Drawing Upon the Archetypal Feminine
For Self-Trust and Authentic Value

Kaitryn Wertz, Jungian Analyst

MARCH 2013

Teresa Oster MSW, MS, CJSSF board member

CJSSF: What led you to choose your subject of the “Feminine Authority: Drawing Upon the Archetypal Feminine for Self-Trust and Authentic Value”? 

KAITRYN WERTZ: My interest in this topic emerged from my own efforts to develop an embodied and authentic sense of inner authority that is congruent with my experience as a woman and from my observation of similar issues in female clients, friends and colleagues. Through my work as an analyst, I also came to understand that this struggle to develop an embodied sense of value can be a challenge for many men.  Many contemporary women have achieved outer accomplishments that would have been unimaginable to our grandmothers, while still struggling inwardly to “find our voices.”  Beneath successful personas, we may lack a felt sense of our own deeper value.

This may be especially particularly true for “father’s daughters,” women who, as children, tended to idealize their fathers and subsequent male authority figures while devaluing their mothers and other female figures of authority. For such women, the unconscious images of value and validity have been “other.”

Without vital access to the feminine principle drawing us into the depths, even success may leave us feeling empty, inferior or fraudulent. Fearing exposure as undeserving of success, we may continue to seek our value through accomplishments, hoping that the next “seal of approval” from an external authority will finally confer what is missing.

Although the mother is usually the first figure of authority in a child’s life, even women who once felt her own authority through the maternal relationship may later lose it during the processes of separation-individuation. In differentiating psychologically from mother, both women and men tend to develop strong defenses against female authority, often causing us, as adults, to experience women’s authority through the negative pole of the mother complex. For both men and women this problem may be managed unconsciously by projecting authority onto male figures or male-dominated institutions such as Church, state or academia. This solution denies both women and men the fuller validation that might emerge from more complete access to positive archetypal feminine images of authority.


CJSSF: What is the archetypal feminine?

KAITRYN WERTZ: The archetypal feminine principle refers to archetypally-based capacities for relatedness, receptivity, connecting, containing and valuing and is associated with nature, earth and the body. In myth, fairy tales, art and contemporary dreams, these qualities are often represented by the female form.  Correspondingly, the archetypal masculine principle refers to archetypally-based capacities for differentiating, initiating, reason, logic and meaning and is associated with spirit and intellect. The unconscious often produces images of the male form to personify these qualities. While Jung proposed the theory that these principles exist in both men and women, he sometimes tended to write about women interchangeably with the archetypal feminine principle and men with the archetypal masculine principle. In so doing, he described as archetypal, and therefore universal, qualities that reflected the gender biases of his culture and epoch and possibly aspects of his personal psychology.

While Jung’s descriptions of masculine and feminine behavior in men and women of his time may have been illuminating to his contemporaries, we can see now that this approach was too limited for the archetypal principles he was bringing into consciousness. Thus, his work in this area tends to narrow the possibilities for both men’s and women’s development. I disagree with Jung on this point, viewing the feminine and masculine principles as psychological potentials which are equally available to both men and women. 


CJSSF: You say that this material pertains to men as much as women.  Would you say more?

KAITRYN WERTZ: Inner authority is a quality that emerges in men and women during what Jung called individuation, the process of psychological differentiation from both social norms and collective psychology that leads toward a more conscious awareness of wholeness. Men as well as women need to develop an embodied, authentic experience of their own value, validity and agency and to become the authors of their own lives. Men can also benefit from meaningful encounters with more complete archetypal feminine images. But because the process itself is archetypal, it is potentially available to both men and women.


CJSSF: How may this material be helpful clinically?

KAITRYN WERTZ: First, as clinicians, it is helpful to understand our own authority patterns, both conscious and unconscious, and how these patterns may affect our work with clients.

Secondly, clinicians may find it helpful to understand more about the archetypal basis for authority issues as well as ways in which inner authority may develop, especially in women clients.  The images we will explore frequently appear in clients’ dreams, and it can be helpful to have a broader understanding of the unconscious and archetypal foundation of these images.


CJSSF: Is it appropriate for someone not trained in Jungian work?

KAITRYN WERTZ: Yes!  Anyone with an interest in further developing their own sense of inner authority is welcome and will hopefully feel at home. There is no prior knowledge needed to benefit. 


CJSSF: Our CJS season theme is James Hillman’s message of “Stick to the Image”.  How might this message apply to your topic?

KAITRYN WERTZ: The processes we will explore are archetypal and, therefore, image-driven. Archetypal feminine images that personify authority have been in the background of the western psyche for a very long time. Some have lacked conscious recognition, while others have been conscious mainly in their negative or shadow aspects. Allowing these images to become more visible, complete and embodied can be a transformative experience.  My own work on this topic began with images that appeared in dreams and sometimes through synchronicity. The images came first. My attempt to understand the images psychologically followed. The workshop is designed accordingly, first and foremost as a contemplation of vital images of feminine authority as they appear in art, myth, religion and story, and secondly, as an exploration of their possibilities for psychological meaning.


CJSSF: You used the word “agency” in your description of the event.  What does the word mean in the context of your topic? 

KAITRYN WERTZ: Psychological agency is the capacity to exert power, to act in the world. This is a vital aspect of inner authority. In this workshop, we will use the image of the female hands, especially their loss and recovery, to explore forms of inner authority that arise from the developing of agency.  The development of strong ‘psychological hands’ represents creative, productive access to vitality and agency, which can be used to embrace other people and handle the world.


CJSSF: Does the archetypal feminine have special meaning for our times?

KAITRYN WERTZ: Inner authority develops throughout our lives and is a central part of the individuation process for both women and men. Western consciousness has often understood authority in terms of the masculine principle of word, spirit, reason and father, frequently locating it outside the psyche. A more complete and balanced form of inner authority includes these archetypally masculine qualities, but it must also draw upon the feminine principle, associated with embodiment and relatedness. Here we discover what has been in the background of the Western psyche for a very long time: archetypal images that are clearly feminine and that clearly hold authority. On a collective level, increased attention to these archetypal feminine aspects of authority might help restore balance in a world that has been dominated by a patriarchal version of power. The feminine aspects of authority are grounded in relatedness and attuned to the body and the earth, attitudes which might lead to more balance in meeting the needs of our planet and the people and creatures that inhabit it.

Kaitryn Wertz, M.Ed., LMHC, NCPsyA, is a certified Jungian Analyst in private practice in Jupiter, Florida with a thirty-year background as a therapist, consultant, workshop leader and group process facilitator. Her diploma thesis for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts explored women’s development of inner authority.  For Kate’s full background, visit www.katewertz.com.


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Center for Jungian Studies
c/o Richard Chappell
20533 Biscayne Blvd Ste 104
Aventura, FL 33180-1529

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As a Not-For-Profit organization we exist because of the generosity of our friends, volunteers and donors. None of the work that we do would be possible without you.