From the Psyche: How Archetypal Roles Shape Both Us and Our Characters

Something I find interesting (other than writing of course) is the notion of self-discovery.  Anyone who follows my blog knows that I analyze dreams in great detail. My iPhone is littered with apps for personality tests, color quizzes, handwriting analysis, and mood trackers (my husband once lovingly described my phone as a ‘cry for help’).  But the way I see it, if I want to make the most of my life then I need to know who I am, what I want, and what I was born to do (OK, maybe I have been reading too many articles).

I’m also very interested in the inner-worlds of my characters. Even those without their own narrative voices are important. I want to get to know them as much as I know myself—their creator.

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s I read a book—recommended by Oprah—entitled Archetypes. It was written by Caroline Myss, and let me say, this book greatly enhanced my perspective on inner-exploration. It also opened my eyes to new and exciting ways to better characterization in my fiction projects.

Great Question!

Great Question!

According to an archetype is as follows:

*2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of though, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

*I used this definition (there was another) because it strongly relates to Myss’s theory on archetypes.

In one of my dream anthologies, there is a section on archetypes (i.e. The Hero, The Evil Mother, The Loving Mother, The Warrior, etc.) appearing in an individual’s dream; analysis can then be based on the qualities each archetype displays.

In her book, Myss surveys ten different archetypal roles that she believes (and I agree) all human beings (and fictional characters) portray. Of course we’re  all mixtures of particular types, but clearly some take precedence over others.

I will list Myss’s archetypes and paraphrase an explanation of each. To get the full effect, you have to read the book!

There it is amidst all my other "self-searching" titles!

There it is amidst all my other “self-searching” titles!

The Advocate: Those who devote their lives to fighting a cause; Myss gives many examples such as human rights activists, animal rights activists, environmentalists, etc. And you don’t have to be Cesar Chavez to fit into this role. You can simply be the neighborhood watch looking to improve safety after a home on your block was robbed.

Myss’s Examples: Rosa Parks, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mothers Against Drunk Driving

My Examples:Blogger & Writing Group Companion, Sylver Blaque

The Artist/Creative: Anyone who is compelled to create art falls into this archetypal role. It may be in the form of visual art, written art, or performance art. But Myss says we aren’t complete unless we can create.

Myss’s Examples: Vincent Van Gogh, Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe

My Examples: Thomas Kinkade, The Intrinsic Writer, aka me; all of you reading this!

The Athlete: This could be the marathon runner or the avid sports fan. It’s those who need to be in constant motion. The fitness hounds, the yogis, the skydiver, and the water-skier; the athlete’s focus is on health and nutrition. He or she uses the body as a form of expression.

Myss’s Examples: Michael Jordan, Maria Sharpanova, The Ancient Greeks

My Examples: My Aunt Eileen, star of the YMCA.

The Caregiver: Those who give their lives to serving and protecting others. Myss mentions that often these are the types that need to be told to stop and relax! Do something for yourself! Parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, healers, coaches, and more—these are the ones, according to Myss, who can tolerate to see pain in another human being. They are self-sacrificing, and at time, martyrs.

Myss’s Examples: The Mother, The Teacher, The Sister

My Examples: My mother, father, & grandparents; my Uncle Bob, who cares for my elderly grandfather; myself, as a teacher; many, many of my friends, colleagues, etc.

The Fashionista: If the athlete expresses herself through movement, then the fashionista expresses herself through…you got it…fashion! But this is more than just a professional shopper. This is someone who exudes confidence, prioritizes looking good, and perhaps most importantly, is exploring a sense of identity.

Myss’s Examples: Carrie Bradshaw, Coco Chanel

My Examples: My sister, Victoria.

The Intellectual: These folks tend to go by that old notion of using their heads over their hearts. Intellectuals love learning. They are well-read, researching types. As Myss explains it, the requirement of knowledge is their main life purpose. I imagine they can be rather argumentative as well. Intellectuals take a deep interest in unlocking all the mysteries of the world.

Myss’s Examples: The Sage, The Wise Elders, The Buddha

My Example: Just about every professor I had in college

The Queen/Executive: For all you Oprah fans out there, this one’s for you! The Queen is on top of her game (by the way, for each archetype, Myss has a whole section on the “male counterpart”), and doesn’t take any you-know-what from anyone. She is often in a high-powered position, but a Queen could also simply rule her own household—it has more to do with identity personal ruling style. I think you know the type—Myss says Queens create their own “empires,” and that often comes with a band of followers.

Myss’s Examples: Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth I, Barbara Walters, and Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

My Examples: Laura, a former employer

The Rebel: I can’t help but think of a Punk Rocker (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols), but anyway, the Rebel is a reactor, a revolutionary—different from the advocate in the sense that he or she responds (often drastically) to all that is wrong with the world. The truth is, the rebel doesn’t have to be someone who elicits political upsurge—it could just be that kid in high school that skipped the last-day-before-vacation holiday concert—brought to you by the school’s jazz band and choral choir—to go smoke pot. OK, maybe I just went to Starbucks. But it was badass.

Myss’s Examples: Henry David Thoreau, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., The Feminist

My Examples: Elvis Presley. My friend Sara, who back in high school, managed to cut study for entire three-quarters of a year before getting caught.

The Spiritual Seeker: Oh, I love this one. Here we have people who want to know things by the end of their lives. They strive to find that sense of Nirvana inside and out. Myss explains that the true spiritual seeker isn’t someone who vows to buy a ten million dollar home; instead, he or she looks inward to find that true sense of knowing. He is a master of forgiveness, and is willing to turn his life into an odyssey of gratitude in the pursuit of helping others.

Myss’s Examples: The Mystic, The Buddha

My Examples: Deepak Chopra

The Visionary:  Myss says the visionary is the person who can stand back, look at the world, and see clearly, what it needs. Then, he or she sets about putting those changes in motion. Visionaries are idea-makers. They are creators. They have a deep understanding of the human race.

Myss’s Examples: Rachel Carson, Gloria Steinem, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs

My Examples: John Lennon

By the way, you can find out your archetype by taking the quiz @

Such a great book!

Such a great book!

My results were a mixed percentage of the following four archetypes: 1) Artist/Creative 2) Caregiver 3) Intellectual 4) Spiritual Seeker.

Also, while Myss goes into A LOT of detail about the types mentioned above, she also includes a glossary with other common archetypes such as: The Victim, The Warrior, The Storyteller, The Slave, and more.

By reading this book, I have a better sense of my life’s purpose; furthermore, through the process, I was able to discover my characters’ archetypes as well. It has turned into a great characterization tool. I even went in and took the above mentioned quiz as some of characters. Trust me, it will give both you and the tiny people who live inside your head much needed clarity.

What Archetype are you? What Archetypes are your characters?



Filed under Books and Literature, Characters, Inspiration, Self Discovery, The Writing Life

25 responses to “From the Psyche: How Archetypal Roles Shape Both Us and Our Characters

  1. Fun experiment. The test suggested I was first and foremost an intellectual (doesn’t surprise me), second a caregiver, and third a queen/executive, which did surprise me. I’ll have to go share this on Twitter. 🙂

  2. Natylie Baldwin

    Another awesome post on character development. I love how you post on concepts that Carl Jung theorized on. He’s one of my favorite philosophers.
    I came up creative, intellectual and caregiver. Up until a couple of years ago, I would have been surprised by creative but not the other two. Interesting.

    • I love Jung’s work as well. It’s scientific, yet it isn’t narrow-minded. Love to ponder over his theories. I might have been surprised by the creative/artist type as well (like you said, a few years ago), but then when I think about it, it has always suited me…from my childhood, etc. I guess we just are what we are. We pick our archetypes early on.

  3. jolly2012

    You should read some of Joseph Campbell’s books on archetypes, the hero in all of us, etc. He relies on classical mythology to extrapolate modern day archetypes.

  4. Every time I read your blog, I learn something new.

  5. Great post! I love working with archetypes. I teach a course on “The Hero’s Journey” — how to create one from one’s life. Yes, Campbell is a great resource on the subject.

  6. “(my husband once lovingly described my phone as a ‘cry for help’)”
    *snort* hahahahahahaha xD
    I nearly woke my family up laughing.

    I’m glad I clicked through for this post. Archetypes is a topic I want to study more. I’m bookmarking this (and tweeting it). 🙂

    • LOL, thanks Melissa! Isn’t he sweet?
      It is a fascinating topic. It really got to me. The book is fabulous if you aren’t too familiar with the notion–sort of like archetypes 101.
      Thanks for the tweet 🙂
      Say sorry to your family for me…

  7. Great post. I agree knowing and understanding the different archtypes are a great way to get to know oneself better and create deeper, more complex (real) characters. A couple of writerly books on archtypes to check out are “The Writer’s Jouney: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher vogler, and “45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.

  8. Pingback: Liebster blog award! and some random stuff about me « jennymorbeymakes

  9. I’m way behind on my blogging, but I wanted to chime in on how I liked this post. I never knew that fashionista was an archetype, but having a bit of that in me, along with the creative part that I can’t seem to ignore just goes to show that one can’t get away from one’s true nature.
    Going to check out the link now. 🙂

  10. A close friend of mine is a psychotherapist with over 30 years in practice. She studied at the Jung Institute in Switzerland (at least I think that’s where it was) and we are always discussing each other’s dreams. It really is so fascinating and can be quite helpful. I plan to look up the book you mentioned, and when I get a few minutes, I’ll take the quiz too. Thanks for these interesting links.

    • Thanks for stopping by Julia. Your friend sounds like she has a fascinating job. I love Jungian psychology. Dream analysis is one of my favorite things. I just wish I could get better at it! Let me know what you thought of the quiz.

  11. I too work with the Archetypes and my dreams. I am a student of Archetypal Dreamwork though North of Eden in Montpelier, Vermont. We work with the material that comes through dreams as a source of Divine intelligence…each dream carries a specific intention for the dreamer. Often the Archetypes come to show us something about ourselves or to move us into visceral feeling. They can lead us through our past traumas so that we may, by reclaiming lost of stuck feelings, experience healing and transformation. Visit my website where there is a link to my blog where I write about my journey in Archetypal Dreamwork or North of Eden at

    • Hi Laura, so glad you stopped by. Your work sounds fascinating! I would love to know more about archetypes, since I loved Myss’s book so much. I have a strong interest in self-discovery, etc. I’ll be sure to check out your website.

  12. Pingback: Fun With Archetypes | Reflections on Life Thus Far

  13. Pingback: The Idea Factory « Cheri Speak

  14. Pingback: Caroline Myss: Sacred Contracts and Dreams | The Lena Jácome Weblog

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