If I said to you I have a friend who is a typical 'rebel', or a cousin who personifies the 'carer', or a partner who is the quintessential 'hero', with these single words, you would have a sense of these people in my life, without having ever spent a moment in their presence..
Welcome to the world of archetypes.
Archetypes (Jung, 1947) are defined as instinctive, unconcsious behaviours that influence our way of being in the world. They are universal, seen and recorded across culture, geography and time. They are familiar to us all - we are introduced to them in fairy tales, myths, cultural legends and literature. Jung recognised that when individuals become aware of the archetypes that shape their behaviour, they serve as a guide for enhanced self-awareness, personal growth and healing.
“An archetype is something like an old watercourse along which the water of life flowed for a time, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it flowed the deeper the channel, and the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return.”
- Carl Jung
As you read the brief archetypal definitions below, notice which one/s resonate with your natural way of being, which feel familiar, as though the person who wrote them must somehow know you:
Seeker - well, you've already heard about us :). Seekers are magnetically pulled towards a constant search for knowledge and experiences, internally (through a quest for self-understanding) and externally (through life experiences). With eyes directed to the future, Seekers are flexible and always prepared to change course and grow. Routine and sameness is our least favourite thing! To the Seeker, life is one delicious journey of discovery.
Caregiver - you are driven to help and care for others and you place immense value on being able to do so. You naturally detect others' needs and generously reach out to offer comfort.
Idealist - you hold a foundational belief that life is good and things will be ok. You are optimistic, even in the face of challenging situations and you hold your optimism close to your heart.
Lover - you are driven by the desire for relationships and experiences of connection. Passionate about people, ideas and activities, your heart is your guide.
Sage - you have an insatiable need to pursue knowledge and it is likely people around you see you as 'the wise one'. You have a capacity to remain calm when others are frazzled, always seeking to understand and advise, rather than getting caught up in the whirlwind.
Realist - you pride yourself on being practical, preferring to 'see' what's possible over daydreaming about the possibilities. You like working with those you can trust, who are down to earth and clear. You favour planning and control over winging it and leaps of faith.
Creator - naturally imaginative, you are constantly dreaming up new ideas, which appear to flow from you. You have a talent for expressing ideas through the written word, visual arts and more.
Magician - you carry an energy of transformation that is infectious. You trust the interconnectedness of things and have faith in the meaning that lies in wait in what, to other people, appears as mere coincidence.
Jester - joy and humour are vital to you and you have a knack for spotting irony. You are not driven to change things, but smile inwardly at the craziness of things. You love nothing more than being immersed in company, connected through shared laughter.
Ruler - you are super comfy with power and driven to achieve your goals. You have a sixth sense for group dynamics and you prefer the driver's seat.
Warrior - you are driven by a capacity to set and meet goals and even when you reach these goals, you raise the bar. Competitive and capable, you are confident to stand up for yourself and others.
Revolutionary - you are a non-conformist who challenges the status quo. You are deeply unsettled by the idea of doing things a certain way, simply because they've always been done just so. You courageously step forward to push for change.
“Your archetype is a blue-print of your soul's purpose and connecting with it has the power to transform not only your own life, but also the lives of others.”
- Caroline Myss
How'd you go? Which archetypes resonated with you? Are there archetypes that you embody that have helped or hindered you in life? Our archetypes can be our guides in life, help us make difficult decisions and are a wonderful source of confidence. When reading about archetypes for the first time 20 years ago, what struck me was a familiar feeling, one of stumbling onto information that, somewhere inside me, I already knew. Understanding your archetypes makes conscious that which may be currently unconscious. I personally found that experience deeply validating and inspiring.
“Once a woman becomes aware of the forces that influence her, she gains the power that knowledge provides.”
- Jean Bolen
Err hmmm . . . . that relates to men too! Two of my favourite reads on the topic of archetypes are by Jean Bolen, a Jungian analyst and professor of psychiatry - "Goddesses in Everywoman" and "Gods in Everyman" - well worth a read.
I'd love to hear about which archetypes resonated with you. Get in touch anytime here.
Sources: C. Pearson. J. Bolen. C. Myss.