Archetypes: Parts of Self

Dear Reader,

I apologize to anyone trying to follow along. Right now, I’m just trying to sort things out in my head by writing them out.

Last time, I talked about Internal Family Systems as a method to create dialogue between different parts of self.

I exchange letters between my younger self. How does this relate?

Each of these different parts of self formed at different times in my life. Since they have extreme roles, they broke off at a time when extreme action was required to remedy a situation. For example, the part that binges emerged when I was 11 to cope with being lonely, bored, and rejected after school. When I binge today, my behaviors tend to revert back to how I acted as an eleven-year-old. Therefore, if I’m dialoguing with a part of self, I am dialoguing with a younger self.

So, how do I determine these parts of self?

Before, when I was in therapy, the parts of self were defined quite vaguely. I could define it by a behavior, like, “the part that binges.” But what does that mean? Lots of parts end up bingeing because that is a useful tool for many goals (self-sabotage, comfort, punishment, etc.).

So, what I’m going to use is Carolyn Myss’s system of archetypes. My mom swears one of her audiobooks (“Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can“) helped her recover from cancer.  I normally wouldn’t buy into that sort of “mumbo jumbo,” but she’s a medical doctor and was on death’s doorstep. If she’s into it, then I’ll give it a try.

I read “Why Poeple Don’t Heal and How They Can” when I got out of the hospital for a manic/psychotic episode. I was at my absolute lowest and didn’t want to get out of bed. That book helped drag me back from the depths and has contributed to me putting a lot of my baggage behind me.

Back on track: I later went on to read her book “Sacred Contracts,” which is about a bunch more “mumbo jumbo” that I feel sheepish to admit I believe a tiny bit. (Just a tiny bit.)

One of the things she mentions in her book is this concept of archetypes.

Myss didn’t come up with the idea of archetypes – that was Carl Jung’s doing. Jung conceived archetypes as “universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct” (Feist J, Feist GJ, (2009) Theories of Personality, New York New York; McGraw-Hill). Honestly, I can’t really think of a way to concisely summarize what an archetype is, so I hope that’s good enough for now. I’m just going to call them “parts of self” because that’s easier for me.

According to Myss, each person is born with 12 parts of self.

(They can be arranged like the face of a clock – hence the featured image).  The first four are all the same in everyone because they are essential to survival (the Child, the Sellout, the Saboteur, and the Victim). The remaining eight are more specific to the individual.

Here are my 12 archetypes:

Signature - Cookie Monster age 11

1. Child (which I call “Cookie Monster”)


2. Sellout (she calls it the “Prostitute,” but I prefer this term)


3. Saboteur


4. Victim


5. Addict


6. Critic


7. Vampire


8. Shape-Shifter


9. Storyteller


10. Dilettante


11. Seeker


12. Seer

My first phase of this project will to create a profile for each of them.

I plan to look at their description (including when they emerged on my timeline), what behaviors they have, why they do those behaviors (what need are they trying to fill), the consequences of those behaviors, and what new behaviors we can try that would achieve the same goal.

The key thing to keep in mind: all parts of self have benevolent intentions.

Beneath it all, they genuinely care for the self as a whole. How they envision that differs drastically, but I believe well-being can ultimately be achieved if we can all get on the same page.

Thanks for reading. Major kudos if you are following along!

Until next time,

Signature: Ana (Dear Cookie Monster)



3 thoughts on “Archetypes: Parts of Self

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