What Are Jungian Archetypes?
Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s theory that instead of being motivated by external forces, we are actually motivated by the primal drives created by our unconscious, Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist discovered that throughout different societies on the planet, though their cultures bore many differences, they also shared many similarities, like myths and symbols, and he thought that this was due to the collective human psyche. Jung introduced the notion that there is a “collective unconscious”- that all our myths and symbols were hereditarily passed down through memories and the variations we see between cultures are just due to the passage of time. He named these inherited memories in the psyche “archetypes”.
The Most Important Archetype: The Persona
Jung discovered that most people, including himself, only share one aspect of their personality with the world, and he named this archetype the “Persona”. It originates from the word “persona” in Latin, which translates to “mask”. According to Jung himself, the Persona is “a mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual.”
Jung warned against letting the Persona take over our entire personality, like “a teacher with his textbook, a tenor with his voice,” since these are not our true personalities, simply what society has conditioned us to portray.
Within the Persona, there are the Animus and the Anima. Simply put, The Animus is the masculine component of the female psyche, and the Anima is the feminine component of the male psyche, and it represents a truer self than The Persona. It is said to be the “other half” of our personality- the half that was abandoned as we choose our gender identity.
The Shadow and The True Self
However, to juxtapose The Persona, there is an aspect of people’s personality that they choose to not reveal to the public, as known as the archetype, “The Shadow”. The Shadow represents all the secrets we have, all the repressed actions and thoughts we have. However, it is not entirely negative- there are some parts of ourselves that we unwillingly repress, but are not necessarily bad. Jung believed that the Shadow originated from us trying to adapt to society and cultural norms, and this archetype consists of things we would like to hide due to society and our own morals.
Jung believed that the True Self represented the entire consciousness of an individual, unifying both the unconscious and the conscious mind. He believed that the True Self controlled and organised all other elements of our psyche, and balances the many opposition within our minds. He also believed that it was transcendent and unchanging, even as we grow up and come into contact with more of society.
The Persona, The Shadow, The True Self and the Anima/Animus were the four main types of archetypes Jung proposed, but he also believed that there are other sub-archetypes, that our minds also contain, for example, the Wise Old Man, The Goddess, The Trickster and more.
Jung believed these sub-archetypes would appear to us in dreams, and that dreams were very important in order for us to understand ourselves- he thought it was a way for us to connect with the collective unconscious. He believed that if the Wise Old Man, for example, appeared in a dream, represented by a figure of authority in our lives, like a parent or teacher, it indicates that that person is a good source of wisdom.
Another sub-archetype includes the Divine Child, which symbolises the True Self in the purest, truest form. It is very innocent and vulnerable, like a child would be, and if seen in dreams, represents openness or potential.
Jungian Psychology in Modern Life
Psychiatrists and psychologists nowadays typically find Jungian Psychology to be irrelevant. Some critics critique the idea of The Shadow, since Jung himself has said that this side was an “evil side” of our personality, and if we can recognise this side, it will make impulse control much easier, which was proven to be wrong, as well as having an ideological bias. Plus, it has been proven that many of Jung’s theories cannot be proven scientifically- many of his theories were created out of introspection, from his own thoughts and theories.
However, Jungian Psychology is still used in many other aspects, for example, the Myers-Briggs Test, which was developed based on Jungian principles, like extraverted- and introverted-ness, as well as in literature, like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which delves into The Shadow and The Persona- Dr Jekyll being The Persona, the mask he puts on to the public, the reputation he upholds. Whereas, Mr. Hyde is The Shadow, the part of Dr. Jekyll that he seeks to hide from the world.
In mythology, there are many references of the sub-archetype, Trickster, which was said by Jung to be the archetype that was supposed to balance the Divine Child. The Trickster was to keep the Divine Child in check, and to prevent our ego from growing too large. The Trickster’s main purpose is to expose our vulnerabilities and make us take ourselves less seriously, and is most well-known in mythology as the Norse God Loki, the African Spider God Anansi, or the Greek God Pan.
The Psychology Book. Dorling Kindersley, 2012.
"The 4 Major Jungian Archetypes - Verywell ...." 30 Jun. 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-jungs-4-major-archetypes-2795439.
"Carl Jung: In Defense and Critique | Reality Sandwich." 19 May. 2014, https://realitysandwich.com/carl-jung-psychology-in-defense-critique/.
Researcher, Editor, Text Transcription: Megan Kwok, Thumbnail: Cassandra Lui