Archetypes / C.G.Jung

Jungian Models applied to global corporations: Kings, warriors, magicians and lover archetypes

Recently I attended yet another team building “Engagement workshop”. It occurred to me, while I do understand that this sector in a well performing multinational corporation has rather particular objectives by its mission, why it has such multiple and interesting cultural contexts.

Culture is something we all experience, but have great difficulties defining. I want in this article to align C.G. Jung’s models with organizational psychology in order to explore how organizations can somehow function and meet common goals. While Freud was fond of the iceberg analogy to explain the unconscious (the unconscious part of our mind and personality being the 90 percent of the glacier that is below the surface), Jung made the comparison of a cork gently bobbing on a vast ocean. The cork is our conscious mind, and the ocean is the unconscious.

Personal Layers
Personal Layers

The cork is tossed about at the whim of the cruel sea unless we get a handle of the nature of the true Self (of which we are only dimly aware, if at all) via the reflective process . The ego is that cork bobbing on the ocean, and its goal is to seek what Jung called individuation, bringing together all the  elements of the human psyche into one Self: the complexes, the Shadow (in simple terms a person’s dark side), and the inner woman in a man or the inner man in a woman. That means feminine and masculine energy, which he labeled the anima (inner woman) and animus (inner man). Jung’s most famous theory is that of the collective unconscious, a shared memory of symbols, imagery, and memories that he called archetypes. In the iceberg analogy model which divides the organizational psyche in two layers – conscious and unconscious – the conscious layer is where the ego-driven actions and behaviors manifest and the unconscious layer shapes the organizational culture by archetypes. However, the unconscious layer, Carl Jung’s analytical psychology model provides, is further divided. That leads to the structures of the organizational conscious and unconscious which parallel what Jung conceived as the architecture of the individual psyche. I want to adopt this model and derive criterion which are unique to the psychology of troubled organizations.

Conscious layer

The conscious portion of the organization is the public face and its visible set of structure and processes. The core of consciousness is “analogous to Jung’s concept of the ego” its mask the persona. The Ego comprises all of the conscious activities performed in an organization, such as planning, managing, coordinating, core and support processes. The center of consciousness is composed of the collective egos in the organization arranged and empowered by the tone on the top. This organizational consciousness (in effect the processes and organisational structure) manifest its activities aligned with the archetypes that are predominant in organization and as function of their level of maturity. Organisations have masculine or feminine character. The persona is how individuals present themselves to the world and is driven by two sources: “the expectations and demands of the customer and stakeholders.  That is where the brand or corporate identity of the organization lives. The persona transmits the ideal images of itself to the outside world hiding aspects which are deemed “internal” by the organization’s ego (and leadership):

  • Mission, strategy and goals: Why are we all here in this organization? What are we collectively trying to achieve? Do we even know?
  • Goals derived from mission: What goals do we set as part of trying to realize that mission? Do we stick to those goals? How are they defined?
  • Measuring results and correction mechanisms: How will we know if we achieve those goals? How do we measure it?
  • Escalation and mitigation strategies: What do we do if something breaks or does not go as planned? Do we have a plan, or do we react?
  • Means to achieve goals (organization, applications, processes): How do we go about realizing our goals? Do we have systems and procedures in place, or do we trade on strength of personality?

Personal unconscious layer

The organizational unconscious are clusters of energies, beliefs and truths that bridge between the conscious organization and the collective unconscious. It provides the psychodynamic environment for these two forces to interplay. It is composed of the shadow, animus and anima, the complexes and the organizational self-reflection (i.e. the Self). The gender of an organization is driven by the organisational constituency but more by the manifestation of the anima and animus archetypes. Certain organizations, like a primary school, today operate openly  in an anima (feminine) set of characteristics because of the nature of their mission, regardless of how many male teacher it has (if any). Other organisations, say universities, suppress or conceal their “gender”.  The shadow comprises the collection of what has been repressed because the organization does not allow it by its rules, procedures or values. Note on the side: A few global organisations, like the EU, the IMF and to a certain degree the UN are examples of mentally pathologically disturbed organisations, in which the shadow and complexes reign, causing cause great harm to all of us. That has been also the case in some nations and  cultural contexts (like religious organisations).

Hidden Censorship

Shhs don’t ask don’t tell

Organisations contain also complexes (other than functional) which represent both positive and negative energies and subtly affect how the conscious organization goes about its business. Organizational complexes are containers of memories, thoughts and feelings experienced as work progresses. They are in essence the underlying assumptions that form at the unconscious level in the act of doing business. Over time, these complexes uniquely identify an organization and provide the basis for its culture. Values and beliefs are built upon complexes and change over time as the environment and challenges change. The shadow contains features that are contrary to customs and group moral conventions.  In the context of organizations, the shadow’s projections would go to outside entities, like the competition, sometimes even to the customer, or would be channeled as projections between internal departments, which is particularly troublesome. The participation mystique is the part of the organizational unconscious that links individual egos to the organization. Participation mystique is a basic definition by Jung in his book “Psychological Types” (crediting Lucien Lévy-Bruhland with the term, as sociology and ethnology scholar). This mystical participation, refers to instinctive human ties to symbols (which are visible and utilized archetypes) and can describe how an organizational archetype connects to each individual.. The concept is closely tied to that of projection into situations and objects, including organisations as readily as we project color into the objects we perceive.

The total psyche: (Mantra - Jolande Jacobi "The psychology of C.G. Jung"
The total psyche: (Mantra – Jolande Jacobi “The psychology of C.G. Jung”

The organizational archetype of enlightened organisations roughly corresponds to the archetypal self in individuals:

  • Common language and conceptual categories: What is the underlying framework of (mis-) communication?
  • Group boundaries and identity: How do we respect each other’s and the other group boundaries? Do we know who we are?
  • Incentives and punishments: How do we reward desirable behaviour and punish behavior deemed unacceptable?
  • Managing the unimaginable and explaining the unexplainable: When things happen we cannot explain nor foresee, what is the group response?
  • Rules for relationships: What are the rules for how we interact with each other and with those outside of the group?
  • Power, authority and status: How do we determine what gets done and who has the say or (informal) clout  to change direction?

Collective unconscious layer

The collective unconscious serves as the foundation for the entire psyche of the organization as it does for its individual Instincts are the consistent modes of action common to all humans that do not require cognitive engagement but as the controlling patterns in the mind that regulate how we experience reality. Its archetypes represent our basic responses to organizational life. For instance, leadership and collaboration has evolved to a much more subtile form:

Organisational shadowTrinangle

Organisational shadowTrinangle

For instance the team aspect of work life is driven by the Lover archetype that regulates how people work and relate to one another. The degree of collaboration has a lot to do with this archetype. Those models are based on a book of Robert Moore for whom the archetypes king, warrior, magician, lover are pattern of matured masculinity. The psychological studies which lead to the naming of four archetypes are derived from four basic structures which form the depth structure of the psyche in dynamic interplay. The book is based on his image from archetypal itself, nevertheless, extends the understanding of the psyche of C.G.Jung. Each of these four qualities owns a positive side and a shadow side and that model can be applied to organizations:

  • The warrior (courage, concentration, motivation): The sales aspect of work life is driven by the Warrior (sales rep as street warrior) archetype that regulates how people work and relate to one another. Sales needs a lot of understanding of foe and friends.
  • The magician (intuition, wisdom): The creative aspect of work life represented by the magician  (development, designer).
  • The  lover (passion, empathy): The Lover archetype regulates how people work and relate to one another. The degree of collaboration within projects and teams has a lot to do with this archetype.
  • The King (responsibility leadership): The managerial aspect of organisation is driven by the King archetype that decides how the organisation performs. The degree of commercial success (and survival) has a lot to do with this archetype.
Warrior This is the most common archetype in western organizations. It brings the energy of working hard to make the world a better place. The Warrior translates into vitality, competition, discipline, focus and determination. There is a fair amount of self-sacrifice in the Warrior for the betterment of the larger whole. Warrior organizations usually have a cause and are able to enlist employees in working for it. These organizations value the actions of the Warrior and recognize them with a number of rewards. Organisations with strong warrior energy are ready to exert themselves completely for an important aim. They are purposeful, persevering, and well prepare for her challenges. They control her tools and act. As shadow forms they are hard, crude, fights without taking into consideration (human) losses. The negative Warrior creates the need for an enemy. This type of Warrior can be arrogant, impulsive, obsessive and ruthless. Negative Warrior organizations tend to overwork their people and expect ongoing sacrifices. These organizations also tend to be lower in their financial compensation than most.
Magician This is the transformative energy inside any enterprise. It is responsible for the “level 2” changes. Innovation, high energy, and flexibility are characteristics of the Magician. Organizations with a highly developed Magician archetype are extremely adaptive and respond easily to changing markets and world conditions. Magicians are systems thinkers and natural change agents.and expresses innovation and the creative processes in an organization: In the magicians, there are elements of imagination, artistry, and vision. Organizations with strong magician energy want to know more, learn them and become engrossed in her matter. The negative Magician archetype is manifested in manipulative energy, lack of follow-through, and working on seemingly innovative tasks that have no purpose. Organizations with a negative Magician archetype start a lot more projects than they finish. The challenge for this archetype is its disdain for formality, bureaucracy (either real or perceived) and the potential of applying creative energy to non-necessary endeavors.
Lover The Lover is the necessary archetype for an organization to provide for the wellbeing of its employees. This care ranges from basic benefits to personal development. The Lover is also manifested by the care of the organization for the community and the social system in which it operates. Harmony, cooperation, and support for each other are characteristics experienced by the employees in Lover organizations. Negative Lover organizations tend to over work its people, experience burn out, have low mutual respect, and experience high turnover. Compensation is low and people are expected to work long hours. These organizations typically avoid confrontation being overly passive. Delegation is not actively practiced by management.The lovers energy appears in his enthusiasm ability, sensuousness, dear ability and passion, so as shadow forms the addict completely sets on in positive or negative sensations, takes over no responsibility for itself and others, needs permanent stimulation, is restless and indefatigable. The loveless lives coldly and without passion
King This archetype is about maintaining order and creating harmony out of chaos. It implies a sense of responsibility, balancing and allocation of resources. Either as individuals or organizations, it is manifested as decisions, authority, process, systems, goals, and strategies. The challenge for the Ruler is being fair and non-tyrannical. Decisiveness and direction need balance with methods and unique situations of others. The King brings the sense of individuality, exploration, risk taking and self-discovery. This archetype is essential to the emancipation of the employees. The good King takes responsibility for his/her own learning and channels new intelligence into worthwhile decisions. Negative King organizations are hierarchical and bureaucratic. In addition, they tend to be less tolerant of diversity and appreciate people who do as they are told. Power is centered at the top of the organization and lower levels are viewed as lesser. Image is more important than actions. In extreme cases, negative organizations oppress, cut ethical corners, and are inflexible to change.

Organisations have evolved from simple work containers to complex social structures with semi-democratic empowerment and demonstrable higher performance.

  • What is truth: What is the reality of the situation? How do we know what is really happening? Is it because someone says so, because everyone agrees, or because we all prove it to be so?
  • Time: Is time linear, in that things only happen sequentially, or does everything happen at once? If something needs to be done, can it be done immediately in parallel with everything else, or only after current tasks are done?
  • Space: How is everyone situation? How is the work process laid out? Is there a point when someone is invading personal space, or is publicity and intimacy generally accepted?
  • Human nature: Are people only there to achieve in sync with their intrinsic values, or are people complex individuals more than their position?
  • Appropriate human activity: Are we here to take control of our environment, are we here as a slave to circumstances to simply coexist (or fight) with our environment, or do we develop ourselves to work in harmony with our environment?
  • Nature of human relationship: Are we individuals or are we a collective? Do we see ourselves as a group or as individuals? What is the greatest gap distance between ourselves and the outside?

With so many facets, one can see why an organisational culture is such a challenge. Culture is a protective mechanism. Each assumption works in collaboration to reinforce and support the other assumptions. The assumptions are also driven by the individuals or groups who have formal or informal influence within the organization. I have seen a few mergers, if you want to change the culture, you frequently need to change the Kings, almost every time physically replace them. It is so hard to change the character of Kings and that was true in history for negative real (literal) Kings and Queens.

Appenix: participation mystique and projection

For some information how Jung somewhat ambigious used the terms Archetypes, Archetypes per Se, Complexes and Symbols please read here. Jung defined projection as an initial objectified representation of the contents of the unconscious beyond the states of so-called “participation mystique” (mystical participation) and “archaic identity,” and he showed how the individual can be led to see through the illusions of projection and yet, at the same time, to experience symbolic life.

As early as his psychiatric studies written between 1900 and 1908, and also in his thesis, “Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena,” which he defended in 1902, Jung was investigating the internal coherence and meaning of representational systems that were largely being ignored by his contemporaries. His conception of “highly charged emotional complexes” (gefühlbetonte Komplexe) and his contact with Sigmund Freud led him to analyze, in his “Psychology of the Unconscious. Jung’s subsequent elaboration of his theory of projection was based on the analysis of states of participation mystique (he borrowed this French expression from the anthropologist Lucien LévyBruhl) or “archaic identity.”

In the states of participation mystique and archaic identity there is no differentiation between object and subject and no distinction between lived experience and what the subject believes he or she perceives about the world. However, projection, which is more specific, enables the subject to apprehend and potentially recognize contents that are still unconscious. Thus, analysis of the religions of our ancestors, the literature and iconography of alchemy and, more generally, the arts, as well as the fantasmatic universe of a given group or individual from the perspective of modern psychology can be quite valuable.

In fact, the Jungian Shadow, Anima, Animus, and Self, before being recognized as presences or inner agencies (functional complexes), are ordinarily projected onto typical figures or acquaintances of the subject, in the same way as they are projected onto the analyst in the transference relationship. The recognition and withdrawal of projections usually provokes a state of disenchantment or, conversely, elation and inflation of the ego; however, these processes can also open the way to a practice of the symbolic life and of human relations without too much alienation or mystification, especially through the experience and analysis of the transference.

Some feared that Jung was indulging himself in an imaginary universe without concrete support. However, his analyses of the history of our culture, his position with regard to various religions and also within the history of psychoanalysis, and above all his ways of conceiving and eliciting the work of the unconscious, not only in its compensatory effects but also its effects of contradiction, give the means of avoiding this potential trap.