“I don’t know why we bother with you, you are absolutely useless. You’re going to end up being nothing but a bum when you grow up.” This was the repeated tirade I endured, along with beatings and other punishments till I escaped my home at age 18.
I know that many people had worse childhoods than mine. But it was bad enough. Plenty of books and memoirs have detailed for readers the terror of an alcoholic household, of being punished “For your own good,” and the endless struggle against chaos. There are still entire years of my childhood that I can’t remember, probably for the best. My siblings’ and my coping mechanism was comedy, turning the downstairs scenes of madness into upstairs entertainments for ourselves, creating silly characters and puppet shows that turned the beatings into slapstick and the nightmares into clown scenarios. We all went into comedy in some fashion as a profession. I became a clown and mime: a romantic if not exactly lucrative profession.
I spent my young adult life sabotaging everything I touched in order to not make my Dad a liar. When I did succeed at something, he mocked me for my choices: of husband, of career, of lifestyle. When as a mature adult, I knew that nothing I did would ever please my parents, there was still a little girl who would surface, wanting someone just once, to tell me I was a “good girl.”
Life became a search: for meaning: for happiness, for pain relief, for understanding. It took many years, and many disastrous detours on my personal hero’s journey to learn that all of these searches are connected. The deeper I went into my healing process, the more I learned about the patterns I carried in my thinking, feeling, posture, movement. As I unpacked my emotional baggage, I began to uncover the sources of my suffering and my failures, contained within my physical habits. This book is the distillation of years of research, searching and self-study. If you are reading this book, you share this curiosity and desire for “realizing your dreams.” I believe that by tuning into your relationship to your body, you can literally become the change you want to see in the world.
Emotions, Mythology and The Body
As a dancer and a mime artist, I was always drawn to the expression of emotions. While I was adept at portraying sadness, joy, lust, and rage, I had no understanding of why we take on these postures and attitudes. Why did certain people attract me? Why did I shrink in the face of certain situations? My search led me to study many traditions: Yoga, Tarot, Buddhism, G.I Gurdjieff. I was even in a Seth Speaks group where we listened to a reel-to reel recording of an entity channeled through a woman named Jane Roberts somewhere in upstate New York. But it wasn’t until I discovered the writings of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais that I
began to understand how I was carrying my history in the way I walked, talked, love and fought. This sent me off on another journey of researching the relationship between movement and neuroscience, chemistry, anatomy and mythology, yes, mythology.
Each culture’s myths tell the story of human behavior: the capricious Greek gods, the heroic sagas of the Norse and Celtic heroes, the talented Yoruban Orishas . The characters in myths represent archetypal personalities that reflect a culture’s world view. I’ll never forget the shock I experienced when I learned, well into my 50’s that Shakespeare’s Hamlet was not an original story, but derived from an ancient Finnish tale about Amletus, which turned out to be a myth explaining the precession of the equinoxes.
Mythological characters have long been the subject of psychological and archetypal study. The word Archetype comes from two Greek words that can be translated together to mean the “beginning type,” or as some people have interpreted, an essence. The Greek philosopher Plato believed certain ideas or qualities are imprinted on the human soul. Karl Jung named twelve basic archetypes, from hero to lover. Author Carolyn Myss lists over a hundred possibilities in her books on Archetypes. You can see the influence of myth in some of the labels that have become part of popular culture: Peter Pan syndrome, Narcissism (named after the youth Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection), making a Herculean effort, etc. At any given moment, you could choose to identify with a particular archetype, and the mind boggles at the myriad possibilities for analysis and self-study around the cast of characters that lives inside each of us. Every encounter with another person, every decision point, every life challenge can call forth the behavior of one of Jung’s or Myss’s archetypes. This is a wonderful study, and there are plenty of books and courses that explore this.
The Power of Four
Four archetypes continually appear in culture and mythology: the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. The number four lives in literature and language: Four Pillars of Destiny, the Four Corners of the Earth, the four directions or winds, four seasons, the Four Dignities. You can find representatives of these four archetypes everywhere, for example: the Warrior knights of the Round Table in England, the legendary Teacher Lao-Tzu from China, Sonzwaphi, the Bushman Healing deity, Kumugwe, the Visionary god of the Pacific Northwest. These four iconic energies inhabit and inspire the human psyche. You meet them now in Beyonce’s fierce yet beautiful music videos personifying her warrior side, or in the visionary creations of Steve Jobs. We are constantly being touched and influenced by the archetypes’ appearance in the world.
I first encountered these four archetypes in the writing of the late anthropologist Angeles Arrien, who presented them from the perspective of Native American wisdom traditions. I dove deeper, exploring the gifts and challenges of these four archetypes within myself. Connections emerged: between parts of the body, certain ways of moving, and human qualities. At some point I realized that my attraction to them was not just curiosity. They represent potential. Like four pillars of my own destiny, they support me to become the change I want to see in the world.
There is something irresistible in exploring typology. Meyers-Briggs developed an entire industry around it. Certain Archetype studies emphasize the need to label, offering quizzes to find out your business archetype, or your romantic archetype. Whether it’s Human Design or the Enneagram, we love to know what “type” we are. I’m old enough to remember a popular pick-up line from the ‘70’s, ”Hi there, my name’s John. So what’s your sign?” Sometimes it even worked!
Labels can also limit you. When you call yourself a “Seven” or a “Projector” or a “Scorpio,” it can close off other avenues. Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson has said that instead of putting yourself in a box with a number you should “choose the number that will help you grow the most.” Instead of looking for your “type”, this book invites you to find how each of these four archetypes live within. You are not simply a “Teacher type” or a “Visionary.” By experiencing the gifts and challenges of each one, you will learn to choose appropriate actions and behaviors to support you on your journey.
Praise for You’ve Got the Power!
“Lavinia Plonka has brought together wisdom and techniques from her decades as an acclaimed teacher and avid student in the realms exploring the body/mind connection. You’ve Got the Power! is a guide to understanding what gets in the way of your power and how to harness powers you didn’t know you had.”
—Gretta Keene, author of Your Way There To Being Fully Alive: Concepts and Tools for Mindful Transformation
“Somatics is the art and science of bringing your soul home to your body. Lavinia is at the forefront of somatics, which means she is pioneering new possibilities for moving, breathing, and savoring life to the fullest while marrying this body wisdom with knowledge of the archetypal, energetic, and spiritual dimensions of our nature. She’s brilliant, wise, and her book invites you into an expanded reality for embodied life.”
—Stephen Dinan, CEO, The Shift Network
“Lavinia is a gifted writer/teacher who has the rare ability to synthesize ancient wisdom with modern natural and social science theories for the purposes of exploring movement, emotions, self-awareness and self-development. She seamlessly integrates stories with movement lessons, and gently reminds us that we have the power within us to be remarkable, expressive, creative, and brave.”
—Laura Bond, author of The Emotional Body: A Method for Physical Self-Regulation, and founder of the Emotional Body® method
“Lavinia Plonka has always written books that make a strong case for paying attention – to our bodies and how we engage with them. In You’ve Got the Power! she does it again—leading us into the territory of classic human behaviour at its height—archetypes—and how to find these parts of ourselves through engaging in body awareness and movement. Read it—it can change your life.”
—Martha Eddy, author of Mindful Movement
About the Author
Lavinia Plonka’s best-selling works blend her expertise in somatic movement practices with her natural comedic sensibility. She has served as an artist in residence for the Guggenheim Museum and as a movement consultant around the world, from the Irish National Folk Theater to Nickelodeon. A Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner (GCFP), Lavinia has taught The Feldenkrais Method® for 30 years. In partnership with The Shift Network, Lavinia recently launched her own Feldenkrais-inspired system of movement, The Kinēsa® Process, synthesizing the wisdom of ancient traditions and modern science to create a cutting edge whole-body system of movement. Lavinia’s works include several books and audio programs and a popular monthly newsletter. She currently resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and serves as Director of the Asheville Movement Center in Asheville, NC.