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Archetypes

Jung's Archetypes

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Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that archetypes are models of people, behaviors or personalities. Jung suggested that the psyche was composed of three components: the ego, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.

According to Jung, the ego represents the conscious mind while the personal unconscious contains memories, including those that have been suppressed. The collective unconscious is a unique component in that Jung believed that this part of the psyche served as a form of psychological inheritance. It contains all of the knowledge and experiences we share as a species.

The Origins of Archetypes

Where do these archetypes come from then? The collective unconscious, Jung believed, was where these archetypes exist. He suggested that these models are innate, universal and hereditary. Archetypes are unlearned and function to organize how we experience certain things.

"All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes," Jung explained in his book The Structure of the Psyche. "This is particularly true of religious ideas, but the central concepts of science, philosophy, and ethics are no exception to this rule. In their present form they are variants of archetypal ideas created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For it is the function of consciousness, not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us."

Jung identified four major archetypes, but also believed that there was no limit to the number that may exist.

The Self

The self is an archetype that represents the unification of the unconsciousness and consciousness of an individual. The creation of the self occurs through a process known as individuation, in which the various aspects of personality are integrated. Jung often represented the self as a circle, square or mandala.

The Shadow

The shadow is an archetype that consists of the sex and life instincts. The shadow exists as part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts and shortcomings. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. These latent dispositions are present in all of us, Jung believed, although people sometimes deny this element of their own psyche and instead project it onto others.

Jung suggested that the shadow can appear in dreams or visions and may take a variety of forms. It might appear as a snake, a monster, a demon, a dragon or some other dark, wild or exotic figure.

The Anima or Animus

The anima animus archetype
Joe Zlomek

The anima is a feminine image in the male psyche and the animus is a male image in the female psyche. The anima/animus represents the "true self" rather than the image we present to others and serves as the primary source of communication with the collective unconscious.

The combination of the anima and animus is known as the syzygy, or the divine couple. The syzygy represents completion, unification and wholeness.

The Persona

The persona archetype

The persona is how we present ourselves to the world. The word "persona" is derived from a Latin word that literally means "mask." It is not a literal mask, however. The persona represents all of the different social masks that we wear among different groups and situations. It acts to shield the ego from negative images. According to Jung, the persona may appear in dreams and take a number of different forms.

Other Archetypes

Jung suggested that the number of existing archetypes is not static or fixed. Instead, many different archetypes may overlap or combine at any given time. The following are just a few of the various archetypes that Jung described:

  • The father: Authority figure; stern; powerful.
  • The mother: Nurturing; comforting.
  • The child: Longing for innocence; rebirth; salvation.
  • The wise old man: Guidance; knowledge; wisdom.
  • The hero: Champion; defender; rescuer.
  • The maiden: Innocence; desire; purity.
  • The trickster: Deceiver; liar; trouble-maker.

References:

Jung, C.G. (1951). "Phenomenology of the Self." The Portable Jung, 147.

Jung, C.G. (1964). Man and His Symbols. New York; Doubleday and Company, Inc.

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