Archetypes vary greatly through different cultures many of which overlap. As these archetypes are used symbolically to helps us make sense of the world, they can be found in all forms of human expression: art, drama, literature, etc.
The nature of archetypes is such that they are easily recognisable so that we can easily attach emotional meaning. As mentioned in my previous post on Carl Jung, they can be associated with a multitude of behavioural and emotional patterns. However, some archetypes are far more recognisable than others. As a paradigm, the Wise Old Woman, the Great Mother and the Hero. One of the most important archetype is, however, less known. Jung describes it as the Persona and was something he identified early in his own life. He recognised it as his “tendency to share only a certain part of his personality with the outside world.” As he grew older and more observant, Jung began to recognise this characteristic in all other humans, noting that people have a natural tendency to split their personalities into components, which we selectively share “according to environment and situation.” The component of our self that we share with the world is the Persona. In contrast to the Persona, the Shadow is the part of our psyche that we wish to hide from the world. The Shadow represents our secrets and the shameful aspects of our personality. Paradigms of the shadow archetype in human expression includes the Devil in the Bible and Hyde in the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Hyde. The Shadow appears to be our bad side; however, it can also symbolises the aspects of our personality we find shameful or choose to surpress because they seem inappropriate in a particular situation. The most important archetype of all is the True Self which personifies our “central, organising archetype that attempts to harmonise all other aspects into a unified, self.” Jung stresses the importance of the True Self archetype because he believed that the goal of human existence is “self-realisation.” Self-realistation, as described by Jung, is the “advanced, enlightened psychological state.”
Furthermore, Jung believed that our self is composed of both masculine and feminine parts, which becomes molded into a fully male or female form by society and biology. As we become male or female, we “turn our backs on half of our potential.” Through an archetype, however, we are able to access the other part of our self. The masculine component of the female personality exists as the Animus and the female component of the male personality as the Anima. We lose site of our counterpart personality as we age; however, these components of ourself allows us to “understand the nature of the opposite sex.” Also, as the Anima and Animus are archetypes, they allows us each to inherit the “traditional ideas of masculine and feminine” from past generations.
In our society and culture, the Animus is represented as the real man: muscular, commanding, logical, the solider and romantic seducer. The Anima is represented as the virgin: the nymph, close to nature, the seductress, spontaneous and intuitive. The female archetype can be seen in several examples of human expression as Helen of Troy in the Iliad and Eve in the Bible. Marilyn Monroe is an excellent representation of the stereotypical Anima. As all other archetypes, the Anima and Animus exist as part of our unconscious and thus also affect our moods and reactions subconsciously. According to Jung, the Anima manifests itself as “prophetic statements” and the Animus as “unbending rationality.”
Archetypes play a key role in the dream interpretation involved in psychoanalysis. Jung firmly believed that dreams are the “dialogue between the conscious self, the eternal ego and the collective unconscious. Archetypes allow psychoanalysts to decipher this dialogue. In dreams, each archetype holds a specific meaning, like a symbol or metaphor would in literature. As a paradigm, the archetype of the Wise Old Woman can appear as a parent, teacher or leader and symbolises someone trying to offer guidance and direction. Likewise, the Great Mother appearing as our mother or grandmother symbolises reassurance and comfort. Furthermore, the Trickster can appear in a dream as an “ego check,” preventing the dreamer from becoming too big headed in light of success.
Collin, Catherine. The Psychology Book. New York: DK Pub., 2012. Print.