Archetypes and Training

Integration Training work with an embodied version of archetypes as part of our leadership training. This guest article, says more about what archetypes are and how they are relevant to training.

What is anArchetype?

So why use Archetypes in training and exactly what is an archetype anyway?

An archetype is a generic character, type of a thing or a theme. Translated from the Greek it means first principle or imprint / mould and an archetype is therefore a universally understood symbol or behaviour pattern or personality type.

In psychological terms an archetype refers to a template of a person, personality, or behavior while an archetype in philosophic or general terms means an ideal form of a thing or a type (not to be confused with prototype, which is the first form).

Archetypes offer a powerful means for trainers to convey their messages and ensure they are received at deep levels because they are firmly rooted in the human psyche, as explained by Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and others. Jung believed that archetypes are embedded in the collective unconscious of humankind and as such every person relates to them on many levels, sometimes consciously and more often unconsciously. Archetypes are the stuff of myths and legends, folklore and all stories, ancient and modern, hence they have a universal appeal and the power to strike a chord in the minds of people everywhere. Everyone loves a good story and everyone can relate to a hero/heroine!

In fact many organisations use key traditional archetypes such as the Monarch, Warrior, Lover and Magician as part of leadership training and personal development courses, which can be transformational on a personal and professional level. Modern day archetypes such as Malcolm Gladwells Connectors, Mavens, Partners and Mentors are new takes on an ancient theme as are the Networker,Workaholic/Addict, Detective and Engineer. Some of these archetypes have already been covered elsewhere on this site and my intention is to focus on how to use archetypes as a trainer and in training, rather than cover in detail the hundreds of different archetypes. Caroline Myss, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung are great references if you want more details on the many different archetypes.

Archetypes in training

The main reason Archetypes are excellent training tools are because they are so incredibly universal. Simply everyone relates to many archetypes because everyone has heard the story of a great Hero, (Luke Skywalker or Tarzan, King Arthur or Perseus), Saviour (Jesus, Krishna) or Teacher (Merlin or a favourite school teacher), or known one. Many archetypal scholars also believe we are influenced by archetypal patterns ourselves e.g. it is estimated we each have at least 12 key archetypal themes, which is another reason why archetypes resonate with most people and form a great way to engage an audience.

Archetypes are also an immensely powerful means to communicate messages at multiple levels. It is accepted now that the majority of communication is non-verbal and our bodies and tone are key to communication. (Albert Mehrabian concluded in the early ‘70s that Words (the literal meaning) account for 7% of the overall message, Tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message and Body Language accounts for 55% of the overall message being conveyed or communicated). The beauty of archetypes is that they can be embodied to communicate non-verbally as well as verbally via stories.

Another reason Archetypes work in training is they add richness, variety and depth and help engage the participants for longer periods and on multiple levels, especially useful in longer training sessions or programmes, leadership and transformational training and in experiential training.

So how does one do it?

As with planning any training engagement, begin with the end in mind and for each piece ask yourself the following questions about your content and objectives:

1. What am I trying to convey?
2. What sort of archetypes is my audience likely to include or be influenced by?
3. What archetypes are relevant for this material?
4. What archetypes would help ¬me deliver this material more powerfully?
5. What sort of archetypes do I want them to be aware of/ familiar with/influenced by as a result of this segment?
6. How can these archetypes be embodied?

As an example, you could be training a group of IT Managers on presentation and public speaking skills. So your objectives could include demonstrating improved stage presence, how to structure presentations, posture, content delivery etc. Your audience is likely to include the archetypes of engineer (results driven, problem solvers), artist (somewhat diva-like, worship the “code”) and scientist (academic/theorist, purist) among others. Archetypes that are relevant to presentation skills include the monarch, teacher, wizard and performer. A couple of archetypes that would help you to convey this material include the monarch, story teller, performer, expert, teacher and wizard and some of the archetypes the audience would benefit from becoming familiar with include the teacher, performer, lover manager and monarch and the generic archetypes of student and magical child.

Lets look at how these archetypes can help the trainer in this example and also how they can be embodied.

Archetypes for the trainer

One of the ways that the trainer of such a piece can train on this topic is to embody and project the essence of the archetypes required in the content – a Monarch for powerful stage presence, commanding respect and attention, projecting authority; the expert to convey mastery of the subject matter and command respect, the teacher to convey the message in an understandable and engaging manner and the performer to entertain and engage the audience for the duration of the session. By taking on the body language, physical posture and attributes and the mental energy of these archetypes you can communicate these facets to your audience in a powerful way by connecting directly to their unconscious minds. The archetype of the Joker helps to break the ice, put the audience at ease and helps them to access the archetypal energy of the student and engage the innocent/magical child. The wizard is associated with making the unseen seen and adds a sense of fun and magic to the proceedings (e.g. useful presentation tips on getting over stage fright and helping them master this painful art is an act of wizardry!)

Embodying the archetypes

While some of the archetypes may be easily accessible to you some may not. A great trick to familiarize yourself with unfamiliar archetypes is to first call to mind the archetype concerned and the images you associate with it. Next visualize a powerful image that evokes the archetype in life size, full colour in front of you, notice the details of this image (almost a holographic image) and then in your minds eye step into the image of the archetype and imagine the essence and energy and attributes entering you and your being. Stay in this space for several seconds, adjusting your body and posture accordingly (e.g. for a Monarch, stand taller, adopt a commanding and regal posture, imagine yourself wearing the garments and finery of a King/Queen, imagine you are surveying your kingdom). Feel yourself imbibing the presence and characteristics of the archetype. Walk around, say a few words, and practice being the archetype. Using suitable music is very powerful and can really help with the role-playing and embodiment exercise. For instance the Queen song “We will Rock you” is very evocative of the warrior and “The might of Rome” from the Gladiator motion picture soundtrack evokes the Monarch.

The more archetypes you are familiar and comfortable with as a trainer, the better you can access them in your trainings and move dynamically between them as the content requires. The idea is to seamlessly use elements of the archetypes with fluidity and volition and mix it up to keep the audience interested and communicate with them on all levels as you deliver the content.

Archetypes for the participants

Some generic archetypes that are helpful in the audience include the child, which is associated with curiosity, learning and wonder and this energy or disposition helps the audience stay interested and engaged in the training. A great way to bring out the child in your audience is the Joker in the beginning (ice-breakers) and also interspersed in the session. This also helps the participants to have fun and heightens their learning experience. The lover is associated with openness and inviting possibilities, which is a good state to be in during a training session.
The student is a familiar archetype in most training rooms and usually surfaces with regularity although not all forms of the student are ideal so watch out for the disruptive/bored/know-it-all.
In this example, the audience too can visualize the monarch and other archetypes while practicing their presentation skills to give them a wider array of skills to draw upon. This is a really fun and enjoyable exercise and also helps the participants internalize the lessons in an extremely effectively way.

There are hundreds of archetypes as mentioned previously and they can be a powerful and effective tool and resource in delivering trainings across a range of subjects and skills. They also help gain an insight into the personality-types of participants and clients, which is useful in better customizing trainings and delivering them. So go ahead and use them and have fun while you do.
Good luck!

Piya Khanna


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