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What are the 12 shadow archetypes?

If you’ve been exploring shadow work, you may have come across the concept of the Jungian archetypes and their shadows.

But what are the 12 Jungian shadow archetypes, and what use do they have for personal growth?

I’ll dive deep into each shadow archetype. If there’s one you’re particularly interested in, use the Table of Contents below to skip to that section.

The 12 Jungian Archetypes & Their Shadows

The 12 Jungian archetypes are actually a collection of archetypes from across multiple cultures and time periods. The psychologist Carl Jung was one of the first people to use these archetypes as a psychological tool.

Of Archetypes, Jung said:

Archetypes were, and still are, living psychic forces that demand to be taken seriously, and they have a strange way of making sure of their effect.

Carl Jung

What are archetypes?

Archetypes are ancient, universal symbols and characters that reside within the collective unconscious of people all over the world.

These symbols can be images, ideas, or patterns of behavior.

Think of them as characteristics of the psyche, all of which we possess. Jung argues that archetypes are the root of our behavior and that they influence everything from the way we behave in relationships to the way we see the world.

Understanding the 12 archetypes and how pronounced they are in your own psyche can be a powerful tool for understanding yourself.

A profile of a woman and her shadow projected on the wall representing her shadow archetype
Understanding the 12 Shadow Archetypes

What are shadow archetypes?

The shadow is the part of the psyche that we are not aware of. It is the dark, hidden side of our personality that contains all of the qualities and traits that we consider to be negative.

The shadow archetype is the darker version of an archetype. Think of it as the inverted version of what makes an archetype useful. If taken to the extreme, what is the dark side of this archetype?

Therein lies the shadow archetype.

When engaging in shadow work, we’re unpacking the hidden, repressed aspects of ourselves. Learning about shadow archetypes achieves a similar goal.

It reveals to us what happens when particular characteristics run amuck.

With that, let’s unpack the 12 archetypes and their shadow versions. If you prefer a video summary before diving in, this is a good one:

1. The Ruler

The Ruler archetype is all about control, power, and order. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a tyrant.

A Ruler strives for excellence and wants everyone around them to reach their full potential. They are natural leaders who are decisive and have a clear vision. It is also referred to as The Father archetype.

The Shadow Ruler

The Shadow Ruler is also known as The Tyrant. This is the archetype that takes control to the extreme. They are repressive, dictatorial, and oppressive.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly needing to prove their worth and power. They might also feel the need to micromanage those around them.

Examples of The Shadow Ruler:

One real-world example of the Shadow Ruler archetype is a political leader who becomes overly focused on power or control and neglects the needs or well-being of their constituents.

They may use their position of authority to manipulate or exploit others and are often disconnected from the needs or realities of everyday people.

Another example is a corporate executive who prioritizes profits over people or the environment. They may make decisions that harm the environment or negatively impact their employees, all in the name of maximizing profits and power.

A third example is a parent or guardian who becomes overly controlling or authoritarian, neglecting the emotional or psychological needs of their children. They’re primary goal is to control their children’s lives instead of enriching or guiding them.

How To Work With The Shadow Ruler:

To work with the shadow side of The Ruler, it’s important to cultivate self-awareness and humility.

Ask yourself if your actions are truly in the best interest of the group, or if you’re just seeking to maintain your own power.

Practice active listening and seek out the opinions and perspectives of those around you.

Remember that leadership is about empowering others and creating a collaborative environment where everyone can thrive, not just about maintaining control.

2. The Rebel

The rebel is all about bucking the system and doing things their own way. They are non-conformists who challenge authority.

The rebel is the archetype that stands up for what they believe in, even if it means going against the grain. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of an anarchist.

The Shadow Rebel

The Anarchist is the shadow version of the rebel. This is the archetype that takes rebellion to the extreme. They are disruptive, chaotic, and destructive.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly feeling like they need to defy authority figures or societal norms. They might also feel like they’re always fighting an uphill battle.

Examples of the Shadow Rebel:

The shadow Rebel archetype is someone who becomes rebellious for the sake of rebellion, without any clear purpose or direction.

They may engage in destructive or harmful behavior simply to defy authority or challenge the status quo, without considering the potential consequences of their actions.

Another example is someone who becomes rebellious against their own best interests, resisting change or growth out of fear or insecurity.

They may cling to familiar patterns or behaviors, even if they are not healthy or productive, and may reject opportunities for personal growth or transformation.

Rebellion in the name of the greater good can have a positive impact on the world. But rebellion, for rebellion’s sake, can lead people into anti-social behaviors, isolation, and negative patterns.

How To Work With The Shadow Rebel:

To work with the shadow side of The Rebel, it’s important to cultivate self-awareness and channel rebellious energy in a constructive way.

People inclined towards expressing their Shadow Rebel do better when they stop to examine the underlying motivations behind their rebellious behavior. 

Ask yourself if you’re rebelling against something for its own sake or if you’re fighting for a cause you believe in. Practice empathy and understanding towards those you may be rebelling against, and seek out opportunities to collaborate and find common ground.

That rebellious spirit can have a lot of benefits, but it’s important to channel it into honorable causes rather than turning into a troll or troublemaker for kicks. 

3. The Lover

The lover is all about passion, intimacy, and connection. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a seducer.

If this part of your psyche is dominant, it’s likely you value deep emotional connections and are passionate about creating and experiencing beauty in all its forms. 

You may be drawn to the arts, to romantic relationships, or to other experiences that evoke strong emotions.

The Shadow Lover

The Seducer is the shadow version of the lover. This is the archetype that takes passion and intimacy to the extreme. They are manipulative and seductive and often use sex as a weapon.

When in its shadow form, The Lover may also become possessive, dependent, or addicted to pleasure. 

This can lead to feelings of emptiness, dissatisfaction, and a lack of authentic emotional connections with others.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly needing to be in a relationship or pursuing someone (classic monkey branchers). They might also use their sexuality as a way to control others.

How To Work With The Shadow Lover:

People who struggle with the shadow side of The Lover archetype have to work at cultivating a sense of self-worth and self-love. 

That sounds like advice we give everyone, but it’s especially important for these types because they are so prone to seeking external validation. 

If your Shadow Lover is dominant and running amuck, you’ll likely benefit from working on building relationships built on trust and learning healthy communication and boundary setting within these relationships. 

Shadow Lovers are susceptible to codependent relationships and other unhealthy relationship patterns that make life difficult. 

4. The Caregiver

The caregiver is all about nurturing, support, and care. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a martyr. It has also been referred to as The Mother.

A caregiver is someone who is always looking out for others and wants to make sure that everyone has what they need. They are selfless and often put the needs of others above their own, sometimes to their detriment. 

A healthy Caregiver archetype finds a lot of fulfillment in caring for others and are drawn to “helping” professions like social work, healthcare, and teaching.

The Shadow Caregiver

The Martyr is the shadow version of the caregiver. This is the archetype that takes caregiving to the extreme. They are self-sacrificing, codependent, and often find themselves in relationships where they are not appreciated.

In this context, martyrdom is seen as honorable (as in other contexts). It is unnecessary self-sacrificing, more akin to victimhood.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly giving to others without receiving anything in return. They might also find themselves in relationships where they are not appreciated.

This can lead to burnout, resentment, and a sense of feeling unappreciated or undervalued.

How To Work With The Shadow Caregiver:

The biggest obstacle for people wrestling with their inner Martyr is the ability to set healthy boundaries in their personal and professional relationships. 

One huge step in the right direction is learning how to say “no” to certain requests or delegating tasks to others so that you can take time for yourself.

If you’re struggling with this shadow aspect of yourself, you need to develop a strong sense of independence and purpose that is wholly your own. (Easier said than done, I know.)

This might include pursuing personal interests or hobbies, setting and achieving personal goals, or seeking out opportunities to learn and grow outside of your caregiving role.

5. The Creator

The creator is all about imagination, artistry, and self-expression. A creator is someone who is highly creative and expressive. They often have a strong imagination and enjoy making art.

The Shadow Creator

The Perfectionist is the shadow version of the creator. Nothing they create is good enough. They are their own harshest critic and often find themselves feeling disappointed with their work.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly trying to perfect their work. They might also find themselves procrastinating or not finishing projects.

Struggling with this shadow side might look like suffering from creative blocks or lacking inspiration and feeling stuck. 

When this happens to people who find great meaning in their creative side, it can lead to frustration, self-doubt, and feeling like their life has no purpose or meaning.

How To Work With Your Shadow Creator:

For Creators, the biggest obstacle with this shadow side is overcoming a fear of failure. 

A large part of that is cultivating a stronger sense of self-compassion and pushing yourself to dabble outside your comfort zone. 

It’s also important to cultivate a sense of play and experimentation in your creative pursuits. 

Don’t be afraid to try new things or take creative risks, even if they may not be successful. Remember that creativity is about the process, not just the end result.

6. The Sage

The sage is all about knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a know-it-all.

A sage is someone who is highly knowledgeable and wise. They often have a deep understanding of the world and are able to see things from different perspectives.

Sage types are drawn towards more intellectual and cerebral professions like spirituality and academia. 

The Shadow Sage

The Know-It-All is the shadow version of the sage. This is the archetype that takes knowledge and wisdom to the extreme. They are often arrogant, skeptical, and close-minded.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly questioning or doubting others. 

They might also find themselves being too critical, overly dogmatic, self-righteous, or may struggle with indecisiveness or analysis paralysis.

Examples of The Shadow Sage:

One real-world example of the shadow Sage archetype is someone who becomes overly dogmatic or rigid in their beliefs, dismissing alternative perspectives or ideas without considering them fully.

They may see themselves as possessing superior knowledge or wisdom and are dismissive or condescending towards people who don’t share their perspectives.

Another example is someone who becomes paralyzed by analysis or indecision, obsessing over details or information without taking decisive action. They may become overly cautious or hesitant and struggle with making important decisions or taking risks. (Guilty!)

A third example is someone who becomes overly theoretical or abstract in their thinking, neglecting the practical realities or implications of their ideas.

Think of this one as getting stuck in your own head. You’re full of great ideas but can never quite translate them into action, but you’re unable to see the problem because you’re stuck in your own headspace.

How To Work With The Shadow Sage:

To work with the Know-It-All is to push against its natural tendencies. 

That typically looks like trying to cultivate a sense of humility and openness. 

One way to do this is to actively seek out new information and dialogue with others with different viewpoints. This can help you to broaden your understanding and gain new insights that you may not have considered before.

To do this effectively, Sages have to also cultivate a strong sense of self-awareness – to catch themselves when they start slipping into their Know-It-All tendencies and develop strategies for course-correcting.

7. The Innocent

The innocent is all about purity, naivete, and childlike wonder. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a victim.

An innocent is someone who is pure of heart and childlike in their innocence. They often see the world through rose-colored glasses and are very trusting.

The Shadow Innocent

The Victim is the shadow version of the innocent. This is the archetype that takes purity and naivete to the extreme. They are often gullible, helpless, and powerless.

In its shadow form, The Victim archetype represents a sense of powerlessness and a belief that one is at the mercy of circumstances or others’ actions.

They have no agency. 

The Victim archetype can manifest in various ways, such as feeling sorry for oneself, blaming others for one’s problems, or feeling helpless to change one’s situation.

How To Work With The Shadow Innocent:

If you ever find yourself expressing signs of The Victim, that’s usually an indication it’s time to focus on self-reliance and personal responsibility. 

Because the reality is we do have agency over our own lives. 

Relatedly, Victims often need to develop self-compassion and self-awareness alongside a sense of empowerment. 

It’s a delicate balance of feeling in control of one’s life and acknowledging when you’ve fallen short in the past, without slipping into self-pity (another Victim shadow trait). 

It’s hard and sometimes requires additional support via counseling, but once an Innocent learns to reclaim their power, their entire world shifts. 

8. The Explorer

The Explorer is all about adventure, freedom, and independence. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a wanderer.

An Explorer is someone who is always seeking out new adventures. If that sounds like you, you’re probably someone who has a natural desire to explore the world around you, both physically and intellectually. 

You may be drawn to travel, new experiences, or challenging yourself to try new things.

The Shadow Explorer

The Wanderer is the shadow version of the explorer. 

This is the archetype that takes adventure and independence to the extreme. They are often rootless, aimless, and directionless.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly moving from place to place or changing jobs frequently. 

Wanderers may become reckless and impulsive or may struggle with a lack of direction or purpose. This can lead to feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, or a sense of feeling lost.

How To Work With The Shadow Explorer:

Shadow explorers have to work hard on developing a sense of purpose and groundedness. 

One way to achieve this is to flesh out your core values and goals. These can act as an important cornerstone for Explorers.

Before submitting to an impulsive decision, ask yourself, “Does this align with or help further my values and goals?” 

If the answer is “no,” you can reel yourself back in. 

9. The Hero

The Hero is all about courage, strength, and determination. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a bully.

The Hero archetype is a powerful and compelling force within human psychology.

Heroes have a natural inclination to seek out challenges, overcome obstacles, and protect others from harm. They’re courageous, resilient, and willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.

The Hero archetype can manifest in a variety of ways, from physical acts of bravery, such as saving someone from danger, to emotional acts of heroism, such as supporting a friend through a difficult time. 

Heroes often feel a sense of duty or responsibility to protect others and may be drawn to careers or roles that allow them to do so, such as law enforcement, healthcare, or the military.

The Shadow Hero

The Bully is the shadow version of the hero. This is the archetype that takes courage and strength to the extreme. They are often aggressive, violent, and intimidating.

In its shadow form, the Hero may become self-righteous or struggle with a need to prove their worth or superiority constantly.

Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly picking fights or being overly aggressive. They might also find themselves being abusive or bullying others. Think of it more as the anti-hero.

How To Work With The Shadow Hero:

People wrestling with their Shadow Hero also struggle with healthy boundaries, but not in quite the same way as other archetypes. 

For shadow Heroes, the struggle comes in respecting other people’s autonomy and rights. 

They can become so laser-focused on their goals and what they perceive to be right that they may lack empathy for others and forget to respect the dignity of those around them. 

This is when brutish behavior occurs. 

To work against that, Heroes should make an effort to develop a sense of community and collaboration with those around them to keep them grounded. By working with others towards a common goal, they can stave off some of their worse shadow tendencies. 

They also need to learn how to lean on others for support.

The Hero’s natural tendency is to “do” and take charge. They become overly dependent on their own heroism as a defining feature of their self-worth. 

By cultivating a sense of purpose outside of “saving others,” they can become more well-rounded, whole individuals.

10. The Wizard

The wizard is all about magic, mystery, and the unknown. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a sorcerer.

Also known as The Healer, Shaman, or Inventor, The Wizard archetype is all about understanding the fundamental nature of how the world and universe work.

Wizards may use their knowledge and power to heal, transform, or create positive change in the world. They may also be seen as mentors or guides, helping others to tap into their own inner wisdom and spiritual potential.

This archetype is a bit trickier to understand. This video does a wonderful job explaining its application in film and storytelling.

The Shadow Wizard

The Sorcerer is the shadow version of the wizard. They would use their power and knowledge for evil instead of good. 

Similar to the shadow Hero, the Sorcerer may become overly obsessed with power or control or may use their knowledge and insight for personal gain or manipulation.

This archetype is often associated with dark magic and deception.

Examples of The Shadow Wizard:

One real-world example of the shadow version of The Wizard archetype is a cult leader who uses their knowledge and insight to manipulate and control their followers. 

They may claim to have access to secret knowledge or spiritual insight and use this to gain power and control over their followers.

Another example is a scientist or researcher who becomes so focused on their work that they lose sight of the potential ethical implications of their research. 

They may become detached from the consequences of their work and engage in ethically dubious work in the name of personal gain or profit. 

A third example is a spiritual guru or teacher who becomes so focused on their own spiritual advancement that they neglect the needs and well-being of their students. 

This is not unlike a cult leader. 

They may use their knowledge and insight to gain power over their students or to manipulate them into following their teachings.

How To Work With The Shadow Wizard:

To work with against the darker tendencies of the shadow Wizard, it’s important to cultivate a sense of ethical responsibility and purpose that’s rooted in the common good. 

This will help guard against becoming overly attached to power and control. 

One way to do this is to seek ways to use your knowledge and power to make a positive difference in the world, whether through volunteering, activism, or creating art that inspires and uplifts others.

11. The Jester

The Jester is all about fun, playfulness, and laughter. They bring joy to our lives. This archetype is useful and often paired with The King (The Ruler) because The Jester strikes a necessary balance with ruling.

The Jester uses jokes and making fun to alleviate suffering and make light of difficult situations, a coping mechanism sometimes tactfully employed to placate the masses.

Jesters may use their humor and playfulness to break down barriers and connect with others in a meaningful way. They may also be seen as tricksters or pranksters, using their wit and humor to challenge the status quo or subvert expectations.

The Shadow Jester

The Fool is the shadow version of the jester. They are often careless, irresponsible, and make light of serious situations.

Another iteration of the Jester’s shadow is The Trickster. The Trickster is a more malicious version of the jester. They often use their wit and humor to deceive and take advantage of others.

The shadow version of The Jester involves a misuse or abuse of humor and playfulness, often at the expense of others.

The Joker is a well-known example of The Trickster in popular culture. This video provides a great explainer.

How To Work With The Shadow Jester:

To deal with the shadow Jester, it’s important to consciously work on developing emotional awareness and maintaining empathy for others. 

Some warning signs that the shadow Jester is taking over include:

  • Increased cynicism and sarcasm
  • Using humor to mask deeper pain
  • Bullying or degrading humor
  • Crossing boundaries

These are all signs that you may need to work on healing some deep, internal wounds. 

It’s also helpful to step out of the limelight and engage in activities like volunteering or other service works to reconnect with people on a human level. 

By reconnecting with people in authentic ways and working on your own internal vulnerabilities, you’ll be able to avoid the common trappings of the Shadow Jester.

12. The Everyman

The everyman is all about ordinariness, normality, and mediocrity. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a slacker.

The everyman is someone who does not seek to be remarkable but rather views themself as a contributor to a greater whole.

 For this reason, The Everyman is also referred to as The Member.

Their strongest urge is to fit in.

They are often associated with empathy, authenticity, and a sense of community. Everymen may use their relatability and down-to-earth nature to bring people together and to bridge gaps between different groups or individuals.

The Shadow Everyman

The Everyman shadow is harder to pin down. In his/her shadow form, the Everyman is terrified of individualism and being left out of the group. They have a fear of abandonment above all else and standing out.

In extreme forms, this often results in a complete lack of self and identity.

The Shadow Everyman may become overly conformist or lacking in ambition or may struggle with feelings of mediocrity or insignificance.

This can lead to feeling stuck or trapped in your life, or your accomplishments or contributions are not valued or appreciated.

If you’re wrestling with this, you might feel like you’re a mere cog in the wheel and unfulfilled by your role in this world. 

How To Work With The Shadow Everyman:

To work with the shadow side of The Everyman, it’s important to cultivate a sense of purpose and ambition. 

If you’re struggling with this shadow trait, you might need help lighting a fire under your you-know-what to spark some motivation. 

Complacency can make you feel like your life has halted. If this is you right now, it could be a sign that it’s time to invest in understanding your unique goals and passions.

This can be hard for people who identify more strongly with The Everyman archetype because they’re always considering whether their goals conform to what is expected or desired from the masses. 

This can look like staying stuck in a dead-end job because you’re afraid to pursue more unconventional things. Shadow Everymen are very risk-averse and struggle to take that first step towards something new.  

Another version is being afraid to speak up when you hold an opinion that seems to deviate from the consensus of your core group. You may tend to go along to get along. 

Working with the Shadow Everyman involves stepping outside of those comfort zones so that you can find and nurture your true self and doing things that might terrify you to break out of the cycle of safety and conformity. 

Is the shadow archetype evil?

When it comes to understanding our shadow sides, it’s normal to want to relegate everything to good or bad, but it’s much more complicated than that.

Shadow archetypes are not inherently evil. Rather, they are a manifestation of our repressed desires, emotions, and thoughts.

While some shadow archetypes may be more harmful than others, ultimately it is up to us to decide how we want to use our power. We can either use it for good or for ill.

The key is to become aware of our shadow sides so that we can make more conscious choices about how we want to express our power in the world.

Personally, I find it more helpful to think of the shadow in terms of balance (or lack thereof). Generally, our shadow selves are a manifestation of things left unchecked or allowed to go too far.

Shadow work prompts are a great way to start shadow work if you’re unsure how to apply this newfound knowledge.

Additionally, if you’re wondering if shadow work is inherently dangerous or dark, we’ve explored that as well.

Shadow Archetypes and Shadow Work

When it comes to shadow work, knowing the different archetypes and their shadow archetypes can be helpful because it gives you a framework to work with.

When you learn about the different archetypes, you can begin asking yourself how each one exists in your personality.

Which archetypes are more pronounced in your conscious life? How many of these archetypal shadows impact the way you move in the world?

Frameworks are useful in shadow work because it gives you a starting point, a way to define and put names to the characteristics you experience every day.

Want to learn more about Shadow Work? Check out these resources:

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