Man or Marionette? Pinocchio and the Metamorphosis of Manhood

Since it was published in 1883, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Italian writer, Carlo Collodi, has become one of the most widely read and adapted fairy tales of all time.  This may be because the character of Pinocchio represents the archetype of the classic hero- one who experiences a metamorphosis and rebirth as a result of overcoming internal and external challenges.  Whether we know it or not, adults and children alike have been drawn to Pinocchio for 134 years because we subconsciously understand the marionette’s struggle to break free of his tethers and become his own person is our struggle, too.


Lies, Libido & Leverage

Through my professional mentorship services, I’ve worked with men from all walks of life.  It doesn’t matter how powerful or wealthy a client happens to be, the struggle to find peace and satisfaction within oneself and an intimate relationship is a common challenge.  In these cases, I always share the deeper lessons of Pinocchio that can teach us how men lie to themselves and hold their lives back.

Men of great influence are often womanizers who leverage their status to get what they want, including sex. In a very real way, these men live their lives on Pinocchio’s “Pleasure Island” in a world of on-demand instant gratification.  The problem is that not only are these pleasures superficial and fleeting, but by making such base choices, a man never really matures or learns how to develop meaningful relationships.

When a man uses a woman simply for physical pleasure and he’s not in his loving at that moment, his actions are indeed based on a lie. When sex becomes a means to an end rather than an opportunity to really connect with another human being, we lie to ourselves and our sexual partners. The result is an internal emptiness, a kind of dissociation from ourselves and others that leaves us starving for a true primal connection at the soul level that we then try to fill up with more meaningless sex, money, drugs, or something else.


Distraction & Dissipation

Pinocchio is the archetype of every man because his goal is to become a real person, just as ours is to reach self-actualization.  To do this, men have to be willing to leave “Pleasure Island” and face their bigger challenges.  For men who have access to nonstop pleasure, it requires living consciously.  It means having an emotional balance that allows us to honor ourselves and others by understanding what our deeper needs are and choosing to pursue those for the sake of personal growth instead of instant gratification.

If, on the other hand, a man allows himself to be driven by shallow urges with no thought to himself or those he participates with, he becomes nothing more than a puppet at the service of his unconscious impulses.  He never acts consciously, but only reacts unconsciously to the stimuli around him, pulled by the strings of his vices.


Selfish Sabotage

The essence of narcissism is having an ideal fantasy of ourselves that doesn’t match reality.  Rather than face the truth, we overcompensate in some way for that deficit.  This is the case with many otherwise successful men. Throughout my life, I’ve observed that the smartest and kindest people have always been the humblest.  I tell the men I mentor that the most productive tree is the one that bears the most fruit, its branches so heavy that it bends down to share its gifts with others. A man using the blessings life has given him to manipulate others makes him a barren tree with nothing of substance to give to others.


Keeping Company

The success of a man’s spiritual journey depends a lot on the company he keeps and how the men around him influence his choices. The evil and deceitful characters of the cat and fox in Pinocchio almost lead to his undoing.  The fact that they’re much larger than he is symbolizes how powerful the temptation to seek mindless pleasure can be if we’re not aware of the company we’re keeping.

In contrast, the character acting as Pinocchio’s conscience, who’s always trying to get him back on the path to self-realization, is an insect that’s as tiny as his voice is quiet, Jiminy Cricket.  In the same way, our guiding intuition in difficult circumstances has a voice that speaks in a whisper, as well.  When temptations are screaming for us to jump right into self-indulgence, we must be able to create stillness within ourselves and hear the voice that supports our greatest good.


Saving the Self

In most folk tales, the main character must take a risk and venture into the unknown ­– somewhere such as a deep cave, a treacherous mountaintop or a dark wood – to achieve his goal and complete his personal transformation.  This represents the symbolic dark night of the soul.  In Pinocchio, this is his journey into the belly of the whale to save his father.

In facing the challenge to right his previous wrongs and save his father, Pinocchio’s redemption has begun.  In the same way, we too rescue alienated parts of ourselves when we have the courage to face our greatest fears and become more of who we were meant to be.  This is the only way an immature boy can become a real man and yet, most men never take the journey, regardless of how powerful or wealthy they are.

Wholeness Ever After

When we reconnect to the parts of ourselves we’ve lost, as Pinocchio did by rescuing Geppetto, we become whole. For a man, that means being conscious enough of one’s motivations to shift from the pleasure-seeking principle to the reality principle.  It requires a libido that’s sublimated into his loving, that doesn’t isolate him from women but instead, brings him into a better union with them and himself. This leads to a deeper experience for both him and his partner, because our emotional growth will always be measured by our ability to love—and that’s the path we’re all looking for that leads to our happy ending.


Photo credit

Dr. Habib Sadeghi

View posts by Dr. Habib Sadeghi
Dr. Habib Sadeghi is the author of The Clarity Cleanse: 12 Steps to Finding Renewed Energy, Spiritual Fulfillment, and Emotional Healing. He is the co-founder of the Be Hive of Healing Integrative Medical Center in Los Angeles and is the publisher of the health and well-being journal, MegaZen. Learn more about Be Hive of Healing at

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