The Real Dark Side of the Trickster

The Trickster is often misunderstood to be a demon or devil of some sort; he is an adversary, corrupter, manipulator. Those who take the time to better understand the Trickster come to realize his path is one filled with humor. He teaches lessons in ways that are very different from other archetypes. He is the jester who occasionally strikes a nerve with a cunning insult, the clown whose jokes sometimes turn a little too dark or morbid, the prankster who goes a bit too far from time to time. The Trickster is never evil, although his intentions are certainly worth questioning and we often find we need more self-reflection to understand why we react to him the way we do.

One Form of the Trickster

For my whole life, I have been what some of us call “One of Loki’s.” This phrase is generally for those Lokeans (followers of Loki) who were chosen by the Norse God as opposed to having chosen him as a Patron deity. Unlike other Lokeans, I have the fortunate perspective of Loki in his more paternal, nurturing aspect. He is like a cross between a spiritual father, confidant, protector, and best friend. Not to mention he’s got a great sense of humor, both sweet and morbid. He can help you through anything with laughter so long as you can spot the humor in all things.

When I tell people about this side of Loki’s true nature, they are often confused when I also mention that Lokeans walk hard paths in life. Those who are touched directly by the Trickster face serious challenges in life. We are confronted by some of the worst situations that life has to offer and are expected to grow and find the humor in it. When we fear something, if we fail to get over that fear, we are directly impacted by it; forced to face the fear head-on and experience all the gritty details, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. We can easily be consumed by these challenges. Some cope by lashing out in violent or self-destructive ways, such as crime and addiction. For others, we battle our inner demons, sometimes on the losing side where major depression, PTSD, OCD, OCPD, eating disorders, and other psychological illnesses become the ruling forces in our lives.

The Compassionate Comedian Mourned Across the World

The news of Robin Williams’ death by suicide on August 11, 2014 was a harsh blow. He touched the lives of so many through humor and inspiration. Even when his jokes were a bit too dark or movie character portrayal uncomfortable to watch, he had a way about him that kept us connected. Those darker moments were very human and very real and any discomfort on our part was our reaction to the challenge. He was immensely compassionate and did so much for the whole world. Even though the majority of us never met him and he never knew us personally, his life will be celebrated as we continue to remember and miss him always.

For others of us, the pain of the loss runs deeper. His family and close friends feel the grief to an extent the rest of us can only claim to understand and no one is more affected than them. However, there are some of us who are somewhere in the middle between those who met and knew him personally and those he likely never knew even existed. We are the ones who are not shocked that he died by suicide but feel the guilt because we are still here and we were not given the opportunity – or didn’t realize we had one – to reach out. For us, we lost a spiritual brother or uncle of sorts.

Over the years, we could feel his sadness that he hid deep within himself. We understood exactly what he was talking about when others thought he was just cracking jokes. We recognized the difference between his great acting and when he was allowing his personal emotions to peek out from behind his wall during a role – the lovely benefit of a “mask” that acting offers. We know exactly what it is like knowing we are not alone and that we have loved ones who care, but feeling as though absolutely no one knows who we really are, how we really feel, and that strange, somewhat irrational but powerful thought that those people who claim to love us are never there when we need them.

We know because all of us who are touched by the Trickster experience this pain in life. Just as the Trickster is so often misunderstood, harshly judged against, even ignored and thought best off left alone, those of us touched by the Trickster are equally social outcasts, believed to be lone wolves, heavily criticized, and often find our dearest loved ones blindly turning away right when we need them the most. We often come from unpleasant or even outright nightmarish backgrounds, so our coping methods aren’t always positive and often lead us deeper into depressed or self-destructive behaviors.

Coping Struggles

Over time, we take the past behaviors of others to be an indication of how they will behave in the future. The friend who shrugs off concerns like they are nothing is not someone to reach out to when you’re overwhelmed with anxiety. The family member who never answers the phone or returns your call when you’re in tears won’t be there to console you when you are dangling dangerously close the edge. That person who tells you to call them at any time if you ever need anyone, but who doesn’t seem to understand your jokes, misses subtle clues, and fails to recognize the true nature of why we would ever need to call them simply are not going to be there for us when we need someone. After so many years of everyone seeming to fail to be there at a vital moment for us, we stop reaching out when we need to, making any dips into depression and suicidal thoughts extremely dangerous.

Thankfully, those of us touched by the Trickster are never truly alone. Many of us have several spiritual allies, and the Trickster – no matter the form he takes – will always stand by your side in your darkest times. It’s easy to forget, though, that they are there. And the lack of physical touch tempts us to ignore them no matter how strongly we sense their presence. So long as we avoid that temptation and accept a spiritual touch and acknowledge that they are there, they do understand, and they truly love and accept us for who we are, we make it through just fine. A good cry, and the negativity is overcome. If we listen closely enough, we even have a major shift in perspective and find a solution to whatever the surface problem is, helping us to move beyond and defeat the underlying issues.

Signs of the Trickster

The death of Robin Williams strikes such a heavy cord because he has now become a shining example of what happens when we eliminate all possible channels to reach out through and ignore the spiritual allies by our side. His death is a result of walking the path of the Trickster and failing to overcome the hardest of challenges. Because we know who he was, his public life, and the ways he touched the world, we are impacted in ways we didn’t anticipate. One more lesson from the Trickster, in case we forgot from prior examples.

So when you hear all the awful things about Tricksters, like Loki, Coyote, Fox, Rabbit, the Serpent, and many others, just know that most of what you hear is distorted by the fears of those claiming Tricksters are bad. The real dark side of the Trickster is how we are individually impacted by the harsh lessons we face, often without any sort of protection or coping mechanisms to sustain us, and very often standing outside of the norms and safety net of the societies we live in.

If you know someone who is touched by the Trickster, keep a close eye on him or her. We don’t like being controlled and we don’t want to be put into a box, but we often exaggerate how good we are and crack jokes when we’re screaming or crying inside. Likewise, if you are touched by the Trickster, reach out when you need to. The darker your feelings, the more you need to program yourself to focus on seeking an outlet or lifeline. The path of the Trickster isn't just about laughter; it's about balancing the light and dark in life.

Related Links: 
Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves - Article discussing the side of comedians hidden behind the jokes. 
Psychology Today Therapists - Professional listings for Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Therapists, Counselors, Group Therapy and Treatment Centers. 

© 2014 by Evylyn Rose