We all have personal stories. These are the sum of our experiences, beliefs, and actions. Friends and family have probably made you aware of certain attributes that you’ve come to accept as fact. “She’s such a giving person,” or “He always has good advice.” You hear these things over and over and subconsciously accept them as a part of your story.
As a life coach, it is easy to build a personal story where you are the savior of others, or perhaps the humble healer. These characteristics come to define and motivate you, even if they’re not entirely true. Without even realizing it, you take these beliefs and build what Dr. Craig in The Logical Soul calls your “personal archetype,” or the sum total of all the perceptions you have about your life. In short: your story.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines an archetype as:
…An inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual
To put it simply, an archetype is a personal story that you believe to be true on an unconscious level. You can easily bring this archetype to your conscious awareness simply by taking a good look at yourself.
What defines you? What do you believe about yourself? What motivates you? The answers to these questions may surprise you. The most common archetype that people unwittingly accept is that of the victim. You may have seen this in life coach clients who are about to give up on everything. A person who has the victim archetype feels helpless, hopeless, and weak in the face of the outside world. They can’t change things for the better because the world won’t let them.
Understanding your archetype – and those of your clients – can be the key to unlocking the deeper decisions and beliefs that may be holding you both back. Below are some common examples:
- The Martyr. Do you sacrifice yourself for the good of others again and again? Do you justify this with the belief that you do them a great service? The truth is, you may be neglecting your own needs by focusing on others. This helps neither you nor them.
- The Hero. Are you the classic superhero who swoops down to help others in times of crisis without any thought of payment or return other than gratitude? If your mission is to save the world, you probably won’t. In the meantime, you neglect yourself AND subconsciously invite a crisis to occur so you can save someone!
- The Child. If you enjoy existing in a world of innocence and naivete, your (or your client) will probably not be able to attract money or wealth, simply because you forfeit the knowledge needed to make it happen. If you have a client like this, you already know that setting out concrete outcomes, resources, and behaviors is crucial to helping them get beyond simple hopes and dreams. The key underlying decision to this archetype is “someone (or God) will take care of me.”
There are many more archetypes, and chances one or more is running your life. Take a good look also at your life coach clients and see if you can determine their underlying archetypes and personal stories. You will be surprised at how easily your notice how they unconsciously use shame, blame and justification in patterns of behavior that control their situations, life choices, and outcomes.
The key to this exercise, by the way, is not to give you another tool to “diagnose” a person’s behavior so you can “fix” them. Far from it. The main reason to notice archetypes is to cultivate within yourself more compassion for the human condition . . . a way to see that we are all a part of this Shakespearean play, and that your ability to listen and understand has far more weight that any “fix” you could throw at a problem.
In your life coaching business, if you perceive that your personal archetype is getting in the way, rejoice! The first step to real transformation is awareness, so don’t let it get you down. Through a simple awareness of the archetype, you automatically begin a self-correcting process. So go with it.
Write your personal story in a ledger or notebook. See if you can find a larger, stronger vision for your life. Then make a commitment to take action in that direction. This is your chance to transform yourself in ways you can only imagine.