Archetypes at Work: How Do You Show Up?

By: Janet Ver Fine 3 years ago


Archetypes at Work
Archetype: An archetype is a basic “unit” of the human psyche. Archetypes are universal “ways of being” or looking at the world programmed into your psyche. There are dozens of archetypes that make-up your personality. Archetypes have very unique thoughts, values, abilities, emotions, voices, energies and physicalizations. The internal manifestation of archetypes are images and fantasies. As an adult, you are able to access many kinds of archetypes, but many you have deeply repressed since childhood.
Archetype Facilitation: An Archetype Facilitation is the process of directly accessing archetypes in you — including the ones you have repressed — so you can use them for your acting. The more you do this, the more you develop a library of “character traits” for use in your work. But they are not “characters,” they are real parts of your psyche.
What are you, what do you want to be? When you are being your best self at your job, what are you doing?

Here is a partial list:

  • Farmer–repeatedly and patiently optimizing the production of goods for sale, worrying about the weather
  • Hunter–tracking prey, balancing patience with bursts of energy
  • Gardener–pruning for beauty, growing enough to sustain yourself
  • Servant–“yes, sir”
  • Architect–creating a platform for others to work in or on
  • Nurse–healing (in any sense) other people
  • Shadchen–connecting others, making a match
  • Impresario–inventing out of nothing, putting on a show and selling tickets
  • Conductor–coordinating, leading and shipping
  • Trader–buying low, selling high
  • Artist–seeing the world as it is, shipping gifts
  • Receptionist–greeting all with a content-free smile
  • The movie star–admired (and bizarrely, respected) for being famous and beautiful
  • The professor–solving interesting problems
  • Mary Ann (or Pollyanna)–the simple farm girl with a heart of gold (sorry, Gilligan, I got carried away)

We can even break them down into categories:

The power selves:

The protector. The warrior. The killer. The leader. The aristocrat. The boss. The star. The rational mind. The survivor. The optimist. The rebel. The patriarch. The Joker. The manipulator. The liar. The sadist. The judge. The matriarch. The hero. The messiah. The old soul.   The special self. The traditionalist. The “I’m God” self. The exercise self. Sexuality. Joy. The partier. The victim. The controller.

The vulnerable and child selves:

The vulnerable child (the core of who you are). The magical child. The silly/playful child. The lonely child. The insecure child. The lover. The playful child. The abandoned child. The hopeless child. The sad child. The victim. The shy/embarrassed child. The silly/goofy child. The rebellious child. Spontaneous. What will people think self?

The parent selves:

Good father. Negative father. Critical father. Good mother. Critical mother. Negative mother. Nurturing mother or father. The controlling mother or father. Withdrawn mother or father. Responsible mother or father. Tyrannical mother or father. Punishing mother or father. The psychological mother or father.

The being selves:

The Beach bum. The new age self. The transcendent. The old soul. The Meditator. The Relaxation self. The “who cares”/irresponsible self. The slob. The “just want to escape” self. Sensuality.

The personal selves:

The pleaser. The lover. The feminine selves. The “bleeding heart” self. The empathic self. Most of the children selves. The submitter. The Joker.

The impersonal selves:

The rational/logical selves. The power selves. The “who cares” self. The judge. Masculine selves. The rebel. The finance self. The killer. The messianic doctor.

The inner critic:

A very powerful self in most of us, always criticizing us whenever we don’t follow the rules of all the other selves.

The perfectionist:

A very powerful self in most of us in Western culture.

The pusher:

A mega-doing self, very large in the United States. The self that says “let’s go, do this, do that, do more, do more.”


Of course, many jobs include elements of more than one archetype. Deep down, though, you have probably been trained, conditioned or persuaded that one (or perhaps a combo of a few) of these work missions is just right for you.

It is interesting that the most common (in terms of jobs available) is by far the servant, and just about all the others require an insane amount of personal responsibility and initiative. Just because you work on a farm does not mean you’re a farmer–not if someone else tells you what to do all day.

Worth noting: very few jobs match the archetypes they share a name with. Nurses, for example, do not get to spend much time at all doing actual nursing. If an archetype calls to you, do not be fooled by a job that appears to match it but doesn’t.

You can change what you do if you choose to, but not if you keep seeking out the same archetype. Create your ‘Organizational Parade of Archetypes’. Where have you been? Who have you been? Where did it take you? Use metaphors and character ideas to express.

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