Archetypes provide the deep structure for human motivation and meaning. When we encounter them in art, literature, sacred texts, advertising—or in individuals or groups—they evoke deep feeling within us. These imprints, which are hardwired in our psyches, were projected outward by the ancients onto images of gods and goddess. Plato disconnected these from religion, seeing them in philosophical terms as "elemental forms." Twentieth-century psychiatrist C.G. Jung called them "archetypes." 

Building upon Jung's work, Carol S. Pearson has created a system of 12 archetypes that put a human face on the meaning structures that are correlated with success and fulfillment today. Studying Pearson's archetypes can help you:

  • Better understand your own journey 
  • Increase communication between your conscious and unconscious minds 
  • Trigger a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment in your life
  • Inspire and motivate others
  • Cope more effectively with difficult people
  • Have greater flexibility to respond to the challenges of life
  • Be more effective within your family, workplace, and community context.
  Illustration - the Innocent Illustration - the Orphan Illustration - the Caregiver Illustration - the Warrior    
  They also can help businesses and organizations: 
  • Create a healthy and balanced organizational culture 
  • Create a "brand" identity aligned with the actual values and strengths of the organization and its products
  • Inspire customer and employee loyalty
  • Make a positive contribution to the world.
The 12 Pearson archetypes are grouped in two different ways--the first system emphasizing the journey of development for individuals, groups, and organizations; the second focusing on achieving balance within fundamental motivational categories (stability, belonging, achievement, and learning/self-actualization). In different books, the names used to describe the archetypes vary somewhat, to highlight the aspect of the archetype most relevant to the subject at hand. Click on the button for "Publications and Instrumentation" for more information about books and instruments based on Pearson archetypes described below. The following table integrates the two ways of grouping the archetypes. 

Two-System Integration Chart


Core Desire

Leadership Style




Desire to feel safe and in control






Desire to belong and feel valued 






Desire to have a special impact on the world




Desire to be yourself and find out about the world



Stage One:


Socialization Archetypes 

(Locates power in the group and social systems)

Warrior (Hero)

(Regular Guy/Gal)

Stage Two:


Change Archetypes

(Takes back personal power and freedom)

Destroyer (Outlaw)
Seeker (Explorer)
Stage Three:


Restabilization Archetypes

(Exerts personal power in the world)

Brief descriptions of the 12 archetypes follow in "the journey" order. Many thanks to Dorothy Hewerdine for sharing her playful renderings of the archetypes.


Preparation: Archetypes of the Family

The archetypes of preparation can be seen as connecting with the inner child (Innocent and Orphan) and the inner parent (Caregiver as nurturing parent; Warrior as protecting parent). These four archetypes tend to be active in young people and/or organizations that are new or that employ or serve people who are at the preparation level of development. Together, these archetypes provide an inner "family" that makes the individual less dependent upon the health of the family of origin. When all four are awakened in an individual or organization, he/she/it generally is able to move on to The Journey. 

Illustration - the Innocent THE INNOCENT 

Every era has myths of a golden age or of a promised land where life has been or will be perfect. The promise of the Innocent is that life need not be hard. Within each of us, the Innocent is the spontaneous, trusting child that, while a bit dependent, has the optimism to take the journey.

Illustration - the Regular Guy/Gal THE REGULAR GUY/GAL - THE ORPHAN

The Regular Guy/Gal/Orphan understands that everyone matters, just as they are. Down-home and unpretentious, it reveals a deep structure influenced by the wounded or orphaned child that expects very little from life, but that teaches us with empathy, realism, and street smarts.

Illustration - the Warrior/Hero THE WARRIOR/HERO

When everything seems lost, the Warrior/Hero rides over the hill and saves the day. Tough and courageous, this archetype helps us set and achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and persist in difficult times, although it also tends to see others as enemies and to think in either/or terms.

Illustration - the Caregiver/Altruist THE CAREGIVER/ALTRUIST

The Caregiver is an altruist, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others. Although prone to martyrdom and enabling behaviors, the inner Caregiver/Altruist helps us raise our children, aid those in need, and build structures to sustain life and health. 

The Journey: Archetypes of Transformation and Change

These archetypes of metamorphosis personify the process of seeking out new options; tearing down what no longer serves; committing to people, values, and activities; and creating new forms. They are expressed most often in individuals (adolescence, midlife, retirement, etc.) and organizations in times of transition, and all of them want to maximize personal freedom and fulfillment. When all four are awakened within individuals or organizations, they become ready for The Return. 


The Explorer/Seeker/Wanderer leaves the known to discover and explore the unknown. This inner rugged individual braves loneliness and isolation to seek out new paths. Often oppositional, this iconoclastic archetype helps us discover our uniqueness, our perspectives, and our callings.


The Outlaw/Destroyer embodies repressed rage about structures that no longer serve life even when these structures still are supported by society or by our conscious choices. Although this archetype can be ruthless, it weeds the garden in ways that allow for new growth. 


The Lover archetype governs all kinds of love—from parental love, to friendship, to spiritual love—but we know it best in romance. Although it can bring all sorts of heartache and drama, it helps us experience pleasure, achieve intimacy, make commitments, and follow our bliss.


The Creator archetype fosters all imaginative endeavors, from the highest art to the smallest innovation in lifestyle or work. Adverse to stasis, it can cause us to overload our lives with constant new projects; yet, properly channeled, it helps us express ourselves in beautiful ways.

The Return: Archetypes of the Royal Court

When the archetypes of the return are activated, people and organizations know who they are at a deeper level than they once did. Now they are motivated to seek out ways to use their gifts and perspectives to make a difference in the world. They no longer yearn to be taken care of, and they do not blame others or find excuses. Rather, they live and work in ways that express their values, commitments, and talents in a socially responsible manner. These archetypes generally are awakened and in balance within psychologically mature individuals and organizations able not only to benefit from the rights of living in a free society, but also to undertake the responsibilities of active, engaged citizenship.


The Ruler archetype inspires us to take responsibility for our own lives, in our fields of endeavor, and in the society at large. If he/she overcomes the temptation to dominate others, the developed Ruler creates environments that invite in the gifts and perspectives of all concerned.


The Magician archetype searches out the fundamental laws of science and/or metaphysics to understand how to transform situations, influence people, and make visions into realities. If the Magician can overcome the temptation to use power manipulatively, it galvanizes energies for good.

the Sage THE SAGE

The Sage archetype seeks the truths that will set us free. Especially if the Sage overcomes the temptation of dogma, it can help us become wise, to see the world and ourselves objectively, and to course-correct based on objective analyses of the results of our actions and choices.


The Jester archetype urges us to enjoy the process of our lives. Although the Jester can be prone to laziness and dissipation, the positive Jester invites us all out to play--showing us how to turn our work, our interactions with others, and even the most mundane tasks into FUN.