What is an Archetype?

Archetype is defined as the following:

  • a very typical example of a certain person or thing
  • an original that has been imitated
  • a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology
  • (in Jungian psychology) a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious

Archetype vs. Stereotype

To get a better understanding of both of these terms, think of a stereotype as a box, and an archetype as a transparency overlay, like what a teacher would use with a projector. The stereotype is a fixed and rigid framework which we box people into, often with very limited knowledge of their way of being in this world. Stereotypes take single attributes and assign us a universal label.

The archetype however is a more flexible template, which contains knowledge and insight from a variety of sources including ancestral wisdom, myths and stories, and the collective unconscious. These archetypes can be placed over our experiences, situations, or entire life arc to provide information to help us heal and transform. Archetypes take universal wisdom and provide us with personal insight.

Archetypes and Shadow Work

Whether in Circle or in workshops alongside the horses, I work with archetypes most often during shadow work sessions. For each archetype that we play out in our lives, there exists both light and shadow attributes. Using archetypes as a framework for exploring our shadow aspects gives us an awareness of aspects of ourselves we have kept hidden so well they may not be immediately apparent. Archetypes also tend to make shadow work more approachable. Because these are universal patterns found in the collective unconscious, you know you aren’t alone in experiencing, and expressing, these shadow aspects.

Image shows two human faces reflecting one another with a background of interconnected tree branches and water rippling. The text that overlays the image says Discover Your Archetype and Shadow Aspects. watermarked with TheWatershedFarm.comMain Archetypes and Their Shadow Aspects

Carl Jung identified twelve main archetypes, however there are many, many more. For a beginner-friendly approach to shadow work, discover your 3 main archetypes.

Take this quiz to find your top 3 Archetypes.

Next, explore the shadow archetypes of your main archetypes. I have listed these below to give you a quick glimpse into possible shadow aspects that may show up in your life. Simply having that awareness can give you wisdom and insight into your decisions, both past and present.

Main Archetype :: shadow archetypes

Creative :: perfectionist / copycat
Athlete :: cheater / bully
Rebel :: criminal / saboteur
Caregiver :: victim / codependent
Visionary :: gambler / hermit
Royal :: vampire / brat / bully
Performer :: provocateur / pretender
Spiritual :: demagogue / martyr
Tastemaker :: addict / snob
Explorer :: escapist / novelty seeker
Advocate :: obsessive / opinionator / anarchist
Intellectual :: know it all / liar / misanthrope

Explore Further

Before her death in 2013, Debbie Ford was a NY Times best-seller and wrote several books that address shadow work. I recommend The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, as well as The Secret of the Shadow.

Carolyn Myss (pronounced “mace”) has some wonderful tools for learning more about archetypes and how they can inform our daily existence. I recommend Archetypes: a beginner guide to your inner-net. If you enjoy learning and exploring through oracle cards, Carolyn also has an Archetype Card Deck available.

Melissa @TheWatershedFarm.com

My name is Melissa Bennett. Whether on site or online, I inspire & support women just like YOU to move through fear and reclaim the lost parts of themselves in order to live a life of confidence, courage, & creative expression. I too have journeyed the path of self-reclamation and continue to do so every day. It is my greatest gift and honor to guide you on your path to the most sacred of all places - your own wild heart. To discover how we can work together to bring you back to your self, connect with me on my site at TheWatershedFarm.com/workwithme

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