Why are Jungian Archetypes so Powerful?

When Carl Jung became popular, he had a serious problem in his hands, because at the same time, Sigmund Freud was also popular and influential, and as you can well imagine, there was quite a bit of a war going on between these two very prominent forefathers of modern psychology and psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is still a valid discipline today. It helps millions of people overcome issues. There are lots of people who used to be disabled by fear or paralyzed by pride, narcissism and anger who are now living effective normal lives. This was all made possible by psychotherapy in its current form.

However, if you were to take Sigmund Freud and put him in a time capsule and fast-forward to today, his mind would probably be blown because the psychotherapy being practiced now is so different from the therapy that he used on his patients, you might think Sigmund Freud has no part in psychotherapy. This also is due in no small measure to the fact that a lot of his theories have been debunked and discredited throughout the years.

Which sheds a spotlight on Carl Jung. He did not suffer the same deep level and extensive destruction of historical reputation that happened to Sigmund Freud. At some level or other, there are still people who believe in Jungian archetypes. Now, I’m not quite sure about how relevant this 1800s’ methodology is to psychotherapy, but I can guarantee that it’s relevant when it comes to cultural criticism.

It’s definitely significant when you’re reading through ancient Greek myths because they make these myths so much easier to understand and more importantly, you can make predictions based on developments using Jungian archetypes. These archetypes are powerful precisely because they are products of collective human experience using myths.

If you were asking yourself what is the point of a myth and why we should study the myths in the here and now, thousands of years before they were first told as stories, one ready answer is that they make for great archetypes. Once you nail the type, chances are if you meet people who fit the type, you can predict how they would behave in certain circumstances.

Moreover, when people find themselves in particular situations, they can always look back to archetypical patterns in myths. That’s why Carl Jung still has his followers today, but they’re not in the realm of psychotherapy. They’re mostly in the realm and field of cultural criticism and literary analysis as well as English literature.

Instead of groping around tacking each character as a specific artistic free floating creation that has no connection to characters that came before or after, Jungian archetypical literary analysis enables us to ground certain character traits into a larger frame of reference. Since this frame is time-tested and can be applied to a whole lot of other characters written by many other authors, we get a sense of unity and stability. This is quite handy when it comes down to making a case in a literary review or applying a critical lens to a work of literary art.