Working with Archetypes for Self-knowledge
"Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life, and you will call it fate."
A part of our journey to authentic happiness requires us to know ourselves well.
How can this be done? Along with other men who have studied masculine development, I propose using archetypes as a mirror in which we men can better understand ourselves.
What are Archetypes?
Many have noticed since the beginning of time that humans tend to conduct themselves in particular ways.
Carl G Jung called these common behaviours archetypes, or "first patterns", the basic blueprints of human drives and qualities that we all share, "a universal and recurring image, pattern, or motif representing a typical human experience." Universal archetypes include the "hero", the "victim", and the "tyrant". The archetype's name summarises its behaviours, so we instantly know the characteristics of the person exhibiting the archetype.
Different people and even different societies exhibit these archetypal patterns to varying degrees. There are many different archetypes. Each has its particular character, way of behaving, beliefs, ways of thinking, actions, values and emotions. They originate from roles, such as that of the Father, or events, such as Death.
Since archetypes are linked to our instinct and our spirit, they are inherited as much as developed. They are charged with intensity and work automatically in our subconscious. Since the beginning of humanity, they have existed as typical situations in life and are engraved in our universal psyche through endless repetition. New archetypes are being created all the time as society progresses. Examples include aliens, Santa Claus, etc.
How do Archetypes work in us?
Because they are in our subconscious, we are not aware of them even as we live them out. As children, we developed our own personal archetypes. We also inherited a collective unconscious, the archetypal ways of being human embedded in our being and common to all humans. Jung calls this "a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature that is identical in all individuals." This underground system within us is full of ancient and familiar archetypes. Each step into life within us when we need them. Each carries within its being its charge and power, and this magnetism comes available to us as the archetype comes alive in us.
Archetypes that live in this collective unconscious can easily be seen in myths and stories, which work with a deep layer in our psyche. The Villain, the Bully, the Addict, and many more are all in our inherited collective subconscious.
Most of us tend to think of ourselves as unique individuals, and we certainly are, but we also contain these drives, patterns, and qualities common to all humans. We each express them in our own particular way. When we study archetypes, we notice those that live in us, and we see how we exhibit and express them in our behaviour.
"Be honest with yourself.
When you are honest with yourself,
you find the road to inner peace."
Working with These Archetypes
Archetypes are very useful as they show particular behaviour patterns. As individuals, if we know the behaviours associated with certain archetypes, we can look at ourselves to acknowledge how we behave in these archetypal ways.
Four particular archetypes - the Lover, the Warrior, the Magician, and the King - were identified by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette in the 1990s as being present in all human beings. They found this to be true for societies across the world. They saw that the behaviours of these four archetypes, in particular, demonstrate aspects of masculine life that, taken together in their healthy form, show us what it is like to be a well-rounded, mature, high functioning man.
When we look at each of these archetypes in their healthy, well-adjusted functioning, we see a model of behaviour against which we can measure and assess ourselves. They give us a vision and an example of how to behave in each of their archetypal ways.
As typical humans, the healthy behaviours of each archetype come naturally to us. Sadly, we may have found that as children, we faced disapproval and punishment when we behaved in the healthy ways of a particular archetype.
We were then wounded in our healthy functioning so that we learned to act in a wounded way in a particular archetype. When we lost access to the healthy form, we either suppressed that archetype, so it functioned at a low level or exaggerated it. When we exaggerated it, our behaviour demonstrated an amplified model of the archetype.
All of this will become much clearer when we look at the individual archetypes in detail.
Archetypes as an Internal Map
In the coming chapters, you will be able to get to know yourself by looking in the mirror of these archetypes, which present an internal map of the masculine. Seeing how these archetypal characters behave, you will appreciate who you are, both in your healthy and your unhealthy behaviours.
When you seek to understand yourself in the mirror of the archetypes, you take the first step of your evolution, to appreciate and understand who you are. Once you know yourself, you can consciously evolve. If you recognise and accept your dysfunctional behaviour, you can do something about it. Without self-investigation, you will never be able to get better at being yourself.
"If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself,
if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world,
then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation."
This journey into self-discovery using these four archetypes is not an easy one. To see how many aspects of our behaviour show up in each archetype's unhealthy wounded form can be painful, humbling and distressing. It takes courage to acknowledge how much of our conduct comes from unconscious wounding. It takes guts to bring ourselves to the light of conscious understanding. Yet the journey is worth it. Authenticity, freedom, joy and happiness lie at hand. To know yourself means to be free to be yourself.
Three Aspects to Each Archetype
Each archetype has three aspects.
First, we look at how a man behaves when he exhibits the naturally healthy behaviours of the archetype.
Next, we look at how a man can be wounded in the archetype and how this wound leads him to act in ways that are too much of the archetype, or too little.