Anyone who has ever sought to change themselves has encountered the advice: “Know thyself.” It is perennial wisdom, espoused by the likes of Socrates, Shakespeare, Jung, and Pythagoras. In pursuit of that esteemed inner self-knowledge, people frequently turn to personality assessments and similar instruments: Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, Gene Keys, astrology. But what about the archetypes?
A study of one’s archetypes represents one of the most potent tools available for self-understanding. The archetypes are structures of energy that exist in the collective unconscious. Like a magnet pulls together metal filings, an archetype pools certain behavior into a recognizable constellation. You already know many of them: The Starving Artist, the Bully, the Fool, the Wicked Stepmother.
When you Google the topic, many blogs and writers will imply there is a set number of them (e.g., 12 Brand Archetypes). That’s not even kind of true. There are thousands.
The Greeks organized their lives around archetypes, which they saw embodied in their gods and goddesses.
When a person experienced an emotion, they were said to be possessed by the relevant deity. An angered person wasn’t so much mad as they were possessed by Ares. It was Ares who made the man strike his wife. Ares overcame the woman when she lashed out at the vendor.
According to Caroline Myss, a personal group of twelve archetypes accompanies each of us on our life’s journey. (More, actually, but we’ll just start with the twelve archetypes of the natal chart). We have eight unique archetypes and another four that we all share (the survival archetypes). Each archetype has two sets of traits that characterize them: The Light attributes and the Shadow attributes. Shadow, here, mostly refers to that which lingers in darkness, that which is unconscious. It turns out that archetypes have a bit of a needy, childish aspect. They want to be acknowledged and honored, much like the Greek pantheon. They get upset and act out if they are ignored.
Here’s an example.
What follows is an excerpt from a reading that I did for a client whose Prostitute fell into the Seventh House. Part of the reading involves casting the archetypes into the house of the Zodiac:
Prostitute in the Seventh House
With the Prostitute in the Seventh House, the individual will face many opportunities to choose faith in herself and her own capabilities to provide safety and security for herself in one-to-one relationships. For example, in the relationship with a significant other, this individual, when expressing the Light aspect of the archetype, will be able to stand in integrity. She will not sacrifice what is right for her and in her long-term best interests in order to achieve some short-term security. This trait will be present in relationships with clients, enemies, and even in her relationship with her inner partner. She will possess a powerful radar system that alerts her when she is at risk for making unhealthy compromises with another, for example agreeing to a lower price from a client in exchange for more steady work.
The Shadow Prostitute is a sell-out. She will grab that easy money rather than stand the ground she established with the higher price. In this way, she sells herself short. The Shadow Prostitute is at risk of entering a relationship with the significant other where the partner controls all the money. She will lose her integrity to the control of that partner. She will have a tough time truly cooperating with others, often finding herself on the short end of the stick where she is always the one to compromise her standards to meet the other’s whims.
As one of the survival archetypes, it is the Prostitute’s job to alert us whenever we are at risk of these kinds of sell-outs. She will get angry and noisy as the individual steps toward compromise.
When faced with a choice, stand your ground, have faith in your inner strength, refuse to be seduced.
You can see how an individual can gain great insight into their behavior through an examination of their archetypes. Here, the client has the opportunity to reflect on whether she shows a faith in herself through her actions.
The Prostitute might seem like a surprising archetype for someone to choose. Actually, Myss includes this as one of the required survival archetypes. Everyone has a Prostitute that guides them. While the name has negative connotations, in fact, all archetypes are neutral energies. The Light aspect of the Prostitute helps us understand our value and gives us the strength to have faith in ourselves. In the Shadow, our fear of scarcity will allow the other side of the Prostitute to emerge (the aspect commonly thought of when you hear that name). When this occurs, we sell ourselves out.
We all share the Prostitute in our archetypal constellation. Where are you at risk of selling yourself out in exchange for being secure? Where are you playing it safe and small and what is it costing you?
What Your Prostitute Says About You
The archetypes are all about awareness. The Prostitute, for example, highlights the importance of having faith in ourselves. If we ignore her message, if we become unconscious, the Shadow aspect will emerge, and we will compromise ourselves in order to secure our safety.
The archetypes speak to the patterns that are dominant in our lives. Identifying your archetypes can help you understand why you do the things that you do, why you are attracted to the things that interest you, and where to direct your energy when you are feeling stuck or derailed.
I’m Dr. Kira Swanson and I’m a Life Coach for people who dread Monday. I work with senior leaders who feel unfulfilled in their work. Together, we tune into what they really want, find new perspectives, and summon the courage to take bold action. Whether it’s striking out on their own, landing in a new job, or thriving right where they are, I help my clients to Love Monday.
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