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The Greek Hero in Crisis


The Greek Hero in Crisis

Jennifer Degnan Smith, July 6, 2017

Theseus and AethraIt has the makings of a modern day tragedy. A country that has worked so hard to reclaim the glory that it heralded in its ancient past has watched its progress slip away in the current financial crisis. Greece has historically been admired as the cradle of Western Civilization as it has been the source of some of the world’s greatest artistic and intellectual achievements, including its classical architecture, the works of Socrates and Aristotle, and the fundamentals of democracy. However, Greece is now being portrayed in the world-wide press as Europe’s problem child (Paganos, 2016, p. 20-21). Today, many economists and politicians believe that Greece is at risk of bringing down Europe with its economic instability.

Since 2007, Greece has been dealing with a financial crisis and has required bailout funding from the “Troika,” a group of foreign lenders (the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the European Union), led by the German government and Angela Merkel. The bailout is “the most expensive financial rescue of a country ever,” costing over 270 billion euros (Kalyvas, 2015, p. 3). Controversy has arisen about why the Greeks have found themselves in this situation. Some experts have blamed Greek corruption (Angelos, 2016, p. 10). Others have suggested that Greece has not developed enough to be part of the European Union (p. 10). Finally, many have suggested that Greece’s creditors are being overly controlling and making ineffective demands (p. 18). All of the above may be true. The words of a Greek hotel owner seem to capture the crisis well: “First Greece has the problem of itself. Second, Greece has the problem of the Troika” (as cited in Angelos, 2016, p. 17).

Greece seems to have contributed to its situation through the prolific tax evasion that “epitomizes the Greek Disease” (Palaiologos, 2014, p. 28). Palaiologos noted that tax evasion in Greece is not “deviant” behavior but rather a social phenomenon and a “normal” way of doing business (p. 28). One study in 2012 found that approximately 11.2 billion euros of tax money went uncollected because of unreported income, mostly from doctors, lawyers, financial services agents, and engineers (p. 29). The terms of the bailouts have required Greeks to adopt austerity and reformation measures that would put an end to tax evasion and make significant cuts to pensions. However, even with the reformation measures, the Greek government argues that it cannot repay the debt and there must be some relief or Greece will default on its loans and be forced to leave the Eurozone. The current Greek government’s slogan is “Can’t pay, won’t pay,” which calls for non-compliance as “‘the people’ should not be forced to pay for the crisis caused by the ruling elite” (Palaiologos, 2014, p. 13).

This situation has left the country unsettled, experiencing political turnover, strikes, and protesting in the streets. In May 2017, hundreds of thousands of Greeks went on strike in objection to the latest government reforms requiring more severe austerity measures (Kitsantonis, 2017). One of the main reasons for political unrest is that the people with recorded income that cannot be hidden, such as pensioners, are the ones who are having to pay taxes while the corrupt politicians, believed to be hiding millions in foreign bank accounts, are still able to avoid paying taxes (Palaiologos, 2014, p. 29).

The world has been watching the drama of the Greek crisis unfold, and what comes next is impossible to predict. How will this great epic end as the actors of Greece, Germany, and the Troika don their masks and play their parts? And how has the “personality” of the Greek culture played a part in this crisis? When any individual, group, or culture faces an unyielding crisis, finding a solution depends upon bringing new psychological skills and perspectives to bear on the problem. As Jung (1967) said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular” (para. 335). For Greece, it seems clear that a formidable task of type development, a true “hero’s journey,” lies ahead.

The Greek Personality: Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving (ESFP)

ESFP function archetypes according to the Beebe model.Over the last four years, I have spent significant time in Greece, in particular Athens. And I have had the pleasure of getting to know Greece’s beautiful beaches and waters, and her hard-working, intelligent, passionate, and compassionate people. The type of ESFP seems to describe the Greek culture well. For instance, some mottoes of the ESFP are “We’re here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time” and “Open ear, open shoulder, open heart” (McAlpine, Shumate, Evers, & Hughey, 2009). ESFPs value much of what Greeks appear to value, such as living life fully and having a good time with others. Much is endearing about the Greek people, and it is always interesting to be in their company. But like all types, the ESFP has negative aspects, such as an aversion to responsibility, being easily distracted, and not managing time well (McAlpine et al., 2009). ESFPs can also think negatively about themselves and others when under stress and become very expressive with their emotions, including crying and yelling. This behavior, too, seems to describe the Greeks.

Athens, the Greek capital, is named after the goddess Athena who is the “one who gives soul” (Downing, 2007, p. 104). However, there is also something quite masculine about the city. Although Athena was one of the goddesses of ancient Greece, she was also born out of the thigh of her father, Zeus, and has strong ties to the masculine.

The Greek Hero and his Downfall

“My joys here are great, because they are very simple and spring from the everlasting elements: the pure air, the sun, the sea and the wheaten loaf,” (Kazantzakis, 1952, p. 104). These words from Nikos Kazantzakis’ book Zorba the Greek epitomize the Greeks’ superior function of extraverted sensing (Se), which focuses on the “current objective, external world to fully experience the details of the environment through the five senses. Extraverted sensing draws energy and enjoyment directly from people, objects, and events” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 33). Most Greeks love the outdoors, and many frequent the beach after work when the weather is warm. They live fully from their hearts and their bodies and are connected to their instinctual side. They enjoy their food, wine, coffee shops, and, most importantly, their holidays, of which there are many. People using extraverted sensing seek raw experiences to feel alive and are the life of the party, appreciating vivid smells, tastes, and sights (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 34). The passionate and impulsive character of Zorba is a wonderful portrayal of an ESFP, as he has “a living heart, a large voracious mouth, [and] a great brute soul, not yet severed from mother earth” (Kazantzakis, 1952, p. 18). Zorba was not alone with his “voracious mouth.” The Greeks never stop communicating with the world, and they communicate in many ways. The extravert “has no secrets he has not long since shared with others” (Jung, 1921/1971, para. 973). The average Greek keeps very little confidential.

The Greeks are generally well dressed and groomed. Sharp (1987) noted how fashion-conscious extraverted sensors are. Von Franz said that Se’s “dressed very well, admired women, and had [a] kind of refined sensuality” (1971, p. 25). Kalyvas (2015) discussed a 2008 survey that found that the Greeks were the “world’s biggest fans of designer goods” and major consumers of designer apparel (p. 164). Zorba said, “My feet and my hands spoke, so did my hair and clothes” (Kazantzakis, 1952, p. 86).

I can attest, however, that residing in Athens also requires one to engage with the senses in a more challenging way as it is chaotic and noisy. The roads and the sidewalks are poorly maintained, and the traffic does not always obey the rules, nor do the pedestrians. One must be very aware of one’s body and the environment just to find one’s way safely through the labyrinth of streets.

Zorba, arguingThe Greeks are very competitive in sport, another Se trait, and soccer plays a big part in their culture. However, in a number of games the fans became so violent that the entire league was suspended for a time, and away fans have been banned indefinitely (Greek Football League, 2015). Fan violence is a “chronic problem” of the game (para. 15). Fans have thrown lit flares and projectiles onto the pitch and ripped seats from the stadium. What seems apparent is that the Greeks would rather have a game suspended due to bad behavior than lose. The competitiveness of sport aside, like the water that surrounds their country, the Greeks are very fluid and go with the flow and are less concerned with the future. This is typical of Se’s as they generally “enjoy it, use it, or put up with it” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 38). Kalyvas (2015) discussed this trait of flexibility as one of the Greeks’ strengths that has helped them to modernize. In addition, the Greeks have shown their flexibility in their response to the refugees that are inundating their country at a time when they are already struggling. The Greeks seem able to roll with the situation.

However, a relaxed attitude also has some negative consequences as it seems that this current financial crisis is a time when the Greeks need strong economic and government planning skills and to be less accepting of the situation as it is. Haas and Hunziker (2011) noted that people with a preference for Se can repeat mistakes as they often do not think about future consequences (p. 35). This is seen in the fact that the Greeks seem to “stumble from disaster to disaster” as they have had seven significant “boom-bust” cycles in their history (Kalyvas, 2015, p. 13). This is another trait of the Se: they are great in a crisis, and sometimes they will create one just to have to solve it (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 38). The Greeks have been effective at dealing short-term with the crisis as they manage to put out the fires and continue to function despite the lack of planning.

According to Beebe (2004, p. 101), the superior function is associated with the hero archetype. It is the area of strength and pride and adaptation to the world. Describing the evolution of the Greek hero, Kazantzakis wrote: “The soul of man is transformed according to the climate, the silence, the solitude, or the company in which it lives” (1952, p. 105). The Greeks may have understandably developed an inflated heroic Se as a result of their challenging landscape and history. The question for modern-day Greece is whether this heroic Se, without sufficient awareness of its shadow functions, has contributed to the creation of its current economic crisis.

Greece’s Opposing Personality

As with any hero, we need to consider how the hero may experience his demise. According to Beebe (2004), this may involve the hero’s opposing personality which is in his shadow, a part that is not owned and is often projected onto the “other.” It is an area of frustration and “defends by offending, seducing, and avoiding” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 180). As Shumate (2008/2009) noted, the opposing personality is a blind spot and can “sabotage the hero” (p. 3). She identified that it stems from a sense of scarcity, which is opposite to the hero’s sense of abundance. So the Greek hero’s fun-loving side denies the part of him that is not. According to McAlpine, et al. (2009), introverted sensing (Si) in the position of the opposing personality may avoid focusing on the past and will consider it unimportant. Palaiologos (2014) noted the modern Greeks have a “complicated relationship with their ancient past” (p. xviii). They are proud of being the founders of Western civilization yet ashamed of current failings. I have found that when Greeks are being criticized for their current state they will revert to boasting about their role as the founder of civilization; otherwise, I hear little about their history.

The Greeks’ lack of attention to their history may be seen in their neglect of some of their artifacts. For example, Palaiologos (2014) revealed how a Picasso painting was stolen from the National Gallery in downtown Athens. Picasso had donated the painting of “Woman’s Head” to Greece “in recognition of its resistance against the Nazi occupation” (p. ix). The thieves made off with it and a couple of other paintings because “neither the National Gallery nor the General Directorate for the Restoration for museums and for Technical Works had set any standards for security in places holding Greece’s most treasured cultural possessions” (p. x). The list of problems identified at the National Gallery was very long, including broken motion detectors, a security system that had not been upgraded in over ten years, and guards untrained in what to do in the event of an attempted robbery (p. x).

The negligence of the Greek authorities in protecting the artifacts of their own singular and precious history has been equaled by a lack of respect from the general public. On the beaches of Vouliagmeni, an upscale beach resort area on the outskirts of Athens, are ruins in the sand right next to some tennis courts. One might assume that the ruins could not be anything significant as nothing protects them, and people climb all over them to retrieve their tennis balls. However, the ruins are actually the ancient Temple of Apollo. The Greeks enjoy their games unconcerned with their impact on the ruins.

The Greeks’ projection of introverted sensing may be seen in their relationship with Germany during this economic crisis. The Greeks complain that Germany is overly structured, archaic, and risk averse, yet the Greek banks and government are incredibly bureaucratic, laden with rules and regulations, and actually a barrier to Greece’s economic recovery. Kalyvas (2015) noted the Greek government’s “harmful tendencies” of “mismanagement, laxity, lack of accountability, [and] worship of a highly formalistic and rigid legalism” (p. 136).

Greece also has a history of nepotism that the current government led by the left-wing Syriza party had promised to eradicate. Angelos (2016) noted that the public administration was “profoundly ineffective” as public workers were “hired for life, often not because of their qualifications, but because an aunt or a cousin knew a mayor or a parliamentarian” (p. 10). For instance, the Secretary of Syriza’s youth program is reported to have appointed “his mother, brother and girlfriend to positions in the public sector” (Polychroniou, 2016, para. 3). The EU recently expressed concerns that the amount of nepotism alone may put the new bailout program at risk.

Introverted sensing in the fifth position can also result in people being stuck in the past, which may be seen in the Greeks’ significant ties to the Orthodox Church. It is central to their culture as the Greek War of Independence “cemented” the association of church and state and made the “Orthodox faith a constituent part of the Greek identity” (Kalyvas, 2015, p. 42). However, Palaiologos (2014) argued that the Church is an “enemy of modernization” and acts “not always in the service of stability and almost never in the cause of social progress” (p. 16).

Thus, the Greek Se hero’s laid back approach creates a very soulful way of life that has been helpful in dealing with the crisis as the Greeks are flexible and effective at putting out fires. At the same time, however, aspects of their shadow Si are obstructing many of these same potential Se strengths.

The Good and Bad Greek Parent

As Myers and Myers (1980/1995) noted, a second or auxiliary process is needed to balance the superior process. They also pointed out that one of the main roles of the auxiliary function is to provide some balance between extraversion and introversion. Thus, the Greek culture’s extraverted sensing is balanced with introverted feeling (Fi).

The Village of KarpathosThe introverted feeling in Greek culture can be experienced in its architecture. Despite its history, energy, and soul, Athens is not a particularly pretty city. It offers little greenery, and the building structure and color are practical, yet monotonous. The houses and apartments are almost always white and look the same from the outside, which is sensible for the summer heat. The wealth of the inhabitants is unobservable until one crosses the threshold into their homes, where the personal aspects of the Greeks are found and are well tended. This neutral exterior and rich interior is symbolic of how the Greeks place great importance on their own interior feelings and values.

According to Beebe (2004), the auxiliary acts like a supportive, nurturing parent (p. 101-102). The Greeks’ good parent is introverted feeling (Fi) while the critical parent is extraverted feeling (Fe). It is important to note that the Feeling function, whether extraverted or introverted, is not equivalent to emotion but rather “is that psychological process in us that evaluates. Through the Feeling function we appreciate a situation, a person, an object, a moment, in terms of value” (Hillman, 1971, p. 90). For people (or cultures) making decisions through the Feeling function, values are the primary consideration, not logical analysis or objective criteria. And if a situation “is not to their suiting, they subtly impose their feeling world, or disturb the one taking place by undercutting it” (p. 99). Hillman also noted that Feeling is not about observing; it is about passing judgment. Indeed, it is through their values-based judgments that people with a preference for Feeling relate to the people and events in their lives (p. 100). Their descriptions of people and situations are colored with their evaluations. They may even seem unintelligent when actually they are just inflexible in their values (p. 100).

McAlpine et al. (2009) noted that the helpful parent shows how we protect and nurture others. There is a softness and caring seen in the Greeks which is also an attribute of Fi (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p.111). Rather than consider them nuisances, the Greeks often feed and shelter the many stray dogs and cats roaming around. They have also sheltered the refugees who have inundated their shores. Some political parties, such as the neo-fascist Golden Dawn, openly blame the immigrants for causing the downfall of Greece (Angelos, 2016, p. 249). However, on the other extreme, Palaiologos (2014) noted that the people of the island of Lesbos, which is the main entry point of refugees, “have shown consistent solidarity with the migrants over the years, organizing to provide them with better living conditions and to inform them of their rights” (p. 200). The people of Lesbos have directed their anger at the government for not creating appropriate infrastructures for the migrants (p. 200).

In a 2016 article, Helena Smith noted the deep generosity and altruism of the Greeks to the refugees as struggling shop owners donate supplies to the refugee children and pensioners donate bread. The Greeks may have had a hard time over the last few years, but “the sight of thousands of refugees stranded on their shores, often with little more than the clothes on their backs, has now taken them somewhere else” (para. 6). As the state structure has not been working well to support the refugees, they have become dependent on the kindness of strangers and NGOs. Constantinos Tsoukalas, Greece’s preeminent sociologist noted that it is in the Greek “collective consciousness” to “know what it is like to lose everything: homes, friends, memories, picture, the memorabilia of their lives” (as cited in Smith, 2016, para. 21). As a result, they have kindness and compassion towards the refugees. Recently, the Cycladic Museum in Athens held an exhibit by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and activist, which was inspired by Ai’s stay on Lesbos. The president of the museum felt that it was important to “do something cultural here because of the humanitarian refugee crisis” (Eroshenko, 2015). Ai Weiwei created wallpaper from 12,030 iPhone images that he took of refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. He also curated over 600 photographs of refugees that were taken by local amateurs which captured the humanness and the emotions of the refugees.

Refugees on LesbosThe Greeks’ use of parental introverted feeling to aid the refugees has created even more chaos for Greece, whose resources are already overextended. Greece is the main point of entry for illegal border crossings into the European Union due to its proximity to Turkey. In 2010, it was found that Greece accounted for “90 per cent of all detections of illegal border crossings into the EU” (Palaiologos, 2014, p. 198). The reason this is so significant is that for many years, according to EU law, if immigrants wanted to apply for asylum, they must do so at the first point of entry, which was often Greece. Greece referred to itself as “’Europe’s basement,’ where unwanted migrants were kept” (Angelos, 2016, p. 195). Greece was relieved of this responsibility for a few years because of reports of human violations rights—mainly because Greece’s systems could not cope with the ever-increasing number of immigrants. “Greece’s asylum processing ‘system,’ if it can charitably be thus described, buckled under the increasing pressure” (Palaiologos, 2014, p. 197). However, in early 2017, the responsibility was put back on to Greece.

Along with this acceptance and clear connection to values, the feeling function in Greek culture also has a shadow side, the critical parent aspect that is engaged in order to defend itself. For the Greeks, that is the function of extraverted feeling. Fe as critical parent can be overly protective and directive. The Greeks clearly know what is important to them and try to help others from the perspective of their own values. The movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Brooks, 2002) portrays a stereotypical Greek family, particularly in the opening scene when Gus Portokalos tells his daughter Toula, “You better get married soon. You’re starting to look … old!” Toula is very clear about what is expected of her by her parents: “Nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone … until the day we die.”

As McAlpine et al. (2009) noted, Fe in this position might appear as criticizing “self and/or others for not being a good enough caretaker.” This can often be heard in the Greeks’ complaints about the poor way the government treats them. Of course, they have good reason as government corruption and misspending helped to cause the crisis. Thus, the critical parent appears to also be a negligent parent, as Palaiologos (2014) extensively described how the Greek state has been irresponsible to the Greek people: there is “a sense that no one is in charge, no one is willing or able to act as a custodian of the common good that government is meant to represent” (p. xi). The individual citizens overextend themselves taking care of the refugees while their own government does not take care of them. It appears that it would be beneficial for the Greeks to develop a balanced feeling function which supports self-care, caring for others, and taking appropriate responsibility.

This Greek aversion to taking responsibility is also seen in their cultural game of ballaki euthinon, which translates to “little ball of blame.” It has one rule: “when responsibility for a disaster in question heads your way, you do your best to flick it as far away as possible, preferably by directing it towards some other murkily involved party” (Palaiologos, 2014, p. x). This blame game is seen clearly in the current economic crisis, as it is the Greek policy to “blame the Germans. For everything” (Dimou, 2015, para. 17). Thus, the good parent’s compassion may be undermined by the critical parent’s negligence and failure to take full responsibility.

The Child-like, Mercurial Greek

“You think too much. That is your trouble. Clever people and grocers, they weigh everything,” said Zorba (Cacoyannis, 1964). Zorba’s comments about thinking may come from the perspective of a person whose thinking function is underdeveloped. For an ESFP, extraverted thinking (Te) shows up in the third position, which Beebe considered to be carried by the puer, or eternal child archetype, and introverted thinking (Ti) is the seventh function, associated with the mercurial trickster archetype.

The puer/puella is the eternal boy/girl and is “of the charming, promising, but ultimately unreliable character of certain eternally youthful and often very seductive men and women” (Beebe, 2004, p. 102). This is the place where one plays and may also possess “the innocence and naïveté of a child and may refuse to grow up and become responsible for [oneself]” (McAlpine et al., 2009). However, it is also a place of great creativity and potential. With extraverted thinking in this position, the Greeks may find themselves giving too much or too little advice or giving their opinions with “childish rightness and fervor” (McAlpine et al., 2009). This is evident in the Greek culture. The Greeks seem to be constantly giving each other advice and telling each other what to do.

Demonstration at Syntagma SquareThis extraverted thinking childish fervor can also be experienced in the continual stream of mass protests going on in Athens. There have been over 20,000 rallies and protests across the country during the crisis (Angelos, 2016, p. 14). Kalyvas (2015) noted the high level of “contentious action” with the extensive use of strikes, protests, and highway blocks that are “ubiquitous and are both institutionalized and ritualized, and tend to follow a universally understood script” (p. 122). Greek protests are not a result of the crisis but a practice from the past that resulted in deaths of demonstrators in the 1980s (p. 122). Thus, perhaps the puer/puella has been hijacked by Greece’s opposing personality, introverted sensing, as Kalyvas (2015) also argued that the protests are not reflecting the “Greek mythical spirit of resistance” but are symbolic and ritualistic and play a political function in trying to bargain (p. 123). The demonstrations do not seem to be effective in producing change; rather they seem to serve as a way of complaining. Greece’s critical parent, Fe, and its blame game may have reared its ugly head in the poor use of extraverted thinking.

The effective use of Te is needed to “structure and organize the external world” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 74). Extraverted thinking helps to develop systems and follow policies, procedures, and guidelines. With Te in the third position, it seems to be a place of unreliability and play for the Greeks, and a place where they need to take responsibility. The Greek public administration is renowned for being incredibly inefficient because of a “lack of clear responsibilities between institutions and services,” “absence of written instruction and documentation,” “lack of accountability,” and “nontransparent or improperly documented bookkeeping” among many other things (Kalyvas, 2015, p. 137). When not used effectively, Te can also lead to “complex government bureaucracies” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 75), which are a significant problem in Greece.

The development of extraverted thinking would be useful in dealing with Greece’s immigration problems as it values “creating and maintaining systems that take care of people” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 74). Angelos (2016) stated that Greece’s “immigration problem required the kind of responsible policy response the government had long proven incapable of mustering” (p. 219). He also argued that Greece’s lack of a working system for asylum seekers has caused inhumane conditions and would have “allowed for faster deportation of those migrants who didn’t qualify for it and instead lingered in the country indefinitely” (p. 219). He also pointed out that Greece cannot blame its financial crisis for this as the European Commission supplied significant financial funding to help with “‘migration management,’” but the funds had not been used due to “administrative red tape” (p. 220).

The shadow side of the Greek cultural personality’s extraverted thinking function is trickster introverted thinking, The trickster can be used in ways that are beneficial for self-defense by helping us overcome “unreasonable obstacles” and survive “the cruelty of the world” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 179). Greece may have survived its many historical challenges because of a well-developed trickster. For instance, the trickster may have been the energy behind the Greek’s ingenious creation and use of the Trojan horse to trick their enemy and win the war. However, it can also act in ways that may result in self-sabotage. With introverted thinking in this position, people often find ways to reframe a situation to their advantage. In 2015, when Germany called for repayment on part of its 240 billion euro loan, the Greek government gave the German government a bill for World War II damages that equaled a similar amount, 279 billion euros, and threatened to seize German property in Greece if the Germans did not pay (Connolly & Smith, 2015). Germany reacted with surprise and anger and refused to pay, claiming that it had already paid its war debts. This is one of the pitfalls of the trickster as it “arouses unexpected emotional responses” and “unintentionally damages relationships” (McAlpine et al., 2009). In addition to being an escape artist, the trickster is an area of manipulation and a “source of deception and lies” (McAlpine et al., 2009). For example, tricksterish behavior is also evident at the individual level when the Greek people try to explain and justify their reasons for not paying taxes. The Greeks might benefit from revitalizing their well-developed trickster function to create a Trojan horse to outmaneuver their economic war.

The Greek Anima and Demon

The old world is tangible, solid, we live in it and are struggling with it every moment—it exists. The world of the future is not yet born, it is elusive, fluid, made of the light from which dreams are woven; it is a cloud buffeted by violent winds—love, hate, imagination, luck, God. (Kazantzakis, 1952, p. 73)

This perspective describes the ESFP’s approach to the present and the future and reflects the fourth and eighth functions, the anima and demon archetypes of the Greek culture. The fourth function, the inferior function, seems to have a life of its own and “particularly resists integration into consciousness” (Sharp, 1987, p. 21). As von Franz said, the inferior function behaves like a “‘fool’ hero” and is “the despised part of the personality, the ridiculous and unadapted part, but also that part which builds up the connection with the unconscious and therefore holds the secret key to the unconscious totality of the person” (1971, p. 7). Beebe (2004) called it “the ‘other’ within us” and agreed with von Franz that it is carried by the archetype of the anima/animus (p. 102). It is “both nemesis and vehicle for type development” (Shumate, 2011, para. 2), thus critical for the development of the Greek hero. It represents the contrasexual side of the personality—the essential inspiration for the superior hero. Thus, it is important to consider the Greek hero’s need for the feminine elements, in particular the anima, as a source of creativity and a connection to the unconscious.

The inferior function for ESFP is introverted intuition (Ni). When the extraverted sensing hero represses Ni, “the pursuit of sensation can become all-consuming” (Sharp, 1987, p. 57). This may fit some aspects of the Greek culture as there is still much tax avoidance, frivolous spending, and finger-pointing.

Evil EyeVon Franz also noted how Ni in the inferior position can lead to suspiciousness of others without any foundation and can cause ideas of persecution by others (von Franz, 1971, p. 23). Perhaps this is why the symbol of the Greek evil eye, vaskania, is so prominent in their culture. It protects them from unknown yet imminently threatening, evil, usually caused by jealousy or envy. The symbol of the blue eye is found everywhere in Greek culture, on their jewelry, key chains, and ornaments. The Orthodox Church has a special prayer to avert the evil eye, and there is a secret rite that is performed (though not Church sanctioned) that entails an old woman making the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead, cheeks, and chin with olive oil, letting one drop of oil fall onto the water. If the four drops of oil form “the ellipsoid shape of an eye,” then “the devil is indeed present,” and further reading of prayers and doing signs of the cross is necessary (Papademetriou, 1990, para. 8).

There is also a need for the gifts of the repressed function of extraverted intuition (Ne), carried by the demonic archetype of ESFP, which “operates in the shadow to undermine others and ourselves” (Beebe, 2004, p. 109). In the position of the demon, it often turns into a “’sky is falling’ paranoia” (McAlpine et al., 2009). This can be experienced in the Greek culture when their easy-going manner turns to one that fears a pending catastrophe. However, the demon function can turn into the daimonic and be the “source of one’s most brilliant thoughts” (McAlpine et al., 2009). Such revelations could be of great use to the Greeks to solve their crisis as Ne helps to build future possibilities based on environmental, objective data (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 54).

The Hero’s Battle and Return

The question remains as to how the epic will end. Will the economic crisis result in a tragedy for the Greek people or will the Greek hero advance in his journey? In depth psychology, the hero’s journey is considered an allegory for individuation. How must the “personality” of Greece develop?

It seems clear that the Greek hero must learn to use his anima introverted intuition in a healthier way and to value and develop his puer extraverted thinking. This would support the typological assumption that individuation lies in developing the first four function-attitudes. The Greek trickster, Ti, must be called on to support this process, and fortunately for Greece, he’s ready and available. The trickster does not respect rules and boundaries, nor does it strive to maintain consistency, but rather the trickster breaks down the old, limiting structures and patterns “creating disorder.” This opens up opportunities for a “new order” and allows for the holding of paradoxes, thus the trickster can be the “catalyst for individuation” (Hunziker, 2016, p. 187).

As Shumate (2011) noted, we can only get access to the inferior function by releasing the grip of the superior function. Thus, the Greek hero will need to ease his grip on his extraverted sensing function in order to gain access to his introverted intuition. Se has served him well to this point, but it may ultimately be his downfall. Shumate also noted that the inferior function is projected and “inadvertently recreates [itself] as external obstacles to overcome” (para. 2). It seems that Greece’s Ni has been projected as the economic crisis. The crisis is the enemy that the Greek hero must defeat, the dragon that must be slain.

Introverted intuitives have a tremendous capacity “for smelling out the future, the not-yet-manifest possibilities of a situation” (Sharp, 1987, p. 84). This is the work of visionaries and prophets and the “vision that guides strategic planning” (Haas & Hunziker, 2011, p. 68), which is exactly what the Greeks need right now. They need a vision to help find their way out of something that seems impossible. They need to understand the complex patterns and systems of their economic situation. Rather than using their myth-making abilities to confuse truth and fiction, the Greeks could use their skills to free themselves from the ancient ruins of their past myths and create a modern day myth that is vibrant and alive.

As von Franz mentioned, when the superior function gets tired, new life can be found in the inferior function (1971). Therefore, introverted intuition may bring new life to Greece and restore it to its ancient magnificence. “It is as if here in Greece necessity is the mother of miracles” (Kazantzakis, 1952, p. 21).

The Greeks also require clear goals and planning to achieve this vision. A developed extraverted thinking function could help them to build the analytical and efficient systems that the county requires. Significant creativity is contained in the puer function of Te, and that energy can be deployed to construct much needed structures and systems—if it is adequately supported by an heroic Se grasp of the current reality and a vision of the future from a developed and respected Ni anima, and if it is congruent with the parental Fi values of the nation.

The Greeks must also consider how their culturally shadowy introverted sensing is sabotaging their recovery. In particular, there is a need to address their highly bureaucratic institutions and work to eradicate nepotism, as well as to consider how the culture of the Church may be hindering progress.

Apollo Temple in DelphiFrom their long and challenging history, the Greeks have proven that they are creative and resilient and often at their best in times of crisis. The Greeks are passionate about their country and are incredibly capable. For the Greeks, the world is a theater, and despite their perilous economic and political situation, Athens is still a city full of soul. Greece has everything it needs for the triumphant hero to slay the dragon and create a mythical ending. As Palaiologos (2014) noted about Greece, “This rich, spoilt, talent-filled, violence prone, proud, conspiracy-minded, dangerously atomized, stunningly beautiful country on the edge of the European continent was a perfect candidate for a sovereign debt crisis, yet it remains a place of boundless possibilities” (p. xvii).


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Header image: “Theseus and Aethra” (detail), 1635-1640. Laurent de La Hyre. Courtesy: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

Still from 1964 movie “Zorba the Greek”

Village of Karpathos

Refugees arrive on the north coast of Lesbos, Sept, 2015. The shore is littered with life jackets, boats, and flotation aids. Photo by Rosa-Maria Rinki.

Greek referendum 2015: demonstration for voting NO at Syntagma square, Athens Greece, July, 2015. Photo by Ggia.

“Evil Eye” amulet.

The Temple of Apollo, Delphi. Photo by Frank Fleschner, 2005.


Jennifer Degnan Smith

Jennifer Degnan Smith

Jennifer Degnan Smith, Ph.D., is based in Seattle and consults with organizations in the U.S. and Europe to cultivate their cultures and develop their employees' careers. She lived in London for many years, coaching senior finance executives on leadership and career advancement. She has taught leadership and organizational behavior to MBA students, and has conducted post-graduate research on women and work-life balance. Jennifer travels extensively to Athens studying Greece's ancient mythology and its contemporary culture. Learn more about Jennifer here.

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Comments (2)

New insight into Greek culture.

Revealing, illuminating

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