The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means “original or old”; and typos, which means “pattern, model or type”. The combined meaning is an “original pattern” of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated.
The psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters—archetypes—reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions.
Most, if not all, people have several archetypes at play in their personality construct; however, one archetype tends to dominate the personality in general. It can be helpful to know which archetypes are at play in oneself and others, especially loved ones, friends and co-workers, in order to gain personal insight into behaviors and motivations.
C.G Jung listed four main categories of archetypes:
- The Shadow
- The Anima
- The Animus
- The Self
The Shadow is a very common archetype that reflects deeper elements of our psyche, where ‘latent dispositions’ which are common to us all arise. It also reflects something that was once split from us in early management of the objects in our lives.
We may see the shadow in others and, if we dare, know it in ourselves. Mostly, however, we deny it in ourselves and project it onto others. It can also have a life of its own, as the Other. A powerful goal that some undertake is to re-integrate the shadow, the dark side, and the light of the ‘real’ self. If this can be done effectively, then we can become ‘whole’ once again, bringing together that which was once split from us.
Our shadow may appear in dreams, hallucinations and musings, often as something or someone who is bad, fearsome or despicable in some way. It may seduce through false friendship or threaten with callous disregard. Encounters with it, as an aspect of the subconscious, may reveal deeper thoughts and fears. It may also take over direct physical action when the person is confused, dazed or drugged.
” To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle. ”
– Book: Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872
Anima and Animus are female and male principles that represent this deep difference. Whilst men have a fundamental animus and women an anima, each may also have the other, just as men have a feminine side and women a masculine. Jung saw men as having one dominant anima, contributed to by female members of his family, whilst women have a more complex, variable animus, perhaps made of several parts.
Jung theorized the development of the anima/animus as beginning with infant projection onto the mother, then projecting onto prospective partners until a lasting relationship can be found.
The Self – For Jung, the self is not just ‘me’ but God. It is the spirit that connects and is part of the universe. It is the coherent whole that unifies both consciousness and unconsciousness. It may be found elsewhere in such principles as nirvana and ecstatic harmony. It is perhaps what Jaques Lacan called ‘the real’.
Jung described creation of the self as a process of individuation, where all aspects are brought together as one. Thus ‘re-birth’ is returning to the wholeness of birth, before we start to split our selves into many parts.
Jung said that there are a large number of archetypes. These are often linked to the main archetypes and may represent aspects of them. They also overlap and many can appear in the same person. For example:
- The father: Stern, powerful, controlling
- The mother: Feeding, nurturing, soothing
- The child: Birth, beginnings, salvation
- The hero: Rescuer, champion
- The maiden: Purity, desire
- The wise old man: Knowledge, guidance
- The magician: Mysterious, powerful
- The earth mother: Nature
- The witch or sorceress: Dangerous
- The trickster: Deceiving, hidden
- The faithful dog: Unquestioning loyalty
- The enduring horse: Never giving up
- The devious cat: Self-serving
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