Jungian Archetypes (full text)

The  4 Major Jungian Archetypes

The concept of Archetypes was introduced and developed by Carl Gustav Jung. Jung conceived of Archetypes as templates of the personality that helped explain people’s behavior and where they are coming from with it. There is a lot of technical discussion about Archetypes being  grafted on to the basic human instincts and acting from there to express more complex social roles from a psychodynamic standpoint.

The structure of the psyche was delineated by Jung to include the ego (or I consciousness) the personal unconscious and a collective unconsciousness. Of course the ego (or I consciousness) is conscious. In the personal unconscious resides memories (and all that we have learned and experienced in this lifetime), not or barely accessible to the ego and various other repressed psychodynamics. The collective unconscious is a vast heritage of human mimetics consisting of everything our species shares in common.

As part of this mimetic inheritance, the Archetypes represent images and patterns that are universal to the human psyche (at least in our culture as we might know it).

Jung developed 4 types of Major Archetypes and 7 Minor Archetypes but noted that there are no limits to the number of Archetypes. Following are the 4 Majors:

The Persona

We represent ourselves to the world through a mask known as the Persona. The Persona is an amalgamation of all the different masks that we employ while representing each varying role.

You might think of the Persona as a Social Avatar that we identify ourselves to others in society with, in order to protect and shield the more vulnerable ego inside. Our persona is a public costume; we wear it outside.

Just like the clothes we wear, we can change our persona. A sociologist named Irving Goffman put forth a similar social theory about each citizen being an actor who plays many roles upon the public stage of society. We will return to Goffman in another lesson.

These personae allow us to behave in ways that are

  1. acceptable to social norms
  2. to adapt to the world environment around us and
  3. to fit in, even when underneath the mask we may entertain more primitive and socially unacceptable urges, impulses, thoughts and emotions.


Over-identification with our persona may lead us away from our authentic self, hidden safely away beneath the costume.

Sometimes, our persona shows up in dreams and in other dreams we are naked and ‘uncovered’.


The Shadow

The mask (persona) is to society what the shadow is to the self. Anything that we reject and are not willing to be or include in our personal self becomes banished to the personal unconscious and must be repressed  whenever it shows up. The shadow is composed of weaknesses, desires, shortcomings, instinctual expressions, and undervalued ideas (envy, greed, prejudice, aggression, hate, etc. that we all have from time to time but don’t want to admit it).

Since it is more personal and closer to us than the mask (persona), the shadow feels wilder, more chaotic, and scarier when it appears. In these cases, we attempt to deny that we are composed of such objectionable qualities and then project them onto other people. Of course, such a shadow can take on a variety of different forms, shifting around a lot to avoid detection (snake, dragon, criminal, some kind of devil, or another of many dark, scary figures) and may appear in the dreams.

The Anima or Animus

Inside of every male is a female (called the anima) and inside every female is a male (called the animus). The anima/animus represents an aspect of the “true self” rather than the image we present to others and serves as the primary source of communication with the collective unconscious. So the animus represents the masculine aspect in women and the anima represents the feminine aspect in men.

The anima/animus archetype is a complex dynamic that contains both collective and personal unconscious expressions. The collective may hold broad gender images (cultural stereotypes of traditional gender-based roles) and the personal may be based upon particular role models and relationships from the personal present life (girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, etc.).

The combined anima and animus is known as ‘syzygy’ or the divine couple. The syzygy represents Unified Complement and Wholeness.

The Self

The self is an archetype that represents a broader concept (than the ego or I consciousness) as it is represents the combination of both the unconsciousness and consciousness of an individual. This integration of the various aspects of personality is known in Jungian terms as Individuation.

The Peer Movement is careful to refer to Peers as Individuals  in honor of this Integrated Wholeness whenever we are experiencing successful recovery, health and wellbeing.

While the ego is the center of the consciousness, the Self is the center of the Personality; Personality encompasses both conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind.

The Mandala with a central point was chosen by Jung to represent the Individuated Whole Self. Jung’s concept of a cohesive, unified Self is similar to Abraham Maslow’s ‘Self Actualization’.

7 More Archetypes

Jung suggested that archetypes come and go and the number at any one time in one person is not specific or fixed. Sometimes, archetypes may overlap or combine. Here are 7 of the more commonly studies minor archetypes:

  • The Father:  Stern, Commanding, Authority figure; powerful and stabilizing.
  • The Mother: Caring, Comforting, and Nurturing.
  • The Child: Innocent; Symbolic of Rebirth and Renewal (Regeneration).
  • The Wise Old Man: Wisdom, Guidance, Knowledge.
  • The Hero: Champion; Defender; Rescue.
  • The Maiden: Innocence; Purity; (wholesomeness) Desire.
  • The Trickster: Liar, Deceiver; Trouble-maker.