This article is meant to give a brief overview of Carl Jung’s 12-archetypes and why you shouldn’t rope this into a personality quiz that is used more about entertainment than a solid foundation for understanding how others see the world.
Before we dive into the fascinating world of archetypes. I want to outline what we are going to cover.
So what is an archetype and why should you care?
I think it’s best to share the exact words Carl Jung shared about archetypes, and build off that foundation to bring a deeper understanding of the principles for this intentional design.
“ Forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constituents of myths, and at the same time as individual products of unconscious origin.”
Archetypes are universal, archaic symbols and images that derive
from the collective unconscious, as proposed by Carl Jung.
They are the psychic counterpart of instinct. It is described as a kind of
innate, unspecific knowledge, derived from the sum total of human
history, which prefigures and directs conscious behaviour.
An archetype is a symbol, theme, setting, or character type that
recurs frequently throughout time and place in myth, literature,
folklore, rituals, and even our dreams that suggest an essential
element of “universal human experience.”
Jon Howard-Spink says it like this(my favourite definition)
“An archetype is a universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, gender, and age. It represents an eternal truth.”
A repeated pattern throughout history, the present and most certainly our future, and one we should pay attention to as it’s all around us whether we are conscious of this fact or not. Even the way it is structured follows a universal pattern we are very familiar with as well.
The structure of the 12-archetypes and why it matters.
As with many designs in life, the patterns have layers for more depth and Carl Jung’s 12-archetypes is no different.
Top-level: divided into four quadrants.
Middle-level: divided into 12 main archetypes
Lower-level: each archetype has five variants
This is an oversimplification as each level has its own layers and patterns that echo the world around us and the mechanics of this design.
In this simple, yet complex design contains our individual subconscious archetypes. This is our archetypal mix, but we’ll cover that later.
The four quadrants echo our directional or navigational motivations that we are most drawn to as individuals. These are the four main quadrants.
Spiritual Exploration - archetypes in this quadrant want to go deeper to discover hidden truths that bring a greater understanding to the world around them.
Leaving a Legacy - archetypes in this quadrant want to push the boundaries to really stand out, but not necessarily for any personal gain, but to be catalysts for change or progress.
Pursue Connection - archetypes in this quadrant want to build or create a human connection bringing out the best in each of us. They will use humour, beauty,c and community to draw this out of us.
Providing Structure - archetypes in this quadrant want to create and pave the way through originality and structure to allow others to follow as they nurture them to their full potential.
I will say this more than once… NONE of these archetypes are better than the other. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. The whole design is meant to work symbiotically. We need each other’s archetypal mix to be better as human beings.
Each archetype influences the way we interact with the world around us such as:
If that wasn’t complicated enough, then we have at least three levels to take each one of those to a deeper maturity.
We aren’t even done… Then take each archetype and add four variants to give us a more precise measure of what specifically motivates our subconscious to interact with the world around us.
So, let’s just look at the numbers and maybe this pattern will start to make itself known.
First, we have four.
So, we know that this is meant to guide us and let us know where we are in the design based on which quadrant we land in.
Then we have the number 12. There is so much we follow that has this numeric influence in whether spiritual or practical.
So, this tells us that the framework of the repeated pattern can be divided into 12 parts to make a whole.
Now, we finally have 60… wait… how did you get that number?
5 variants x 12 archetypes = 60
60 minutes… shall I continue with all the ways these numbers are in our lives all around us.
How many sets of 4, 12, and 60 do you interact with all around you and govern the design we are a part of at this moment?
I could go much deeper into the layers, but I think this is just a taste of the complex nature of archetypes and that it has a deeper intention of purpose.
I also think this adds to why there is so much confusion around archetypes. It didn’t help that Carl Jung spoke in a way that took longer to say what he needed and many of us may get lost in the vocabulary.
So, now you know the reason for the archetypal design by Carl Jung.
So what are the 12-archetypes… they have had many names throughout history, poetry, stories, and time.
I don’t use the original names that Carl Jung came up with. I tried to simplify the names the best way I could without causing any divisive discrimination or wanting one archetype to appeal more than the other. Which isn’t a very easy thing to do considering all the variables we need to consider.
The 12 archetypes I use are:
Now, even though the names changed, the meaning from the originals didn’t and the hope was to bring greater clarity and illumination to the power of archetypes.
So, why is my archetypal mix so important to help my brand grow?
Archetypes are the lens you see the world through that influence your communication style, tone, motivations and so much more. The Operating System, your OS that came pre-installed the minute you came to be. It’s the unconscious or subconscious that influences your behaviour.
Another great mind, Gerald Zatman, a Harvard Professor, said:
“95% of our purchasing decisions are subconscious.”
So, if this is true… Why aren’t we leveraging the power of archetypes for our brand?
If we can tap into the intrinsic triggers of our audience and even ourselves just imagine how much of an authentic brand we could build?
What we are known for and what we want to be known for… would be one and the same. Which is the very definition of authenticity.
You wouldn’t have an issue standing out as you would be following your archetypal mix for you and your brand.
Now, before I go any further, let me explain what your archetypal mix is and why you should care.
Your archetypal mix is the percentage of archetypes that make up your subconscious, but you have usually two that stand out more than the rest. Keyword, usually. In the 20+ years studying this and other related topics sometimes a third one shows up, but follows the second one. Back to the equation of our archetypal mix.
Intrinsic/Inherent - The one you are born with initially
Environmental/Learned - Learned and nurtured based on your environment of upbringing. I also believe based on data that this may exist, but be dormant until triggered.
So now that we have a basic understanding of what an archetypal mix is, let’s use mine to help demonstrate why this is so key to growing your brand authentically.
As a Magician (Variant - Alchemist)/Outlaw (Variant - Reformer), I am drawn to seeing the process of transformation all around me and challenging for change or progress.
Everything I do is aligned with this both brand-wise and personally.
My intrinsic archetype is Magician, while my fostered environmental outcome is Outlaw.
This is because I have always been drawn to know the “why”, and the way I think or approach problem solving is very different from others.
As a result, I was rejected and outcasted by traditional systems of learning even if I came to the solution faster and more efficiently.
I learned that I am the “outcast” or black sheep in most circles.
At first, I didn’t embrace this… I wanted to be accepted, so I compromised who I was and became what everyone wanted me to be, but I could only keep this facade for so long.
I know I am a catalyst of change here to disrupt, transforming the world around us to a better tomorrow.
See the power of the archetypal mix? I no longer have a crisis of identity. I know who I am personally and I know my purpose, value, and where I belong in this crazy world. I now know the building blocks or formulas that can bring about infinite possibilities. This is also true for my brand.
Imagine… if you started to see the world through the prescription lenses that were designed for you. You would have that much more clarity in how to engage with the world around you and attract those similar and different to your brand. The audience that is most aligned with your brand.
You wouldn’t have to guess what direction you should go as you have an archetypal compass pointing you in the right direction, but how you approach that creatively is part of the journey.
Take Ryan Reynolds, I would guess that he is a Jester/Outlaw. He loves to bring joy through humour while disrupting the status quo.
Elon Musk, who makes complete sense to me with all his decisions and brands he creates… I would guess Elon is a Magician/Outlaw & architect. He disrupts for progress while challenging stagnate industry categories to evolve technologically. He uses the same formula each time. It’s quite genius, and while that may be his formula and we may be similar, mine is different.
That is the amazing world of archetypes, we can have a similar archetypal mix, but our approach to the problem creatively will be different given all the variables we have to consider to get our outcome.
You can stand out with your brand, with your industry. Just by how your archetypal mix affects the way you see the world.
I know this was a lot to take in, and you may want time to process this information, but in the meantime, we created you a FREE Archetype Alignment Quiz for your brand, a community to join for support, and an Archetype Alignment Guide (FREE download when you join the brand alignment community) that really will help your brand grow and align with the right path for you.