Determining Your Archetypes
In “Sacred Contracts”, I provide an extensive series of questions to help you determine which archetypes are part of your intimate support group. Here I’ll provide you with a few basic questions that you can use to begin determining which of the many archetypal patterns may be connected with you. You can begin by looking through the list of archetypes included here. (A much more detailed explanation of each of these archetypes appears at the end of “Sacred Contracts,” along with examples drawn from popular films, fiction, mythology, and religion.) Remember that we each have the Child, Victim, Saboteur, and Prostitute, so you will need to select only eight more to fill out your circle.
A Partial Listing of Archetypes
Click here for a detailed description of over 70 archetypes, including most of those in the above list.
Some of the archetypes in the list will jump out at you as if to say, “You know me! I’ve been part of your life ever since you can remember.” It could be an archetype that is aligned with your occupation — for example, the Politician, Craftsperson, Athlete, Teacher, Scholar, or Judge. It might also be an important characteristic that defines your nature apart from your work, as the Monk or Nun (assuming you’re not actually under holy orders), the Poet, Lover, Rebel, and so forth. But then you will have to dig a little deeper. Some archetypes that you may feel drawn to, like the Mystic, Visionary, or Healer, may be largely a matter of wishful thinking. Many of my students like to see themselves as Mystics, for instance. But I ask them to take a serious look within and determine whether the hard work and sacrifice that go with that identity have been a part of their life for many years. Some people like to be mystics during their summer retreat, or on the weekend, or for half an hour every morning, and that’s great. But to include an archetype in your intimate family of 12, you need to be able to trace its life-long influence on you.
Inevitably, you will need to include some archetypes that, like the Prostitute and Saboteur that we all share, may at first seem unpleasant or negative. Perhaps the Fool, Robot, Martyr, Servant, Sadist, or Puppet is part of your make-up. Remember that these are not necessarily negative archetypes; only your interpretation is negative. They ultimately help you avoid the shadow aspect implicit in their name. To some people, the Judge may seem like a negative archetype, implying a judgmental nature and maybe a cruel or imperious streak. But this archetype can be essential in making a wide range of informed decisions in areas as different as business and art. One day it might even save your life.
So, after you’ve assembled a group of at least eight archetypes that you feel drawn to, begin by asking a few simple questions. If you like, you can imagine each archetype sitting in a chair across from you, and ask the questions directly to the archetype. You can even write a letter to the archetype if you find that more agreeable, asking the same questions in writing. Allow the archetype to respond, the answers coming from the deepest levels of your own intuition. Or simply ask yourself, and wait for the answer to come to you. Here are some sample questions:
- What events or personal characteristics led me to choose this archetype?
- How long has this archetypal pattern been a part of my life?
- What role has this archetype played for me?
- Which prominent people have interacted with the aspect of my nature supported by this archetype? (For instance, if it’s the Teacher archetype, think of the people who have played important roles in your own education or inspired you to be a teacher to others.)
- What relationship might it have to my personal unfinished business – to those people I haven’t forgiven, or to events in the past that I can’t let go of? And might this archetype now help me in healing those situations?
- What myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for me do I associate with this archetype?
- Has this archetype appeared in my dreams?
- Does thinking of this archetype make me feel empowered or disempowered?
You should also look for spiritual resonance in your archetypes. Ask yourself:
- What impact has this archetype had on my spirituality?
- What have I learned about my own shadow aspect through this archetype?
- Has it caused me to block or forgo change that needs to happen?
- What immediate guidance might this archetype have to offer me in the present moment?
After questioning each prospective archetype, weed out those that are not genuinely part of your intimate support team, and then return to the list to select replacements. Continue this process until you have eight archetypes that you feel confident play a major role in your life. Combined with the four survival archetypes, you now have your 12.
You are now ready to begin working with your Archetypal Wheel.