Archetype Analysis: a remarkable technique for making the most of yourself
By Colleen Guy
People today are more open to ideas relating to self-actualisation, self-fulfilment and self-empowerment than they have ever been.
Of course, there have always been ambitious people who’ve been willing to work around the clock, sun-dial or hour-glass, to forge a better life for themselves and their families. But often, in the past, these people were the exception rather than the rule. People generally accepted, or felt obliged to accept, who they were and the circumstances of their birth, and by no means necessarily thought of their lives as a never-ending quest to fulfil their potential.
Too much of human history has been, for most people, a time of squashed ambitions, quenched hopes and frequent personal despair. People were urged by the prevailing culture and by churches to ‘know their place’, and perhaps not just for self-serving reasons: after all, why awaken fierce individualism if the economic situation provides few real opportunities for ambitious people?
Today, economic factors have played a vital part in people being amenable to changing and re-inventing themselves. ‘Jobs for life’ have almost completely disappeared. People are aware that they need to keep themselves attractive to employers (or, for the self-employed, customers and clients) throughout their entire working lives.
Yet, ultimately, fulfilling yourself in every respect is first and foremost a personal rather than economic consideration and is most usefully viewed in that respect. The question of whether you really do feel you are making the most of your life, and having a life that fills you with joy every day, a life that is so infinitely worth living that you can’t wait to get up in the morning, is not just a vitally important question: it is the most important question of your life.
Indeed, we should be glad that there are the lessons of the badly-lived lives of the past to provide warnings and insights into the kind of behaviours and attitudes to life that will pretty well guarantee we won’t be all we can be, and won’t have a life that really thrills us.
I don’t mean hedonistic, transient types of thrill, but rather the deep, enduring, satisfying excitement that comes from living the life you really want to live and being brim-full of the delight of knowing that you are in charge of your own destiny.
Today, we can do better with our lives than people usually did in the past.
If, for example, we look at the nineteenth century (whose influence is actually still much more active today than we might imagine), we often get sad glimpses of people having sensed that their whole way of looking at their lives was wrong and mistaken, but not knowing how to act on that belief because they didn’t have the tools.
The best writers of the nineteenth century frequently included storylines that involved someone re-examining their life. The trouble was, the absence of suitable analytical tools meant that the stories, while strong on drama, were short on practical advice for readers.
Charles Dickens, in his A Christmas Carol (1843), for example, takes Ebeneezer Scrooge back to his childhood, reminding him what he was once like and of what he once cared about, and then forward into his present to see the lives of others and the piteousness of Bob Cratchit’s little boy Tiny Tim. Finally, Dickens gives Scrooge a stark warning about his inevitable death and how he could so easily die unmourned, unloved, and without having been the man he could have been. After this terrifying warning, Scrooge’s complete conversion into an infinitely better man hardly surprises us.
A Christmas Carol was enormously popular in its day and induced many wealthy people to be more charitable to the poor. There is even clear evidence that A Christmas Carol helped to define the Victorian concept of Christmas itself. But Dickens’s more subtle message seems to have been missed by his contemporaries. A Christmas Carol isn’t really about the need to give to the poor. What the story is actually about is how easy it is for people to forsake all their potential for leading fulfilled, warm-hearted lives and making contact with other people on all the levels that matter, and instead lose themselves down arid blind alleys and live a tragic, lonely and unfructifying life culminating in a lonely and largely unmourned death.
Unfortunately, even a genius like Dickens didn’t have the tools or insight to imagine how the kind of lessons Scrooge learnt could be generalised and made available to his readers.
Today, though, we do have those tools, and many psychologists have devoted in some cases decades of work, research and validation to refining and developing them for practical use.
In the past few years, one of the most useful set of tools for helping people to explore every potential aspect of their personality and by extension to help them make the most of themselves is ‘Archetype Analysis’, which arises out of work conducted by the Swiss psychologist Carl Yung (1875 - 1961).
This fascinating and powerful intervention, developed during the past thirty years by the American personal development specialist Dr Carol Pearson, is an inspired, proven and successful way of helping people get in touch with all their ‘potential selves’ and exploring these selves in order to cause a massively useful paradigm shift in how they see themselves and in the success and happiness they enjoy from their lives.
Archetype Analysis is particularly adept at helping people through significant life quandaries, though it is just as good at helping people who are simply curious about what the intervention can do for them. Just a few of the questions that Archetype Analysis is especially well geared to answering and very often solving are:
Am I doing all I can with my life?
I’m doing well, but how could I do better?
My professional life feels good, but I feel I have no time for a personal life
My personal life is good, but I feel I’m getting nowhere with my career
No-one appreciates me
I have to work too hard
I feel I am worth more money than I am getting paid
My spouse takes me for granted
I’m always doing things for people and never getting anything back
I’m not sure what to do next in my life
Essentially Archetype Analysis is based on the principle that what determines so many of our innate assumptions about ourselves, and by extension, so many of the attitudes and behaviours we bring to new experiences, is the way we were brought up. Archetype Analysis assumes that this bringing-up, which by definition took place when we were young and vulnerable, inevitably made a huge impression on us and ‘conditioned’ us to see ourselves, and life, in a certain way.
Archetype Analysis also assumes that as we grow older, wiser and more experienced, these innate assumptions can stay with us like a watermark that can’t be washed off or easily removed. In essence the problem is that our childhood experiences do remain with us and condition us, constituting a burden within ourselves that, if unexamined, can quite easily hamper us forever.
The result is known in Archetype Analysis as your ‘story’: that is, the set of potentially restrictive learned and ingrained attitudes we inherit from our childhoods.
The problem is that, according to Archetype Analysis, people cling to their stories because the stories are comforting. Yet Archetype Analysis is a revolutionary but sensitive approach to life-fulfilment. It doesn’t insist that people throw away their story in brutal fashion; instead what it does is explore how the story can be enhanced, modified and seasoned with other archetypes that may ultimately suit your true needs and goals better than your unadorned story does.
How does Archetype Analysis work? Essentially Archetype Analysis postulates twelve archetypes, or types of personality, and has developed assessment (including self-assessment) tools that help people to understand which archetypes most represent the way they think, feel and behave now and then encourages people to look at how adopting on occasion or all the time other archetypes may help them make big strides in their lives.
The actual names of the archetypes have been developed over three decades of practical work by Dr Carol Pearson. The archetypes are not rigid; some people need to have other archetypes defined for them, but experience shows that the twelve are particularly useful.
A good way to be introduced to the archetypes is to look at how we might use them in our lives to confront or deal with a particular problem. The following account of the twelve archetypes shows the kind of thinking or approach in each of the different archetypes. I’m not implying that you will personally bring every archetype to bear in every situation (indeed, the problem is that in practice people are innately limited in which archetypes they bring to bear in situations), but rather that the array of archetypes presented in this way gives a clear idea of how they can help us in practice.
When we first encounter a problem we may at first not wish to look at the problem but prefer to feel optimistic that it will be all right. Viewing the problem in this way involves using the Innocent archetype. We may then become realistic about the outcome and may even ask for help (the Orphan archetype); we pull our resources together and develop a decisive and determined plan to sort it out (Warrior); as we implement our plan we ensure that others affected by the problem are okay and will be all right (Caregiver); we gather more information and see what is and can be different (Seeker); we make new commitments to change and re-build a relationship (Lover); we let go of any illusions we may have and false hopes (Destroyer); we come up with a new solution (Creator); we take responsibility for sorting it out (Ruler); and we change our thinking and behaviour to fit with our solution (Magician); we check what lesson we have learned (Sage) and finally start enjoying ourselves again (Jester) and trusting that everything will be all right (Innocent). We therefore, in fact, come full circle.
On the face of it, these archetypes may seem quite straightforward and unassuming. But what makes them so fascinating, powerful and useful is how adroitly they allow us to identify aspects of human personality and, in a fun, free, illuminating and inherently energising way, identify the dominant archetypes in our own make-up and explore the benefits we might gain by giving other archetypes a chance to come to the fore.
Archetypes also provide an extremely potent way of understanding the human personality. The stern, inflexible, businessmen of the nineteenth century were strong on Warrior - very likely too strong - but short on Caregiver and Jester, and positively terrified of Orphan: which would have involved them asking for help and admitting they didn’t know everything. In fact, the ironmasters even deployed Warrior in a negative way; being stern, nasty and indifferent to people’s feelings isn’t leadership.
Bill Gates, one of the most successful businesspeople of all time, freely admits that he recruits people who know more than he does. Many highly successful businesspeople today will admit this, which suggests that Orphan is a necessary element of the array of archetypes for people who want to create and run world-beating corporations.
Women are often ‘programmed’ by their upbringing (think of little girls pushing mini-prams containing baby dolls) to have Caregiver as their dominant archetype, which may be fine, but women who really want to make all they can of their lives may want to explore other archetypes, too. Men, too, may be programmed by society in much the same way: think of little boys playing with toy guns and swords.
To take another example: creative people are, by definition, usually high on Creator but may not be too good at getting properly paid for their work: they may need more Warrior. And very likely anyone who is too serious in their personal and professional life could benefit from being more of a Jester. As for poor old Scrooge, he started A Christmas Carol as a Warrior but by the end had been induced by his psychotherapist Dr. Dickens to sample pretty well every other archetype.
In business, billions of pounds are spent every year around the world on all types of management training and personal development that, essentially, encourage people to explore other aspects of themselves, or in the terminology of Archetype Analysis, other archetypes. The trouble is, if the Archetype Analysis is not explicit, it is far too easy, back in the usual working environment, to resume the old ways of thinking and doing things and to lapse back into the old archetype rut.
Instead, the powerful and thought-provoking technique of Archetype Analysis, implemented by a trainer with experience in the field, can be an extremely exciting and liberating intervention, helping you find yourself in the broadest sense, connecting you to every possible aspect of yourself and helping you achieve your full potential.
In classical mythology, heroes would make a journey through an Underworld where they would learn new wisdoms about themselves, and do and feel things they had never done before, so that when they emerged, they were liberated into a new state of individualism and a new state of being.
Today, many people who start to get involved with Archetype Analysis find that it encourages them to make their own Hero’s Journey and to emerge feeling completely and permanently enhanced in every respect, with their true potential unleashed and with the equipment they need to do everything with their life that they ever dreamed of doing.
This article was posted by Colleen Guy