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Archetypes: Discovering Unconscious Patterns

"Why did I do that. again!?"
"Why do I keep ending up in the same situation?"
"Who is the perfect life partner for me?"
"What kind of job would I really like?"

At one time or another, we all ask ourselves questions like these.

Such questions are usually easier than their answers. We don't always know why we do what we do. In the stories of our lives, we often find ourselves in roles we didn't even realize we chose to play.

Psychologist Carl Jung, one of the great minds of the modern era, called these roles and characters archetypes. He proposed that people go through life drawing from a repertoire of instinctive roles: father, mother, child, lover, creator, warrior, caregiver, and an untold number of others. Jung claimed there are as many archetypes "as there are typical situations in life."

Each of us is capable of playing any one of these countless characters at any time in the stories of our lives. Yet, out of the countless archetypal roles available, each of us uses a select few more frequently than others. These are called our "dominant archetypes."

Often the characteristics of a dominant archetype fit a particular situation or challenge. But sometimes we're like the proverbial hammer that sees only nails, applying the same solution even when the situation demands a different approach. We're blind to other options lurking outside our usual attention, often operating unconsciously. In extreme cases, the resulting self-deception or lack of self-knowledge may be harmful—"there is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall a prey to" (Jung, 1959).

Archetype assessment: Becoming conscious of their influence

Identifying which archetypes are influential in our lives can thus lead us to self-discovery, self-awareness, growth, and self-actualization. Consciously choosing the right archetype for each chapter in our life story can create a more fulfilling, successful life, where we use our archetypes instead of being controlled by them.

The Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. (CAPT®) offers a scientifically validated assessment instrument, available online, that measures archetypes and brings their unconscious influence to our awareness:

  • The Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) assessment, created by Carol Pearson, Ph.D., and Hugh Marr, Ph.D., is designed for use by individuals. Personal reports show the relative influence of twelve archetypal patterns in your life. Awareness allows you to intentionally write your life story to be the best it can be. The accompanying workbook guides you in consciously deciding which archetypes to use, when to use them, and which to develop.

Psychological type and archetypes

In addition to his work on archetypes, Carl Jung is also famous for his "typology" of personality. His concept of "psychological type" became the basis for the world's most widely used personality assessment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, or MBTI® instrument.

For more information about the relationship and combined measurement of psychological type and archetypes, click here.