Archetypes exist in our subconscious and in the collective unconscious. They are collective thoughts and ideas which can be triggered and brought forth by the environments and situations we find ourselves in. Jung believed they were significant in helping us to live as our ancestors did, or at least with their frameworks and subconscious understandings of the world. Archetypes can be described as identity labels, defining core values and wearing information about how activities and roles should be conducted. They describe ‘being’ and ‘doing.’
How can we use archetypes to reconcile the self?
Through learning to understand archetypes, we develop the ability to recognise them within ourselves; a mindfulness skill.
We can only ever work on improving that which we can see; Archetypes help us to draw parts of ourselves into view while also providing us a ‘something’ to look at.
Archetypes provide an image upon which we can project the things we are not yet able to integrate into our selves. We can look at a trait or behaviour we display, and then attach it to the specific archetype. E.g. If we are serving others a lot and feeling some shade of martyr, we might decide to use our caregiver archetype more consciously to care where we know we can make a useful impact and achieve positive outcomes. By being aware of the archetype we can avoid positioning ourselves as the martyr or being taken advantage of.
Hopefully you can see that this type of projection is not the ‘unhealthy’ kind; simply you use a character to carry the responsibility until you’re ready to accept and integrate these parts into your full self.
This tool helps it’s user to enable an objective self-view. Having the ability to examine the self based on factual input and data, removes some of the attached emotion when observing your own psyche.
Are your intentions good? How can we be sure?
Often times, adults crave the kind of attention or success that they craved in their childhoods. The lack of gratification, feeds a subconscious and primitive drive. As such our requests from the world around us, might be as immature as our thoughts were, at the time we decided we needed that type of attention previously. We have to ask the question, ‘why am I doing this?‘
Unless we challenge the beliefs and ideas we hold, we never weed out the bad thoughts. Once we identify a non-useful thought, we have to shut it down. When we are asking for or seeking something that feels beyond our reach, it is difficult and may return us to earlier states of being. It takes time for us to remove those pathways we are used to firing and to replace them with newer, more appropriate ones, but we can do it.
Breaking up with your bad thoughts is like leaving an unhealthy relationship with yourself. When our thinking evolves, and we leave behind non-helpful ideologies, we heal and move forward.
It is important to avoid placing ourselves under the microscope for unhealthy judgement. Constructive self-evaluations are key to truly adjusting our old thought patterns.
Below is an archetype activity you might enjoy aimed at achieving the above break-up.
It is written as part of my shadow work collection aimed at supporting readers through gentle but effective self-development:
This article is to bolster the information being shared on shadow work in these articles:
Shadow work is…
Engaging with shadow work
In the Shadows. Meeting your inner-child
Four Major Jungian Archetypes
In order for archetypes to be meaningful and effective, we have to start asking ourselves some personal questions. It is only through being truly honest with ourselves, that we will come close to genuine progress.
Are we reacting in situations where we don’t like our own reactions, or agree with our own behaviours?
Thinking at base level, what might be causing us to react this way? If we are having this experience, chances are we have grown away from recognising a need, which is manifesting through emotions and behaviour when it arises.
Can we identify any of the archetypes we have learned about here in our self expression? What positives do the relate-able archetypes possess that could enable you a more positive experience?
For example. A judgemental part of you can also be accepted to take care of you, it motivates you to have a standard of personal hygiene, to not be indecent around people in inappropriate situations. There’s light and dark in every aspect and identifying the positive balance helps us to embrace our dark-side.
Remember to centre yourself before engaging with your journal.
Suggested centering: breathe deeply raising your arms upwards towards the ceiling and breathe out lowering your arms back down to your sides. When reaching upwards with an in breath, imagine that you are plugging your fingers into the sky’s plug socket, channelling pure energy through your outstretched digits. When releasing breath and lowering your arms back down to your sides, visualise that you are pushing that energy in a circular motion, down through the top of your head, through your core, out through your planted feet, back into the universe. Entertain that this flow happens in the opposite direction too.
Whilst at first it might feel unusual, you should continue to practice this breath and visualisation. It will help you to develop confidence and to feel more connected and peaceful when wanting to engage with your shadow.
When trying to identify the archetypes in your own self, use your journal to identify where they might be playing out. If you haven’t been journal-ing along, you will need to start so that you have some genuine self reflections which may reveal more to you than just thinking and hoping to remember.
While re-parenting yourself, remember to comfort yourself. It is okay to not be perfect – perfect is a dodgy, non-helpful notion and you choose to love yourself regardless of self-perceived imperfections.
Try phrases like, ‘Wow, I see here I’m enacting this hero archetype, I can see that I seek out being needed and having a purpose to fill with my skills, this leads me into drama… how can I use my skill to benefit others/myself consistently so that I am fulfilling this hero role more healthily?’
As ever, keep your notes in your journal. Thank yourself for taking this time to heal. Thank you for engaging.