I’m in the process of reading The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, the Teacher, Healer and Visionary, by Angeles Arrien, PhD.  It explores paths to wholeness and empowerment from the perspectives of indigenous societies and shamanic traditions.

In her research, Arrien discovered a pattern of human archetypes that are consistent across cultures, seemingly universally embedded in the mythic structure of societies. When we learn to live these archetypes within ourselves, we can tap into their wisdom and begin to heal ourselves and our fragmented world.

The principles of the Four-Fold Way, based on the four archetypes, are:

1. Show up, or choose to be present. Being present allows us to access the human resources of power, presence, and communication. This is the way of the Warrior.

2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning. Paying attention opens us to the human resources of love, gratitude, acknowledgment, and validation. This is the way of the Healer.

3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment. Nonjudmental truthfulness maintains our authenticity, and develops our inner vision and intuition. This is the way of the Visionary.

4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome. Openness and nonattachment help us recover the human resources of wisdom and objectivity. This is the way of the Teacher.

The first archetype explored in the book is that of the Warrior. The theme is about accessing the quality of courage, and to claim full leadership. She says:

The principle that guides the Warrior is showing up and choosing to be present. The developed Warrior shows honor and respect for all things, employs judicious communication, sets limits and boundaries, is responsible and disciplined, demonstrates right use of power, and understands the three universal powers.

As I read through the descriptions of the expressions of the Warrior, I could clearly see the places where I’m struggling to claim those things within myself.

Honor and Respect

“Honor is the capacity to confer respect to another individual. We become honorable when our capacities for respect are expressed and strengthened. The term respect comes from the latin word respicere, which means ‘the willingness to look again.”

Instead of being fixated on only one or two aspects of who we think we or others are, an effective leader will stay open and flexible, and look at the many abilities we embody.

Judicious Communication

“There are two causes for all misunderstandings: not saying what we mean, and not doing what we say. When we say what we mean and do what we say, we become trustworthy.”

Without an alignment between words and actions, we lose power and effectiveness.

Limits and Boundaries

“Another aspect of communication that is necessary for effective leadership is the ability to understand the difference between yes and no. These two words reveal our limits and boundaries – what we are willing to do and what we are not willing to do. When we say “yes” when we mean “no,” we lose personal power and become victims or martyrs. When we say “no” to someone else when we know the situation calls for us to say “yes,” we become stingy or selfish.”

This is a big one for me… having the ability to respect what I (or others) are willing to do or not willing to do at this point in time.

Responsibility and Discipline

“The Warrior must also understand and be aware of the causes and effects of actions taken or not taken. This capacity of attention is called responsibility, “the ability to respond.” Responsibility is not only the ability to respond to what comes toward us, it is also the capacity to stand behind our actions and to be responsible for all that we do or don’t do. This means we do not allow ourselves to be in denial about ourselves, or to be self-indulgent. Our ability to respond impeccably and with integrity to the events we create brings us into the Warrior’s arena.”

“This aspect of responsibility is discipline. Discipline is the process of facing life directly and acting without haste. The word “discipline” actually means “being a disciple unto oneself.” When we are disciples unto ourselves, we honor our own rhythm, our step-by-step nature.”

“Discipline and responsibility are the Warrior’s tools for honoring structure and function. Land-based peoples know that too much structure or form leads to rigidity and calcification, and that too much function or random creativity leads to chaos.”

The next sections cover the right use of power, and the three universal powers (Presence, Communication, & Position), though what was more interesting (and painful) was the section that followed, on the shadow aspects of the Warrior archetype.

How the Unclaimed Warrior/Leader Reveals Itself: The Shadow Aspects of the Warrior

“When we are not fully present or empowered, we find ourselves caught in the shadow of the Warrior archetype. We have not claimed the Warrior or leader within our nature if we see in our lives the themes of rebellion, unclaimed authority or projecting our authority onto others, and patterns of invisibility.


This section struck me particularly, and I can’t help but identify with some aspects here. In thinking about potential futures, new societies, or being a ‘change agent,’ it seems that sometimes the desire for something different becomes an end in itself, and the ‘why’ becomes lost in the mix.

“Rebels cannot tolerate being ordinary. They are often incapable of working within establsihed structures and forms. Rebels honor their own personal and professional needs above anyone else’s, regardless of whether it is the appropriate time, place, or situation to do so. For rebels to become Warriors, they need to learn how to honor and respect the limits and boundaries of others, to take responsibility for actions taken or not taken, and to claim leadership in a way that empowers people rather than diminishes them.

The rebel is over-identified with being independent and self-sufficient. Behind every rebel is a need for space. The underlying fear for the rebel is the fear of being limited, restricted, or restrained. The rebel who uses leadership skills for personal gains faces diminished skill in being a team player, and eventually loses the respect of others. Taken to the extreme, the rebel becomes the narcissist and abandons effective leadership.”

Authority Issues

This one also felt familiar, especially when reflecting on our endeavors for co-creation / collaboration with other creatives. We’ve all got some degree of emotional/psychological baggage, and I’ve found it definitely shows up for me in these recurring patterns of projecting authority on others rather than claiming it for myself. I imagine this must go back to my childhood, where I was really excellent at doing what I was told to do, and not given much opportunity to make my own choices. There’s certainly comfort in the former, though it ends up just breeding resentment.

“Any authority issue reveals an individual who is behavior like a victim. For example, when an authority figure does not meet an individual’s idealized expectations, a victim will counter with blame, judgment, and attack; or will respond with disappointment, avoidance, and withdrawal. The victim who uses blame is beginning to reclaim personal authority in a convoluted way, using leadership skills to attack or self-justify. The victim who uses withdrawal or avoidance is unsuccessfully attempting to reclaim personal authority.

A person who claims personal authority is no longer a victim. As we claim our own authority, these convoluted ways of owning power are disengaged. We begin to value collaboration with colleagues and honor people who demonstrate effective leadership skills.”

Patterns of Invisibility

I can relate to this one as well, and can see how it gets tricky in collaborations when not everyone is ‘showing up.’

“We often avoid reclaiming personal power by participating in patterns of invisibility. These patterns include hiding or holding back or “riding on the coattails” of powerful people. Low self-esteem and the inability to see oneself correctly is often at the root of the pattern of hiding or holding back. Another form of remaining invisible is to influence situations from behind the scenes.

If we carry this particular pattern of hiding, we fear exposure or being fully seen in areas where we are inherently talented. hiding behind the scenes reveals difficulty demonstrating personal leadership qualities and creative expression. This is very different than being fully behind someone else’s creative efforts with our own gifts and talents fully engaged and not compromised in any way. “Riding on the coattails” of powerful people reveals an individual’s tendency to claim power vicariously rather than using personal leadership skills directly. Being in the light of someone else’s power gives us the illusion that we are in our own power when we are not. Underneath all patterns of invisibility is the fear of exposure and accountability. These fears spring from self-worth issues and affect the individual’s ability to fully engage in life.

If these shadow aspects are highly developed in any category, leadership skills of equal magnitude are waiting to be claimed. Courage and bravery are the keys for exploring and embracing all aspects of the Warrior archetype; by accessing the quality of courage, we can claim full leadership.

It is the Warrior’s way to embrace strengths and weaknesses. With all parts of ourselves embraced, illusions are more easily collapsed. This enables us to participate in life more fully.”

Practices and Questions to Develop the Inner Warrior

“The Warrior is the archetype of leadership. We come into our leadership skills by staying in our power, by showing up and choosing to be present, by extending honor and respect, and by being responsible and accountable.”

Arrien offers some guidance about practices to hone your Warrior, all of which are about creating white space in your mind, meditating, spending time in nature, bodywork or exercise, and staying mindful/aware of how you handle unexpected events and surprises in life.

The section ends with some great reflective questions:

* Is the good, true, and beautiful within me as strong as the whispers of diminishment? (Or, in contemporary psychological terms, Is my self-worth as strong as my self-critic?)

* Where in my life did I stop dancing? Where in my life did I stop singing? Where in my life did I stop being enchanted with stories? Where in my life did I become uncomfortable with the sweet territory of silence?

* Who are the people who have acknowledged me for my leadership skills? Who are the people who have chosen me to be a fellow team player?

* What have been my greatest challenges? How have I handled these challenges?

* What specific leadership skills do I have? How am I currently demonstrating these skills within my family, within my creativity, within my work life?

* Where do I lose my power? What particular people or situations ignite my lack of courage?

* Where do I stand up for myself, stand on my own two feet, take a stand, and know what it is I cannot stand?

* What parts of myself are currently at war with each other? What is the major conflict that I am currently experiencing in my life? Where do I create misunderstandings in my life? Do I say what I mean? Do I do what I say?

* How do I respond when there is too much to do? How do I respond when there is nothing to do?

* In what ways do I extend honor and respect to myself and others? Am I aware of my own limits and boundaries? Do I honor and respect the limits and boundaries of others?

* In what areas of my life do I see myself as responsible and accountable? In what areas of my life am I disciplined?

* What is my connection to nature and to animals? Do I spend at least one full hour out doors every day?

* Of the three shadow aspects of the Warrior, what patterns of invisibility have I explored? In what parts of my life have I been a rebel? In what parts of my life have I had authority issues? In what parts of my life have I experienced being a victim?


Quite an eye-opening book for me, with lots of hidden gems.

How have you embraced your inner Warrior?