This is the first article of a series. Check the next ones to have a better understanding of the topic. At the end of this article, there is a link to the next chapter.
To communicate we use symbols. Words, pictures, songs, it doesn’t matter the shape. Symbols are the solution we find to refer to something that is out of reach -- therefore we cannot point to it. If I refer to an apple, we probably will have the same picture in our minds. Maybe my apple is green while yours is red. But it doesn't change the point. For the sake of this conversation, an apple (green, red or purple) is a recognized image that has the same functions and attributes.
In the course of our mental evolution, we started to communicate concepts, more complex than simple objects. Pain, hunger, love, friendship, anger, solitude, and many others are present in our Lives and we create words to symbolize them. Although the more abstract and complex is the object of the discussion, the more difficult it is to refer to it. An apple is almost the same all the time, and inside a context, the consequences that can be generated by an apple are almost the same independently of the type of this apple in the topic. But, if I am talking about an abstract feeling like... Love?
If I say ‘Love’, do you think the image I have in my mind is the same as the one in yours?
We are in constant evolution. The same way we create new objects we create new concepts. Marriage, Capitalism, Entropy, F.O.M.O., Depression, Anxiety… We will never stop transforming ourselves, so we will never stop to generate, discover and label new conceptions. These are evolutions of fundamental behaviours in humanity. As human beings, no matter our community or culture, we have the same basic moral and functional structure. It means that, in the core sense, we behave almost the same way to the same basic stimulus, which creates similar basic results. These repetitions of behaviours create a scenario that replicates in several different situations.
For example, if I describe a situation of a class just before a final test, you can imagine that it is a tense scenario with anxious students using the last minutes to try to memorize as much information as possible. I don't need to say where is this school, what is the age of the students or which is the course. It doesn't matter: the scenario is the same. In this case, the fundamental feeling is the fear of making a mistake, the need for approval and the pressure of the society. Everything at the same time (and maybe some others).
When we decide to explore, study and understand these concepts, a need to create words that symbolize all the aspects emerges. Because, if my concept is different from yours, when we refer to the same symbol we will be talking about different things -- which can draw a distinct conclusion, and a huge mess.
Solving those issues we create Archetypes.
Archetypes indicate a broader meaning than a simple word, explaining better the nuances of the context. They can be used to explain people and their personalities or attitudes. At the same time, it can draw the scenario of a situation, or even it can refer to an inanimate object.
The archetype of the ‘Mom’ for example. You almost immediately can imagine a loving person that wants to take care of the family. An amazing listener that offers love and care. The mom also is tough and can do anything for her offspring. The mom can be jealous and overprotective, as well she can take measures that control the ones she loves. But just for their own protection. The Mom is delicate, attentive, connected to the comfort of the home.
Everyone knows someone like that. Everyone is someone like that under the right circumstances. As well we can use this idea to refer to a country’s behaviours towards its citizens or a school situation towards its students.
Archetypes were created to better express some complex human concepts. And by understanding them we can understand the whole human mind. It is possible to predict some reactions, better understand some contexts, explain yourself more clearly, and have a better overall Life approach.
In entrepreneurship and marketing, we use these concepts to understand the community where we are located and the ones we are influencing. As well as to determine target customers and understand them in a way we can offer things they need, and we can talk to them in a way they can fully comprehend. Archetypes can help us to identify our own image, who we want to be, who are around us, how my identity interacts with others and how I can create more efficient solutions now that I know whatta hell is happening during these interactions.
As you can see these scenarios are used to bring some tangibility to abstract concepts. It is easier to imagine a mom, them to describe the idea deep enough at the point that my listener can feel the same I do when I think about the mom concept. Archetypes can be used for you to perceive the others and yourself, as well as the interactions between these two extremities.
The thinkers have the word
The word archetype comes from a Latinisation of the original in Greek, which means "original pattern from which copies are made". Technically speaking there are some approaches to this subject. Plato calls it Eidos or Ideas and defines it as an essence, forms of collective mental entities in the sense that they embodied the fundamental characteristics of a thing rather than its specific peculiarities.
Jung maintained that Platonic archetypes are metaphysical ideas, paradigms or models and that real things are held to be only copies of these model ideas. In Jung's psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations.
Later in the 1900s, a Viennese psychologist named Dr. Ernest Dichter took these psychological constructs and applied them to marketing. He found that applying these universal themes to products promoted easier discovery and stronger loyalty for brands.
How to use it
1. First of all, we need to realize they are not literal, they are representations
The main ones used in business are inspired by Jung's ideas. However, other authors, such as Margaret Hartwell and Joshua Chen, developed this original idea into other groups or personal focuses.
Personally, I believe the more we understand the roots of the concepts, the more we can evolve the thoughts and reach a broader idea. That is the reason I like to study old pieces of knowledge. Behaviours that were commons hundreds of years ago inspired the behaviours we have now. The most common origin of archetypes in the ancient world were the mythologies. The Greek-Roman Gods and tales carry the feelings people have at the time and talk about situations they use to live. Because archetypes are abstractions, in order to deliver more meaning those stories are full of symbolic objects and situations. Here it is valid to remember that the key to understanding them better is to assume that nothing is literal. For example, in a story that a son kills a father, the original meaning is more related to the sensation of a successor eliminating the predecessor, and the relation of power and ambition, than to a literal patricide.
2. Then, we need to list and understand the different models
I will show you the (1) Jungs ones, (2) Margaret Hartwell and Joshua Chen ones and also the (3) Mythological Tarot Trumps (the most accurate selection of ancient archetypes I know). By knowing deeply the representations of reality that each one can bring, it is possible to organize the mind in a more
3. To finish it, I will show you some examples of how to use them in different realities.
Because they are several and they are complex and abstract, in the next few days I will make a sequence of posts, explaining better each one of the archetypes. In this post right here, I am giving you an overview of the main structures behind them. Here you can also find the links of the future posts. According to the publishing they will become available, shaping a complete ebook about Archetypes.
The broader idea of situations generates the need to understand people in a more specific way. Meanwhile, Archetypes are general and can be applied to people, situations, feelings, emotions and several others; Personas were created to explain better people's segmentation. Each Persona represents a different personality (marketing-wise). Personas can only define human behaviour in an individual way, whereas Archetypes define human concepts as a society, that is why they are more abstract, broader and much more intricate. If you want to better understand the Personas you can use in your communication, please leave a message in the comment box below, ok? And I will start a ... about people segmentation. ; )
Difference between Archetypes and Personas
Both Archetypes and Personas are universal. This means that (because they are defined by observation) they don't belong to a specific culture or community. They are reflections of human nature and natural consequences that those actions can cause. For example, romantic love is an archetype that is not invalided depending on the country where it happens or to the ages of the people involved. Love situations can have different approaches and can appear in unique ways. However, the feeling behind it, the situation itself is the same. One of the consequences of love is jealousy. And that is also a situation that belongs to the romantic love archetype. It doesn't matter the scenario, usually love and jealousy are attached. Through this point of view, you can see that -- by understanding the archetypes -- we can understand human nature that repeats itself all around the world. This is a deep essence that resembles an animal instinct. It is not necessary to be taught, we just behave the same way over and over again as a cycle. While the personalities of most people will fit several archetypes, there will be one dominant archetype.
The power of (the right) meaning
Cultures are groups of people that understand the same meaning to the same symbols. When we need to communicate an idea, we need to use symbols to express it. Words, pictures, sounds… there are many ways to pass a message ahead. However, what can we do if we are trying to communicate something, but we don't have comprehension about the culture where our listeners are included? This conceptual distance between the speaker and listener can cause misunderstandings (when a symbol means something distinct for both), or even no understanding at all (when that symbol has no correlation to anything in the listener’s mind). This gap between expression and understanding we call "Noise". It can mess with the meaning, create new meanings or no meanings at all. No matter what, Noise can destroy the potential of the feedback you can have from your listeners. Lastly, broken feedback will not help you to create solutions or to talk in an intelligible way.
Humans are social beings, that is why communication is a crucial part of our development. Having the capability to express an idea we can create solutions together. The more diverse the group of people in the same communication process, the more creative and less risky they tend to be the solution. As individuals, we can only access a particular point of view of the whole, so communication skills help us to exchange information, giving us access to others’ points of view. Comprehending all of them together we can have a better understanding of the whole.
But here we have a paradox: "I need the largest number possible of opinions to validate an idea, but how can I express myself in a way that an extensive and diverse group can understand without the noise?"
Again, the Archetypes are the solution for it.
Using elements of human nature we can communicate with our basic essence, which has two major benefits: (1) it is easy to be understood all around the world, and (2) it has the capability to drive profound sensations. Since our essence is not rational but connected with our sensations, emotions and feelings, when we use it to express an idea, the immediate consequence is to touch peoples in their hearts. Archetypes messages provoke us uncontrollable physical reactions because those latter are our fundamental being.
Writers have taken the opportunity to connect with their readers using this technique. I had a particular experience in the past when I went to the cinema to watch a super awarded Japanese film and after 2h I still couldn't understand what was the point of the movie. It was not a bad movie. It was not a bad script. I just couldn't get the idea because it was referring to a culture different from mine. So different that the symbols they were using to tell the story had no meaning at all for me. When you tell a story using archetypes you can avoid it to happen, making your message accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Shakespeare's stories, Beatles songs, Chaplin movies. They are eternal and they can touch anyone who interacts with them because all the narratives are archetypical. And yours can be as well.
The main concepts
Jungian Archetypes in Psychology
Jungian archetypes are defined as universal, archaic symbols and images that derive from the collective unconscious, as proposed by Carl Jung. They are the psychic counterpart of instinct. That is to say, they are a kind of innate nonspecific knowledge, derived from the sum total of human history, which prefigures and directs conscious behaviour.
Jung studied the symbols and myths of many cultures (in a book called “Man and his symbols”, which I personally think it is amazing) and described 12 archetypes as an innate tendency to generate images with intense emotional meaning that express the relational primacy of human life. They’re imprints that are buried in our unconscious. These terms define the particular traits that we all have.
While there are a variety of categorizations of archetypes, Jung's configuration is perhaps the most well known and serves as the foundation for many other models. Other authors have organized this model in three overarching categories, based on a fundamental driving force:
Orphan/regular (guy or gal)
Archetypes in Branding by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua Chen
As Margareth says on her website:
"Combined with guiding principles drawn from human-centred design and transpersonal psychology, archetypes help facilitate a more authentic, holistic and human way of being in business. The use of them is a proven method for revealing a truly unique brand character. They can be a shortcut to the creation of personas. And they can form the basis for a common language that supports organizations to stay true to their brand promise, mission and values.
Applying an archetypal approach helps to set the stage for the kinds of relationships you want to have with stakeholders. Because archetypes are powerful attractors of consciousness, they help activate a connection based on shared experience and resonance.
Working with archetypes to guide the strategy, relationships, products, services, and artifacts for business helps resolve any brand and culture inconsistencies. This enhances trust and relatedness with all stakeholders, increases impact, and positively affects the bottom-line. Why? Because an archetypal approach instills meaning into your business that connects people to your organization in subtle yet powerful ways."
We use to keep yourselves close to people we identify with, which means that the people who belong to a group seems to be similar to each other, experiencing the same in Life and responding alike to the same incentives. Having it in mind, the archetypes were also applied for groups of people, here called "families". And inside the groups, internal hierarchies are formed and new archetypes appear based on these levels of influence.
In the next days, each one of these archetypes will receive a dedicated post. Better explain each difference, characteristics and how to use them.
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Jung, C.G. (2012).Der Mensch und seine Symbole(18th ed.).Ostfildern, Germany: Patmos Verlag. (download it here)
*the pictures have references to the artistic in alt text and they are links to the artists' platforms.