The 4 Major Jungian Archetypes

4 min


The concept of archetypes was conceived of by the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung. He believed that they were inborn tendencies that influence human behavior and personalities.

The Origin Of Archetypes

To understand the archetypes, it helps to learn more about Jung’s ideas about the human psyche. He believed that the human psyche had three components: the Ego, the Personal Unconscious, and the Collective Unconscious.

According to Jung, the conscious mind is represented by the Ego, the Personal Unconscious contains memories and the Collective Unconscious contains all the knowledge and experiences we share as a species.

He considered the Collective Unconscious to be a form of ‘psychological inheritance’, similar to how we all ‘inherited’ the same instincts, people also inherited unconscious models, or archetypes, that form a basic idea of what it means to be human.

Jung also believed that the archetypes existed in the collective unconscious, aiding us by organizing how we experienced things.

With this brief review of Jung’s ideas, we are now ready to talk about the 4 major archetypes that he identified, although Jung suggested that there may be no limit to how many actually exist.

1. The Persona

The word “persona” originally meant “mask” in Latin. In Jungian terms, the Persona is how we present ourselves to society. Since there are various social groups and situations, there are also a variety of different social masks that we wear. The masks we wear act as a shield to protect the ego, almost like a safety measure before we truly open up to others.

As children age, they gradually learn that they are required to behave in certain ways in order to fit in and be accepted by society, which is where the Persona comes in. However, it’s important to look at the Persona as a useful adaptive tool and not a way of operating because being consumed by it can have negative consequences.

Even though it helps keep primitive urges, emotions and impulses under control, the Persona also keeps our true selves at bay as a result.

People who are consumed by the Persona may seem superficial and fake. In severe cases, people can completely lose sight of who they really are.

2. The Shadow

The Shadow can be seen as the dark side of one’s personality. It’s is considered to be generally negative, since it contains the rejected parts of oneself, or even the negative aspects that the individual is unaware of.

Even favorable traits can exist in the Shadow, especially in people with insecurities and false beliefs. That is why some people can mistake their positive qualities for negatives ones.

According to Carl Jung, the primitive and irrational nature of the Shadow is prone to psychological projection, where one projects what they perceive to be negative traits in themselves unto others.

Jordan B. Peterson, a Canadian psychology professor and an admirer of Jung, says that one can not truly be good unless they integrate their shadow side into their personality.

Peterson believed that people who are harmless are not good by nature, but rather that they had no other way of operating. To be truly good one had to acquire the ability to be evil, and then choose not to.

3. The Anima/Animus

Anima is the feminine image in the male psyche while the Animus is the masculine image in the female psyche. The images are dependent on both what exists in the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.

For example, the collective unconscious can contain ideas of how woman should behave and the personal unconscious would contain more personalized images of women which are influenced by personal experiences with females.

Exploring the Anima and Animus, Jung believed, was important for psychological development. Unfortunately, in many cultures both sexes are encouraged to embody rigid gender roles. Jung also believed that the Anima/Animus represented the “true self” as opposed to the self we show to others and that it was the main source of communication with the collective unconscious.

Jung considered the psyche to be androgynous (both male and female) and the formation of these two archetypes was a way for the psyche to compensate. He also believed that the Animus was the ‘rational’ side of women, and that the Anima was the ‘irrational’ part of men.

This kind of thinking is outdated today, and although this belief might stem from the fact that women typically tend to be higher in Neuroticism and Agreeableness than men, it does reveal something about Jung himself…

A Theory About The Origin Of The Animus

At an early age, Jung concluded that his mother was ‘unreliable’ for several reasons. Whether this is true or not, it is possible that classifying the Animus as the ‘rational’ side of women and the Anima as ‘irrational’ might be a result of him using his own personal experiences with his mother (and possibly other females) to shape his theory.

In a way, Jung exposes his own bias (his own image of women, or his own Anima, applied as a generalization) while simultaneously proving his theory.

4. The Self

This archetype represents an individual’s unified consciousness and unconsciousness. Jung believed that an individual realizes the Self through a process called individuation, which is the process of integrating one’s personality. This process is identical to Maslow’s idea of self-actualization.

Someone who is self-realized feels ‘whole’, and to feel whole one needs to accept all parts of themselves, including the shadow self as Peterson suggested. But this also includes the masculine and feminine parts of us (among other things) if we wish to avoid being fragmented.

We hope you gained something from reading this article. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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