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Jungian Archetypes (for Tanos)

Posted by lili on Wed 21 Mar 07, 8:25 PM

Jung hypothesized that humans have a “preconscious psychic disposition” that enables [man] to react in a human manner and that these “potentials for creation” are actualized when they enter consciousness as images(4). However, there is an important distinction to be made between the pre-existent psychic disposition and these images since there are only a few basic archetypes or patterns which exist at the unconscious level, but there is an infinite variety of specific images which point back to them from the conscious mind. Furthermore, since these archetypal patterns are not under conscious control, modern man tends to fear them and deny their existence through repression(4). Hence, the central therapeutic concept of Jung's analytical psychology was the concept of the need for balance to gain psychic health and that to achieve psychic health, or “wholeness”, one must aim to become a “whole” (individual) person(1). The process of doing so, however, is different for each individual person but Jung believed it especially involved coming to terms with the archetypes. He hypothesized that when an individual is troubled, he or she will dream archetypal (as opposed to merely personal) dreams whose aim is to right an imbalance in the psyche of that individual(1).

In his earlier work Jung tried to link the archetypes to heredity and regarded them as “instinctual”. He postulated that we are born with hereditary patterns which structure our imagination, making it distinctly human. Archetypes must, therefore, be very closely linked to our physical bodies(4). However, in his later work, Jung appeared to be convinced that the archetypes are “psychoid”; i.e. that they shape matter (nature) as well as mind (psyche) and as such come from the “collective [universal] unconscious” which is common to the human race world over. His later theories, however, may be said to support the idea that humans do not have separate, personal unconscious minds, but share a single universal unconscious with their “minds rooted in the unconscious just as a tree is rooted in the ground”(4). In principle, however, this theory is not at odds with his original thoughts on the hereditary nature of a “collective unconscious.”

According to Pettifor, archetypes are essentially quasi autonomous functions which give rise to specific motifs (as common in all mythology as in any individual's life) and, although they are often discussed in terms of personifications, which appear in dreams, they can also be seen in themes of stories, both mythological or lived(5). They are, therefore, said to be potent as patterns of action, performing discrete functions that make them more than just flavours of the same thing and should not be confused with personified images.

Jung defined the archetypes as major inhabitants of the unconscious mind and used various expressions to describe them. At times he referred to them as "nodal points," "motifs," "primordial images," and "patterns of behaviour"(2). He also spoke of them as organs of the unconscious much as the heart and liver are organs of the physical body, each with their own specific role or quality. The main 5 archetypes are said to be: The Self, The Ego, The Persona, The Shadow and The Anima/Animus but there are a host of other archetypes described across Jung's works.

The Self: is simply the centre and totality of the entire psyche. It is the archetype which contains all the other archetypes and around which they orbit. It is something of a paradox, and is extremely difficult for the conscious ego to accept.

The Ego: is the centre of consciousness, it is “identity”, the “I”, but it is not the totality of the psyche. In Jungian theory the unconscious is far too vast to ever be made fully conscious, and examining it too closely is not without danger, yet ignoring it is also a mistake since it leads to a brittle fixedness which at best impedes growth, at worst can break when under the pressure of the “threat” of change.

The Persona: is the mask presented to the outside world and isn't really the true “self”, though there is a danger that those who identify too closely with this persona believe it to be their true selves. Jung talks about it in the singular, but Pettifor suggests that a well adjusted person has several masks and is adept at knowing which one is appropriate when and just how opaque it needs to be. It can be said that those who neglect the development of a persona tend to be gauche, to offend others and to have difficulty establishing themselves in the world. Another danger is that too rigid a persona means too complete a denial of the rest of the personality and all those aspects which have been relegated to the personal or belong to the collective unconscious(3).

The Shadow: In truth there is a great deal that is very unpleasant in the Shadow, it is all those uncivilized desires and emotions that are incompatible with social standards and our ideal personality, all that we are ashamed of, all that we do not want to know about ourselves and it follows that the narrower and more restrictive the society in which we live the larger is our shadow.

The Anima/Animus: Jung seemed quite absolute in defining a person's soul image as gender opposite and so the Anima is seen as the female soul image in man and the Animus, the male soul image in a woman. It may seem paradoxical to suggest man is not wholly man nor woman wholly woman, yet it is a fairly common experience to find feminine and masculine traits in a person. Jung claims that “an inherited collective image of woman exists in a man's unconscious” through which he apprehends the nature of woman(1). As such the anima is expressed in a man's life not only in projection upon women and in creative activity, but in fantasies, moods, presentiments and in arid emotional outbursts(1).

The animus in women is the counterpart of the anima in man and seems to be derived from, amongst other things, the collective image of man which a woman inherits and her own experience of masculinity coming through the contacts she makes with men in her life. In other words, it is usually (though not always) the case that a woman's thinking and a man's feeling and emotion belong to the realm of the unconscious(1).

After the anima and animus the two archetypes which are likely to become influential in a person's life are those of "The Old Wise Man" and "The Great Mother".

The Old Wise Man: is a form of the animus and is often symbolized by a guide or an authority figure but may also appear as a king, medicine man, father or saviour. This archetype represents a serious danger to personality, because, once awakened, a man may easily come to believe that he really possesses the 'mana', the seemingly magical power and wisdom that it holds.

The Great Mother: archetype is often symbolized by the primordial mother or "earth mother" of mythology, by Eve and Mary in western traditions, or by less personal symbols such as the church, the nation, a forest, or the ocean(3). Anyone possessed by this figure comes to believe herself endowed with an infinite capacity for loving and understanding, helping and protecting, and may wear herself out in the service of others. She can, however, also be most destructive, insisting (though not necessarily openly) that all who come within her circle of influence are 'her children', and therefore helpless or dependent on her in some degree. This subtle tyranny, if carried to extremes, can demoralize and destroy the personality of others(6).

Jung said there are no fixed numbers of archetypes since they overlap and easily melt into each other as needed, and their logic is not the usual kind. Here are some of the others he mentions:

The Hero: also represents the ego and is frequently engaged in fighting the shadow (in the form of dragons and other monsters.) The hero is often out to rescue "The Maiden" (who represents purity and innocence) and is guided by The Wise Old Man who reveals to the hero the nature of the collective unconscious(6).

The Child: represented in mythology and art by children, an infant most especially, as well as other small creatures, represents the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation. The child archetype often blends with other archetypes to form the child-god, or the child-hero(6).

Other archetypes include The Original Man (represented in western religion by Adam), The God archetype (representing our need to comprehend the universe) and The Hermaphrodite, both male and female, representing the union of opposites(6).


(1).Snider, C. A brief outline of Jungian psychology with some archetypal images, themes and symbols.

(2).LaDage, AJ. Occult Psychology, Chapter VI: The archetypes as psychological factors

(3).Fordham, F. An introduction to Jung's psychology: Archytpes of the collective unconscious

(4).Voidspace. Psychology: The Jung section

(5).Pettifor, E. Major archetypes and the process of individuation

(6).George Boeree, C. (1997). Personality Theories: Carl Jung.


Edited Wed 21 Mar 07, 8:42 PM by lili

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