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Jungian Archetypes

Updated on December 19, 2013

Jung, Freud, and Humanity

Jung was a voracious reader of all types of texts contributing to the wealth of human knowledge and wisdom. His father was rumored to be the illegitimate son of Goethe, the German Poet most well-known for writing, "Faust."

He was for many years a close friend of Sigmund Freud and cofounded with him and others the International Psychoanalytical Association of which he was President. As was the case with most of Freud's associates once he began to diverge from Freud's analytical model they became rather bitterly estranged.

Jung could be described as a student of humanity; a reader of Philosophy, Theology, Mysticism, History, and Anthropology. It was from these sundry endeavors to understand the human experience that one major component of his Analytical Psychology emerged, the Jungian Archetypes.

The Collective Unconscious

The Jungian “Collective Unconscious,” may be relegated mostly to those genetically inherited predispositions that have come to define us as a species. We have a tendency toward social behaviors, moral principles, and certain physiological responses because these things have been naturally selected for their survival value. Thus they are part of our Genetic birthright.

Because of the cohesiveness of our genetically ingrained dispositions we possess a kind of innate appreciation for the roles that personify both the extremes and the ideals of our shared humanity. We possess an alacrity to move toward the archetypal ideals contained within our shared genetic past. A species-wide appreciation for the diametrically opposed persona and shadow, for the contrasting anima and animus, and for the uniquely divergent qualities of the great mother, the wise old man, and the hero are constructs that we are predisposed to see as the best and worst aspects of our human condition. As such these archetypes and their inherent qualities color us in our individual strivings toward self-actualization and personality development.

The Archetypes

These are the archaic images that emerged from our ancestral past, the individual histories of which converged in many ways. These points of convergence, just like the need to eat and procreate, are genetically imprinted on our subconscious and assume the various forms described below, according to Jung;

Persona- This archetype is partially dictated to us from the expectations and norms within society. We also have a degree of choose in it, in so much as we have the freedom to choose our place within society. It is our public face that we think the world would like to see but it is by no means who we are in our entirety. We must recognize it just as we recognize our need for society and for other people. Psychological health depends on acknowledging all the parts of our selves, even the less desirable parts.

Shadow- The is the diametrically opposed archetype to the Persona. It is the morally objectionable elements of our personality that we would hide not only from society but also from ourselves. A denial of the shadow may lead to self-defeating behavior and discouragement. In facing our shadow we past a kind of test of courage in the pursuit of self-esteem.

Anima- Like Freud, Jung believed we all we defined by a bisexuality. The Anima is those feminine parts of ourselves that in our heterosexist culture men may deny even more strongly than our Shadow. Jung thought that the Anima grew out of our earliest experiences with women in our nuclear family. In later stages of adulthood most men more fully nurture this feminine element of themselves allowing themselves more experiences to ameliorate it's desires and more opportunities for expression.

Animus- This is the masculine counterpoint to the Anima, it is associated with reasoning and thinking where the Anima is associated with irrational moods and feeling. It is thought to arise from prehistoric encounters with men collectively and individually from early encounters with men particular to a specific woman's experience. The interplay of a man projecting his Anima onto a woman, and a woman projecting her Animus onto a man is a major drive in intimate relationships.

Great Mother- A further projection of the Anima is a conceptually opposing picture of the mother. On the one hand the mother can be nourishing but on the other hand she can also be neglectful. Jung wrote of the, "loving and terrible mother," which represents this opposition. Jung believed this conceptual framework derived less from our own experiences with our actual mothers and more from this hereditary archetype.

Wise Old Man- Also an extension of the masculine Animus, this archetype further represents the culmination of humanity's collective wisdom. As individuals we don't have perfect, or even decent, access to this wisdom. The knowledge represented by the Wise Old Man in it's transmission to a singular man may resemble shallow sophistry and hollow pontification.

Hero- This also represents a duality in that heroic deeds performed in the face of great odds are only truly heroic if the figure is vulnerable, and often in a trivial way such as in the case of Achilles. The hero represents the powerful struggle of good and evil and a freedom from our impotence as the hero prevails and presents us with an ideal personality for emulation.

Self- This is the tendency that we all feel toward self-actualization as described by Maslow. It was called Dasein by May and the formative tendency by Rogers. It is the meta-archetype in which the truly individual self is realized through an incorporation of the other archetypes. It is the aspect of our personalities that desires constant movement toward growth and perfection.

in Jungian theory, the self includes conscious and sub-conscious elements that are played out often in oppositions that result in a healthy balance, male versus female, good versus evil, light versus dark, productive versus destructive. When these balances are healthily achieved, a unity of self that is capable of full expression and self-reflective experience becomes attainable.


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