How do you determine your personal array of archetypes can be a daunting task. Why is that? For one thing, the list of archetypes is endless. The archetypes evolve over time. Newer ones that have come to light recently because of changing culture could include “The Geek”, “The Networker”, “The Fashionista”.
Another reason picking your archetypes is daunting is because we tend towards those that we are either very much in touch with already or those that we “wanna be”. This eliminates those that operate within us to a lesser acknowledged extent or those that operate from more of a shadow perspective.
Follow the steps below to identify those patterns of influence that are yours to learn from.
Step 1: Check out lists for ideas
Look at lists of archetypes and write down on individual pieces of paper or index cards the name of each one. On the back side, write down the traits of the archetype that you think apply to you. Author Caroline Myss, has written and lectured extensively on archetypes. Check her Gallery of Archetypes or Scott Jeffrey’s archetype list.
Step 2: Include both shadow and light aspects
Be sure to give equal weight to exploring both the light and the shadow side of each archetype. Ideally, pick a fairly equal number of archetypes from each end of the spectrum that you resonate with.
Step 3: Go back in time to recognize their presence
Look to find evidence of the influence of auditioned archetypes throughout your life, not just now or in more recent times. We are born with these archetypes so the clues from long ago and childhood will reveal more accuracy. You can write these clues also on the backside of your index card or paper. Look at movies, songs, books that you have loved across time. Look at the patterns that are woven throughout your life.
Step 4: Do your research – internal and external
Check out various sources. Google archetypes. Look for clues in your language. Be open to an archetype that you don’t see listed anywhere. By this I mean, your spin on a particular archetype may be called by a different name. For example, recently I suggested to a client that she might consider “The Firestarter” as one of her personal archetypes. This could be more mainstreamed into perhaps “The Alchemist” or maybe a Goddess that had a fire quality to her. Or perhaps “The Firestarter” has a particular affinity for her and therefore will have a bigger impact should she decide to claim it as so named.
Step 5: Eliminate repeated qualities
Look at archetypes that have similar qualities. If you gravitate to several that have similar qualities, you are missing out on other important candidates. For example, “The Student” and “The Teacher” have similarities. “The Teacher will always embody “The Student” because she cannot teach what she has not learned. Yet “The Student” does not necessarily become “The Teacher”. Caroline Myss describes the related families as: Masculine, Feminine, Divine, Healers, Action, Wild Card, Wisdom, Survivors, and Creative. Arrange your index cards or papers under the various categories. Try not to have more than 2-3 in any one category.
Step 6: The Four Survivor Archetypes
Caroline Myss suggests everyone has the primary archetypes of Child, Victim, Prostitute, and Saboteur. These are the basic ones that aided you in early development that got you to where you are now. Think of them as your primary characters in the theatre of your life. The others are supporting your survival archetypes. The Child archetype comes in many forms…. Which one speaks to you most?
Step 7: How many should I have?
Although all the archetypes visit it from time to time, we gravitate to a handful. Think of it like a wardrobe, where we only wear 20% of what we own 80% of the time. Several schools of thought point to a system of 12. In Caroline Myss’s system, 4 of those would be the survivors.
We often recognize archetypes in others sooner than ourselves. Close friends and loving family can help you distinguish between several if you are unsure. You can get there input but still sift it through your internal knowing.
Step 8: Ask for Guidance
When you go to finalize your list, do so with reverence. Set your sacred space. Be prayful. Stay open. Dig deep. A great clue is when you sense it on another level – biologically (sensation, smile, gripping), spiritual (sense it in your chakra, know it in your being), energetically (strong pull towards or away). Remember, in the end, it is the archetypes that choose us, not the other way around.
So you’ve picked your archetype wardrobe, now what? Journal about them. Ask to dialogue with them. Seek to learn from the lessons they provide. Dance them out. Create art. Write poetry and songs and literature. Contact an archetypal consultant (firstname.lastname@example.org) to better understand both their literal and symbolic meaning and how it plays out in your life. You can also cast them into a 12-slice wheel similar to the horoscope /zodiac wheel. This will provide access to even more archetypal wisdom. Enjoy the rich, vast journey of owning and understanding the archetypal influence – it will change your life!