Jung’s archetypes are part of an extraordinary work that had important consequences in our way of seeing and appreciating the symbolism of each culture. The famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, wanted to explain what he called the collective unconscious , and based on this idea he developed his research, which continues to gain strength even today.
Through psychoanalysis we have acquired such important concepts as conscious and unconscious. One of the most important and representative figures of this psychological approach is undoubtedly that of Sigmund Freud, who worked and transmitted all his teachings to Carl Gustav Jung, who finally separated from his teacher to embark on his own path, taking his own further investigations; transporting psychoanalysis to the heritage of our ancestors .
Trying to give an explanation to a series of behaviors that Jung believed innate in the human being, he made an in- depth study of different cultures , analyzing their customs and traditions. To do this, he had to analyze the symbology present in religions, legends and myths, which have passed throughout history and have remained until today. This is how he developed his great work, which he named archetypes.
In this article we will define Jung’s archetypes for a better understanding. We will see their characteristics, what they represent, and what are the different types that exist.
What are Jungian archetypes?
Jungian archetypes or also called Jungian archetypes , represent archetypal images, which are those that have a special correlation with universal motifs, repeating themselves in different cultures. These images or ancestral symbolic representations correspond to mythology, religions, fantasies and legends that have been transmitted from generation to generation.
The archetypes also have the function of representing our most basic biological instincts, being represented by symbolic images, being understood through spirituality.
“It is natural for my mind to constantly turn to the question of the relationship between the symbolism of the unconscious and Christianity, as well as other religions. Not only do I leave the door open for the Christian message, but I consider it to be of vital importance to Western man. It is necessary, however, that it be seen in a new light, in accordance with the changes produced by the contemporary spirit. ” (Carl Gustav Jung)
These symbols that have lasted through time to send us important universal ancestral messages, Jung speaks that these are symbols that represent the collective unconscious .
What is the collective unconscious?
The collective unconscious is a concept proper to Jung, who used it to explain the existence of something common to all human beings who have passed through the earth. Jung’s idea is that through these symbolic representations that belong to all cultures in one way or another, the content of the psyche is expressed, our natural essence that is beyond reason and cannot be explained through from the field of psychology since it is part of spirituality and the transcendental.
Symbols are called by Jung as images that represent something more than their immediate meaning. Although these symbols cannot be defined with full objectivity, we can find messages that have been transmitted by different cultures. This is why Jung kept a great interest in delving into mythology and religion where most of the symbolic representations common to all cultures are found.
Characteristics of Jung’s archetypes
One of the main characteristics of the archetypes proposed by Jung is that they are loaded with a symbolism that allows us to know the memories and experiences of our most distant ancestors. Taking this into account, Jung transmits to us the fact that we do not live isolated from the rest of society , the cultural context is something that influences us in a deep and intimate way, not only the current and contemporary context, but also the historical context of ancient societies.
These schemes developed in the form of thoughts and experiences of what would be the “universal wisdom” we would have inherited as part of our collective unconscious. But, to what extent does this influence us in our daily reality? When we put the focus on the individual, the archetypes have the characteristic of becoming emotional and experiential patterns that are part of our unconscious , providing us with an internal meaning of the sensations, perceptions and images that we process automatically, without us being aware of it.
Jung had both personal and professional experiences of this kind . Already in his patients with schizophrenia he was able to deepen more about the meaning of archetypes, through dreams and the symbolic manifestations that they claimed to remember, of symbols that they had never seen, nor knew anything about them, that nevertheless appeared in their minds under states of psychosis. When Jung analyzed the images that his patients described to them, he found that they were ancient symbols that contained very significant messages. With these messages that his patients reproduced, Jung detected internal conflicts between the unconscious and the reality of the individual, which were manifested through complexes.
In all cultures a series of common symbols and myths have been presented, this for Jung has a special meaning and associates it with the fact that all known human societies share an emotional and cognitive base , regardless of the ideas, thoughts and experiences of their own. each individual that he brings with him from birth. The archetypes would demonstrate that there is a collective unconscious that influences us and that it also interacts with our personal and individual unconscious.
Types of Jungian archetypes
As we have verified for Jung, the archetypes were closely related to the brain structure itself, establishing that they condition us in our thought patterns and even how we perceive reality.
The types of archetypes house a large number of mental representations that are inscribed in our psychic structure . For Jung there are a series of archetypes considered the main ones.
Jung, in his book “Man and his symbols” expresses the following to take into account before starting with the types of archetypes that exist: “It is essential to insist that they are not mere philosophical concepts. They are pieces of life itself –images that are integrally connected to the individual through the bridge of emotions- «It is not a question, then, of inherited representations, but of possibilities inherited from representations. They are not individual inheritances either, but, essentially, general, as can be seen as archetypes are a universal phenomenon ”.
In Jung’s research on some archetypes considered as main, he was based on experiences where they are best represented, in which the archetypes communicate more clearly through our unconscious . For this, it is based on dreams, the symbolism that is repeated in artists, painting, sculpture and creative experiences of all times. Also in experiences in which the collective unconscious is more clearly expressed, as in the experiences of love at first sight, the meaning of some myths, and the spiritual experiences that occur in each of the religions, along with fantasies, literature, tales of heroes and fairies, etc.
Another experience that Jung considers interesting to study these archetypes is that of people who have experienced near death experiences . Since many people; from different cultures from different parts of the world, live very similar situations when going through this experience, as Jung could see.
This archetype is related to our unconscious part of the personality. It symbolizes everything that we do not want to see about ourselves, either because it is socially censored, it is morally reprehensible or because it is part of our most intimate part that we do not want to share. We want it to remain secret even from our own conscience. It also has to do with the psychic elements that our conscious personality rejects, thus being our antagonist of the conscious self.
It symbolizes all our repression in the face of what we refuse to accept about ourselves. However, the shadow is part of us and cannot be destroyed. It is our side that we must accept so as not to manifest it through extreme behaviors that we use as compensation.
“The scariest thing is to accept yourself completely.” Carl Gustav Jung
Anima and anima
The Anima would come to represent everything masculine (logos) in the feminine personality, while the anima (eros) would be the feminine representation in the mind of man. For Jung, all people are bisexual, our gender is determined by sex, the product of hormonal influence. It considers that we are neither feminine nor masculine by nature but that it is the social influence and the context that determine us.
There are expectations about what is expected of a man and of a woman, which makes us only develop half of our potential . The animus and the anima would represent our unconscious part of the other sex that has been socially repressed.
This archetype is also related to our love life, it is considered that when we fall in love at first sight we are projecting our anima or animus archetype, as appropriate, on the other person.
This archetype, that of the person, symbolizes our public image. This word comes from the Latin that means “mask” in relation to our personality as well. The person would thus represent the mask that we put on to pretend what interests us in the external world. We take on this mask little by little until it becomes part of our personality. This part of us would be removed from our essence that is in our collective unconscious.
Each society, depending on the context in which we live, has certain implicit and explicit demands . On the best side of the archetype, we try to give an appearance that corresponds to the good impression. Although at its worst we distance ourselves from our own nature.
The mother archetype is made up of images and behaviors that are typical of motherhood. It represents the source from which all symbolism derives. Symbols such as the sea, the city, the moon, the uterus, and everything related to sowing and procreation have been aspects related to motherhood as our ancestors have experienced it.
He presents himself as an authority figure , who is offered as a guide for us to learn from his example, he is the one who teaches us how we should live. Its function is to protect us from the external world, unlike the mother who protects us from our internal world.
It represents an ignorant figure who fights against the shadow , trying to keep at bay everything that is considered in the social context as unworthy or morally reprehensible. At no time does this character who represents the archetype stop to reflect on what he is really fighting.
It is this archetypal figure that sheds light on the hero’s path . It usually appears under the figure of an old man and / or a magician. He uses his knowledge, which he has acquired from people and the world, telling stories and guiding whoever needs it.
This symbol that we can easily appreciate in different religions and cultures in the form of a circle with different shapes and drawings inside that go from the inside out, has a special meaning for Jung, considering that it is an expression of the collective unconscious . The center of the mandala would represent the self trying to perfect its individuation process. One of its symbolic representations would also be that of the harmony of opposites, such as yin and yang, forming an integration of the totality that represents the soul of the universe and the whole of humanity.
These would be some of the main archetypes of Jung . It should be noted that in all of them there are two opposite poles in their light and their shadow. The famous Swiss psychoanalyst began to write down all his dreams, fantasies and visions at the beginning of the First World War, between 1914 and 1930. All his representations were drawn and sculpted, until everything was compiled in his book “Red Book”, although he considered it as a central work of his work, he did not publish it. In fact, “Jung’s Red Book” wasn’t published until recently in 2009.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.