Archetypes according to Jung: what are they?
Are there predetermined structures that guide our existence?
According to Carl Jung, a 20th century Swiss psychiatrist, these structures exist and influence the way we live our lives.
He called these structures “Archetypes,” natural inclinations that we are born with that make us think, feel and perceive the world in a special way.
Jung’s work on archetypes has influenced many fields of the humanities beyond psychology, notably in the field of literature and theater.
Archetypes are symbolic figures present in particular in mythology and which represent a set of qualities and patterns of thought and behavior.
In this article, you will see how the psyche works according to Jung and the 12 archetypes he identified.
You will also see how you can improve your life through knowing your main archetypes.
The 3 dimensions of the psyche
In order to fully understand Jung’s concept of Archetypes, it is important to understand his conception of the psyche.
The psyche according to Jung is the whole personality of a human being, including his thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors.
According to him, a person’s psyche can be divided into 3 parts:
Consciousness is made up of the thoughts, sensations, emotions and actions of which we are aware.
The field of our consciousness is directed by a mechanism called the ego.
It is our ego that determines what we can identify with and how we maintain that identity of ourselves.
The ego sort of decides what we’re going to focus on and bring to our consciousness.
The personal unconscious
Our consciousness is not able to process all the information that is in our environment. This is why the ego must select this information before bringing it to consciousness.
But there is another part of our psyche which is able to perceive things and events which remain outside our field of consciousness.
All those perceptions that do not pass the ego filter remain in what Jung calls the personal unconscious.
This personal unconscious is therefore composed of the individual experience of each and therefore varies according to the individuals.
But there is a deeper and more universal part of the psyche which is common to all human beings.
The collective unconscious
In the collective unconscious are the psychic structures and tendencies which are by nature universal.
It is in the collective unconscious that we will therefore find the archetypes which are structures of the psyche that we find in all human beings.
While studying the dreams of his patients, Jung realized that there were recurring symbols shared by different patients. These symbols are also found in the founding stories of various religions and in mythology.
He thus determined that these symbols are found in every person because they are part of what he called the collective unconscious.
And these common structures of the psyche manifest in the form of Archetypes.
The 12 Jungian Archetypes
Jung identified 12 main archetypes to understand the fundamental motivations of the human being.
Each archetype represents different characteristics, values, and goals that lead to a better understanding of human nature.
The wise man
The archetype of the sage is in search of wisdom and knowledge. Its purpose is to understand the nature of existence by finding meaning in every event in life and approaching life as a series of lessons.
The sage has values such as truth, spirituality, and freedom.
He is also called the Philosopher, the Mentor, the Scholar, etc …
Optimistic by nature, the archetype of the innocent is in search of happiness. His positive nature leads him to see what is good in everyone and everything.
For the Innocent, the world is a wonderful place where anything is possible.
The innocent is easy to impress and makes a special effort to please others.
It can be found under other names like: The Utopist, the Optimist or the Idealist
The Explorer archetype enjoys discovering new places, new people and new experiences.
Freedom, novelty and personal space are of great importance to the Explorer.
Staying in one place for too long easily makes the Explorer anxious. On the contrary, the Explorer likes to travel and be in new places or circumstances.
We can also call him the Adventurer.
The archetype of the Sovereign is the classical leader, happy to take responsibility for a group and to take center stage.
He is a natural leader who leads not out of a thirst to lead, but because he naturally has such qualities.
Stability and courage are qualities of this archetype who also have the ability to see things as a whole, with perspective.
He can sometimes be called the Boss or the Leader, and he can tend to dominate others.
The Creator archetype particularly appreciates originality and will be proud to have done something new and different.
The Creator is blessed with an exceptional imagination and has the ability to transform things in a whole new way.
He can also be called the Artist or the Dreamer, and he sometimes gets so wrapped up in his imagination that doing things concretely becomes difficult.
The caregiver archetype is characterized by compassion, empathy and generosity.
The Caregiver particularly enjoys taking care of others at the risk of sometimes neglecting his needs.
The Caregiver wants to protect and nourish others. But he fears being exploited or taken for granted.
He is also known as the Altruist, or the Savior.
The Magician archetype has a very close connection with the universe. The Magician seeks to understand, channel and use the forces of the universe.
The Magician seeks to transform and grow to face the new challenges of life.
The Magician archetype according to Jung is often mysterious and lonely, and can be difficult for others to understand.
The Hero or Superhero
The Hero archetype seeks admiration and recognition.
He shows qualities of courage and vitality, and enjoys fighting for honor and power.
The hero likes to be in the spotlight and engages in the defense of the weakest.
Free-spirited, the Rebel archetype doesn’t care what people think of him.
The Rebel does not support laws and authority. Rather, he trusts his personal feelings and likes to brave prohibitions that do not seem justified to him.
He has a tendency to be provocative and to reject the rules of social life.
He is also known as the Anarchist or the Outlaw.
The archetype of the Lovers has to do with emotions, feelings and sensitivity.
The Lover is devoted and seeks to feel this love permanently. This archetype is drawn to beauty, romantic engagement, and connection to others.
He fears rejection and loneliness, and sometimes tries too hard to please others.
The Jester or the Humorist
The Jester archetype never takes anything seriously. Its goal is to enjoy life and every moment.
He does not hide behind a mask and does not hesitate to reveal his shadow areas. Sometimes he also has the ability to pull others out of their shell by making them feel comfortable (sometimes to his advantage).
The Goblin loves to laugh and knows how to be happy whatever the situation.
Never taking anything seriously, he can be lazy at times and lack commitment.
The archetype of the Realist grows in what he sees. He appreciates equality and is particularly social.
The Realist can easily fit into a group and don’t like to be left out.
He is also called The good Guy.
What is the point of knowing the archetypes of Jung?
By reading the descriptions of the various archetypes above, you may have been able to identify with one or more of these archetypes.
In general, we consider that we have 3 main archetypes with which we will work most of the time.
When you become aware of your main archetypes, you will also be able to understand how they are manifested in your life.
And you will also see in which situations one or the other archetype is best suited.
If you have the archetype of the Sovereign in you, for example, it can be a good thing when you are in a position to make decisions and lead a group to work.
But in society, this archetype can easily become overwhelming while the Realist archetype will surely be more welcomed.
Then, knowing your jungian archetypes also allows you to distance yourself from yourself.
Instead of identifying with a particular Archetype, you step back realizing that these are structures present in the collective unconscious.
Jung identified 3 dimensions of the Psychea: consciousness, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.
Archetypes are structures present in the collective unconscious and which are found across different civilizations in religions and mythology.
These 12 archetypes manifest in each to different degrees and at different times.
Becoming aware of your main archetypes allows you to distance yourself from yourself and gives you the choice to express a different archetype depending on the situation.