Jungian Archetypes – another way to understand ourselves.

Is appearances and current fashion important to you? Do you need social approval ? Are you open to being loved and cared for or do you feel anxious about losing the love of others and need constant reassurance; or do you avoid close relationships ? These and many other questions of our behaviour may be better understood in terms of Jungian archetypes.We have already discussed how evolution has shaped our mind , brain and behaviour. The archetypes are further refinements in trying to understand ourselves.

The idea of archetypes have been around since the time of antiquity, in the days of Plato; but Carl Gustav Jung used the term ‘archetype ‘ in a particular way. He suggested that our behaviour towards different themes in our lives is directed by  special systems in our mind, which organizes our motives, thinking, feelings and fantasies. He called them archetypes. They are like inner guides that orientate us towards certain things and motivate us in certain ways. They have evolved over time and helped us navigate through the basic tasks of life. These tasks include children becoming attached to parents and obtaining care, adults forming relationship with peers, becoming sexually interested and engaging in procreation, caring for off spring, growing old, seeking meaning, becoming wise and coming to terms with death.

Lets look at some examples. Mother archetype represents a caring figure and makes us respond to being cared for or mothered. The sexual archetypes, anima in the man and animus in the woman, gives us sense of the desire and behaviour towards the opposite sex. The persona influences our social orientation and tries to keep our reputation clean so that we will find acceptances socially. The shadow represents those aspects that exclude information from consciousness about our true intent or motives. the hero archetypes motivates us to take risk, excel in the eyes of others and propel ourselves forwards. It can be linked to social motives such as helping others or  to darker motives such as wanting power to control others.

Jung suggested that archetypes can over or under develop in us. For example people with over developed persona organize much of their behaviour around the need for social approval. They think only of current fashions and their appearances; often losing sense of their own individuality. A person with deflated Persona care not at all for what others think; they either become courageous changers of the world or anti-social.





Jung suggests that the way an archetype matures and functions is affected by both our personality (genes) and our experiences. For example, we can have a stunted mother archetype if our relationship with our mother didn’t work out; we would not have been inspired and guided towards love and comfort in the arms of our mother when we were infants. As adults, we might spend a lot of our life searching for mother or father figure who will love and protect us like a parent. Or we can completely shut down our need for care and love and not want anything to do with close caring.

Like all archetypes, hero archetype can also develop in different ways that could be either good or bad depending on your perspective . The point is the archetypes are just a ways of describing and thinking about different aspects of ourselves. Because the archetypes are evolved predispositions, they are shared with all human beings and , in this sense , are  our ‘collective consciousness‘. They are largely unconscious but we feel them in us when caring for others, our desire for sex, our desire for friends and to belong to groups or our desires to destroy our enemies.


The compassionate mind by Paul Gilbert


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  1. Joan Ivany

     /  May 27, 2012

    Love This


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