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The 12 archetypes: Understanding personality

23.11.21 4 min. read

At a glance: The 12 archetypes

  1. Jung’s proposed archetypes
  2. How they play out in our lives

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung introduced two terms that some of us might already be familiar with. The first is the ‘collective unconscious’, a term he used to describe his theory that all different categories of human experience come from one part of the mind that we all have in common. The second term is ‘archetypes’, which comes from the Greek word archetypos and means ‘original pattern’. Jung used it to classify the instinctive patterns that were reflected in all human behaviour and how we come across to others. According to Jung, each of these archetypes were passed down to us from our ancestors and genetically coded within all of us.

While Jung’s beliefs were and still are widely contested, they can be quite intriguing. Some have used them to describe the prominent figures in literature, films and more. Perhaps an understanding of the different archetypes might shed light on how we see ourselves and one another move throughout the world.

Jung’s proposed archetypes

1. The ruler
  • Rulers are no strangers to responsibility because they like to have control over just about anything. At best, they manage to assert their opinion confidently while still remaining polite. At worst, they can be reluctant to share with others and very domineering.
    2. The magician
    • Magicians are idealistic and want nothing more than to turn their visions into reality. They can be charismatic leaders, yet can also be manipulative in order to get what they want.
    3. The hero or heroine
    • Heroes and heroines like to take on challenges, no matter how difficult, in order to make the world a better place, by even just a little bit. They are sincere, brave and will not let anything stop them on their mission. Under no circumstances do they want to be seen as weak or vulnerable, and they are also prone to displaying arrogant behavior.
    4. The lover
    • Lovers are sensual and passionate. Above all, they want to connect together over experiences with other people and they’re always looking for intimacy in their relationships. Their greatest fear is ending up alone or being deemed supposedly unlovable, which is why they run the risk of adjusting to their surroundings so much that their own identity falls by the wayside.
    5. The jester
    • Jesters are particularly playful. They are acutely aware that we only live once — and thus they try to savour all of life’s pleasures and joys, and share them with others. Their greatest enemy is boredom, which makes them prone to recklessness and dawdling.
    6. The everyday person
    • Everyday people seek to belong and try not to offend anyone. In a way, they are kind of like ‘the girl or next door’: humble, loyal and empathetic, but must be careful not to lose sight of themselves in the process of confirming with others.
    7. The caregiver
    • Caregivers are selfless people who treat others as they would like to be treated. They are extremely nurturing and compassionate, but run the risk of people taking advantage of them.
    8. The rebel
    • Rebels are disruptive and fight the status quo. In their eyes, rules were made to be broken. Their greatest fear is feeling powerless and unable to change anything.
    9. The creator
    • Creators are artists who want to turn their dreams into reality and build things that matter. They are creative dreamers who dread mediocrity, which makes them susceptible to stumbling in pursuit of perfection.
    10. The innocent
    • Innocent types stick to the rules because they want to feel like they belong — and safe above all.. They often paint their world view with optimism: They believe in seeing the good in everyone and want to make things right. However, sometimes they can come across as one-dimensional and naive.
    11. The wise
    • The wise are constantly in search of the truth. They want to use their intellect to understand the world and its interrelationships. For them, there is nothing worse than ignorance and deception. Yet at times they should be careful not to lose sight of the details and, as a result, their actions too.
    12. The explorer
    • Explorers are fearless adventurers who are always looking for more action and to live life to its fullest. The independent and ambitious people they are, they despise feeling empty inside or trapped, like they have to conform. Sometimes they can get lost in aimless wanderings, so much so that they become outcasts.

    How they playout in our lives

    Jung’s theory of the different archetypes might help us get to know ourselves better and treat both ourselves and other people with more compassion and curiosity. By recognising that we all already carry these archetypes in different proportions within our own personality, we are reminded of our multi-dimensionality and our interconnectedness, which might make us more open to seeing eye-to-eye with one another.

    An understanding of archetypes can also help us see that we need not look to others for desirable personality traits, for they are all buried within us as well. If they lie dormant, it is our job to wake them up and live them out.

    Are you becoming more curious about Jung's archetypes? If you’re yearning to discover more facets of your personality, you might want to start by identifying which three archetypes you currently identify with the most — and then think about which of the other archetypes intrigue you the most and try to incorporate those sensibilities into your world view and lifestyle moving forward.

    What does that look like in practical terms? Think about which patterns you’d have to leave behind and which new ones you’d have to put into practice. Try to envision these new behaviours as clearly as possible for you. Perhaps you might return to this post in a few weeks or months and see whether or not your point of view has changed — and how.

    Until then, we wish you an exciting journey ahead.

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