3 Archetypes of Men Who Have Parent Issues

This fall quarter I taught a class using the book “Gods in Everyman: Archetypes That Shape Men’s Lives” by the psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen. Though I teach creative writing I love using Jungian psychology literature in my classes, as I believe that literature and psychology are two very closely related realms; both desire to understand human nature through stories.  In her book “Gods in EverymanShinoda Bolen explores eight Greek Gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Hermes, Ares, Hephaestus, and Dionysus and explains how these archetypes manifest in different men at different stages of their lives. As we studied these archetypes in class we were able to recognize them in people around us and in ourselves. Though these are masculine archetypes, they are also present in women – as we all have masculine and feminine sides.

The three last archetypes in the book: Ares, Hephaestus, and Dionysus, despite having different personalities, have something in common. All three have parent issues that affect their behavior and their choices in life. I have decided to share with you a very brief summary of these three archetypes in the hope that it will give you some insights and make you curious to read and learn more on the subject.

Hephaestus – the son who was rejected by both his parents

Hephaestus (called Vulcan by the Romans) - God of the Forge. He was the only god who worked for a living. He was very creative, a genius inventor (he made himself beautiful and obedient maidservants), and a loner.

There are two versions of how he was kicked out of Olympus. In one version he was born with a deformed leg. His mother Hera, who was a self-centered woman, found his defect to be humiliating to her and threw him off Olympus.  In another version Hephaestus tried to protect his mother Hera during a heated argument with his father Zeus (Jupiter). Angry at the interference, Zeus threw him off Olympus. From the fall, Hephaestus’ leg was crippled. 

Hephaestus married Aphrodite (Venus) - The goddess of love and beauty - who betrayed him with his brother Ares. He replicated his feelings of rejection as a child into his marriage – where he picked a partner who, like his parents, rejected him.

The Hephaestus archetype is a big burly man. He is a very crafty and inventive person. He has the capability to be completely absorbed in his work. The Hephaestus type of man also tends to be a recluse. He is a person who tries to be the peacemaker at home, even at the expense of his own well-being. Because he doesn’t know how to express his emotions, he turns his rage inwards and tends to develop self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism and drug addiction. The Hephaestus man can be a literal orphan or simply an emotional orphan – a child who grew up being neglected by both parents.

Ares – the son who was rejected by his father

Ares (Mars) - God of War. He was the son of Hera and Zeus and grew up to be a very masculine, emotionally intense, and impulsive man.

His father Zeus (the high executive kind of guy) despised him, as Ares lacked the strategic thinking like his brother Apollo or his sister Athena (Minerva). Ares lost many battles in his life, due to his inability to think through things and his tendency to shoot from the hip.

His mother Hera insisted that he first be trained as a dancer before becoming a warrior. Maybe it is Ares behind the old Celtic proverb that says, “Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”

Ares was very loyal to the people around him and was trusted to be the first to stand by their side in time of need or to avenge their hurt. He didn’t always do this in the most effective way, but his intentions were good. Ares is the only god who had several children from the same woman. He had several long tern relationships with women, including Aphrodite.

The Ares archetype is known to be a good dancer. He is a passionate lover who enjoys making love with a woman who feels comfortable in her own body and sexuality.  He is very loyal to his clan and the first to stand next to someone in need. He tends to be hot-tempered, feisty, and easy to get involved in fights. If Ares’ father is a more thoughtful, philosophical, or strategic person, there might be a conflict between father and son. This kind of father usually sees the Ares son as a disappointment.

Dionysus – the son with mother issues

Dionysus (Racchus) - God of Wine and Ecstasy. He was Zeus’ youngest son. His mother Semele was a mortal. She died while pregnant with him when she discovered that her lover was the God of the Thunderbolt. To save his unborn son, Zeus sewed him into his thigh. Dionysus’ brother Hermes (Mercury) acted as a midwife when he was ready to be born.

Zeus and his older sons, Apollo and Hermes, worked hard to hide Dionysus from the jealous Hera who wanted to kill the son that her husband had with another. Dionysus managed to invoke in his father surprising feelings of protectiveness, care, and love that he did not show to his older brothers, Hephaestus and Ares. Maybe it was because Zeus was older and softer by the time his youngest son was born.

Dionysus grew up without a mother and with the knowledge that another woman wanted him dead. He was a very handsome man, a wine connoisseur who traveled the world and taught the cultivation of grapes. Madness and violence accompanied him wherever he went. In some stories he was cursed by Hera and turned mad and violent, in other stories people who rejected him turned mad and violent. 

Though he was very popular among women, and even drove them to madness due to their love and admiration of him. Dionysus eventually ended as a one-woman man. Ariadne was a mortal whose husband abandoned her on an island on their way to Athens. She was about to kill herself when Dionysus appeared and saved her. They married and Zeus made her immortal.

The Dionysus archetype is an eternal boy (Puer Aeterneus), an immature adult with lots of charm and charisma. Women tend to go crazy over him. He tends to try drugs, alcohol, and sex in his attempts to reach ecstasy and to find inspiration. He has good relationships with his father, brothers, and other men. Due to unresolved maternal issues (could be due to the lack of a maternal influence in his upbringing or the debilitating influence of an overly dominant mother), he is a man who is looking for a mother figure in every woman he meets. If the Dionysus type of man matures, he is able to have a deep and loving relationship with a woman.