Father’s Day and Jung’s archetypes


For Father’s day I will expound on Jung’s archetypes, specifically the father archetype and the collective unconscious.  I have  hesitated to write on a subject for which I think I know little and Jung’s theories are just such a topic.  However, it is a topic that I felt drawn to when I first learned of Jungian psychology at Alverno College in 1988. My reason for delving into such abstract theoretical concepts is because Father’s Day stimulated my thinking about the father archetype and also I made a resolve with myself to delve deeper into my inner landscape with my blog, to write about thoughts and feelings that I shied away from because I thought I was too insignificant to voice them or I was too afraid I was wrong or didn’t have it right. Putting those fears aside, here is what I think I know with regard to Jung’s theories.

Jung based his thought on the concept of the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is where all the myths, legends, images, patterns of psychic life, patterns of relating, patterns of the internal world of the human unconsciousness lie. It is the connecting thread underlying all humanity which we automatically inherit. It is primordial and I believe it is spiritual. It is an internal world rich in symbolism, abstract ideas and concepts which can be found in the archetypes.

Archetypes are the stuff the collective unconscious is made of. They are like templates of an idea or form from which like energies are attracted. In the case of the father archetype, all the energies, thoughts, feelings, actions that an individual experiences of the concept of a father are attracted to the father archetype. The basic form of the father archetype is of protector, provider, disciplinarian and authority. Carolyn Myss describes the light attributes of the father archetype as having the talent for creating and supporting life and being a positive guiding light within a tribal unit while the shadow of the father archetype is a dictatorial control and abusing of power. All the personal experiences one has with regard to the father archetype gravitate to that archetype and reside there in the personal unconscious consequently adding to the collective unconscious.

My experience with the father archetype through my relationships with my biological father and two step-fathers was abandonment and abuse of authoritarian power. I feel these earlier experiences led me to abandon and abuse myself. My lesson, as I see it, was to heal my past experiences or make conscious my archetypical pattern ultimately transforming this archetype in my life. After a few failed relationships where I repeated my archetypal pattern of abandonment and misuse of power, I made a conscious decision to find a relationship that was more benevolent.

My husband Mike was already a father who was supporting and protecting his own children when he married me and took on the responsibility of my three sons. Through the years Mike’s role of father has evolved and changed and he has shown me a distinctly opposing experience to those I had while growing up. He is a stalwart provider, generous with a strong sense of justice and right and wrong. He has a loving heart and a soft mushy inner core. He would do whatever it takes to protect his family. Due to Mike and his influence in our family he has balanced my shadow father archetype with the light attributes. Balancing and bringing awareness to the unconscious patterns of the father archetype that influenced my life has brought much-needed peace and a sense of support and security.

Any thoughts? How has the father archetype shown up in your life?

Related links:
Help with discovering your inner father archetype.
Matrignosis, a fascinating  blog I follow that deals with Jungian Psychology
A place to go for Carl Jung’s ideas and concepts.
A bloggers post on balancing your archetypes.
Exploring and balancing archetypes.

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12 thoughts on “Father’s Day and Jung’s archetypes

  1. Thanks for the excellent summary of the father archetype. You made it very clear exactly why one would want to understand what archetypes are and why we should know about them! I’m passing this on to a friend who recently asked me about this very topic!

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    1. Wow, thanks Jeanie. Coming from you that is high praise indeed. I can feel a smile emanating from my core. You know, I struggled with that post because I let it be what I thought and not searched the internet for the right way to say it. It’s kind of like coming out of the hiding.

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      1. Just and excellent post!
        So well done.
        And so rewarding to read and reflect on its importance, value to and for my life and those I connect with…
        Cathy

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      2. Two comments!!! Wow, I didn’t realize when I was writing it that it would make such an impact. I am going to strive for more posts of this nature. What I envisioned when I started my blog. Thanks again Cathy.

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    1. So, you are one of those great unwashed, btw, thanks for cluing me into the meaning of that. However, I could walk into the room in a burlap bag, dirt and leaves in my hair and a large white hair growing from my upper lip and you would say I looked beautiful. Not that that’s a bad thing. Just saying…
      All kidding aside, I don’t know where I would be with out my “biggest fan.”

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  2. This is so powerful.
    Helped me understand more fully the archetypes and the archetype of father.
    Clear, concise, and easily grasped and integrated into my mind and heart.
    The line that holds the most for me: “Carolyn Myss describes the light attributes of the father archetype as having the talent for creating and supporting life and being a positive guiding light within a tribal unit while the shadow of the father archetype is a dictatorial control and abusing of power.”

    My experience of father is that of the shadow of father. It took awhile and I have been able to forgive my father, myself. Often wondered what his father was life for him. I know that I am more at peace and can speak of loving him. In this I believe I am healing the father archetype within myself (consciously) and with this the masculine energy within myself that I can be a “guiding light.”

    I do believe it is so important to heal the shadow of the father archetype – for the world and the presence of that shadow in abuse, murder, wars….

    Thank you Janice,

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    1. Cathy, I think it is amazing that you can speak of loving your father. Although, I think I balanced the energies of the father archetype, I am not able to say I love my step-father. I don’t hate him. It’s more like, I distance myself from him. And as for my father I still feel sadness at his abandonment. However, Mike’s staying through thick and thin has brought about a healing in my feeling abandoned.

      I do believe it is so important to heal the shadow of the father archetype – for the world and the presence of that shadow in abuse, murder, wars….

      And yes Cathy, that is an excellent point. I am sure the shadow archetype plays a big role in the atrocities being perpetrated around the world and throughout history.

      Thank you Cathy, so much for you in-depth and insightful comment. Janice

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  3. Janice,
    Thank you for your very scholarly and heartfelt entry. You helped me to understand better what an archetype is and the two sides of the father archetype. I don’t know which one my father was. As a child I adored my father and wanted to emulate him. I wanted to be strong, bold, courageous and funny just like him. He had a huge generous heart and I enjoyed spending time with him and working for him in his record store when I got to be high school age. All our friends thought he was great. But…my father was an alcoholic and when he was drinking he was a different person. His abuse of my mother was difficult for me to witness once I was old enough to understand what was happening. For the most part, the abuse was verbal and emotional and mean. I was very confused by him. Sometimes I would hate him only to find him meek and loving in the “morning after,” and I could never tell him what I had thought I was going to say the night before. It took me until I was into my 30’s when I finally stood up to him in defense of my mother. I loved my father and my mother and I miss them now that they are both “gone.” I always wondered what of his father influenced him to be the man he was. Without the alcohol he seemed to be a relatively decent father. I forgave him a while ago for the pain he caused me. Thanks again, Janice for another excellent and thought-provoking blog. Love you.

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    1. Dear Pam, I am honored that what I wrote elicited such deep feelings in you. I can see where the father archetype in you would be confused what with the vacillating back and from with your own father. It’s like you got first hand experience with the opposing sides of an archetype. It sounds like you have done some emotional work around your experience with your father. IMHO, not being an expert or anything, I would say that you brought balance to the opposing opposites through first standing up to your father and then later forgiving him and even going on to contemplate the relationship he had with his father. I am sure, however, that the sadness around this issue will, to some extent, always be there. Thank you so much for the honest sharing of your experience with your father.

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