If you ask most men, they will agree: James Bond embodies the art of cool, confidence, charisma, and power. He saves the world, gets the women, and does it all in style. Women want him, men want to be him. And it’s no wonder. James Bond epitomizes the masculine ideal.
He fights the faceless shadows of SPECTRE, the hidden criminal organization that runs things behind the scenes, which can be compared to the unconscious elements of the psyche. He operates out of sight of the general public, or the conscious mind, which allows him to battle these hidden elements. He is the true archetypal hero, in every sense of the word.
The archetypal hero has been discussed in Jungian psychology as an ancient motif found across all cultures. Rooted in the human psyche and often times manifested in dreams as symbolic representations, our brain attempts to integrate new information through storytelling, which seems to be the way the right hemisphere communicates with the left hemisphere of the brain. The hero is the actor in the unconscious drama that has helped us grapple with chaos (i.e. the unknown) and come away with some semblance of order, which we can use to achieve our ends and orient ourselves in the world.
He symbolizes the unconscious self that embodies all archetypes. In essence, the hero is that part of you that goes on a figurative journey to find something of value, and bring back that treasure to the tribe.
Your goal is to assimilate the unconscious content that has been disowned and not yet understood by you.
This is akin to, in symbolic terms, confronting the monster within you or what you most fear, and conquering it. A common myth is that of a dragon guarding treasure – an opportunity that carries risk and reward.
If we want to understand James Bond, we have to understand his character on a deep level – his thought process, his background, his motivations, his philosophy of living. Though James Bond has many skills, and some of them may be worth learning in order to fully grasp his mindset, what we can start with now and what I believe would have the most impact is tapping into your “shadow” in relation to what is unknown to you about James Bond. In other words, you must seek and integrate those forces that are currently unreachable by you, which form the basis of his personality. The idea is that you cannot embody something which you have not yet explored.
There’s a scene from the movie Skyfall, which sums up where Bond’s confidence comes from. In the scene, James is found at an exclusive casino in Macau where he attempts to track down the terrorist responsible for the MI6 server hacking and subsequent bombing of MI6 headquarters in London. He is approached by Séverine, who Bond previously sees assisting a man named Patrice in an assassination of an art dealer. He tells her that he wants to meet her employer, and determines that she is in actuality a victim under the rule of a tyrant. She agrees to take Bond to him in the hopes that Bond kills him, hence, freeing her from her captivity.
This brings us back to the shadowy aspect of the plot. James Bond doesn’t know who this man is, but he knows that he’s a powerful and dangerous individual. This does not deter James from facing his shadow who, as the movie later reveals, is symbolically his other half.
James Bond: I want to meet your employer.Séverine: Be careful what you wish for.
The scene is quiet. There’s no music, only dialogue. The lighting is dim and there’s a sense of being watched by some unknown force. Here, James is warned that he may be in for more than he can handle. This is the classic crossroads, a point at which an important decision must be made – a decision with serious consequences. James is unfazed, and instead of running away with his tail between his legs, he just looks at her and says:
James Bond: You’re scared.
His observation is correct. She stands up to leave, but he pulls her in and confronts her. This scene demonstrates not only his assertiveness, but his willingness to face what would normally frighten someone else. The unknown is faced head on, unflinchingly. Where does he get this confidence from?
James Bond: You put on a good show. But ever since we sat down, you haven’t stopped looking at your bodyguards. Now, three of them is a bit excessive. They’re controlling you. They’re not protecting you. The tattoo on your wrist is Macau sex trade. You belonged to one of the houses. What were you? 12? 13? I’m guessing he was your way out. Perhaps you thought you were in love. But that was a long time ago.
What comes with the willingness to look into the abyss is Bond’s ability to observe his environment without being controlled by his emotions.
In Egyptian mythology, for instance, the eye at the top of the pyramid is the power of attention. One can only use this power if one is not controlled by base instincts, such as fear, which muddies the waters of perception. Bond notices the tattoo on her wrist, the barrette strapped to her thigh, and the bodyguards standing overhead and deduces from the situation. His attention is clear, sharp, and focused. He follows her eyes as she looks toward her “bodyguards.” He notices the minor details that most people would overlook, and because of this, he moves the game along in his favor.
Séverine: You know nothing about it.
James Bond: I know when a woman is afraid and pretending not to be.
Rather than taking what she says at face value, James observes the truth behind her lie. We can learn something very important from this: Watch what people DO, not what they say.
Séverine: How much do you know about fear?
James Bond: All there is.
The above quote is most profound, and gives us the answer to the origin of his confidence. It’s not that he was always immune to fear, but rather that he knows fear well from experience. He’s met with it face to face on many occasions, from all angles, and that’s why he is able to see it in others. He has conquered fear through knowing it, rather than avoiding it, and to know something is to have transcended it. Thus, he is the master of fear itself.
Séverine: Not like this. Not like him.
James Bond: I can help you.
Séverine: I don’t think so.
James Bond: Let me try.
James Bond: Bring me to him.
Séverine: Can you kill him?
James Bond: Yes.
Séverine: Will you?
James Bond: Someone usually dies.
James is confident even in the face of Séverine’s fear. He is a rock, untrammeled by the doubts of others. When he’s asked if he can kill her employer, the shadowy figure who is unknown to him, he simply affirms that he can. There is no uncertainty in his words or his tone. His body language does not hint at any deception. He is fully confident in his abilities.
Rather than keeping with the tense situation, Bond breaks set and jokes, “Someone usually dies,” eliciting a genuine laugh of relief from Séverine. His confidence in the face of danger, allowing her to relax and let go of her worries, is a tribute to the James Bond we all know and love.