Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Archetypes: Who Are You? by Caroline Myss

Archetypes: Who Are You? by Caroline Myss is a contemporary interpretation of the Jungian idea of how archetypes inform our sense of self and our lives. The author has written some excellent books on archetypes and self-awareness. This one, however, is not one of her better ones.

The book is written with a female audience in mind although archetypes, by definition, are universal and should cross all boundaries--including gender. So the "Queen" archetype can also be the "Executive" archetype according to Myss. Forgive me but this reader found it to be a little sexist to even suggest that women can't be executives or would prefer to be a queen than an executive. Of course, Myss herself declares this is not her intention but there is no question that it is not at least implied the moment she offers an alternative. A less gender-specific original archetype than “Queen” would suffice.  Royal, Rule, Leader, Executive, meaning men and women.

By trying to make the archetypes more contemporary, Myss introduces some new choices, arguing that society evolves and how we define ourselves should likewise evolve.  This at least explains the Fashionista archetype.  I find this beyond ridiculous.  It seems obvious to me that a person defined by the Creative archetype would find expression through clothing, through layering and mixing textures.  Rather than seeing the obvious, she develops a new and completely unnecessary archetype.  Even the Creative archetype is merely another definition for the Artist, a well-known and familiar archetype Creator archetype. 

In addition to the book there is a website ( where you can take a quiz that will help you "find" your archetypes. Or those delineated in this book anyway.  You then have a personality page designed specifically for you to which you can add items, if you are so inclined. The website is derivative of Pinterest and, at this point, doesn't seem to be offering much by way of interesting or even inspiring content. Worse, it seems to be changing into a commercial resource where advertising is specifically targeted to your archetype.  For this Intellectual Creative with hints of Caregiver, I simply haven't found myself excited by the website at all.

With all of that said, I do like that Myss explains how archetypes manifest in different ways so that the caregiver may be a healer or counselor but may also be a mother and the Creative may be a visual artist but may also be a performer, a writer, or something else. She also explains how ignoring the expression of different archetypes can often cause feelings of depression or even manifest as disease. I agree with Myss in this and am only sorry that in trying to bring something new to the table she didn't add anything of any real depth. I would recommend reading her book Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential to anyone interested in learning about archetypes from this author. There are many other books on archetypes as well.  If you are new to archetypes, you definitely want to start off with a good resource, not some mediocre teachings.  If you have already read about archetypes, are familiar with the works of Jung and Bolen, you’ll just want to skip this book altogether.

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