Book Review: Archetypes – Who Are You?

Book Review: Archetypes: Who Are You? By Caroline Myss (2013)

When I happened upon this book on a recent library visit, I snatched it up for two reasons.

First, I hadn’t visited the topic of archetype since the mid-nineties when I studied Jung during my master’s program. Marriage, three children, and 20+ years later, I can’t say I remembered too much.

Secondly, I fondly remember Caroline as a woman who saved me during one of the most difficult points in my career as a Catholic high school president. I didn’t know her well, we’d met only once or twice, but when I sent a bulk email to inform folks in the community that I’d resigned – quite unexpectedly, she responded with an invitation to meet her THAT evening for dinner. I’ve not seen nor really spoken to her since, but in ways she will never know, she saved my life that night.

Caroline Myss is an internationally renowned speaker and author in the field of energy medicine and human consciousness. “She specializes in assisting people in understanding the emotional, psychological, and physical reasons why their bodies have developed an illness” (Back jacket).

In Archetypes, Caroline presents a clear explanation of the concept of archetypes, how they impact our lives, and why it is important to recognize and embrace your archetype. Given the infinite possibilities for archetypes, and that they can change with time, Caroline chooses to cover ten archetypes that she believes, “embody the primary power issues that define women today, including their underlying struggles with personal empowerment” (p. 9).

Once I read the two opening chapters explaining archetypes, I dug right into the list of ten:

  • The Advocate
  • The Artist/Creative
  • The Athlete
  • The Caregiver
  • The Fashionista
  • The Intellectual
  • The Queen/Executive
  • The Rebel
  • The Spiritual Seeker
  • The Visionary

I could immediately identify those that didn’t fit: athlete, fashionista, queen/executive.

The CaregiverEager to identify my archetype, I did a quick check of the overview elements of each archetype as she outlines:

  • Life Journey
  • Unique Challenge
  • Universal Lesson
  • Defining Grace
  • Inner Shadow
  • Male Counterpart
  • Myths
  • Recognizing Your Archetype (Specific examples of behaviors and characteristics)
  • Lifestyle Challenge
  • Step Into Your Archetype (Practical steps, Where You Gain Your Power, Where You Lose Your Power, and a Checklist)

I decided I was not likely an advocate, artist/creative, or intellectual.

That left me with Caregiver, Rebel, Spiritual Seeker, and Visionary.

Reading each of these archetypes carefully, I can pretty firmly identify as the Caregiver being my primary archetype. But I have very strong elements of the rebel, spiritual seeker [note – not spiritual finder], and visionary that I am certain influence my personality, my interactions with others, and my understanding of our world.

To ensure that I didn’t make assumptions, I then returned to each archetype I’d skipped. As Caroline points out, we may have elements of many archetypes impacting us – as I could find a characteristic or example of ‘me’ in the advocate, artist/creative, and intellectual, but not nearly as many points as in the Caregiver. And, once again, my rereading confirmed that I am no athlete, fashionista, or queen/executive.

I found that peeking into the ‘not me’ archetypes gave me a glimpse into the possible thoughts, patterns, and feelings of family and friends – which will hopefully make me a better caregiver. 😊

The last section of the book, “Archetype Gallery” offers a list of 22 archetypes, and sub-archetypes, not covered in the main chapter to provide further points of insight and reflection.

If you are looking for a quick, easy-read approach to discovering your archetype – or what makes you tick – pick up a copy of Caroline Myss’ archetypes and dive in.

Are you familiar with archetypes? Do you know yours? 

35 comments

  1. Janet, I’ve read about archetypes extensively and used them in work (brand identity) and with people (personal understanding). I’ve usually used the ones Carol Pearson has extolled – in her books or people/companies who’ve used her core 12. Of course, there are many overlaps but it’s interesting that the Caroline Myss list doens’t have my primary archetype – Sage. Probably closest is Intellectual, but I’d need to look at the details more to confirm. I’ve got one pagers on the 12 Carol Pearson archetypes…if you’d like to see those as well (or just caregiver to broaden your personal understanding – that is one Pearson has as well). Let me know.

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  2. What an interesting sounding book Janet – I think there are definite types that we tend to identify as – I’d be interested in seeing which one I am – I could cross off the same ones as you (and I’m not sure that my family would put me high on the caregiver scale when they’re sick!) I’ll have to check out if my library can order it in.

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    • Leanne – the great thing about the book is how it is structured to easily delve into those that resonate. Hope you can find it at your library. Carolyn is an international speaker so they may have it. Thanks for joining the conversation!

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      • Leanne – Just wanted to let you know that I just found your comment in the spam folder of my website. Don’t know why. So glad you found the book – I think you might find it interesting.

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  3. Reblogged this on Christine Betts – WriterPainter and commented:
    One for the To Be Read list! Well, to be read…again! I picked this book up years ago and then gave it away to a friend without even opening the cover! Now I wish I had it on my shelf. Perhaps I thought she needed it more than I did.
    I’ve just spotted the <Previous button and it reads "My Self-Directed Writers' Retreat". Just what I need!

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    • Christine – thanks so much for the reblog. Isn’t it funny how books sometimes circle around – I have some that “I almost read once”…perhaps the timing wasn’t right the first time around. And I hope my self-directed writers’ retreat post wasn’t dissappointing. I didn’t get much writing done so doubt it was helpful. Hopefully my October one will get me all prepped for NaNoWramo…thanks for joining the conversation!

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  4. It sounds like a very interesting book, Janet. It’s even more intriguing knowing the story of her inviting you to dinner upon learning of your unexpected resignation. She sounds like a kind, sensitive person. I love it!

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  5. This book is right up my alley!! I think this book would obviously help me learn more about myself, but I can also see it as a resource for developing fictional characters.

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    • Ah yes Molly – I’ve recently come across articles and blogs that discuss using Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, and Archetypes for character development…hope you can check it out if you get a change. Thanks for joining the conversation…

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  6. Hi, Janet – Your review did the trick. You’ve made me want to read Carolyn’s book!
    Immediately after reading your post, I visited Carolyn’s website and read more about her research on archetypes. From your list, my first guess for me was ‘advocate’. What I read on her website helped confirm that for me – but also showed several other archetypes that also have possibilities (and some that absolutely do not resonate for me at all). Great post!

    https://www.myss.com/free-resources/sacred-contracts-and-your-archetypes/appendix-a-gallery-of-archtypes/

    #MLSTL

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  7. I am somewhat familiar with Caroline Myss through Oprah’s Super soul Sunday but I have not read this book. I am fascinated by archetypes and all the discussion around that sort of thing. I have been doing a lot of reading about the enneagram lately. I will definitively look for this book! There is something so interesting and self-reflective of learning about yourself in this way and about using it to help you understand other people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle, as I was reading, I was also wondering about how archetypes cross over with Enneagram profiles. I think many of these paradigms point us in similar directions – which is what I find fascinating about them. Thanks for joining the conversation…

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