“The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure—be it a daemon, a human being, or a process—that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed. Essentially, therefore, it is a mythological figure…In each of these images there is a little piece of human psychology and human fate, a remnant of the joys and sorrows that have been repeated countless times in our ancestral history…”

Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist most well-known for his theories of personal and collective unconscious and extraversion and introversion.

Jung believed that the human psyche, or the body, mind and soul, was made up of three parts—the ego, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. It’s the collective unconscious where the Jungian archetypes reside.

Let’s explore the Carl Jung archetypes in a modern context with a brief history of the collective unconscious.

  1. An Overview Of The Carl Jung Theory Of Archetypes

  2. The Four Carl Jung Archetypes

  3. Decode Your Personality

An Overview Of The Carl Jung Theory Of Archetypes

The Carl Jung theory of archetypes was a far cry from the ancient Greek concept of tabula rasa, which held that humans were born with a clean slate without any mental capacities or ideas. Instead, for Jung, ancestral memory became a primary theme.

Jung believed the human psyche comprised three components:

  1. The ego that reflects the conscious mind.

  2. The personal unconscious, which is unique to each of us. It contains suppressed memories.

  3. The collective unconscious that reflects shared memories with the whole of humanity. This is where ancestral memory comes into play.

According to Jung, the collective unconscious contains ancestral memory—imagery, symbols and themes that are hereditary. They shape our experiences, knowledge and perceptions. These fragments of memory comprise four main archetypes that make up the human personality. These four archetypes reflect human ambition, values, morals, beliefs and motivations.

The Four Carl Jung Archetypes

Carl Jung identified four main archetypes—the persona, the shadow, the anima or animus and the self. These are a result of collective, shared ancestral memories that may persist in art, literature and religion but aren’t obvious to the eye. These recurring themes help us understand the Jungian archetypes.

These Jungian archetypes represent a journey from an unconscious state to individuation—a merging of the conscious and the unconscious.

Here’s an analysis of the four Jungian archetypes with modern-day examples:

  1. The Persona

The Jungian persona defines the different masks we wear in a social context. Who we are with our family is different from who we are at work. Our persona takes different forms based on our culture, upbringing and general environment. The word ‘persona’ has been adopted by various groups. In literature, a persona refers to fictional characters and in marketing, a persona is the ideal user of an organization’s offerings. Social media has willed us to create different personas to appeal to different audiences. With its origin in theatrical masks, a persona reflects how we adapt to our surroundings—whether to fit in or protect ourselves.

  1. The Shadow

Jung believed that humans had a light side and a dark side. The dark side is what we choose to repress—this is our shadow. There are aspects of our personality we don’t appreciate or aren’t even aware of. They reside in our unconscious state—this was built on Sigmund Freud’s ‘unconscious mind’ based on repressed memories and thoughts realized in the form of automatic responses. Biases and prejudices stem from our shadow. They arise unconsciously, without warning. For example, in the workplace, we may think we’re better than most, unintentionally looking down on others.

  1. The Anima Or The Animus

Culture, upbringing and our experiences shape our perception of the world. Jung believed that these perceptions give way to the ideal man or woman within us. The anima or woman and the animus or man is a reflection of the opposite gender—the ideal. The anima represents femininity in a man’s psyche while the animus represents masculinity in a woman’s psyche. Society often forces us to suppress these opposing constructs. Some examples of the anima and animus are Eve from the Garden of Eden and Tarzan as the robust male archetype, respectively.

  1. The Self

The ego merges with the conscious and unconscious states to give rise to the self. The self is the whole representing Jungian individuation. Individuation is similar to individuality, in which each person is unique and there are no two personalities that are the same. Unique experiences throughout a person’s life lead to individuation. Respecting the individual, weighing each person’s strengths and weaknesses in isolation and customizing marketing efforts to suit individual users are a reflection of this.

The Jungian archetypes have faced their share of criticism from scholars and critics. But they’ve made an impact on modern-day professionals, business strategies and the entertainment industry.

Decode Your Personality

Although Carl Jung archetypes are present in the unconscious state, with deliberate effort and active measures, you can decode your personality and interpret who you are. To reach individuation or self-realization, you have to develop self-awareness. Harappa’s Interpreting Self course will help you understand your strengths, weaknesses, motivations, aspirations and goals. The River of Life exercise will teach you to reflect on life-shaping experiences to realize the self. You’ll learn to build better relationships, interpret your needs and improve as an individual. Start today and realize your full potential!


Explore Harappa Diaries for topics such as Leadership TheoriesAuthentic LeadershipTransformational Leadership and Transactional Leadership to advance in your career.

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