Self-Discovery Through the Prism of Archetypes with Caroline Myss

Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung introduced millions to the vibrant world of archetypes shared in our collective unconscious. But how do these forces actually impact our lives? And is it possible that we are partnered with certain archetypal energies before birth? Here’s the author of The New York Times bestseller Sacred Contracts on the origins of her visionary new audio series The Language of Archetypes, over two decades in the making.

My work with this particular model started a long time ago. Actually, I remember the day. Whenever a rich new paradigm, a rich new model, a rich new whole complex area of work enters my life, it comes truly in an inspirational moment…it’s a mystical experience for me. That was true with this material about the archetypal connections of the soul. It happened while I was teaching at Findhorn [a retreat center in Scotland]. I was desperately trying to find a way to communicate to somebody how he could understand himself better. I had a little white board, and I drew a circle and said, “Think of yourself as standing in the middle of a pie, and you’ve got all these different pieces of yourself. And each piece of the pie has a different quality to it.” And bingo! I saw that the pie was composed of archetypes.

I suddenly got it—that within each of us is a fundamental contract that simply has authority in our life. And this contract has a code; it has an authority that extends before we were born. We are in dialogue with this contract at all times, and it is in our best interest to uncover what this contract is and to discover the partnership that we have with these archetypal voices or soul patterns that make up our contract. It is in our best interest to bring our unconscious into consciousness.

If this is not what enlightenment is, then you have to give me a better definition. If bringing our unconscious out into the open is not what the journey of life is about, then I’m not quite sure how else to define it. The substance of our unconscious includes the archetypal patterns that are within our soul’s fiber. That’s what I began to understand 20 years ago when I was teaching at Findhorn…the seed of these ideas was born that day.

I then continued to do intuitive readings on people, which I did very actively back in the 1980s and into the mid–1990s. I just relished reading archetypes in people and reading their contracts, and it was a delight for me. I loved it, because every single reading was an enhancement and a validation to the research that I was doing, and it gave me an opportunity to understand people so much more. But more to the point, it was a way people could understand themselves. And I started to show people, to teach people, that in fact before they were born they had a contract and assignments that they needed to follow in this world—that their life was not a random event, that it was a charted course of opportunities. And I repeat: a charted course of opportunities, not guarantees, not provided outcomes, but opportunities. These opportunities are the impulses within us, the longings we have, the feelings and pulsations that when I teach people to understand themselves at the archetypal level, that person is taking a grand leap, a very courageous leap, a leap of consciousness. I say courageous very specifically because it is a courageous leap to cross into a territory of awareness where you can no longer deny what you are called to do or become or experience on this earth. Most people suffer not because of what others have done to them, but because of what they do to themselves. And specifically the act of abuse that people most often launch against themselves is the act of self-betrayal. For instance, they pray for guidance, receive guidance, and then deny guidance. Or they do not follow through with what they know they must because of an oppressive fear of humiliation.

When you finally connect with an archetypal pattern, you are far too deep at that point to deny that a soul voice is calling you. You have a calling to be of service to help relieve suffering. Or you have a calling to find within yourself why you have such a deep fear of your own sexuality. Believe it or not, even that is its own archetypal pattern. Or you realize that you fear memories of your childhood and that you must get in touch with the Wounded Child archetype. Whatever archetype is calling you, realize that you have to look at yourself through that lens and follow it through until you are whole. That’s why working with archetypes is courageous, because it changes your life.

It’s important to realize that an archetype is a fluid force with many faces and it can manifest in many different ways. Take the Artist archetype for example. An artist has many different faces: you have a starving artist, but you also have a con artist. It’s not as simple as “an artist is someone who paints.” An artist has a skill at making things different from what they appear to be with a creative flair. It is a seductive skill. And many people have that trait. When you understand what the artist truly is, you can see that you don’t need a paintbrush to have that talent.

So understanding an archetype takes a great deal of effort, but in doing that you are understanding how complex and limitless you are. You aren’t really studying the archetype. You are studying yourself through the prism of an archetype. That’s why I created The Language of Archetypes: To give people a self-study tool that would animate each archetype and bring these forces to life.

It’s important that when you investigate an archetype that you sit with it and come up with at least three different ways of defining that archetype that wouldn’t have even occurred to you before—ways that are not—and here’s the key word—literal. You need to think about archetypes symbolically. Use this series as a valuable tool for stretching your perceptual system because it stretches you like toffee. In learning to identify archetypes, there are subtle currents that you need to be able to spot. And believe me, part of becoming good at anything requires study. If this were another subject, you would have homework, and you would have to read and study and reflect.

The Language of Archetypes is a tool for the journey of consciousness. And the subject of what you are becoming conscious of is you. So the real question is: how much time do you want to invest in knowing yourself? I’m always amazed at how people can get bored with the discovery of their own soul. That’s what I cannot believe when I look at people. When in fact, you are the one item in your life that should not bore you. You should be your very best surprise package.

Caroline Myss

Caroline Myss Return to top of page

Caroline Myss is the author of four New York Times bestsellers: Anatomy of the Spirit, Sacred Contracts, Invisible Acts of Power, and Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can. A leading voice in the f...

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