How to work with Archetypes

The Aims of Archetypal work.

When we do archetypal work we are hoping to draw on the numinous energy that the archetypes bring which propel our existence forward. For instance, the lover archetype gives passion to the soul, moves a person to be with the beloved and gives them the desire to be better. In order to access this archetypal energy, we have to first bring the archetype present in all its glory and allow it to shape-shift us into a new form of being in the world. Below are some techniques for accessing the archetypes:

  1. Archetypal Meditation. By forming an awareness of an archetype in meditation we can constellate it in our psyche and in our bodies. You can read more about archetypal meditation here
  2. Ritual theatre. Ritual is an ancient way of accessing archetypal energy. The disciples of Dionysus feasted and frolicked to bring on his wild energy, By designing and enacting rituals in a dramatic setting we can weave new archetypal energy into our everyday lives.
  3. Mythic re-enactment. According to Jung, myth is ‘archetype in action, it reveals the common ways in which an encounter with an archetype unfolds. Myth then carries these patterns across time, initiating us into these same archetypal energies. For example, in a mythic re-enactment of the escape from slavery that Moses led, we can experience our own liberation or encounter our inner freedom-fighter.
  4. Archetypal dialogue. Allows us to dialogue with an archetype, either internally through journaling or with the aid of another person as they personify an archetype. This form of work can be very helpful when dealing with tension between different desires or demands in our lives. It can be helpful to hear the perspective of our inner monk/nun and our inner lover.  
  5. Shape shifting. Many of us have to shift each day from an archetype that we embody at work to a different one we need to inhabit us at home. Shape-shifting from the teacher to the father can be practised in a supportive environment, making it easier to do and highlighting any transitional rituals that may help us.
  6. Dream analysis. Because archetypes form a major part of the collective and individual unconscious, they often appear in our dreams. Recounting or enacting our dreams can help us to form a deeper relationship to the archetypes that are currently manifesting in our inner lives.
  7. Iconography. It is quite common to see a poster of a sports star or pop star on a teenagers bedroom wall. These are usually archetypal icons that embody a particularly energetic archetype for that person. The idea of an icon is to look through to the archetypal divine behind it.
  8. Drawing archetypes. How an archetype appears to us can tell us a great deal about how it is manifesting for us. Drawing the great mother assists us in expressing how we are feeling towards her at the moment. 
  9. Group enactment. Because archetypes are transpersonal each us of carries one part of a particular archetype. Seeing how each member of a group embodies an archetype like the trickster can help fill out for us its complexity, breadth and possibilities.
  10. Complex exploration. Complexes are an unconscious set of feelings and behaviours organised around a dominant factor. According to Jung, it is most often an archetype that lies at the centre of a complex. Therefore exploring a complex dramatically can bring the underlying archetype into our consciousness so that we can work with it.
  11. Relationship dialogue . For archetypal relationships (eg. father and child) an actual or enacted dialogue can assist us to sort out some archetypal dynamics going on between us.
  12. Active imagination. Active imagination allows us to interact with an archetype through guided imagery. In our imagination we can explore our inner child, warrior or king/queen.
  13. Worship. Worship is an ancient way in which humans honoured an archetype. Preparing a devotion to an archetype such as the artist can elevate their place in our soul’s journey.
  14. Chant. Chant focuses our attention and therefore can help us to call forth and invoke a needed archetype. Chanting forth the healer archetype could release this archetypal power when needed.
  15. Costuming. Uniforms are evident all around us day to day and they allow a person to archetypally transform from an ordinary person into a judge, a nurse or a footballer. We can tap into the same transformative energy when we put on any uniform.
  16. Summoning. In Hindu devotion the gods can be brought to inhabit their statue form by clapping. When we summon the archetypes we call them forth to constellate within and around us, summoning the fool can lighten and enlighten all around.
  17. Shamanic. The shaman would go into a trance and sometimes with the help of a spirit-guide enter the transpersonal realm; their encounter with an archetype there could change those around. This is similar to how the priest works. Shamanic enactment involves an individual constellating archetypes on behalf of others.
  18. Environmental immersion. Some environments and situations will, in themselves, bring forth an archetype in us. Put us in a theatre in a drama and the actor will emerge.
  19. Transfiguration. If you have ever seen the someone look back at you with love-lit eyes, then you have seen a transfiguration. Jung noted that the archetypes come present first in the body and it is a wonderful skill to be able to allow that transfiguration to occur when it needs to.
  20. Vocation. A career can yield a life-long, in-depth relationship to an archetype whether you are a teacher, a musician or a priest. Becoming conscious of the archetypal nature of a career add a sense of calling and power.
  21. Fiction. One way of immersing yourself in the rich complexity of an archetype is via fiction, literature or film. You can be a detective from the comfort of your lounge room! Group drama is an effective way of working archetypally.
  22. Mentoring. A good mentor can assist us to draw on the archetypal energy of an archetype in action. Many an entrepreneur have benefited form the training of a mentor.   
  23. Therapy. Therapy can assist us in identifying which archetypes are at work in our soul and in our shadow. It allows our ego to form a new relationship with an archetype such as the wanderer.

The above list shows some of the many ways we can work with the archetypes. I am sure you have discovered, just reading the list, that you are already engaged in some methods, others may have peaked your curiosity. Together the offer an interesting way into the archetypal path and an enriched life.