What’s Your Archetype?
How Healing My Orphan Archetype Damaged Friendships
How familiar are you with archetypes and their meanings? Do you understand your own and those of others? This word from the Greeks translates to “primitive model.” An archetype is a typical example, or model, of a particular person or thing. Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung expanded on this, believing that archetypes are part of the collective unconsciousness, memories of universal experiences. Others have taken this in a different direction, identifying the archetype of a company in order to create a successful business model.
Archetypes are similar to, yet different from, the more widely recognized term ‘personality traits.’ Personality traits reflect our individual characteristics, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They are often influenced by the environment in which we were raised and/or the one in which we currently exist. A study published by MIT listed 638 primary personality traits, and categorized them as positive, neutral, or negative. I find the list rather daunting, but plan to perform an honest self-assessment sometime soon. (Procrastinating, by the way, is #203 on the negative list.)
Now let’s turn to archetypes. Carl Jung theorized that we have inborn tendencies that play significant roles in human behavior. According to Jung, these tendencies may be broken down into twelve separate categories.
- Caregiver — compassionate and generous; strives to protect others
- Creator / Artist — imaginative; loves to transform things into something new
- Everyperson — honest; hardworking; seeks equality in everything
- Explorer — seeks to discover new places as well as new things about themselves
- Hero — demonstrates discipline, focus and courage; inspires and leads others
- Innocent — sees the good in everything; kind, trusting and optimistic
- Jester — innovative; fun-loving; likes to makes themselves and others laugh
- Lover — sensitive; appreciative; guided by emotion
- Magician — dreams big; dazzles with ability for transformation
- Rebel –challenges the status quo; resists influence
- Ruler — strives for excellence; takes charge and expects others to follow their lead
- Sage — uses intellect and knowledge for understanding; methodical and objective
These archetypal tendencies are the very core of our being, and influence our decisions and the paths we follow throughout our lifetime. We have multiple archetypes, but one will be primary. The primary archetype is usually so apparent that I would expect, as you read the descriptions above, that various people came to mind for different categories. And I’m also curious to know if you recognized yourself among the categories.
Caroline Myss has been working with and teaching about archetypes for many years. In her book “Archetypes: A Beginner’s Guide to Your Inner-net” she says archetypes are “psychic lenses through which we view ourselves and the world around us.” Understanding and working with your archetypes will “assist you in opening to the full expression of your life.” Caroline’s book covered a slightly different set of archetypes. Even those categories that somewhat mirrored Jung’s had different descriptions. She also states that archetypal categories may change over time in correlation with societal views. At the time of her writing in 2013, the ten categories she was working with were:
- Advocate — committed to advancing humanitarian causes and change for the better
- Artist / Creative — sees beauty everywhere; commits to realizing creative dreams
- Athlete — enjoys physical challenges; super-competitive but plays fair
- Caregiver — called to help others; model of compassion and generosity
- Executive — takes charge; uses influence to empower others
- Fashionista –uses fashion to develop authentic self-esteem; always looks good
- Intellectual — cultivates wisdom; responds with head rather than heart
- Rebel — challenges injustice; operates in nontraditional ways
- Spiritual Seeker — pursues insights; trusts intuition; gives priority to spirituality
- Visionary — acts as agent of change; relies on guidance from dreams
These lists by Jung and Myss are not exclusive. Others use different categories and verbiage to reflect their visions. For greater depth into archetypes, you might choose to work with a pack of archetype cards. Carolyn Myss has a deck that offers many archetypal categories to investigate.
Regardless of whether you work with the archetypes of Jung, Myss, or someone else, you can learn much about yourself and others. This deeper knowledge often leads to greater understanding, and that in turn hopefully leads to personal growth and deeper acceptance of who we and others truly are. Knowledge is empowering. Be aware, though, that working with archetypes can result in unexpected outcomes.
Some years ago, I began working with my own orphan archetype — one of the lesser archetypes not included in either of the lists above. Having two parents and three sisters, I was not an orphan in the traditional sense. So why did I have an orphan archetype? I expect I arrived in this lifetime with this archetype in order to learn a lesson. And I certainly did. Here’s how it unfolded. My parents separated when I was in middle school. My mother, with whom I continued to live, always ensured that I was well cared for, but she was understandably distracted by the separation. My older sisters had already moved from the family home. I was basically on my own from an emotional standpoint. Unbeknownst to me at that time, those circumstances gave birth to my orphan archetype. The result was an unconscious hunger for emotional comfort and support, and I know others have experienced these same feelings.
There were a dozen years when I found connection through marriage and in-laws, but it was not to last. Luckily, before, during, and after my marriage, there were dear friends. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have friends who welcomed me into their families, often inviting me to become “Aunt Donna” to their children. So, not only did I have my birth family living in another state, I also had various new families in close geographic proximity. The inclusion into these families was heartwarming, and I enjoyed many events and holidays with these second — and even third — sets of families. Once I began to heal my orphan, however, things changed.
First, I had to recognize the impact that the separation had had on me so many years earlier. I had to release the completely undeserved blame I had placed on my parents — and even my sisters — for “abandoning” me. I had to grieve for that young girl and the unacknowledged pain she had felt. And I needed space in order to do so. I pulled back, declining invitations and generally distancing myself. It wasn’t intentional, exactly. It just happened. And because I didn’t understand it myself at the time, I was completely unable to explain my actions to my friends. The unfortunate result was the creation of a wide abyss. The friendships remain, but have never fully recovered. The depth of connection and the inclusion we once shared simply doesn’t exist. By acknowledging the archetype, identifying the source, working through the emotions, and allowing wounds to heal, I had transcended the need for an adoptive family. But need is not the same as desire, and I deeply mourn the loss of the emotional intimacy we once shared.
That is just one example … one story. There are other archetypes of my own that I continue to address in order to better know myself. Equally important is observing others more attentively, identifying their archetypes, and utilizing that knowledge to better those relationships. It requires intention, effort, and time — all of which are within my grasp. Those things are within your reach as well. Is it time for you to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and others? If so, I invite you to delve into the world of archetypes. Wisdom and healing await.
Additional articles by the author may be found at https://www.bodyandsoulshepherd.com/newsletters