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?
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:
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 take the form of 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.
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.
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.
3. The Lover
The lover is all about passion, intimacy, and connection. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a seducer.
A lover is someone who is deeply romantic and desires intimacy and connection. They are often very sensual and appreciate beauty in all forms.
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, seductive, and often use sex as a weapon.
Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly needing to be in a relationship or pursuing someone. They might also use their sexuality as a way to control others.
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 is taken care of. They are selfless and often put the needs of others above their own.
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.
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.
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.
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 of others.
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.
Those who identify with this shadow archetype may find themselves constantly being taken advantage of or being in situations where they feel out of control. They might also find themselves overly trusting of others.
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. They are free-spirited and independent. They often have a strong sense of wanderlust and are always looking for new experiences.
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. They might also find themselves feeling restless and bored.
9. The Hero
The hero is all about courage, strength, and determination. In its shadow form, this archetype takes the form of a bully.
A hero is someone who is brave and strong. They are often determined and tenacious. They often put others before themselves and are willing to take on any challenge.
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.
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.
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.
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. This archetype is often associated with dark magic and deception.
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.
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 Joker is a well-known example of The Trickster in popular culture. This video provides a great explainer.
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.
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.
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.