What Are the Jungian Archetypes?

Carl Jung was a psychiatrist who introduced the concept of archetypes. He suggested that archetypes were inborn tendencies that play a role in influencing one's behavior. In Jungian psychology, the archetypes represent patterns that are part of the collective unconscious (the processes in the mind which occur automatically and include thought processes, memories, interests, and motivations). He said that we inherit these archetypes, just like we inherit patterns of behavior.

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Jung identified four major archetypes, but believed there was no limit to the number that may exist. 


1) The Persona

Over the course of development, we learn social constraints, such as how we should act in certain ways to fit in. The persona is how we present ourselves to the world. It allows us to adapt to society. Be careful though, becoming too closely identified with this archetype can lead you to lose a sense of your true self.

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2) The Shadow

The shadow consists of our repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings. It contains all things that may not be acceptable to society and our own moral values. This can include: envy, greed, hate, and aggression. It is said that the shadow can appear in dreams and generally take the forms of snakes, monsters, demons, dragons, or other dark figures.

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3) The Anima or Animus

The anima is a feminine image for males and the animus is a masculine image for females. Jung believed that social influences contributed to the development of sex roles and gender identities. He thought that the discouragement of men to explore their feminine aspects and women to explore their masculine aspects undermines psychological development.

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4) The Self

The self represents the unified psyche as a whole, with the unconscious and conscious unified. He suggested that our personalities encompass the ego (the realistic part that mediates between your natural desires and moral conscious) and the unconscious mind. He felt that the ultimate aim was for one to achieve a sense of cohesive self.

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Please Note

Less people discuss Jung’s ideas because his work is generally seen as mystical or pseudoscientific. The archetypes are usually studied more as a historical artifact than a major contribution to the science of the mind and behavior.