells us that, although caring was once seen as a primarily feminine pursuit, it is now generally acknowledged as important to men as well. (Of course, it always was, as anyone who had a loving father or grandfather knows.) The similar success of films like The First Wives Club tells us that Caregivers today do not want to be pushovers. They are willing to be tough if they have to be. They expect to be respected, and they get angry if they are slighted. The old martyr is gone, and in its place is a more balanced aspiration: giving with receiving, and caring with being cared for. Remember It’s a Wonderful Life? The Jimmy Stewart character sacrifices for others all his life and then despairs when it seemed that he would lose everything. This is a classic Caregiver story. As a culture, we have just turned the corner from becoming cynical about caring. What people want is reinforcement that if they care, others will care for them. In the film, the contributions come in, and George Bailey’s building and loan association is saved. The emotion expressed at the death of Princess Di and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Mother Teresa tells us that this archetype is powerfully present in the human psyche today. However, since Watergate and Vietnam,

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype