What are Archetypes?
*An excerpt from my upcoming book, Journey
I Knew About Archetypes Intellectually
I learned about archetypes in my cross-cultural anthropology studies in university, thanks to the pioneering work of Carl Jung. It made sense and gave me comfort that something connects all human beings, no matter where or when they were raised. But it wasn’t until I found them again a decade later, through Caroline Myss’ Sacred Contracts (2001), that I went deeper, got them in my blood and bones, and used them to save my life.
In her article, Alison Wright nicely sums archetype studies as “…a form of depth psychology that is rooted in having courage to face the unconscious — through fears, darkness, and wounding — to get to the root of the problem. These often seemingly dreadful experiences can become a catalyst for personal growth if one is willing to examine their personal patterns.”
Life is Highly Ordered
Going through the chaos of nearly losing my life to cancer at age 29 taught me that nothing is random, and that our universe is highly ordered. After 3 years of watching my life mysteriously fall apart, I was guided to work with archetypes, and quickly saw that the chaos I called into my life made perfect sense. It gave me a map to regain the life force that was draining out of me.
Once you start looking for it, order can be seen everywhere, from the circles of seasons and planets to the basic natural laws that govern us. Not surprising, we can discover the same order in our inner lives that we find in the outer world — as above, so below.
In the same way that our DNA are uniquely patterned to create our physical beings, so are the archetypes uniquely combined to express each one’s emotional and spiritual nature. On the surface level, archetypes can be seen as our personality. Deep down, it is about the soul and its purpose.
Why It’s Important to Know Archetypes
When we recognize the natural patterns that create our way of being, acting, and expressing, we can learn to predict feelings and behaviour, both our own and that of others. Jung’s discovery was that archetypes are the same and speak in a consistent voice, both from culture to culture and through time. This satisfied my desire to find a universally human spirituality, and has allowed me to work with people from around the world without any disconnect over culture.
In this work I identified eight archetypes – Child, Rebel, Warrior, Nurturer, Lover, Hedonist, King, and Alchemist. They make up the archetype cluster I’ve called the Mermaid, which is specific to those who feel compelled to right the wrongs of their world.
In nature, archetypes don’t exist one at a time. In a living people and even in mythological or religious figures such as Mother Mary or the Indian God Shiv, the archetypes cluster. Thus, several archetypes work together to bring about unique inclinations in each one’s life.
The story of each archetype is consistent. They have their own voice, speak about life and their experience through a recognizable filter or lens, and can be downright scripted.
Those with the universal Child archetype are always going to struggle to shake off denial and face their fear of being betrayed or abandoned, while also having great optimism and connection with natural forces.
Rebels will be up in arms in a struggle to channel their anger and the ability to dissent constructively.
Warriors are always going to be training and championing, yet getting stuck with discipline and unhealthy competition.
Nurturers will be busy taking care of everyone, but struggle to take care of themselves and make healthy boundaries.
Lovers are always going to be pursuing their passions and getting stuck in obsession.
Hedonists risk getting lost in their pursuit of pleasure and missing the path to true Divine awakening.
Kings are always going to be innovating on behalf of their empire and being thwarted in their hunger for power.
Alchemists will always be trying to balance their awareness of social injustice with healing their inner conflict and creating from their own visions. Every time I hear a client talk about their love-hate relationship with money, I know I’m talking to an Alchemist.
Once you’ve learned the voice of an archetype, it can be easily recognized. By recognizing an archetype at play, you can get very precise about two key things: where you are stuck, and what “superpowers” you have available to get unstuck. That way you can create what you want in life more easily, and go through adversity with more purpose.
There are many coaches these days who promise an easy ride down abundance road by following your passion and purpose. But to me, it’s much harder to follow your passion. The difference is that you will struggle for something with personal meaning and importance, rather than burning yourself out and getting lost in what can feel like a sea of meaningless garbage that sucks the energy and life right out of you.
Our Journey Itself is Archetypal
Thanks to the work of Joseph Campbell in the ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’ (1991) and many after him, we can see how each being is facing the identical calling to get and stay on the journey in their own unique way. Not only are the individual archetypes reflecting of our collective psyche, but the Journey itself is archetypal.
By not only studying individual archetype profiles inside of us, but also the archetypal human journey, we get to see the whole of it – where we’ve come from, where we have left parts of ourselves behind, where we conquered and overcome, and where we have yet to develop.
The Hero’s Journey tells us that it’s not enough for us to just conquer our own demons. Until everyone has done it, our mission is not complete. Built right into the Journey is the archetypal desire of every living soul to take the wisdom we have gleaned back to our people, so they can walk their path more easily and with the support of someone who has been there.
This perhaps is God’s purpose for creating these subtle instruments of archetypes – to connect all of humanity in a symphony of mutual love and care for the soul whose purpose is meaningful creation and co-existence.
Finding Lost Energy
By pinpointing your gifts and shadows, you can see clearly the exact source of your energy loss. For example, when I tweaked my Rebel-without-a-cause, I went from being a dying person to being a living one. It was easy to tweak, but hard to find. If you can identify an archetype at play in your negative patterns, tensions, or struggles, you are a million miles ahead on the path of fixing what’s “broken.”
But nothing is really broken, it’s merely hidden.
Tracking archetype patterns gives us inner threads to become aware of our hidden self-knowledge, so that rather than having to face our inner world of formidable and overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and senses, we can actually sort it out.
Archetypes Are Invisible
We can’t see, taste, touch, or hear them, but we can learn to feel them and listen for their voices. They are the churnings of our emotional and spiritual underworld. Our “underworld” is just what we don’t see about ourselves.
Carl Jung suggested that archetypes are like demons or daemons that have a soul of their own. But despite my huge gratitude and respect for his work, I experience archetypes as more of a blueprint or map of our inner human experience. I see our inner world of archetypes as a fixed plan or container for inspiration, thoughts, feelings, sensations, actions, and life itself to flow through. In the same way that our DNA holds our physical potential, the archetypes hold our emotional and spiritual potential.
The purpose of pinpointing and working with them is to simplify the inward journey to become self-aware, to be the master of our experience, and to stop feeling and acting like we are the mercy of these patterns. That way, we can begin working on healing and getting what we all most want in an effective and focused way, to finish with unnecessary suffering, and to create what is in us to be created.
Creating from our purpose, rather than just consuming what’s fed to us, is what humanity needs from us, now more than ever.
Archetypes Have No Life of Their Own
A blueprint needs an architect’s will to design it, and a map needs a traveller who gets on the path and stays on the journey. So if archetypes are an emotional and spiritual DNA-blueprint-map, the code of who we uniquely are, they don’t exist without a human soul to co-create with them, knowingly or unknowingly.
In my experience, archetypes are not conscious – they are the container or shell, to filter, channel, and give shape to God-energy. I have had the seeds of this book in me for many years, but now I have consciously decided to dedicate time to getting my words and ideas out. In a million years, my archetypes won’t write this book for me, but they are powerful tools at my disposal.
It’s a Matter of Instinct
To me, our archetypes are closely tied with our instincts – the inner knowing that doesn’t need to think it through. The instincts are deeply tuned in at the soul level, whether we are noticing it or not. Newborn babies reach for mom’s breast, animals can sense disturbances in weather patterns well in advance of their human counterparts, and parents can sense when something is off with their kid before getting a call from the school. Back in 1999, I knew I was in trouble with my health long before tests revealed my cancer, and later, I knew I was in the clear even when my doctor was still trying to throw the treatment book at me!
Our instincts aren’t just there to help us preserve our physical lives. Eventually everyone dies, so if it’s their job to preserve life, then they fail us 100% of the time! I believe it goes much deeper than saving the life of the body. Even more so, I think our instincts are about preserving the much longer life and health of the soul.
When I was offered a stem cell transplant as my only hope to live, I used archetypes to point me to the real thing worth saving, which was even more important than my life on earth, and that was my soul. When I stopped running in fear of my life and began running for the love of my soul, everything turned around for me and I never looked back.
So for me, archetypes are code specifically designed for downloading our soul-protecting instincts. And instincts are not just about self-soul preservation, because humanity is a collective soul. Until everyone gets it, our work on this planet is not complete.
Archetypes Are Everywhere
Archetypes shape the very roles that intimately connect us with humanity, and can be found in many areas of our life and culture.
They are most easily seen in 3 areas of life: art, marketing, and personal development.
Writers, musicians, and all types of visual artists work with archetypes, knowingly or unknowingly. They are a natural filter for the creative life force. An artist’s work doesn’t depend on their knowledge about archetypes. It depends on whether they make themselves available to the raw potential of the archetypes by simply picking up the brush, the pen, or other creative tool.
In Gustav Klimt’s famous painting Lovers (1908), we clearly see the Lover archetype at play. Viewers are transported by this romantic image into their own ideals of beauty, intimacy, and surrender to passion. If you hold that Lover archetype close to you, you will vibe with this image. If it’s more remote to you, it won’t draw you in with the same intensity.
Author James True, in his most recent book Blueprints of Mind Control, 2019, refers to archetypes as “psychic real estate.” They are placeholders in the psyche that can be occupied either by our conscious choice, or without our awareness or consent.
Archetypes have been used with huge success in the marketing world since the 1990’s. Brands like Apple, Nike, Harley Davidson, and multitudes of others have invested heavily in that psychic real estate. It works on humans because that real estate is already in our minds. With or without our awareness, we are literally hardwired to link up parts of our psyches to the archetypes through these brand’s products.
Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey a meaning that makes customers relate to a product as if it actually were alive in some way, they have a relationship with it and care about it.
–The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson (2001)
For one North American example, as we showed in our most recent Reclaiming Paradise course on Symbol Literacy, most people can still recite the Oscar Mayer Weiner jingle despite not hearing it for 4 decades or more, and even with those who were too young to have seen it when it was first used. Since 1965, the company has successfully married the Child archetype with low quality, processed meats, and engineered that hot dogs are kid’s food. Many other brands followed suit, and also capitalized on the psychic real estate that the Mayer brothers acquired.
The Mermaid Archetype
In 2015, after my father passed away, when I discovered the Mermaid cluster of archetypes inside myself, I could barely take myself seriously. But there it was, coming through to me in technicolour.
I felt visited, but really I just visited that place of “Mer” in the human psyche and took up residence there, because there was such a strong resonance with my life’s work. It was a match with what I want and what I value – freedom, and who I want to help.
I studied it inside myself for weeks before venturing out with my findings and building a brand around it. I was amazed to find deeply feeling, truth loving, and nurturing souls all around me, and was able to hone in on exactly this kind of entrepreneur, or MerPreneur, that I was wired to embody, and to assist people in being valued for their life’s work.
To show that I claimed some of this psychic real estate, there is barely a day that goes by that I don’t receive a Mermaid gift, card, video tag, or emoji on a message. People associate me with this intangible archetype that I’ve invested with my life force for the past 4 years, at the time of this writing.
By choosing to play through and along with the vibe of an archetype, and creating through it, you turn the abstract potential of archetypes into something you can hold in your hand. It’s how we take something inanimate and breathe life into it.
In Healing and Spiritual Growth
When we face a problem in our lives, we almost always feel something about us has to fundamentally change. But in reality, the only change we need is to awaken the sleeping archetypes within us and to reclaim the energy we use to keep them submerged in the unconscious. We need that change because when it’s unawakened and hidden from us, our archetype gives us a lot of what we don’t want.
A Sleeping Archetype Isn’t Sleeping at All
Rather than going dormant, an unconscious archetype acts out like crazy from the unconscious, and brings out our response of resistance, aversion, and disassociation from it at all costs. By unconsciously suppressing archetypes, we reject important parts of ourselves, turn on ourselves, and experience that part of us as an enemy.
When we embrace who we are authentically through the archetypes, we can use them as a map for getting on the Hero’s Journey and fulfilling our purpose on this planet. Through them, we can re-own and love what we have disowned and hated about ourselves. That is why embracing our shadow side is a powerful path to self-compassion.
Either way, both roads lead to Rome. We either become awake to the impacts of these archetypes by choosing them, or by having to deal with the mysterious chaos that comes from choosing against them. Both ways are a path that are all destined for – the full awareness of the universal order that is stored in our humanity and the freedom that comes of it. Personally, I allowed a stage 4 lymphoma to bring me to a point of awakening the shadow parts in myself, but it doesn’t have to get that dark.
I Nearly Died to My Inner Rebel
When I was so deathly ill, much of the energy I needed to heal or stay well was tied up in suppressing the Rebel. My Rebel nature got me in trouble too many times in my teen years. I was a chronic runaway, got disowned by my family, and even spent a night in jail. So when I hit my limit of being banged around, I unconsciously decided to put a stop to the Rebel madness.
I denied it entirely and forced myself into “normal” pursuits of academic achievement, business, and family. At university, I got the gold medal in anthropology. In business, I became a VP at 25, and put myself on stage to open for Deepak Chopra with my band at the time. I led a double life, pursuing my then “not normal” love for the mystical, esoteric path of self-awakening, and then wearing a suit to work every day in my family’s marketing firm.
But like Jung says, “what you resist persists.” By trying to get rid of my inner Rebel, I caused myself a ton of trouble, crashed my health, devastated myself financially, made myself homeless, and was forced to face my death.
For me, being a Rebel with and without a cause was literally the difference between life and death. Continuing to awaken that Rebel energy, even this minute, is increasingly a force for healthy change in my life and in my world around me.
We Have All of the Archetypes
Deep inward turning to save my life showed me how incredibly complex we are inside. I discovered in myself an endless parade of archetypes – many more than I could have guessed there were.
Since each of us is unique, you need to discover where the strongest resonance is within you, as the instrumentalist playing through the archetypes. Your closest vibing archetypes and your purpose represent what is most important to you. If you go to work on what’s most important to you, and align with your purpose, you will get results and have incredible joy to show for it.
Reclaiming Lost Energy
Once you discover your archetypes, you begin to see the shadows for what they are, and then begin to awaken to them.
To “release the shadow” is an inaccurate way to say it. Really, it’s just about releasing the energy that is being unconsciously used to suppress your archetype’s expression. Once you release this suppressed energy, it turns to free energy. It is free energy that healed my cancer. I didn’t know how to heal from cancer, but my free energy did.
So technically, you don’t release a shadow – you shine your awareness on it. Once you shine your awareness, un-suppress it, and allow yourself to see it, it’s no longer a shadow.
The Divine is Calling Through Archetypes
There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t hear someone express confusion about their calling. It’s closely tied with our archetypal blueprints, so they are a great place to focus when we are searching for why we are here in this life and on this planet.
Until you discover your true path, you will continue to search high and low for what you are meant to do, and keep putting off acting decisively. Purpose only reveals itself as a result of getting on the journey and taking action. Without action, the Divine has no way to speak to us and reflect back the knowledge and joy that comes from living with purpose. If we are off course, we will know it because we will be losing energy. And if we are on course, we will know it because we will feel a net gain of energy. But you can only know the difference if you act and see the results of your action.
The Purpose We All Share
The purpose we all share is to awaken and evolve our soul. This means fearlessly beginning and continuing our journey every day, no matter whether we have clarity or we have a wall of confusion. If we show up for our life every day and take the risk of putting ourselves out there, we will feel a sense of accomplishment. In that way we call in synchronicity, and God can work with us to fulfill our desires.
Archetypes are not forces to be called upon. They are in us and are there for us at all times. It’s better to take action and then, like bats who send out their sonar in mid-flight, listen for, hear, and answer the next call. In that way you can gain momentum, as every action will reveal what is next on the path of action.
In closing, I’d like to offer you this quotation by writer and Facebook friend Michael Groves:
There are only two rules in life, to get and stay on the Journey.
Click here to take a 5 minute quiz to discover your Journey archetype and where you are on the Journey to be valued for your true purpose.
If you’re ready to dive in and take the MerPreneur’s Journey, click here to learn more.
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