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Working with Archetypes and Transpersonal
Experience: The Dialog Method

By George A. Boyd @2002

The mythic and symbolic realm of archetypes underlies the experiential layers of life experience as a rich, evocative substratum. These archetypes may be seen as containers of meaning.

The schools of psychology listed in the table below have tapped these archetypal layers and gathered much clinical and phenomenal information about them. Interested students and clinicians can consult these sources for further information on what these thinkers and scholars believed were relevant archetypes or myths to use for study and therapeutic purposes.

Encountering archetypes may shed light on the patient's issues and stages in personal and transpersonal growth. When we examine the changes that occur over a lifetime in the human personality, we find the following perspectives that may incorporate interaction either with archetypes that signify an important life issue, or a stage in growth—or both:


Perspective (Exponents)

School of Psychology

Transpersonal Archetypes


Evocative myths and archetypes in the collective unconscious (Jung) (Assagioli)

Analytical Psychology


Personal Archetypes


Changes in interpersonal relationships over time (Sullivan)

Interpersonal Psychology

Family Systems


Changes in objects incorporated in the psyche over time

Object Relations


Changes in adaptation of the Self (Kohut)

Self Psychology


Life challenges and masteries of each developmental stage (Erikson)

Ego Psychology


Maturation of mental functioning (Piaget)

Child Psychology


Psychosexual stages (Freud)

Psychoanalytic Psychology


Physical development changes with age observed in the organism

Physiological Psychology

Anatomy of an Archetype

Each archetype may be seen to be comprised of the following eight components:

  1. Visual appearance component: form of the archetype

  2. Feeling component: emotional quality expressed by the archetype, explicit or implicit

  3. Kinesthetic component: expression as movement

  4. Verbal component: expression as speech

  5. Cognitive component: beliefs or concepts communicated by the archetype

  6. Volitional component: what powers or abilities to manifest are expressed by the archetype, actively or potentially

  7. Identity component: the I AM statement enunciated from the essence of the archetype

  8. Essence of the archetype: the archetype as mystery

Understanding the components by which it is possible to encounter and work with an archetype allows the clinician to design evocative methods to guide the patient to interact with the archetype to resolve a poignant life issue, or to resolve the challenges of a stage of growth. One method for interfacing with an archetype is the Dialog Method.

The Dialog Method for Working with Archetypes

These components may be elicited in therapeutic dialogue or self-exploration by a series of evocative questions or suggestions. For example:

Show me your form. What do you look like?

What do you feel about…? Tell me what you feel.

Feel the tendency towards posture or movement inherent in the archetype. How might you move? What actions would you take? ("Move this body" will evoke a possession-like state where the archetype will initiate movement.)

Tell me what you wish to say to me. What do you have to say to me? ("Speak through me – utter through my lips," will evoke a possession-like "medium" or channeling experience where the archetype will speak through you.)

Teach me about your world or experience. What lesson do you have to teach me? What warning do you have to show me? What do I need to understand about you? What am I not seeing in myself?

What gifts do you have to share or express? Show me your powers.

Declare to me who you are. Who are you really? Who are you?

Show me your essence. What is you essence? Show it to me.

Dialog with this deep intrapsychic layer can bring insight into the meanings inherent in these archetypes. Once integrated into consciousness, they may bring new gifts of understanding and release latent abilities (e.g., a creative gift of drawing, storytelling, painting, music, etc.).


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