Jungian archetypes, as the name suggests, were developed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. In Jungian psychology, archetypes are universal, innate models of people, behaviors, or personalities passed from generation to generation. Jungian archetypes are universal models of people, behaviors, or personalities that influence human behavior. The four main archetypes comprise the persona, the shadow, the anima/the animus, the self.
Understanding Jungian archetypes
Jung expanded on Freud’s argument that the unconscious played an important role in personality and behavior. To that end, he defined something called the collective unconscious – a part of the human psyche containing all the knowledge and experiences humans share as a species.
This collective unconscious, Jung posited, was where Jungian archetype models resided. These models are universal, hereditary, and innate in the sense they do not need to be learned. Above all, archetypes provide a blueprint for how an individual experiences certain situations.
In formulating his theory, Jung rejected the idea that the human mind at birth was a blank slate. Instead, he believed the human mind retains the fundamental, biological aspects of our ancestors.
The four main Jungian archetypes
Jung identified four main archetypes that play a role in defining personality, though he felt most people were dominated by a single archetype. These archetypes cannot be observed directly but instead can be inferred from the study of art, religion, literature, and dreams.
Let’s take a look at the four main archetypes below:
- The persona – this archetype represents the different social masks people wear in different groups or situations. When we are young, we learn to behave in ways that conform to societal norms and expectations. We develop a social mask to contain the various urges, impulses, and emotions we want to express that are not socially acceptable. While the persona allows us to adapt to society, too much reliance on this archetype can lead to separation from our true selves.
- The shadow – an archetype consisting of instincts related to life and sex. This part of the unconscious mind relates to desires, instincts, shortcomings, weaknesses, and repressed ideas. The shadow archetype also contains factors that are unacceptable from a personal or moral standpoint. This may include feelings of envy, greed, hate, aggression, and prejudice.
- The anima and animus – the anima describes feminine aspects in the male psyche, while the animus describes masculine aspects in the feminine psyche. Together, these archetypes influence gender identities and sex roles. Though controversial today, Jung believed men exploring their femininity and women exploring their masculinity would undermine psychological development.
- The self – this archetype represents the psyche as a whole, unifying both the unconscious and conscious aspects of an individual. The creation of self occurs via the process of individuation, where various personality aspects are fully integrated. For Jung, resolving conflicts between the conscious and unconscious mind was crucial to achieving individuation and a sense of cohesive self. This sense of cohesion is similar to Maslow’s belief in self-actualization, the highest level in his pyramid of needs describing an individual who has reached their full potential.
While Jung identified four main archetypes, he believed the total number of archetypes in existence was not fixed. What’s more, many archetypes were dynamic and could overlap to a limited degree.
Here are a few more of the archetypes Jung identified and their associated traits:
- The maiden – desire, purity, innocence.
- The trickster – liar, deceiver, troublemaker, joker.
- The child – salvation, yearning for innocence.
- The wise old man – wisdom, knowledge, guidance, advice, mentorship.
- The father – authoritarian, powerful, stern.
- The mother – nurturing, comforting.
- The magician – visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, healer.
- The everyman – empathy, realism, lack of pretense, good neighbor, silent majority.
- The explorer – iconoclast, pilgrim, wanderer, seeker, autonomy, ambition.
- Jungian archetypes are universal models of people, behaviors, or personalities that influence human behavior. They were developed by psychologist Carl Jung to expand on similar work done by Freud.
- Jungian archetypes reside in the collective unconscious and are innate and hereditary. Most importantly, they define how an individual experiences the world.
- There are four central Jungian archetypes: the persona, the shadow, the anima and animus, and the self. While Jung thought an individual was dominated by one archetype, he did acknowledge that archetypes could overlap or combine in some circumstances.
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