Archetypal psychology

Far-Seeing Sage
On this page I'm going to get into "archetypal psychology," a branch of Jungian psychology that uses Greek gods and goddesses to create a personality typing system that appears to have deep roots in our psyches.

What is it about archetypes that frees the energies that keep us trapped, endlessly reliving the same tired scripts we hate, and why/how they help us instead unlock the energy and power of the inner divine. I've tried many, many, methods of self growth - the Ennagram, inner child work, Wiccan rituals, Jungian analysis, even just going out into the world and letting my actions change my nature (which is actually pretty effective) - and nothing has had as much immediate impact as working with archetypes has. Although since first diving back into this kind of work I've begun focusing on other areas, it was archetypal psychology that was the initial trigger that released all that blocked energy. Perhaps for you it will be something else but regardless, I believe knowing your archetype, and working with it, can help anyone who wants to do depth psychology/spiritual work.

Why archetypes?

Working with archetypes is incredibly powerful. It’s almost as if, by being seen, they stop feeling compelled to get our attention by erupting in symptoms; instead, they can have us get down to the work of expressing their divine gifts. That doesn't mean it gets easy. It just means you can stop endlessly spinning your wheels in one place and finally get moving.

And they're not just for personal growth - I've also found that knowing about archetypes helped me in my relationships. Not only do archetypes let you understand why other people are compelled to do the things they do, you also know what they could be if they could be their best selves. I found myself having more compassion for others when I understood their archetype and what they were up against. Like with other personality typing systems, archetypes help you to not take the things people do personally... and also manage your relationships, instead of yourself being managed by them. You come to see how we're all on our own journey.

Why Greek archetypes?

I'm not sure, but I suspect it's because they are at the foundation of our Western culture. There's a reason "Western" history starts with the Greeks - our culture and philosophy descends directly from them, through the Romans, to Western Europe and from there out to the rest of the world. Probably other cultures archetypes are from their mythology - people in countries influenced by China will have Chinese archetypes, those influenced by India, Indian archetypes, etc. Maybe countries with multiple influences - like in Latin America, with it's rich mix of European, African and Native American cultures - may have mixed archetypes. But in America (and other countries with European influenced cultures), we are the intellectual and spiritual descendants of the Greeks, and as such, those mythological figures are the most resonant for us.

How to work with archetypes

My own personal way of working with archetypes, besides using dreams and tarot, is to have actual conversations with them. Jung called this "active imagination" and it's a meditation technique that's similar to fantasizing but much more intense. The important thing is to not let your attention just drift aimlessly, but at the same time to not let your conscious mind direct your thoughts, as if you were writing a screenplay. Rather, let the screenplay write itself. Or, perhaps more accurately, let the characters speak and just write it down.

Start with one or more of your archetypes. Or take a person from one of your dreams, or a figure that's been popping up in your mind, or your shadow or animus. Have a conversation with the figure. Or let the different parts talk with each other. The important thing is to let the action unfold on it's own. You'll be amazed at the epiphanies that you experience when your ego gets out of the way of your other parts.

Related posts on using the archetypes

Working with archetypes
How do archetypes heal us?
Two ways of looking at archetypes
Wrestling with angels
What to do when you're feeling blocked

Once again, all credit goes to Nancy of Goddess Power and and James Rioux of the American Tarot Association for their brilliant and insightful work. I seriously doubt I could have been able to work through the archetypes as quickly if it wasn't for them. Truly, I stand on the shoulders of giants.

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