Jungian Archetypes Explained In Simple Terms

Introduction Carl Jung

Carl Jung

Few people have had as much influence on modern psychology as Carl Jung, he has coined terms such as extraversion and introversion, archetypes, anima and animus, shadow, and collective unconscious, among others.

He was a practicing psychiatrist and is regarded as the founder of analytical psychology or Jungian analysis. In his early years, he came into contact with Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. They had a close relation and collaborated on a joint vision of human psychology. However, they parted ways as Jung’s personal research on analytical psychology and especially upon the discovery of a collective unconscious, made it impossible for him to follow Freud’s psychoanalysis, this resulted in a painful schism after years of collaboration.

Freud and Jung

Jung’s analytical psychology essentially gave birth to the empirical science of the psyche, which culminated in his magnum opus the “Collected Works”, written over a period of 60 years during his lifetime.

Jung distinguishes our psyche into three different realms: consciousness, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.

Consciousness is composed of our field of awareness, all the experiences that we are aware of, this is where we form our Ego. However, according to Jung it is dwarfed in relation to the unconscious.

The personal unconscious is particular to each individual and is made of parts that are unique to our own lives, thoughts we are not aware of, have forgotten or have been repressed due to their disturbing nature.

On the other hand, the collective unconscious is the deepest part of our unconscious which is genetically inherited and not shaped by personal experience. This is where the archetypes are found. Archetypes represent universal patterns and images that are part of the collective unconscious. Jung believed that we inherit these archetypes just as we inherit instinctive patterns of behaviour.

Jung was also an expert on the study of religious and mythological symbology, the work in both of these fields lead to the discovery of the archetypes. The study of these myths of cultures revealed similar patterns, he even found the same symbols in the dreams of patients suffering from schizophrenia, which reinforced the idea of archetypes and the collective unconscious.

Apart from his travels in the United States and England, Jung had travelled to East Africa to learn about natives who had never been in contact with European culture, he also travelled to India where he felt himself “under the direct influence of a foreign culture” for the first time. Hinduism played an important element in his understanding of the role of symbolism and the unconscious.

Although Jung suggested a series of archetypes such as: the father (authority figure), the mother (nurturing), the wise old man (wisdom, knowledge), the hero (champion, rescuer), the trickster (troublemaker), among others. We will be focusing on what are regarded as the 4 major Jungian Archetypes: The Self, the Persona, The Shadow, and the Anima/Animus

1. The Self

The Self

To understand the Self, we need to know how it differs from the Ego, which is part of the realm of consciousness.

Jung considers the Self to be superior in rank to the ego. The ego is acquired during an individual’s lifetime and therefore it is a conscious factor. In theory, you could describe the ego completely, but this would only amount to the conscious personality, and not the total picture which would have to include the unconscious parts.

The ego is composed of the somatic and the psychic factors. The somatic is the physical self, our body, while the psychic relates to our inner self, our mind. Both the somatic and the psychic have conscious and unconscious factors.

The Ego’s main characteristic is our individuality, that is part of our consciousness; however, it is one part of the personality not the whole of it. The remaining part is composed of the unconscious.

The sum of the conscious and unconscious is what Jung calls the Self, which makes up the total personality of an individual.

To achieve the Self, Jung’s central concept revolved around what he called individuation or self-realisation. A lifelong process of distinguishing the self out of each individual’s conscious and unconscious elements. This he believed to be the main goal of human psychological development.

Now we delve into what Jung considered the most important part of ourselves, the unconscious.

Here’s where we encounter the Persona, Shadow, Anima/Animus, which have the most disturbing influence on the Ego.

2. The Persona

The Persona

The Persona is known as the conformity archetype, it is an element of the personality which arises for reasons of adaptation or personal convenience. If you have certain “masks” you put on in various situations, that is a persona. In essence, it conceals our real self, presenting ourselves as someone different to who we really are

As we please other people with our persona, it leaves our negative traits that contradict our real selves, forming our Shadow.

3. The Shadow

The Shadow

Jung stated the shadow to be the unknown dark side of the personality. Whereas the contents of the personal unconscious are acquired during an individual’s lifetime, the contents of the collective unconscious are invariably archetypes that were present from the beginning.

Among the shadow, the anima, and the animus, the most accessible and easiest to experience is the shadow, since it can be retrieved from contents of the personal unconscious.

To be conscious of the shadow, there must be a considerable moral effort recognising the dark aspects of one’s personality as real and present.

While some traits of one’s own shadow can be recognised, some offer greater resistance to moral control and prove almost impossible to influence.

An individual who does not recognise his psychological projection, a defense mechanism in which the individual defends himself against unconscious impulses denying their existence in himself while attributing them to others, will eventually create an illusory environment whereby he changes the world into the replica of his own unknown face.

Psychological projection

The Shadow plays an important role in balancing the overall psyche. A weak adaptation of the shadow results in a low level of personality, whereby the individual behaves like a passive victim of his shadow, extremely worried with the opinions of others, a walking Persona.

People who do not look at their shadows directly, project them onto others – the qualities that we often cannot stand in others, we have in ourselves and wish not to see. But, to truly grow as a person, one must integrate their shadow and balance it with their Persona.

It is possible for man to recognise the relative evil of his nature, but it is rare for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil.

An encounter with your shadow may appear in dreams typically as a person of the same sex as you. It depends on the living experience of each individual, rather than being inherited in the collective unconscious.

The dissolution of the persona and understanding one’s own shadow is a central part of the process of individuation.

In terms of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, “it must be Jekyll, the conscious personality, who integrates the shadow, and not the other way around. Otherwise you will become the slave of your autonomous shadow.

The integration of the shadow marks the first stage of the analytic process, without it a recognition of anima and animus is impossible. However, the acknowledge of the shadow must be a continuous process throughout one’s life.

4. Anima and Animus

Anima and Animus

Within the shadow, there exists two contrasexual figures: the anima and the animus.

In every man’s psyche, there is an unconscious feminine aspect called the anima, which is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies, while in every woman’s psyche there’s an unconscious masculine aspect called the animus.

Unlike the shadow which represents the personal unconscious, through which its content can be made conscious, the anima and animus are much further away from consciousness and are seldom realised.

Man’s anima is characterised by the feminine Eros. It is passive like a child seeking the protecting and nourishing charmed circle of the mother. While woman’s animus corresponds to the paternal Logos, the principal of rationality.

When man is integrating the anima, it becomes the Eros, giving way to a more caring figure. When woman is integrating the animus, it becomes the Logos, giving woman a capacity for assertiveness, and deliberation.

The anima appears in dreams, visions and fantasies taking on a personified form. She is a spontaneous product of the unconscious, and not a substitute figure for the mother, present in every man.

There are thoughts, feelings and affects alive in us which we would never have believed possible. This seems like utter fantasy to anyone who has not yet experienced it by themselves, for a normal person “knows what he thinks”.

The recognition of the anima gives rises to a triad: the masculine subject, the feminine subject, and the transcendent anima. With a woman, it gives rise to the transcendent animus.

Summary Jungian Analytical Psychology

The continuous integration of the contents of the collective unconscious, making them part of the Self, through psychotherapy, introspection, and having the moral fortitude to change one’s own beliefs, can have a considerable influence on ourselves and give us a much more solid foundation in our psyche, helping us to overcome our daily struggles and become much more aware of who we truly are, and that there are elements in our psyche beyond our control.

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Published by Eternalised - Philosophy

Eternalised is a Philosophical Entertainer in pursuit of meaning. A mix of Existentialism, Stoicism, Buddhism, Taoism, Jungian Psychology and Classical Greek Philosophy.

4 thoughts on “Jungian Archetypes Explained In Simple Terms

  1. Incredible breakdown. We studied Freud and Jung in my college psychology class, but it was with the caveat that they aren’t really accepted theories anymore. But, I often see tidbits of their ideas popping up in other perspectives. It’s like no one wants to accept that Freud and Jung were not as crazy as they seemed.

    Liked by 1 person

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