Imagine a world that is populated with small fiefdoms all throughout the land. Each has a Castle, with a king or queen, and Villagers. The Castle and the Village metaphor represents two poles of psychological coping: over regulation and under regulation. Each has it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. But, when either is overly prominent, rigidly adhered to, problems arise.
The Castle folks live behind meticulously erected walls, high on a hill, outside of reach. The purpose of these walls, as with all good castles, is to present the appearance of security, safety, impenetrability. These Castle folks invest a lot of time and energy in preserving this appearance; in status, physically, and financially. Each success strengthens the walls of protection around them.
These walls are intended to protect the kings and queens from the messiness and dangers of those outside the walls. In people, this is analogous to how many of us cope with (or fail to cope with) the vulnerable feelings of stress and strong emotions. This can be an extremely effective strategy actually. These individuals often appear to have it all together. They can garner respect and admiration, from those outside the walls, and can often get others to do things for them. The kings and queens of these Castles do an excellent job of keeping uncomfortable feelings and disturbing thoughts from bothering them. They’re walls have blocked such experiences from awareness.
In fact, many of us make use of this approach as self-protection in certain situations. Sometimes this is a healthy and positive thing to do in building a fulfilling life. But there are problems with this strategy of self-protection when it is overly relied upon. Firstly, just as we have seen historically, this approach can create division and isolation. In some cases, the high and mighty walls erected as protection become a source of envy and anger for those outside the walls, and can make them the target of attacks from outside. When attacks come, Castle folks hunker down and add another layer of protection to the wall. They pull up the bridges and shut the gates.
“So?” you might say. “If it works, why not do it?” Here’s the rub! As the walls get thicker and thicker, so that they may feel safer and safer from the outside attacks, what do you think happens to their ability to see outside the walls? There are two common results of the extra fortified walls. One, the inhabitants’ view of the world outside becomes distorted. The view, if you will, is less perceptible. And thus, information to the contrary of what they saw before the walls went up does not get in. Do you see the problem here? As the world outside the castle changes, Castle folks are protecting themselves based on old information.
Secondly, what do you think happens to the kings and queens capacity to experience and tolerate emotions (in themselves or others)? They are mystified by these aggressions as they believe, “I have done such an excellent job at cutting off my messy emotions, others should be able to do the same!” Emotions and difficult thoughts and feelings are to be kept in control, under wraps, hidden. But, worst of all for these folks, when the walls become vulnerable under attack or criticism, Castle folks have not had practice with feeling their feelings. Thus, once penetrated, the wall can come crashing down in full blow depression.
On the other hand, the folks in the village tend be quite the opposite. The Village folks have lots of experience feeling their feelings. These are the creative types, the artists, actors, writers and such. They funnel their strong feelings into whatever it is they create in their lives, their work, their homes, their love ones. The Villagers experience oodles of love and hate, and flourish when they have close intense relationships. In fact, often time, close connections are so essential to them, they can loose site of what they truly desire. It is so distasteful to them to feel disconnected that their choices become determined by whomever they are with!
To maintain this sense of connection, Village folks tend to put their needs aside and often engage in over offering. And for the most part, they do this because they enjoy pleasing others and the feeling of connection due to their generosity. But on the other hand, when they sense that others are coming to expect, and or taking for grated, their kindness, resentment, and even anger, can build. Now, because the Villagers do feel their feelings quite strongly, it is very difficult for them to not act on them.
Contrary to the Castle folks, who block the influence of emotions on their perceptions, Village folks tend to by run by their emotions. “If I feel it, it must be true!” is the way of being here. You can see how this can lead to a lot of chaos in the village. Village relationships can have a lot of ups and downs. They fight, they make up, but these folks are authentic! It pains them to be otherwise. The problem for these folks is that, sometimes all of the ups and downs, and intensity of living in the village can become overwhelming. Their strong emotions can get the best of them, and begin to impact their ability to do the things they love, creating and connecting.
Finding the Middle Path
Castle and Village folks are two polarized personality types, which you may recognize in yourself and those you love. Some of us are more like the Castle folks and some of us are more like the Villagers. The important thing to recognize is that each has its merits. Sometimes it is effective to raise the wall of the Castle to protect our self, and thus endure feelings of disconnection. Sometimes it is most effective to feel our uncomfortable feelings, so that we might better connect and create. The key is to not over rely on one or the other, but instead, learn how to flexibly integrate the nuances of both, to hold the middle path.
I hope you will find this metaphor helpful in your life! If you have any questions or comments, I hope you will leave me a message in the comments section! Or sign up for the Mindful-Mastery SKILL WEEKLY newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Until next time, may you BE-WELL.
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