The Archetypes In Shadow Work

A representation of our full humanity

One of the core beliefs we hold as Healing The Shadow practitioners is that we all come into this world with a full ‘360º personality’. This means we are born with free and easy access to every aspect of human nature. Of course, the way we each express these aspects is unique, but the important thing is that all aspects of human nature are within our range of expression and way of being, and we don’t know about any limitations on who we are or how we can be.

However, as we grow up and try to adapt to the world we live in – to find love and connection and to keep ourselves safe, certain segments of our 360º personality get hidden away from view. Often, without realising what we are doing, we hide these sides of ourselves away so that we can be accepted and get by in the world – so that we can survive in the best way possible. 

Later in life, as adults, our circumstances will be very different, and we may find ourselves at a place in our lives where it is no longer be necessary to hide away these sides of ourselves. Instead we can take the risk of bringing these parts of ourselves out into the light and finding out what they may have to offer us. Shadow work is about reclaiming these hidden aspects of ourselves so that we can live a richer and more fulfilling life, and so that we can know and like and trust ourselves more fully. 

In order to do this work of reclaiming the hidden sides of ourselves it is helpful to have a model for what our full nature could be – to have a way of picturing the full 360º potential that we were born with. For this we turn to the concept of archetypes.

Archetypes can be seen as templates or patterns which shape the way we think, feel and behave. Because they are derived from shared concepts, images and representations of the world and the people in it, at some level, even though we are all different, we all intuitively recognise them as a part of our humanity. 

Carl Jung was probably the first Western psychologist to recognise that archetypes are something we all have in common; he believed the energy of archetypes resided in what he called the ‘collective unconscious’. Nowadays most people see archetypes as patterns stored in the unconscious mind rather like permanent programs etched into the memory of a computer chip. 

We all inhabit these archetypes and our individual personalities are built from them. The exact way in which a particular archetypal energy will be expressed in each of us will be influenced by our individual experience of life and the culture in which we live. They’re like an internal foundation upon which each of us builds their own particular characteristics, which in turn affect our experience of life. 

We find that the archetypes are a powerful way of representing the full range of human nature. In this way they offer a model of our full potential and can serve as helpful guides that point us towards areas of our personality that might be wounded or absent.

In Healing The Shadow we work with four archetypes

In psychological texts you will find references to many different archetypes which describe the different aspects of human experience, and over the years people have come up with many different names for these. In Healing The Shadow we work with four fundamental archetypes which we believe embody the full spectrum of our human nature with extraordinary precision. 

Traditionally, these four archetypes have been known as the Sovereign (the King or Queen), the Warrior, the Magician, and the Lover. However, in Healing The Shadow the terms we have chosen to use are Heart Centred Leader, Action Taker, Transformer, and Feeling Body.

Our names are modern day alternatives to the four traditionally used names. We find these modern names are accessible to a much wider section of society – they are gender neutral, and give a clearer description of the nature of each archetype. However, the old and new names are interchangeable, and you can use whichever name you feel most comfortable or familiar with. 

Whatever names is used, we find these four archetypal energies exist within each one of us as separate and distinct areas of our personality. Each of them carries a particular energy and can act as a semi- autonomous part of our psyche, with its own motivations, desires, feelings, thoughts and way of being in the world. Here is a very brief summary of the qualities of each of the archetypes we work with. Please follow the links for further detail of each archetype:

Heart Centred Leader  

Our Heart Centred Leader can be seen as our inner Queen or King. The loving parent inside who guides and blesses us as we travel through life. This is the heart that cares. Our Heart Centred Leader holds the vision for our life, this is the part of us that knows what we really want, and will encourage and support us as we work to make our plans a reality.  

Click here for a detailed description of the Heart Centred Leader

Action Taker  

Our Action Taker is the part of us that can bring about change in our lives and can step out into the world and and take action. This part of us is responsible for setting our boundaries and saying ‘No’ and ‘Stop’. The Action Taker has integrity and courage and speaks the truth. Our Action taker protects us, and those more vulnerable than ourselves.

Click here for a detailed description of the Action Taker

Feeling Body  

Our Feeling Body is the part of us that feels our feelings fully, and connects us with what is going on deep inside ourselves. This part also connects us to others and allows us to be intimate. This is the spontaneous, creative, dreaming side of us that enjoys nature, play and sensuality. Our child-like qualities lie here, along with our vulnerability.

Click here for a detailed description of the Feeling Body


Our Transformer is the part of us that can step back and see things from many different points of view. Our Transformer can help us to re-frame situations and see things differently.  Our intellect lies here, along with our ability to transform our understanding of ourselves and the world. This part of us is also responsible for assessing risks and keeping us safe.

Click here for a detailed description of the Transformer

In Healing The Shadow we work with our clients towards the goal of having full and healthy access to each of these four archetypes. The client is then able to access the energy of whichever archetype is most appropriate at any moment in their life, and is able to use this side of themselves in a confident and effective way.

For example, when at home relaxing with a friend or partner it is probably most appropriate to be in our Feeling Body archetype – relaxing and connecting. When our printer isn’t working it is probably most appropriate to be in our Transformer archetype – thinking and assessing. When someone is crossing our boundaries it is probably most appropriate to be in our Action Taker archetype – to help us stand up for ourselves and take action. When we are put in charge of a project at work it is probably best to be in our Heart Centred Leader archetype –  to help us to assume authority, and take charge and lead and support those around us.

We can become overactive or underactive in certain archetypes

The concept of archetypes is very useful in working with clients who have behaviours or feelings they want to change. We can start this process by looking at how a client expresses each of these archetypal energies and we can then explore any imbalances. 

This serves as a framework within which the practitioner and client can examine why the client is behaving in a certain way and, more importantly, provide strategies which can change unhelpful or unwanted behaviours into something that really supports the client in their life and in the world.

Most people find there are archetypes they are naturally strong in and that come easily, and other archetypes that they shy away from and find harder to inhabit.

Our archetypal energies can be wounded in childhood when we take on emotional woundings from our parents or teachers or others around us. These wounds cause our archetypes to become imbalanced and we may become very overactive or underactive in particular archetypes. We often have a sense this is just our natural way of being, after all, we have never known anything else. However, most people who come to shadow work find that this isn’t the full story – these imbalances can also be about sides of themselves that have been wounded and hidden from view at an early age, and other sides have strengthened to accommodate for this weakness.

We can heal the emotional wounds that caused these archetypal imbalances

It is possible to redress these imbalances later in life and to reclaim the parts of us that have been hidden away. A first step to this is to heal the wounds that caused us to hide these parts of ourselves in the first place. We can then start to learn to use these sides of ourselves in a safe and appropriate way. This can give us a richer experience of life and enable to us to live and act in ways we never previously thought possible.

In Healing The Shadow we find there are certain ‘wounding messages’ that particularly harm each archetype, especially if they are received in childhood:

For the Heart Centred Leader the wounding messages are that we’re not good enough as we are, or we are not accepted as we are – we have to work and strive to be something ‘better’.  We have to perform or achieve in order to be loved.

For the Feeling Body the wounding messages are that we don’t love in the right way, or that we are not loveable – we don’t know how to do love or form close relationships.

For the Action Taker the wounding messages are that we don’t exist, or we don’t have a right to exist as we are, or as a separate person in our own right.  We don’t matter and no one listens to us.

For the Transformer the wounding messages are that we are bad or rotten in some way – we are irredeemably flawed. Or that we have to hide the way we are because it is unacceptable.

If we have received any of these messages in our early life then the corresponding archetype(s) will be out of balance. They may be ‘inflated’ – showing up in an extreme or antagonistic way, or they may be ‘deflated’ – showing up in a weak or absent way.

By healing these wounds we can redress the imbalances we have been living with and reclaim the fullness of all the archetypes, so that we can live richer more fulfilling lives and feel more at peace within ourselves.

Follow these links for further articles and videos about the archetypes:

Video introducing the archetypes

Detailed description of the Heart Centred Leader archetype

Video explaining the Heart Centred Leader archetype

Transcript of an interview with Marianne exploring the Heart Centred Leader archetype

Detailed description of the Action Taker archetype

Video explaining the Action Taker archetype

Transcript of an interview with Marianne exploring the Action Taker archetype

Detailed description of the Feeling Body archetype

Video explaining the Feeling Body archetype

Transcript of an interview with Marianne exploring the Feeling Body archetype

Detailed description of the Transformer archetype

Video explaining the Transformer archetype

Transcript of an interview with Marianne exploring the Transformer archetype