Jungian Archetypes and Symbols
Carl G. Jung (1875-1961)Jungian archetypes
have a central role in dreams, art, myths, and legends. Jung buried
himself in the study of myths and art from across time and cultures to
build his concept of archetypes.
a psychiatrist and psychologist, was a contemporary of Sigmond Freud,
the father of psychology. Jung studied with Freud (1907-1912) for a
time before parting and pursuing his own theory and work.
psycho-sexual view of mental illness saw sexuality as the primary
driving force behind most or many mental disorders, especially
neuroses. Personality was composed of the instinctual Id, Ego,
Ego. The ego was what we projected to the world. The Super Ego played
the role of a conscious, there to keep the Id in check. In the Id was
our animalistic, instinctual drives and desires. Freud's
was that the purpose of treatment was to make the unconscious
conscious. This is still the guiding principle behind many
insight-oriented therapies. His treatment method was called psychoanalysis.
Jung set forth his own theory of libido and the unconscious. His
primary contributions in terms of therapy were several.
It is to this last point that archetypes and symbols come into our
theories on personality types, which serves today as the basis for the
Myers-Briggs Personality Types classification system:
Introvert/extrovert, thinking/feeling, and
rejection of Freud's psychosexual etiology for neuroses, and his
corresponding emphasis on client's here-and-now conflicts. This method
he referred to as analytical
- His emphasis on the libido as being more
closely aligned with the will to live rather than sexuality.
cooperation between the conscious and unconscious mind for mental
health and wellbeing. The "unconscious" consists of the
unconscious and well as a more global unconscious inherited in our
species, referred to as the Collective Unconscious. (See discussion in
"consciousness and personality", coming soon.)
are the inhabitant's of the Collective Unconscious--the inherited
storehouse of our species' experiences. As a neo-Platonic concept,
archetypes are the prototypes of personality.
Jung described them as primordial images (see Jung's Man
and His Symbols,
pp 57-58, linked below). They are not definite images, but more
"motifs". The exact form they take in our dreams and fantasies
are individualized and will
depend in part upon our own cultural references.
Archetypes are the tendency to form such representation of a motif.
These representations can vary a great deal from individual to
individual and between cultures without loosing their basic pattern.
They are instinctive trends much as birds' tendency to build nests or
ants' ant hills and colonies.
We need to distinguish between instincts and archetypes. Instincts are
physiological urges and are perceived by the senses. At the same time,
these instincts manifest themselves in fantasies and dreams, usually as
symbolic images. These are the archetypes.
- They are the ideal: the perfect models from
which we are but imperfect copies.
are universal: they are norms of human myths and legends, found across
cultures, time, and in primitive as well as contemporary human cultures.
- The express common human needs and instincts,
will discuss under the Gene-Archetype section (coming soon), that the
genes are the real archetypes. Based on our modern understanding of
genetics, inheritance, and molecular biology, the DNA is the
If so, this storehouse may go back to the beginning of life itself.
Examples of archetypes include the Old Man, Old Woman,
Warrior, Teacher, Mother, Father, Healer, Hero, Trickster, the
Evil Animal (often a snake), the Goddess, and the Child.
We each have our own personal archetypes, intimate companions that are
with us and can be contacted and used. These are the source of our
personal power. The ancients and indigenous peoples called these
intimates, Spirit Guides or Allies.
Carolyn Myss, in her book, Sacred
Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential, argues that
we have twelve such personal archetypes or
Spirit Guides. Four of which form the foundation of our personal power
and self-esteem: Child, Victim, Prostitute, and Saboteur. The latter
was know as the Trickster in Native American myths and legends and took
the form of the coyote.
are our survival archetypes. They are the intimate companions of your
intuition. All four influence how we relate to material power, respond
to authority, and make choices. You can read more about them on the
Traditional Archetype page.
These four symbolize our four life challenges as we grow toward
adulthood. How we negotiate these challenges determines a lot about our
personal power and who we are in the world.
You will have a chance to meet your personal archetypes on the Power
Animal, Teacher, and Working with Your Personal Archetype pages.
Each archetype has its positive and negative side. The negative side is
referred as its shadow.
also have our shadow side. Our shadow is that parts of ourselves we
have rejected or denied. Shadow includes those instinctual urges we
wish to deny. They are the rejected parts of ourselves. It is least
familiar to our conscious mind. It can include our sexual desires,
desires for power, anger, fears, and much more.
But our shadow
is a natural part of us. As long as it goes unacknowledged it will
create mischievous. It become hostile when it is ignored or
misunderstood. Making allies of our shadow is an important part of individuation.
Three reoccurring symbols are stones, animals, and the circle according
to Jung. We find these in the arts and literature across the ages.
Symbols can, and usually do, reflect a multitude of meanings.
The Old Testament
speak of stones in many places. Often as sacred stones or sacred
places. As Jacob traveled toward Haran and used the stones in a certain
place along the was as a pillow. God appeared to him in a dream telling
him of the land he would give Jacob and his descendants. A stone was an
integral part of his dream.
Animal symbols are found
in the earliest of cave drawings. Not only were they hunted, they were
revered, if not worshiped. Each animal symbolizes something in terms of
its strength--and weakness. The weakness is its shadow.
symbols characterize our nations, our sports teams, our schools and
colleges, and many other things even in today's world. Rome's and the
US's symbol is the Eagle.
The profusion of animal symbols in the arts point to the importance of
integrating our instinctual parts of ourselves with the conscious part
of ourself. This process Jung referred to as individuation
I would argue that not only are animal symbols, they are also
archetypes. As stated above, each archetype has a shadow side.
also symbolize our instinctual sides. In itself a particular animal is
neither good nor bad. It is part of nature, just as our instincts are
part of our nature. As such, they often symbolize our shadow sides.
each have our own archetypal Power Animal and animal guides as
discussed on the Power Animal page. You will have an opportunity there
to find your's.
In one of my continuing education workshops
attended by therapists, nurses, physicians ,and clergy, we regularly
did a Hypno-Journey™ to let participants find their Power Animal. One
of the clergy members was very hesitant, but he went ahead and
participated in the exercise. When we shared their experiences, he said
that, not following instructions, he had prayed to Jesus for guidance.
In the trance/journey, he said Jesus told him not to be afraid that he
(Jesus) was known as the lamb of God and the Lion of Judea. The clergy
decided it was OK to have his own Power Animal after that.
circle or sphere is another universal symbol. It symbolizes the self,
completeness, or the whole. The circle has no beginning or end. It is
In Native American ceremonies there is the
medicine wheel, each part of which is a hologram of the whole universe.
The sweat lodge is a half-sphere.
Other archetypal symbols
I would add the four directions, i.e. a cross (two lines crossing at
90°) or square, also are archetypal symbols, as may be the triangle.
is the process of becoming whole. It is about integrating our
instinctual and shadow parts of our individual unconscious with our
conscious. It is psychic growth to wholeness.
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