The 12-Archetype System

“The modern hero-deed must be that of questing to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the co-ordinated soul.”

— Joseph Campbell

Browse the 12 Archetypes

The 12-Archetype System: The 12 Archetypes of the Hero's Journey

I’ve found that it is easier to grasp a complex theory if it is translated into an orderly model, along with clear steps for its application, than if we simply are faced with abstract concepts and left on our own. With this in mind, to help readers discover their inner archetypes, I developed a model in The Hero Within that described six archetypes. Later, in Awakening the Heroes Within, I expanded this to a 12-archetype model, which is designed to help you:

  • become conscious of human motivations and ways of viewing the world that are invisible to most people, yet still drive their behaviors. In becoming conscious of them, you no longer will be controlled by them, but instead can experience them as allies;
  • recognize archetypal allies as potentials within you or your organization that you can build on as strengths; and
  • decode what is going on in the people, organizations, and larger world around you, which will help you to improve your relationships and achieve your professional goals.

Why These Twelve?

“The twelve archetypes described above have important functions not only in individual development, but also in human survival and evolution. . . . The following examples demonstrate how difficult human evolution would be without these archetypes motivating needed human abilities:

  • Without the Idealist, the ancients might have failed to be grateful for and preserve what they had, dream of a better life, or cheer each other up. Without the Realist, they might have been so lost in enjoying summer that they would not recognize that they needed to work, put away food for the winter, shore up shelters, care for one another, or sound an alarm about possible threats. Without the Caregiver, the children and the infirm would die, and no one would make sure everyone was fed, clothed, and nurtured to ensure their survival. Without the Warrior, no one would hunt or provide protection from invading animals and clans or generate the collective energy to take down a huge beast or achieve a daunting task.
  • Without theSeeker, people would not travel long distances into the unknown to hunt or gather edible plants, and no one would choose to leave the world they know to explore what better might be possible. Some might even remain in an over hunted and over gathered, decimated environment that no longer sustained them. Without the Lover, they would not band together in families and clans, bonding and making commitments to mates to be there for one another and for children and other family members so that all would feel safe and secure. Without the Revolutionary, they would just keep doing and making the same old things even when under threat, instead of noticing what was not working or could work better. Without the Creator, they would not keep innovating, inventing tools, or building and improving crafts, shelters, and their quality of life. Without these, they would fail to create a vibrant culture.
  • Without the Ruler, they would lack a capacity for social organization, so they would forever be locked in small family groups. Without the Magician, their lives might lack individual and communal spiritual meaning and their inner and outer wounds would not be healed. Without the Sage, they would not have the curiosity to keep learning about their environment and carefully retain such knowledge. And without the Jester, how would they laugh at themselves, poke holes in anyone’s inflated sense of their own importance, bond by dancing and playing games, and, overall, find ways to enjoy life, thus retaining the desire to live?

Together, these archetypes motivate activities that continue to help humankind, not only to survive, but also to thrive and, ideally, to do so without our being frightened all the time. These archetypes have helped us create our amazing civilization, from large social systems, to grand cathedrals or city centers, to space travel, and so on, including beautiful fashion, food, music, and entertainment.

And what is true at the macro level is true at the micro as well. As individuals, we still need the support of these archetypes to help us be successful and fulfilled: they feed our abilities to dream big, recognize real limitations, protect ourselves from danger, care for and fulfill our responsibilities to ourselves and others, leave what oppresses or constrains us, stay true to those we love, continually innovate, shed what no longer serves, find ways to relax and have fun, check what we think against facts, and trust our deep knowing of who we are and what we most authentically can do.”
      — From What Stories Are You Living? Discover Your Archetypes – Transform Your Life

Moreover, the archetypes evolve as we do and our capacities develop as this happens and as the range of archetypes available to us expands. Furthermore, diving into the potential within any given archetype can awaken you to the myriad plotlines available to you. This is how archetypal awareness can transform your life expand the expression of your authentic self.

The Art of Being You—Only Better

You are a unique individual with actions that have direct or ripple effects that influence the whole. Synchronicity (meaningful coincidences) most often happen when you are on course for the life that is right for you. As Joseph Campbell put it:

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.”
– Joseph Campbell

The image of the Phoenix on the cover of What Stories Are You Living? evokes transformation that is not saving yourself by becoming someone else. Rather, it calls upon you to trust that you matter because, not in spite, of being your authentic self.

This system can help you discover the archetypes that identify and promote meaning and purpose in your life. You can take the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) instrument to identify those most active in your life right now—that is, your highest scoring ones. Their myriad plotlines also help you live their stories in order to achieve happy endings to the many chapters of your life. Midrange scores can assist you, and complement your most active ones,  in meeting life’s many challenges, relating well to diverse others, and responding to unexpected situations. The identification of your lowest score or scores can alert you to what you may not notice. This can decrease the risk of your being blindsided by unexpected events.

The PMAI® instrument has its own website: www.storywell.com. Click here to take the instrument and request your results. StoryWell is also a great place to browse, as it provides its own fount of wisdom about archetypes and the Pearson12-Archetype System.

12 Archetypes, Many Names

Various of my books and others on this subject by various colleagues use different names for the same archetype. This is possible because archetypes do not actually have names, nor do they see, hear, smell, or feel, except if they are embodied in an image, a description, a sound (perhaps in music), or a sensation. We notice different elements of an archetype based on what it taps within us, given what we think and what we are likely to be able to feel.

So, at any one point in our lives, what we notice about an archetype might be different from another time, just as how the archetype expresses itself in us will be, too. For example, early in life many of us have experiences of abandonment, loss, or disillusionment that lead us to feel like a motherless child. This archetypal experience can rightly be called Orphan. Years later, such experiences may have prompted us to become very realistic in order to avoid being hurt again, leading us to identify with the archetype as the Realist. And, as we come to realize how many others have had orphaning experiences, it leads us to call it Everyperson.

The context for how the archetype is viewed differs in its various applications, which then influences the name that resonates for us. For example, In The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, this same archetype is called Regular Guy/Gal because it evoked an image customers would recognize. Also, for branding purposes, the Destroyer would really not work. In the PMAI® instrument, it becomes the Revolutionary, but the name that marketers liked was Outlaw. For personal growth purposes, Outlaw would promote immoral and illegal activities. But in branding and marketing, Outlaw appeals to customers who have repressed their wild sides in the face of pressures to conform, be nice, or act professionally. So, that’s why some doctors and lawyers run out to buy Outlaw brand motorcycles.

Below is a chart of the different names for the same archetypes utilized in various of my single and co-authored books using the 12-Archetype System. Those authored by Pat Adson use the same names as those in Awakening the Heroes Within, while What Stories Are You Living? and Hugh Marr’s Finding Your Story use those of the current PMAI ® instrument.

Browse your archetypes below:

The 12 Archetypes

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What Stories Are You Living?

What Stories Are YouLiving? guides you through the journey of discovering and understanding the archetypes active in your life. These universal themes may be invisible to you now but through this book you will learn how they inspire the behaviors and relationships that drive your life story. As you become conscious of your archetypal potential, you can cultivate the hero or heroine within you by living your stories consciously, in your own unique way. This book provides a roadmap for achieving deeper self-understanding, and includes clear steps for reshaping your life stories, awakening your authenticity, and finding meaning, direction, and purpose.

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The Hero Within

This initial work was a grassroots HarperSanFrancisco best seller about the heroic journey that any of us may be taking in today’s world. I began writing it because its archetypes were talking to me, demanding that I capture what they were communicating in an accessible book. Now in its 3rd edition, The Hero Within remains timely and makes a great gift to anyone seeking purpose and meaning, whether they are starting out or in transition.

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Awakening the Hero's Within

The 12-Archetype System began with this book and is the basis for the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) assessment and many follow-up applied works. It links archetypes to the hero’s journey to offer an accessible, gender-balanced human development theory, updating the work of C.G. Jung, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and Erik Erikson to reflect changing attitudes and roles.

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Take the PMAI

This assessment does for Jung’s work on archetypes what the Myers-Briggs does for type. The featured book, What Stories Are You Living?, supports the PMAI instrument by helping you to fully understand your results and use these insights in your life journey. For additional information beyond this site, see the instrumentation website, www.storywell.com.

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Persephone Rising

The heroine in the subtitle refers to women and to the feminine within both men and women. The plot shows how psychological balance is restored through greater gender equity and partnership. Each of the four mythological characters matures with the aid of three of the 12 archetypes, thus providing models for how you might live the three reported in your PMAI results as most active in you.

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