What is an Archetype?
Carl Jung was the first person to bring archetypes into the more mainstream. He said you could no more separate yourself from your archetypes than you could separate yourself from your DNA.
We’re familiar with archetypes and their influence even if we don’t go around thinking consciously about them.
The word archetype means original imprint. It’s a pattern or essential properties of something that determine how it behaves.
If I say the word Caregiver, you have a pattern of qualities, properties and behaviours underneath the word.
Knowing more about an archetype helps you understand how it’s influencing your life, shaping your decisions and choices. Being conscious of which archetype is at play in your life and leadership allows you to create a more fulfilling, meaningful and successful life. One in which you’re in the driving seat, rather than being driven.
And so in this episode of the blue pea Leader I want to explore the Caregiver archetype
When we talk about Emotional Intelligence, Compassion, Wellbeing, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace, there are a variety of archetypes that underpin this conversation. And one of them is the caregiver.
Now how easy or otherwise you find it to access this archetype will shape how you work with the above subjects. And indeed it will certainly influence how others see you working with the above subjects.
I’ve had clients who were very high in caregiver and whilst they took immense care of their staff and teams, they ignored their own wellbeing.
When the caregiver is high for you then your nurturing, compassionate, giving side will be a core part of your identity.
If it’s low for you it can indicate a few things. It’s not a core part of your identity and self image. It’s something you find hard to access and need to learn to get better at, aka a development opportunity. Or it can indicate that you’ve recently had an intense spell of drawing upon this archetype and it’s in currently having a holiday so to speak.
Qualities of Caregiver
The Caregiver is focussed on being of service to others, to care, nurture and protect.
Of course they decide what or who they are in service of, care about, look to nurture and protect. For some this could be their family. For others it’s a wider concept of family i.e. their team or department. For others it could be the ocean, the local park or the village bus service.
Selfless and self-sacrificing they can give without thinking of the consequences or the cost. I mention above, it’s not uncommon for them to take care of others and neglect their own needs.
This archetype is motivated to provide reassurance, service, advice, listening and an open heart to support the welfare of others. The Caregiver is compassionate, generous, efficient, self-sacrificing, patient, highly competent and an excellent multitasker. Able to find the silver lining in any cloud, the Caregiver remains calm in a crisis, makes friends with everyone, and radiates the lightness of optimism.
On the downside this archetype can also be overprotective, overly involved, rather than allowing their loved ones or their employees the space to solve their own problems they dive in to rescue them.
They can also get serious tunnel vision.
Lastly I’ve alluded to this earlier, whilst they’re good at taking care of others and spotting when someone needs attention, or is getting out of balance. They can miss this completely in themselves. Continuing to push through and sacrifice when they should say no and apply some self-care.
There are of course still stereotypes in the workplace associated with this archetype. I often describe a stereotype and a dead or lifeless version of an archetype. Archetypes are animated, active, shaping. Stereotypes are limiting.
And so within the workplace we see situations where a person knows that the caregiver archetype would be the best solution here. And rather than look for the archetype, which is present in all of us to some degree. They look for the stereotype. Oh, you’re a woman or a mother, I’ll assign you the task.
I’ve had male clients who demonstrated the caregiver archetype in a team more obviously or readily than some of the females.
And let’s not forget that as they are animated forces of nature not lifeless structures, we benefit from learning how to draw upon each archetype as the powerful resource it is.
That self-knowledge of whether this is an archetype you can easily access and draw upon when required pays dividends. When we get feedback on our leadership, we are able to make use of it when we can see if this is a difference is archetypal access rather than skills.
Let me give an example. A client easily accessed and often led with their caregiver. The wellbeing of staff was important. They were collaborative and often involved many people in discussions before making a decision. They received some feedback from their boss that they needed to be tougher, to push people, just do it, and stop talking to others as much. The caregiver archetype wasn’t as strong for their boss. They led with their warrior. Rather than be offended by the feedback or go into conflict over it. My client could see the difference and knew why their boss saw things that way and so had given that feedback. Neither did they dismiss it, rather they looked for balance. Were there times when they were leading with their caregiver and their warrior would have been more helpful?
This self-awareness and reflection allowed them to grow as a leader and also opened up more opportunities. Including the subsequent conversation with their boss about the impact of them leading with their warrior.
If this has sparked a desire in you to learn more about how archetypes are influencing your choices, decisions, leadership and relationships with others then check out our programme on https://www.bluepeapod.com/archetypal-leadership-programme/
In the meantime one of the areas you can work on with your caregiver is self-care. What can you do this week or weekend that allows you to rejuvenate and balance. A walk out in nature, a long soak in the bath listening to the latest album, losing yourself in a good book, movie or the theatre, or perhaps a lie in. Too often we get into the habit of being there for others and neglect ourselves. Now is the time for you to revive yourself so you can really be there for others.
Go and be the difference in leadership