Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Archetype

Coming to terms with Archetypes:

The idea of an archetype began, as most of our ideas did in Western Philosophy, with Plato. Of course, his concept of an archetype varied pretty substantially from the concept that has developed from his work. To sum up Plato's ideas, the archetypes were absolute forms and all of experienced reality was a shadow of this truth. For instance, we could see something and know it was a chair despite being different in color and material than any other chair we had seen because our souls recognized the archetype of the chair.

Still, it was Carl Jung who picked up Plato's idea and developed the archetype as we understand it today, innate prototypes for concepts that appear as universals across cultures as interpretive templates for understanding reality and literature. Jung claimed that there were a large number of archetypes some those that are commonly sited are from his book Man and his Symbols (with Marvel Superheroes as examples):

  1. The self, the part of us that regulates (Dr. X, Mr. Fantastic, Captain America).
  2. The Shadow, the wild and untamed part of ourselves (Hulk, Deadpool, Phoenix).
  3. The Anima, the archetype of the feminine (Storm, The Invisible Girl, sometimes Shadowcat)
  4. The Animus, the archetype of the masculine (Wolverine, The Thing).
  5. The persona, the mask, the hypocrite, the part we show to the world (Spider Man, Johnny Storm, Iron Man).
This was never meant to be a comprehensive list and Jung as well as Jung's disciples, especially Joseph Campbell added to it. These others included: the child, the hero, the savior, the great mother, the wise old person, the trickster, the devil, the scarecrow, the teacher and rebirth. the list could go on indefinitely. People have found an understanding of these archetypes very useful in understanding them as part of themselves, or as reoccurring concepts of literature.

It has also become popular for many people to use these as an instrument for interpreting Old Testament scripture, using new testament scriptures like Hebrews 8:5 as a basis, and seeing New Testament examples, especially those dealing with Jesus as "true types" rather than archetypes. Of course, the writer of human writer of Hebrews could not have been aware of Jung's theories, but if we accept the concept of Divine Inspiration, we can accept that God was.

What has gotten really interesting to me has been the archetypes that Jung developed in his book Psychological Types. He really developed just a couple types there: the rational judge and the irrational perceiver. Each of these could be divided into three. The rational judge could either be a thinker or a feeler. The irrational perceiver could either be sensitive or intuitive. Some of you are probably already seeing something familiar developing here, The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to which Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Meyers added the archetypes of "the introvert" and "the extrovert."

I had taken MBTI tests before and never really worried about them until I was married. So, I fall into an archetype sort of, who cares? It wasn't until I was married to someone who lives in the world in a very different way than I do that I was concerned. Suddenly, I was required to explain my thoughts and actions, and I lacked the words to do it.

This blog is about "coming to terms" and for me the MBTI has really helped me come to terms. I learned more about my type and more about my wife's type and have been able to really improve our relationship through it. Learning about myself this way has also had some really fascinating side effects. I have been able to find out what my type should do to improve our work habits, something that has helped me at my job. I have become more aware of my personality weaknesses and have learned to put myself in situations where they don't matter or where they can be worked around. Finally, I have found groups on the internet that discuss my type, and we can all help us understand it. Here is a post I made in one such group based on the comment one group member made, recommending that we exclude those not of our type:
  • I joined the open group and then asked to join this one because it helps me think about myself in a more systematic way. Even those who are not INTP seem to be trying to come to terms with the archetype, which is what I am trying to do. I am trying to come to terms (defined: find language) for explaining myself, especially to my ENFJ wife. I really do think it has helped and should probably thank the active posters in this group for that, even those that are not INTP.

    It is true, that some people who post the most here are not INTP. I am far more likely to respond than post (I), but generally willing to give my thoughts on the subject. If we didn't have people here ENGAGING our archetype, we'd probably have a pretty empty board.

    I also get annoyed by people who seem more "J" than "P," especially those who take a particularly anti-religious bent, actively stereotyping and categorizing using categories that they don't seem to see bleed too much and are too anomaly pocked to be useful. Still, we get so much "J" from the religious point of view, that it is also interesting to hear the "J" arguments from secular perspectives.

    Finally, I am not sure what criteria we'd use if we wanted to exclude people. Even the best indicators misapply, and I am not sure that mathematical tests are the best for applying the concept of the archetype. I think there is a reason that Jung is considered fringe in the Social Sciences, but widely accepted in the Humanities. It is because a literary reading of oneself seems to indicate the validity of the existence of archetypes. Granted, in three out of the four types my scores are so strong that the mathematical tests always agree, but I do occasionally get "F". Where statistical significance fails, the best scenario is to read about the archetypes and see where best fit seems to be. It doesn't really make sense to exclude people based on this.

Studying archetypes is fun for looking at the Bible and literature, but it has recently also made a difference in my life. It has helped me to understand why I act the way I do, and either change it or explain it.

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