The Power of Archetypes: How To Use Universal Symbols to Understand Your Behavior and Reprogram Your Subconscious, by Marie D. Jones
New Page Books, 9781632651020, 224 pp., 2017
Marie D. Jones, author of 11:11 The Time Prompt Phenomenon and Mind Wars, has released her latest book, The Power of Archetypes: How to Use Universal Symbols to Understand Your Behavior and Reprogram Your Subconscious. Here Jones aims to provide insight into how understanding and utilizing the concept of archetypes can empower the reader to make real, lasting change in their life. Written in an easy-to-read fashion, the book is rather limited in terms of the depth of material covered, but it offers a pop psychology overview of archetypal studies.
Highly influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Jones provides for the reader a brief overview of Freud’s work around the division of the mind into the ego, subconscious, and superego. In order for the reader to have a grasp of the subconscious, Jones draws on the typical iceberg model of the layers of the mind; the conscious mind being only the tip, visible above the water; the subconscious, the iceberg submerged beneath. Jones then draws on Carl Jung’s work of the collective unconscious — written about as the water around the iceberg — in order to establish a foundation for proceeding with the influence and power archetypes hold in our minds (often outside of our conscious awareness, yet quietly shaping our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour in the world).
The following chapters of the book feature extensive lists of various archetypes, for which Jones provides a brief surface description. The descriptions come across as simplistic yet Jones attempts to use popular culture references to bring them to life for the reader. The list features Destroyer, “The opposite of a creator, someone who destroys things, whether it be other people, objects or situations. This is a destructive soul, not necessarily evil. A drug addict or alcoholic who destroys his or her happy home or marriage can qualify here,”1 and also Prince/Princess, “Often portrayed as haughty and entitled, the ‘little kings and queens’ that demand the best, whether they’ve earned it or not. It’s our inner spoiled child, but can also be honourable and kind, chivalrous and virtuous.”2
Attempting to tie in the need for narratives on a global scale — to become more conscious of how people need to look at archetypes of their political leadership — Jones resorts to listing archetypes she has found in pop culture, including Star Wars and The Walking Dead, yet gives no justification for how the characters fit the archetype. If you have not viewed the references she uses, then the entire section would provide little insight into how these aforementioned characters display the archetypal pattern.
The rest of The Power of Archetypes is about how the reader needs to discover who they are through the use of archetypes. Jones promotes the radical honesty and self-confronting style seen in Alcoholics Anonymous, where one must take accountability for their life in order to make appropriate changes.
We must identify what parts of ourselves belong to us and what was written into the book of our lives by other hands with other agendas, motives, needs, and desires. If we continue to believe and buy into the ‘we’ that was created for us with little input of our own, then there is no way our lives can ever become more authentic. We will continue to live by the archetypes choose by others and not those we truly feel reflect who are and envision ourselves to be.3
Jones then goes into a wide range of New Age practices which may be most beneficial for making these archetypal changes, such as changing your relationship with the past; guided meditation; finding a role model; becoming aware of complaining and substituting positivity; chakra exploration; and “acting as if” you have already attained your goal. She also offers working with archangels, astrology and animal totems to better understand yourself through the archetypes that are coming through for you in the realm of symbols. Finally, Jones notes how dreams can be helpful for bringing archetypal patterns to consciousness, stating, “Once we get an idea of what symbols are most often present in our dreams than others and what situations keep coming up night after night, we can begin to dissect what our deepest fears and concerns are, and which archetypes represent them.”4
If one has no prior knowledge of archetypes and is looking for a bare bones minimum introduction, the book may suffice to provide a basic understanding of the subconscious mind, yet it is important to note how watered-downed the presentation of information is from the original sources. The book is not innovative on part of the author but more of an overview of concepts pioneered by others, then written in a self-help format based on the author’s experience. For instance, repeated and reused is the concept of Joseph Campbell’s work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which details the archetypal hero’s journey, yet is distilled into a merely superficial understanding of the components of that archetype seen throughout the world. Jones seems to have drawn from other authors and compiled it in her own explanation, which is why the book features so many tidbit interviews with others such as Atherton Drenth, Karey Keith, and Shelly Wilson.
The overly peppy tone of the book also takes a toll on the quality of the writing, for when describing tough situations in life there is a shallow gloss over of the full extent and range of emotions that come with moving through life situations such as addiction or suffering a disabling illness. Certain archetypes such as Victim and Nagging Nancy were held up as things that need to be changed into a more positive trait, such as Warrior or Sage, with one chapter even titled “Be This, Not That!” There is a subtle criticizing tone that comes through the author towards what she perceives as victim mentality. She implies others need to take control of their life and pull themselves up from their bootstraps and it is up to them alone. The author does not convey that archetypes are a form of depth psychology that is rooted in having courage to face the unconscious — through fears, darkness, and wounding — to get to the root of the problem, and these often seemingly dreadful experiences can become a catalyst for personal growth if one is willing to examine their personal patterns. Because of the focus on positivity and the author’s “I did it so, so can you” attitude, the book has a rather callous feeling of superiority in the conveyance of the material.
Overall, The Power of Archetypes seems to imply that simply making a list of the archetypes you feel are playing out in your life and deciding to take on new ones is enough to absolutely change your life from the inside out. This quick-fix glossary of ways to change your life seems filled with dim promises that hardly tap into the power available through archetypal therapy. If you resonate with positive self-help as a means to explore yourself, then perhaps this would be a book for you. However, I would recommend picking up another book such as the original works of Carl Jung if you truly would like to gain an understanding of how archetypes can help you foster awareness and make sustainable changes in your life.