What are archetypes?
Archetypes, or universal patterns of influence, have been recognized since the time of Plato, who called them Forms. Plato believed that these eternal Forms were reflected in material objects, and Carl Jung further developed this idea by proposing that archetypes are psychological patterns derived from historical roles and universal events. Archetypes are not passive entities, but rather active guardians and inner allies that form the foundation of our personality, drives, feelings, beliefs, motivations, and actions. They are intimate companions that help us navigate life and alert us when we are at risk of destructive or shadow behavior. Once we learn to recognize and work with our archetypes, they can become our friends and help us avoid self-sabotage.
List of 40 Archetypes*
*Click an Archetype link for the description
How to identify your archetypes?
To start identifying your personal archetypes, review the list of all the archetypes (I provide a list of many archetypes below). Some may immediately stand out to you as familiar and have been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. They may align with your occupation or other defining characteristics of your nature. However, it's important to dig deeper and not just choose archetypes based on wishful thinking or short-term interests. Consider the archetypes that have had a lifelong influence on you, even if they require hard work and sacrifice, rather than just temporary roles or identities you assume.
When selecting your archetypes, it's important to not shy away from those that may initially seem unpleasant or negative, such as the Addict, Fool, Geek, Martyr, Servant, Bully, or Coward. These archetypes are not inherently negative, but rather their interpretation depends on your perspective. They can ultimately help you avoid the shadow aspect associated with their name. For example, the Judge archetype may seem negative to some, but it can be essential in making informed decisions in various areas of life. Once you've chosen at least eight archetypes, you can begin by asking them questions directly, either in your mind or in writing, and allowing their responses to come from your intuition.
Here are some sample questions to ask yourself or the chosen archetypes:
What events or personal characteristics led me to choose this archetype?
How long has this archetypal pattern been a part of my life?
What role has this archetype played for me?
Which prominent people have interacted with the aspect of my nature supported by this archetype?
What relationship might it have to my personal unfinished business - to those people I haven't forgiven, or to events in the past that I can't let go of? And might this archetype now help me in healing those situations?
What myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for me do I associate with this archetype?
Has this archetype appeared in my dreams?
Does thinking of this archetype make me feel empowered or disempowered?
After asking the sample questions to each prospective archetype, eliminate those that do not genuinely feel like a part of your intimate support team. Then, go back to the list and select replacements as needed. Continue this process until you have a total of eight archetypes that you feel confident play a significant role in your life. When combined with the four survival archetypes, you will have your complete set of 12 archetypes.
Example of the Pioneer Archetype
Here are some general ideas and perspectives related to the Pioneer archetype that you may find helpful in reflecting on these above questions:
Events or personal characteristics that may have led you to choose the Pioneer archetype could include a strong sense of adventure, a desire to explore the unknown, a willingness to take risks, a love for discovery and innovation, or a history of breaking new ground or challenging traditional norms.
The archetypal pattern of the Pioneer may have been a part of your life for a long time, possibly since childhood, or it may have emerged at certain pivotal moments in your life when you embarked on new journeys or took on pioneering roles or responsibilities.
The role of the Pioneer archetype in your life may have been that of a trailblazer, an innovator, a risk-taker, a leader, or someone who pushes boundaries and creates new possibilities. It may have also been a source of inspiration or motivation for you to venture into new territories, overcome challenges, and pursue your passions.
The people who have interacted with the aspect of your nature supported by the Pioneer archetype could be mentors, role models, fellow adventurers, or individuals who share your pioneering spirit or have influenced your adventurous nature.
The relationship of the Pioneer archetype to your personal unfinished business or unresolved issues from the past could be related to unexplored opportunities, unfulfilled dreams, or untapped potentials. The Pioneer archetype may now help you in healing those situations by encouraging you to take risks, embrace change, and explore new possibilities.
Myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for you and that you associate with the Pioneer archetype could be those that depict journeys, quests, or adventures, and feature characters who embody the pioneering spirit, exploration, or innovation.
The Pioneer archetype may have appeared in your dreams as a symbol of your inner drive for exploration, adventure, and discovery, or as a representation of your willingness to take risks and embrace the unknown.
Thinking of the Pioneer archetype may make you feel empowered, as it embodies qualities such as courage, resilience, and daring. It may also evoke a sense of freedom, excitement, and enthusiasm for new experiences and challenges, which can be empowering. However, it may also sometimes make you feel disempowered if you feel overwhelmed by the risks, uncertainties, or responsibilities associated with pioneering endeavors.
It's important to reflect on your own personal experiences and associations with the Pioneer archetype to gain insights into how it has influenced your life and can continue to support you in your personal growth and development.
What is shadow?
All archetypes, including the positive ones, have shadow manifestations. The shadow aspect of an archetype is often denied or considered unacceptable, but it can have a negative impact if not acknowledged. For example, the positive aspect of the Mother archetype is nurturing, compassionate and caring representing unconditional love and protective nature, but its shadow can manifest as overbearing, smothering and overly controlling behavior. Similarly, the Queen archetype can empower you to assert authority and act benevolently, but its shadow may result in bossiness and demanding behavior. Recognizing the difference between the positive and shadow aspects of archetypes is crucial in harnessing their constructive power.