Understanding Archetypes – The Key to Success and Balance

This blog will discuss how innate human energies or archetypes can give an answer to one of life’s most important questions: “What is the secret of finding emotional balance in life?

A Deeper Understanding

For me, the answer to this question is a deeper understanding of archetypes and how they can affect us (and those close to us) in different, but fairly predictable ways. Firstly, a brief explanation. Archetypes are often represented in classic ‘coming of age’ stories – the young man or women has to endure some kind of risky journey to overcome their own specific weakness and gain some form of treasure. In NLP, these archetypes have been condensed to three main types:

Strength (expression and power);
Softness (compassion and connection)
Playfulness (options and perspective).

The Shadow Side

Each person will tend to embody one or two of these qualities yet are also like to find one or two of them a challenge. Under stress, people will tend to inhabit the shadow or potentially destructive manifestation of these qualities:

Aggression (strength);
Emotional overwhelm (softness)
Manipulation (playfulness).

Shining Brightly

To enjoy the benefits of an archetype that ‘shines brightly’ means learning to live with the consequences of the greater shadow that is cast. I have a gift of being action-orientated (a form of the Strength archetype); I have however, had to learn to manage this, otherwise my life can flip between aggression and panic, which is very stressful.
This is probably why I have gained expertise in mindfulness to manage my own shadows. Others with the great gift of Softness often have to learn to manage the emotional pain that goes with this gift of sensitivity and intuition.
Understanding your own unique gifts and learning to manage the resulting shadows can be truly life-changing.

Becoming Curious

Becoming curious about our responses, rather than letting them dominate us, is a key way to learn to manage our emotions more effectively. Our shadows often have very useful information for us: they are a calling for us to face the parts we need to develop, which we tend to ignore.
They can also motivate us to create new strategies to better manage ourselves and become more self-reflective. They are a powerful signal of our unmet needs. Learn to accept your shadows, rather than feeling shame, disowning or repressing them.

Applying the Appropriate Archetype to the Situation

Play to your weaknesses. Often shadows emerge by using the ‘wrong’ archetype for the situation. If someone is conflict-avoidant and finds Strength archetype a challenge, they may appear as Softness or Playfulness shadow, a victim or a manipulator, in compensation. It is better to apply the appropriate archetype to the situation, even if it is a personal challenge, than to fall back upon a more comfortable area and use its shadow.

A Triggered Response

When a strong stress response has been triggered, it can be far more difficult to contain our shadows. At these times, detach yourself so you don’t say something you may later regret.

From others we can learn about ourselves

Shadows trigger other peoples’ shadows (and other people’s trigger ours). The Nobel Prizewinner, famous author and psychologist Herman Hesse wrote: ‘If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.’

This is particularly true of shadows – but it can actually work in two ways. If I feel ashamed of a shadow in myself, I can find someone irritating and hard to take if they share that shadow. But there are also people I feel drawn to, whom I later realise share a shadow with me, one that I tolerate and secretly quite like.

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