James Hillman, the father of archetypal psychology, focused on the enormous value of archetypes. Archetypes are primal patterns of the psyche and arise from the collective unconscious. Potent and numerous, archetypes influence every area of our lives. For example, why did you choose that partner? What attracts you to a specific profession? Why do you react in certain ways? The answer is: because of your archetypes. All of us have multiple archetypes and they unconsciously run our lives until we wake up and recognize them. Your nighttime dreams help you to awaken to your archetypes which is why understanding your dreams is so crucial to your soul’s evolution.
How do you recognize an archetype in dreamtime?
When an archetype appears in your dream you will feel it. There is a degree of emotional intensity that surfaces causing you to react strongly. It may be a positive or negative reaction, but either way, your emotions will be a significant part of the dream. So, notice the dream scene and pay close attention to it. Where are you? Who is present? What is happening? How are you feeling?
From working with archetypes while providing intuitive and empathic counseling to my clients, I believe archetypes are sacred. When fully understood, they can lead to great transformation. When an archetype visits you in dreamtime, welcome it as you would a treasured friend for this visit is coming to you from the depths of psyche and soul.
Here is a dream a client shared where the “prostitute” archetype makes an important appearance:
My wife and I are in a night club. There’s music and entertainment and there’s
a sexual vibe in the air. Some men come over to talk to us. They ask
my wife to star in a pornographic movie. There’s some reluctance but she
agrees to do it. Although I’m not totally behind the idea there is an
element of sexual excitement that I feel and like. The men leave and I
excuse myself from the table. When I return it looks like my wife has been
crying. I sense that she’s having second thoughts and say to her, “You
don’t want to do this, do you?” She shakes her head, no, and adds, “But
I told them I would.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I say. “We can say you’ve changed walk right out of here.
In fact, there’s the door.” I hug her, put my coat over her shoulders and with my arm
around her, lead her to the door. We leave. I awake feeling deeply relieved.
You may be wondering: What on earth does this dream have to do with archetypes? It sounds like a dream about this couple’s sexual relationship, or perhaps some kind of fantasy or rescue dream. Yet if you understand that every character in your dream is an aspect of you, and that the woman is portraying this man’s “anima”—his feminine aspect—than the dream begins to make more sense.
In waking life, this man explained how much he had been reading about archetypes. He desired to understand why he was sacrificing himself for the sake of his career. Though he was good at what he did, he felt he was working far too many hours. Rather than doing what he most loved, he was spending countless hours in front of his computer. As we explored this issue and looked at some of his dreams, he was able to identify the archetype of the prostitute lurking in the shadows.
Carolyn Myss explains this archetype as a “lesson in integrity and the sale or negotiation of one’s integrity or spirit due to fears of physical and financial survival or for financial gain. This archetype activates the aspects of the unconscious that are related to seduction and control….”
In the dream, the man is excited by the prospect of his wife making pornography for some strange men. These strangers represent unfamiliar aspects of the dreamer. However, he is protective of his wife, his feminine aspect, and doesn’t want her to feel exploited. As anima, she represents the man’s soul. In waking life, he was trying to connect more deeply with his soul and disconnect from his ego-identity that was driving him to work far more than he truly desired. He discovered he was “prostituting” his soul for money and validation. His soul was suffering from societal conditioning that teaches a good provider must sacrifice his happiness for the sake of financial security.
The prostitute archetype appeared and revealed the progress he was making by diving deeply into archetypes and understanding old patterns that were living in the unconscious and driving him. Now that he had gotten to the core of this archetypal pattern, he was able to liberate himself from a vicious cycle that had been running his life for decades. He was now free to create a completely different work schedule and truly achieve balance for the first time in his adult life. Making these changes positively impacted his relationship with his soul, mind, body, spirit and those around him that he loved.
Some archetypes you were born with and some you have developed along the way. Certain archetypes will prevent you from fulfilling your full potential while others will grace your life in positive ways. Your nighttime dreams will guide you to discover these ancient patterns that are personal to no one yet affect everyone.