There are basic personality traits that are common amongst us, and by reviewing some of the general bios of these types you can get some good insight into who you are and what drives you. Caroline Myss is probably the leading expert on personality types- Caroline’s definitions refer to “archetypes”, and while she does have a very specific and comprehensive program regarding studying your archetypes, I find that simply reading some of the “biographies” that she uses offers some great clues to understanding yourself and perhaps your actions.
Below and subsequent links are the basics. For more, Caroline has several books on the subject, and an abbreviated program based on her books here.
Adapted from Caroline Myss, Sacred Contracts:
To help you understand and fulfill the terms of your Sacred Contract, you have been encoded with a set of 12 primary archetypes. Four of these are universal archetypes related to survival: the Child, Victim, Prostitute, and Saboteur. We all have these because they are vital to our growth and functioning as adults. The other eight are drawn from the vast storehouse of archetypes dating back to the dawn of human history. They play valuable roles that relate to our work, our relationships with individuals and society, as well as to our spirituality, finances, values, and our highest potential.
Although archetypes are impersonal patterns of influence that are both ancient and universal, they become personalized when they are a part of your individual psyche. Since your Sacred Contract is embodied in a support system of twelve archetypes, it is best to think of them as intimate companions. They provide the foundation for your personality, drives, feelings, beliefs, motivations, and actions. But archetypes are not passive entities floating around in the psyche like old family portraits hanging in a dusty corridor of your ancestral castle. They take an active role as guardians and inner allies, alerting you when you are in danger of falling into destructive or “shadow” behavior. The Saboteur, for instance, warns you when you are in a situation in which you tend to sabotage your own best interests. Once you learn to recognize such a pattern, instead of ignoring it or denying its presence, it becomes your friend and can help you avoid selling out.
All archetypes have “shadow” manifestations as well as positive aspects. The shadow has power precisely because it remains in the dark; we tend to deny its presence in us because we consider it unacceptable. Only when we face and acknowledge the shadow’s presence can we neutralize its potential negative impact on us. The Rebel archetype, for instance, can be a powerful force leading us to reject illegitimate authority and strike out on a bold new path of action. (Samuel Adams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., all had powerful Rebel archetypes.) But if we let our awareness lapse, the archetype’s shadow aspect can induce us to rebel against legitimate leaders, or to fall in love with the image and trappings of rebellion (think of the rebellious angels in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim lore).
Likewise, the Queen archetype can help you assert your power, take charge of situations, delegate authority, and act with benevolence. But the shadow Queen may run around barking out orders, making impossible demands, and cutting off heads! Once you learn to recognize the difference between the two responses — and their common source — you can harness the Queen’s constructive power while mitigating her shadow wrath.
Read over the list below, then check out the expanded bios here.
Some of the archetypes in the list will jump out at you as if to say, “You know me! I’ve been part of your life ever since you can remember.” It could be an archetype that is aligned with your occupation — for example, the Politician, Craftsperson, Athlete, Teacher, Scholar, or Judge. It might also be an important characteristic that defines your nature apart from your work, as the Monk or Nun (assuming you’re not actually under holy orders), the Poet, Lover, Rebel, and so forth. But then you will have to dig a little deeper. Some archetypes that you may feel drawn to, like the Mystic, Visionary, or Healer, may be largely a matter of wishful thinking. Many of my students like to see themselves as Mystics, for instance. But I ask them to take a serious look within and determine whether the hard work and sacrifice that go with that identity have been a part of their life for many years. Some people like to be mystics during their summer retreat, or on the weekend, or for half an hour every morning, and that’s great. But to include an archetype in your intimate family of 12, you need to be able to trace its life-long influence on you.
Inevitably, you will need to include some archetypes that, like the Prostitute and Saboteur that we all share, may at first seem unpleasant or negative. Perhaps the Fool, Robot, Martyr, Servant, Sadist, or Puppet is part of your make-up. Remember that these are not necessarily negative archetypes; only your interpretation is negative. They ultimately help you avoid the shadow aspect implicit in their name. To some people, the Judge may seem like a negative archetype, implying a judgmental nature and maybe a cruel or imperious streak. But this archetype can be essential in making a wide range of informed decisions in areas as different as business and art. One day it might even save your life.
So, after you’ve assembled a group of at least eight archetypes that you feel drawn to, begin by asking a few simple questions. If you like, you can imagine each archetype sitting in a chair across from you, and ask the questions directly to the archetype. You can even write a letter to the archetype if you find that more agreeable, asking the same questions in writing. Allow the archetype to respond, the answers coming from the deepest levels of your own intuition. Or simply ask yourself, and wait for the answer to come to you. Here are some sample questions:
•What events or personal characteristics led me to choose this archetype?
•How long has this archetypal pattern been a part of my life?
•What role has this archetype played for me?
•Which prominent people have interacted with the aspect of my nature supported by this archetype? (For instance, if it’s the Teacher archetype, think of the people who have played important roles in your own education or inspired you to be a teacher to others.)
•What relationship might it have to my personal unfinished business – to those people I haven’t forgiven, or to events in the past that I can’t let go of? And might this archetype now help me in healing those situations?
•What myths, fairy tales, or spiritual stories that have meaning for me do I associate with this archetype?
•Has this archetype appeared in my dreams?
•Does thinking of this archetype make me feel empowered or disempowered?
You should also look for spiritual resonance in your archetypes. Ask yourself:
•What impact has this archetype had on my spirituality?
•What have I learned about my own shadow aspect through this archetype?
•Has it caused me to block or forgo change that needs to happen?
•What immediate guidance might this archetype have to offer me in the present moment?
After questioning each prospective archetype, weed out those that are not genuinely part of your intimate support team, and then return to the list to select replacements. Continue this process until you have eight archetypes that you feel confident play a major role in your life. Combined with the four survival archetypes, you now have your 12.