People often seek out a coach because they find that they are being derailed somewhere in their life or work or there is some goal that they are struggling to achieve. I specialize in identifying these stuck places and employing a variety of tools and techniques to help clients get out of the mire.
What I have found to be effective in navigating out of the stuck place is to name the problem and then look at it from a new perspective. The study of archetypal dynamics gives us a framework and a language for doing that.
What are archetypes?
Archetypes are ageless patterns that arise in life and art. C.G. Jung connected archetypes with the collective unconscious. As Jung explained it, “The archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes its color from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear.” (Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious) While archetypes are always exuding their influence over us, we can own the power of archetypes by bringing them into consciousness.
Remember the story of Rumpelstiltskin?
In this story, we find the maiden-in-peril. She is forced to spin straw into gold to fulfill boastful promises made by her father. Only the maiden does not know how to spin straw into gold and so she is rescued by Rumpelstiltskin who has the necessary skill. But Rumpelstiltskin asks for a high price: the maiden will have to give up her first-born child to him.
The maiden can only break the spell by uttering the man’s name, which he has kept jealously guarded secret. For two days, the maiden fails to guess the little man’s name. At last, her messenger delivers the news that he has discovered the name. When the maiden correctly guesses Rumpelstiltskin’s name, he flies into a rage and disintegrates.
Rumpelstiltskin provides a powerful metaphor for our work with the archetypes. When we name the archetypes, they lose the energetic bonds that have been controlling our behavior. We become liberated to act from a fresh, more informed perspective. We are no longer held under the sway of the archetype but have been freed to work collaboratively with the archetype, outside its grip.
Caroline Myss explains that “The inner guides are archetypes that have been with us since the dawn of time. We see them reflected in recurring images in art, literature, myth, and religion: and we know they are archetypal because they are found everywhere, in all times and places.” (Archetypes)
While the language of archetypes might be unfamiliar to you, the archetypes themselves are not. You see them regularly in stories of all kinds, the Rebel, the Good Girl, the Bad Cop, etc. We know them by their behavior and by the role they play in the story.
Some writers, like Caroline Myss and Carol Pearson, hypothesize that each of us is in league with an entire constellation of archetypes. If we don’t enter into conscious relationships with these forces, then they can exercise their influence over us unbidden.
Anytime you see repetition occurring in your life: in relationships, your work, your health, etc., it is likely the mark of an unconscious archetype asserting its will. The key to resolving the pattern of repetition is to recognize the archetype, speak its name, and develop a new relationship with it.
Archetypes and Coaching
The practice of coaching assumes a whole, healthy individual. The client is not coming from a place of deficit but rather from completeness. The client is looking for someone to hold the frame for them, to help them to identify places where they can soar to new heights, and to hold them accountable for taking the steps to get them to the places that they want to go.
A key way to achieve these results is to help clients see from a new perspective. This is where I find that archetypes can provide a powerful lens for looking at a problem in new ways. Myss states that “Archetypes are the psychic lenses through which we view ourselves and the world around us.” (Archetypes) When we become aware of the archetypes that are dominant in our lives, we learn how to take on a new perspective.
How can working with the archetypes benefit you?
- Eliminate repetitious behavior
Repetition, especially unwanted repetition, is almost always the sign of the archetypes. The archetypes represent an energy that seeks expression, and just like water tends to find a way in, energy will find a way out so that it can express itself. By honoring an archetype, you can channel its energy into more appropriate venues that help you establish a life of thriving.
- Identify parts of yourself that you are neglecting
While some archetypes may be over-asserting themselves, others may be lying dormant. An Archetypal Assessment can help you to identify those archetypes in your constellation that are not currently expressing themselves. By working with those energies, you may find new, untapped aspects of your Self. For example, a person who spends most of his professional energies engaged in the world of analytics may discover that he has a creative side which is longing to be nurtured. Honoring that archetype doesn’t necessarily mean taking up painting or photography, but might instead be profitability channeled into creating graphs and presentations at work that artfully tell the story behind the numbers that he is analyzing. People who have learned to express and nurture all their dominant archetypes are more fulfilled and productive.
- Learn how to better leverage your strengths
Once you understand your complement of archetypes, you can more consciously call on the appropriate archetype to come forward when the situation demands it. A great deal of comfort can come from knowing which archetypes you can call on at your time of need.
The fields of Coaching and Archetypal Dynamics compliment each other quite naturally and lend themselves to being paired together in client work.