15 Jungian Archetypes: Examples and Overview

➡️Video Overview
➡️Introduction

Jungian archetypes are innate patterns of thought in human experiences that are passed through generations. According to Jung, there are several archetypes, each one representing a specific situation that prescribes how humans act and feel.

According to Jungian theory, this is one reason why a certain situation is experienced in remarkably similar ways by people that come from vastly different backgrounds and cultures throughout history.

Archetypes form the basic structure of the collective unconscious that has existed in human beings forever.

Because they are universal, archetypes can be observed in all cultures, religious systems, dreams, mythologies, and even fairy tales.

➡️Origins of Jungian Archetypes and Collective Unconscious

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychologist (1875-1961) that developed the concept of archetypes and the collective unconscious.

His ideas regarding archetypes and the collective unconscious stemmed from a variety of sources.

In addition to being influenced by Sigmund Freud, he also developed his theory based on the analysis of his own recurring dreams and his work with psychiatric patients.

Jung believed that archetypes formed the foundation for the human experience, but that they were expressed in unique ways based on the life events of the individual, their cultural background, and personality characteristic.

As Jung stated in the translated version of his book Four Archetypes (2014):

“It is, in other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psyche substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in every one of us” (p. 2).

➡️Study Card
jungian archetypes examples and definition, explained below

Jungian Archetypes Examples

1. The mother / caregiver

the mother

This archetype embodies the capacity to nurture. It is the part of the collective unconscious that seeks to help others through a kind of “maternal instinct.”

For example, we all know someone that just cannot pass by a stray dog without trying to take them in. They might take them to the vet to get checked out thoroughly, and then give them a loving and caring home, even though they already have five other dogs.

  • Strengths: Nurturing, generous, protective, compassionate
  • Weaknesses: Overprotective, self-sacrificing, can be enabling, often neglected
  • Film Examples: Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins, Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side

2. The child / innocent

the innocent

This archetype represents innocence and the earliest impressions formed regarding family, safety, and loyalty. It has several variations that include feeling beloved, wounded, or abandoned.

For example, some young adults find it very difficult to leave the nest and want to embrace the innocent archetype forever. Stepping out into the real world and confronting all of those challenges like adults are supposed to do eventually is just too much for some. So, they live in their parent’s basement as long as possible; it’s safe down there.

  • Strengths: Optimistic, pure, trusting, joyful
  • Weaknesses: Naive, overly trusting, vulnerable, can lack practicality
  • Film Examples: Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump, Buddy in Elf

3. The wise old man / sage

the sage

The sage is the archetype of knowledge, truth, and morality. It is a masculine archetype that is commonly seen in literature as the character which guides others.

For example, by the time someone becomes old enough to be a grandfather, they have seen just about everything. This gives them a great perspective on life and a wealth of experience from which to offer advice. It’s a role they truly enjoy playing.

  • Strengths: Wise, reflective, knowledgeable, thoughtful
  • Weaknesses: Over-analytical, detached, can be overly critical, sometimes inactive
  • Film Examples: Yoda in Star Wars, Morpheus in The Matrix

4. The shadow self

the shadow self

This is the darker side of the individual. It contains repressed urges and impulses that are usually rejected by society. It can be expressed as envy, hate, and aggressiveness, or seen in dreams as monsters or evil figures.

For example, when some people travel on vacation they really let loose and act like someone completely different. They allow their true inner self to escape for a short time and act in ways that might seem shocking, especially if their family or colleagues aren’t around.

  • Strengths: Self-awareness, transformation, realism, creativity
  • Weaknesses: Self-destruction, fear, deception, isolation
  • Film Examples: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Norman Bates in Psycho

5. The persona

the persona

This is the person that individuals try to display to others and the world around them. It represents how we act in social situations and the image we try to convey. As children grow older, they realize that they must act in certain ways to conform to society’s expectations.

For example, being a regular church-goer involves learning about how to conduct oneself in a manner that is wholesome and righteous. Listening to sermons is a way to instill a moral compass that can guide one’s behavior down a path of the straight and narrow.

  • Strengths: Social adaptability, diplomacy, impression management, charm
  • Weaknesses: Superficiality, disconnection from true self, inconsistency, overemphasis on others’ opinions
  • Film Examples: Don Draper in Mad Men, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

6. The self

the self

Jung believed that each individual strives to achieve a cohesive sense of self that unifies their conscious identity with the one in their collective unconscious. When that occurs, the individual experiences a kind of self-actualization which he referred to as individuation.

For example, discovering one’s true purpose and unique abilities in life is what Maslow referred to as self-actualization. Most people will never reach this stage of self-insight and understanding of who and what they are.

  • Strengths: Wholeness, balance, self-realization, wisdom
  • Weaknesses: Complexity, inner conflict, alienation, the potential for self-absorption
  • Film Examples: Neo in The Matrix, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars

7. The anima and animus

the anima

Both men and women have feminine and masculine elements in their psyches. For women, their masculine elements are a result of the animus archetype. For men, their feminine elements come from the anima archetype.

For example, stereotypically speaking, “real men” are not supposed to spend a lot of time and money on facial creams and body lotions. But, current trends in some cultures are seeing this feminine side of the masculine male being more and more accepted.

  • Strengths: Insight into the opposite gender, balance in personality, access to unconscious wisdom, emotional depth
  • Weaknesses: Projection of idealized traits onto others, misunderstanding of one’s own emotions, imbalance can lead to personality conflicts, over-identification with gender stereotypes
  • Film Examples: Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method (exploring Jung’s own theories including Anima and Animus), Cobb’s wife Mal in Inception (as an Anima figure influencing from the unconscious)

8. The hero

the hero

The hero archetype contains the qualities of bravery and strength. It is the champion of right and rescuer of those in peril. Although mostly containing positive attributes, there can also exist elements of arrogance and aggressiveness.

For example, the Great Man theory of leadership postulates that crises create situations that allow certain personality characteristics to emerge. Attributes such as decisiveness, charisma, and persuasiveness all come into play that allow one individual to rise above and lead others to victory.

  • Strengths: Courageous, determined, honorable, inspiring
  • Weaknesses: Overly ambitious, stubborn, risk-prone, can be arrogant
  • Film Examples: Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

9. The trickster / jester / magician

the magician

This is the archetype which lies and deceives others. The trickster uses its knowledge and cunning to create chaos. This archetype has been represented in literature and various religious systems throughout history. 

For example, every office has one – a person that likes to spread gossip, saying a few words to one group, then saying a few words to another group. This is done all in an effort to create tension in the office. What is the ultimate objective? Sometimes it’s to divide and conquer in the hopes of creating career opportunities. In other instances, the goal is to just create turmoil in others.

  • Strengths: Insightful, transformative, visionary, charismatic
  • Weaknesses: Manipulative, secretive, can lose touch with reality, sometimes amoral
  • Film Examples: Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Neo in The Matrix

10. The Explorer

the explorer

The explorer archetype is characterized by a desire for freedom and a thirst for new experiences. Individuals with this archetype are often restless, with a deep longing to discover new places, ideas, and cultures. They value adventure and are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones.

For example, many digital nomads today embody the explorer archetype. They travel from one place to another, working remotely, all while soaking in new cultures, cuisines, and experiences. Their insatiable curiosity drives them to live life on the move.

  • Strengths: Adventurous, independent, resourceful, curious
  • Weaknesses: Restless, unsatisfied, can be solitary, might avoid commitment
  • Film Examples: Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones, Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean

11. The Outlaw

the outlaw

The outlaw or rebel archetype is one that challenges established norms and breaks rules. They believe in disrupting the status quo and are not afraid to stand up against authority. Their defiance can sometimes lead to positive change, but it can also result in chaos.

For example, punk rockers in the 1970s and 1980s embodied the outlaw archetype. With their radical music, style, and anti-establishment attitude, they challenged societal norms and created a cultural movement that celebrated rebellion.

  • Strengths: Independent, fearless, candid, transformative
  • Weaknesses: Reckless, antagonistic, can be nihilistic, often alienates others
  • Film Examples: Tyler Durden in Fight Club, Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day

12. The Lover

the lover

The lover archetype is all about passion, intimacy, and connection. This archetype doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships; it’s also about love for friends, family, or a cause. The lover is deeply emotional, empathetic, and often seeks unity.

For example, romantic poets like Lord Byron or John Keats exemplified the lover archetype, expressing deep emotions, passion, and longing in their writings.

  • Strengths: Passionate, empathetic, committed, inspiring
  • Weaknesses: Overly dependent on others, can be jealous, sometimes smothering, fears isolation
  • Film Examples: Rose in Titanic, Jack Dawson in Titanic

13. The Everyman

the everyman

Also known as the common man or the orphan, this archetype represents the ordinary individual. They are relatable, down-to-earth, and value community. The everyman seeks to belong and is often seen as a representative of the majority.

For example, sitcom characters like Jim Halpert from “The Office” or Leonard Hofstadter from “The Big Bang Theory” showcase the everyman archetype. Their daily struggles, relationships, and aspirations resonate with many viewers.

  • Strengths: Relatable, empathetic, genuine, resilient
  • Weaknesses: Sometimes lacks confidence, can be overlooked, often underestimates self, prone to conformity
  • Film Examples: Marty McFly in Back to the Future, Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings

14. The Ruler

the ruler

The ruler archetype exudes control, authority, and responsibility. They seek power, not for its own sake, but to create order and structure. They often have a vision of how things should be and will work diligently to see that vision come to life.

For example, CEOs of major corporations or monarchs from history, like Queen Elizabeth II, often display characteristics of the ruler archetype. Their roles necessitate leadership, responsibility, and governance.

  • Strengths: Authoritative, organized, responsible, confident
  • Weaknesses: Domineering, inflexible, authoritarian, can be disconnected from reality
  • Film Examples: Mufasa in The Lion King, Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada

15. The Artist

the artist

The artist archetype is characterized by creativity, imagination, and a deep need for self-expression. They view the world through a unique lens and seek to share their perspectives with others. This archetype is not limited to just traditional arts; it can manifest in any form of creative expression.

For example, legendary figures in art, such as Frida Kahlo or Vincent van Gogh, are quintessential representations of the artist archetype. Their works were deeply personal and conveyed their unique perspectives on life, pain, and love.

  • Strengths: Creativity, innovation, emotional depth, strong visual and aesthetic sensibility
  • Weaknesses: Prone to mood swings, may be seen as impractical, often isolated, susceptible to self-doubt
  • Film Examples: Jackson Pollock in Pollock, Guido Contini in Nine
➡️Freud vs Jung: Similarities and Differences

Similarity and Differences with Freud  

Jung’s notion of archetypes and the collective unconscious were in part inspired by Freud’s theory of personality.

There are many similarities in their beliefs, as well as significant differences (Jung, 1961; 2015).

According to Mattoon (1985), when Jung and Freud met for the first time on March 3rd, 1907, in Vienna, they talked for 13 straight hours.

Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious was different than Freud’s concept of the unconscious. For Freud, the unconscious consisted of each individual’s repressed or forgotten thoughts and impulses. It was very specific to the individual and not part of a collective whole shared by all human beings.

Jung referred to Freud’s unconscious as the personal conscious, but maintained that there was a deeper layer of the human psyche. This deeper layer is not unique to the individual, but rather it is universal and exists in a similar form in all human beings.

Both agreed that the unconscious was revealed in the use of symbolic language, analogies and metaphors (Bobroff, 2020). Some of these revelations occurred in dreams, of which both Jung and Freud were highly interested.

However, Jung believed that Freud’s interpretations of the images in dreams might be too literal (Bennet, 1995). Rather than always being expressions of repressed conflicts and impulses, Jung also believed that the images could reveal much more about the individual’s psyche, even point to future directions of the self and its purpose (Jung, 1960; 2014).

Jung’s thinking also departed from Freud’s notion of the libido. While Freud believed it to be primarily sexual in nature, Jung had a much broader conception. He considered the libido to be a form of psychic energy that compels adults into action to achieve (Sherry, 2013).

They both agreed on defense mechanisms and the existence of repressed impulses. For Jung, the shadow archetype is the functional equivalent of what Freud considered to be the primary components of the subconscious.

They both agreed that repressed conflicts and impulses were discomforting to the self’s conscious awareness and therefore had to be resolved through some means one way or another.

Feature/ConceptCarl JungSigmund Freud
UnconsciousBelieved in a collective unconscious that is universal and exists in a similar form in all human beings.Unconscious consists of individual’s repressed or forgotten thoughts and impulses; specific to each person (e.g. Freudian Slips).
Dream AnalysisDreams can reveal more about the psyche and even point to future directions of the self. Interpreted symbols more broadly.Dreams are expressions of repressed conflicts and impulses. Might interpret symbols more literally.
LibidoLibido is a form of psychic energy that drives adults into action. It’s not just sexual, but also about creativity, growth, and life energy.Libido is primarily sexual in nature. It’s the driving force for all behavior.
Repressed ImpulsesAgreed on the existence. Jung described them as part of the shadow archetype.Freud focused on these as discomforting elements that were hidden from consciousness but influenced behavior.
Defense MechanismsBoth believed in the existence. Jung discussed them in relation to the ego and its relation with the outer and inner world.Freud detailed specific defense mechanisms like repression, projection, displacement, etc., to defend the ego.
Nature of SymbolismSymbols can reveal insights into the collective unconscious and personal unconscious. They can be universal or personal.Symbols, especially in dreams, are representations of repressed desires or memories.
Scope of UnconsciousIntroduced the idea of personal unconscious, similar to Freud’s concept, but added the layer of the collective unconscious.Focused primarily on the personal, individual unconscious.
Nature of DevelopmentMore spiritual and holistic approach; individuation process.Psychosexual stages of development.
View on ReligionSaw it as a necessary part of the human experience, reflecting deep psychological truths.Regarded it as an illusion or a form of neurosis.
➡️Applications of Jungian Theory and Archetypes

Applications of Jungian Theory and Archetypes  

1. In Psychotherapy

Several elements of Jungian theory have been adopted by modern practitioners.

Although his worked evolved to become more of a theory of personality than of psychopathology, it yielded a role in psychotherapy referred to as Analytical Psychology.

For example, Jung believed that separation from one’s true inner self was at the heart of many psychological ailments, a notion that is held today by many therapists and counselors.

The path to psychological recovery for some is to discover one’s true self and engage in purposeful behavior accordingly. In the modern world, many people feel disconnected and purposeless. A symptom, according to Jungian theory, of the conscious self being separated from its true manifestation in the unconscious.

In addition, and not well-known, Jung invented the famous word-association task (Jung, 1910). Initially he thought that the task would reveal patterns of words associated with specific psychiatric illnesses (Hall & Nordby, 1999). Not until later did he accept that mistake but still see the task as a valuable tool to better understand the patient.

He noticed that some words caused patients to pause, which he considered to be quite revealing.

He even utilized measures of physiological arousal to help identify physical symptoms of those emotional disturbances. He measured pulse rate, fluctuations in breathing, and changes in the electrical conductivity of the skin as a marker of nervousness (Hall & Nordby, 1999).

Roesler (2013) conducted a literature review of studies which examined the effectiveness of Jungian psychotherapy and concluded “All the studies show significant improvements not only on the level of symptoms and interpersonal problems, but also on the level of personality structure and in everyday life conduct. These improvements remain stable after completion of therapy over a period of up to six years” (p. 562).

2. In Personality Assessment

The most famous application of Jung’s theory, albeit not specifically related to the archetypes, is as the foundation for the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBPTI).

The MBPTI is a self-report questionnaire used to identify an individual’s personality type, in addition to their strengths and preferences. The test contains four scales: extroversion-introversion, sensing-intuiting, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceiving.

It began being developed in 1942 by Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. They found the personality types described by Jung as being highly consistent with their own observations of people’s personality profiles.

So, they set forth developing a paper-and-pencil measure that could be easily administered and scored. Today, it is one of the most widely used psychological instruments in the world.

The scale is widely used in the business world and has evolved into a multi-million-dollar enterprise that is still going strong today.

3. In Literature

As Jung believed that the archetypes come from the collective unconscious, he pointed to common themes and characters which have been portrayed in literature, the arts, and religious practices for centuries and across cultures.

Analyzing artistic manifestations of the Jungian archetypes has become so prolific that it even has its own term: archetypical literary criticism.

Some of the earliest examples include Bodkin’s (1934) analysis of Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Coleridge. Other examples include Drew’s (1949) examination of T. S. Eliot and Singer’s (1970) interpretation of William Blake.

The study of individual characters in terms of their archetypal relevance include Frodo and Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings (Skogemann, 2009).

According to Leigh (2011), Christopher Booker examined fairy tales, biblical stories and popular films from a Jungian archetypal psychology and identified several common plots, including: rags to riches, overcoming the monster, and voyage and return, among others.

There are literally thousands of articles, books, and university courses that utilize Jungian archetypes as a basis for literary analysis.

See Also: Maiden Archetypes

➡️Conclusion

Conclusion

The Jungian archetypes consist of common personality dimensions in the human psyche that have existed since the beginning of human history.

The archetypes comprise the structure of the collective unconscious and can be seen in literary works, religions, and cultural symbols across time and cultures.

We can see examples of archetypes in ourselves and the people around us, in the books we read and the movies we watch. According to Jung, their commonality is evidence for the existence of a collective unconscious that we all share.

Unlike Freud, Jung believed that the unconscious was not solely devised by the individual’s repressed conflicts and impulses, but also provides an opportunity to see the individual’s purpose in life and guidance for their unique journey.

According to Jung, to be well and whole, one must discover one’s true inner self, integrate it with the collective unconscious, and exercise its purpose in daily life, called individuation.

➡️References

References

Bennet, E. A. (1995). What Jung really said. New York: Schocken Books.

Bobroff, G. (2020). Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung: The complete guide to the great psychoanalyst, including the unconscious, archetypes and the self (Vol. 4). Arcturus Publishing.

Bodkin, M. (1934). Archetypal patterns in poetry: Psychological studies of imagination. London: Oxford.

Booker, C. (2004). The seven basic plots: Why we tell stories. A&C Black.

Drew, E. (1949). T. S. Eliot: The design of his poetry. N. Y.: Scribner’s.

Hall, C. S., & Nordby, V. J. (1999). A primer of Jungian psychology. Penguin.

Hilaire, C. S. (2019). Jungian psychology in a demanding modern world. Environment and Social Psychology, 4(1).

Jung, C. G. (1910). The association method. The American Journal of Psychology, 21(2), 219-269.

Jung, C. G. (1960). Collected Works. Vol. 8. The structure and dynamics of the psyche. Pantheon.

Jung, C. G. (1961; 2015). Freud and Jung: Contrasts 1. In Freud and Psychoanalysis, Vol. 4 (pp. 333-340). Routledge.

Jung, C. G. (2014). The archetypes and the collective unconscious. Routledge.

Jung, C. H. (2014). Collected works of CG Jung, volume 16: Practice of psychotherapy. Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (2014). Four archetypes. Routledge. Translated by R. F. C. Hull. London and New York: Routledge.

Leigh, D. J. (2011). Carl Jung’s archetypal psychology, literature, and ultimate meaning. Ultimate Reality and Meaning, 34(1-2), 95-112.

Mattoon, M. A. (1985). Jungian psychology in perspective. Simon and Schuster.

Myers, S. (2016). Myers‐Briggs typology and Jungian individuation. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 61(3), 289-308. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5922.12233

Roesler, C. (2013). Evidence for the effectiveness of Jungian psychotherapy: A review of empirical studies. Behavioral Sciences, 3(4), 562-575. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3040562

Sherry, J. (2013). Beatrice Hinkle and the early history of Jungian psychology in New York. Behavioral Sciences, 3(3), 492-500. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3030492

Singer, J. (1973). The unholy bible: A psychological interpretation of William Blake. Harper & Row.

Skogemann, P. (2009). Where the Shadows Lie: A Jungian Interpretation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Chiron Publications.

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Dr. Cornell has worked in education for more than 20 years. His work has involved designing teacher certification for Trinity College in London and in-service training for state governments in the United States. He has trained kindergarten teachers in 8 countries and helped businessmen and women open baby centers and kindergartens in 3 countries.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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