Carl Jung describes Archetypes as “Patterns of Instinctual Behavior.”
- The Shadow
Sex and the life instincts in general are, of course, represented somewhere in Jung’s system. They are a part of an archetype called the shadow. It derives from our prehuman, animal past, when our concerns were limited to survival and reproduction, and when we weren’t self-conscious.
It is the “dark side” of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of is often stored there. Actually, the shadow is amoral — neither good nor bad, just like animals. Symbols of the shadow include the snake (as in the garden of Eden), the dragon, monsters, and demons. It often guards the entrance to a cave or a pool of water, which is the collective unconscious. Next time you dream about wrestling with the devil, it may only be yourself you are wrestling with!
You must understand that these archetypes are not really biological things, like Freud’s instincts. They are more spiritual demands. For example, if you dreamt about long things, Freud might suggest these things represent the phallus and ultimately sex. But Jung might have a very different interpretation. Even dreaming quite specifically about a penis might not have much to do with some unfulfilled need for sex.
It is curious that in primitive societies, phallic symbols do not usually refer to sex at all. They usually symbolize mana, or spiritual power. These symbols would be displayed on occasions when the spirits are being called upon to increase the yield of corn, or fish, or to heal someone. The connection between the penis and strength, between semen and seed, between fertilization and fertility are understood by most cultures.
A part of our persona is the role of male or female we must play. For most people that role is determined by their physical gender. But Jung, like Freud and Adler and others, felt that we are all really bisexual in nature. When we begin our lives as fetuses, we have undifferentiated sex organs that only gradually, under the influence of hormones, become male or female. Likewise, when we begin our social lives as infants, we are neither male nor female in the social sense. Almost immediately — as soon as those pink or blue booties go on — we come under the influence of society, which gradually molds us into men and women.
The anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. Together, they are refered to as syzygy.
- The Hero
Many archetypes are story characters. The hero is one of the main ones. He is the mana personality and the defeater of evil dragons. Basically, he represents the ego — we do tend to identify with the hero of the story — and is often engaged in fighting the shadow, in the form of dragons and other monsters. The hero is, however, often dumb as a post. He is, after all, ignorant of the ways of the collective unconscious. Luke Skywalker, in the Star Wars films, is the perfect example of a hero.
- The Fool
Often represented by a clown or a magician. The fool’s role is to hamper the hero’s progress and to generally make trouble. In Norse mythology, many of the gods’ adventures originate in some trick or another played on their
majesties by the half-god Loki.
The Christ child celebrated at Christmas is a manifestation of the child archetype, and represents the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation. The child archetype often blends with other archetypes to form the child-god, or the child-hero
- Femme Fatale/ Temptress
We all know well as the female who possesses what the male desires and uses this desire as a means to their ultimate destruction.
- All-Giving Mother
Our built-in ability to recognize a certain relationship, that of “mothering.” Jung says that this is rather abstract, and we are likely to project the archetype out into the world and onto a particular person, usually our own mothers. Even when an archetype doesn’t have a particular real person available, we tend to personify the archetype, that is, turn it into a mythological “story-book” character. This character symbolizes the archetype.
The mother archetype is symbolized by the primordial mother or “earth mother” of mythology, by Eve and Mary in western traditions, and by less personal symbols such as the church, the nation, a forest, or the ocean. According to Jung, someone whose own mother failed to satisfy the demands of the archetype may well be one that spends his or her life seeking comfort in the church, or in identification with “the motherland,” or in meditating upon the figure of Mary, or in a life at sea.
- Wise Man
The hero is guided by the wise old man. He is a form of the animus, and reveals to the hero the nature of the collective unconscious.
Representing humanity’s relationships with the animal world. The hero’s faithful horse would be an example. Snakes are often symbolic of the animal archetype, and are thought to be particularly wise. Animals, after all, are more in touch with their natures than we are.
You can think of these as patterns of thought and action that re-appear across people, countries and continents. Jung’s main archetypes are not like sterotypes in the way that each person may judge one or the other. Rather, we each have all basic archetypes within us.
- Stories that depict themes such as the choice of compassion over greed, the triumph of the small and oppressed over the Oppressors, the growth from vengeance to acceptance to forgiveness etc are all archetypes…
- Other archetypes are a bit more subjective (which is why there is not one correct or ‘right’ way to interpret a dream) such a rock symbolizing strength, a dove symbolizing peace, a river symbolizing change etc.
- Paying attention to archetypes in your reality and in your dreams can be helpful according to Jung… the collective unconscious is trying to tell you something.