This week, I had a coaching session with a client where, during the session, he was asked to dialogue with the Archetype of the Innocent. It was quite astonishing how the Innocent- Every Person Archetype could turn into an internal coach for a 63-year-old, twice divorced, retired freelancer who held a glorious career in public service and who found himself stuck in a late life crossroad that required coaching.
Known by many other names – including the Child, the Youth, Utopian, naive, and mystic – the Innocent embodies all that we wish to return to in old age, and a soul untarnished by the harshness of the world. The Innocent craves happiness above all else. It need not be just his own; the Innocent desires paradise for all, even his enemy. The motivations for the Innocent are sincere. Truth is all he knows. This unadulterated innocence is what makes this archetype one of the most sympathetic characters, and in group settings, it is the Innocent who often rallies those who would sooner be downtrodden. They inspire people to default to the good, especially those that are apathetic. At his height, the Innocent can convince a neutral party to fight for the Hero, even if there is no reward to be had and the chance of success is slim. His optimism is unrivaled. However, the Innocent is not impervious to the Shadow, or those elements of an archetype that the Self rejects from its day-to-day Persona. In fact, the Innocent can be terribly naive, to the point of endangering those around him. The Innocent can also be precocious, and difficult to reason with. They are dependent on the skill of others to survive, but may not be aware of it, often living sheltered lives or having a disposition that ignores reality to retain a fantasy ideal. (Wikipedia)
With this information in mind, taken from Wikipedia, I’d like to get back to my client and to the coaching session. The dilemma which my coachee brought up in the meeting had to do with his eldest son who intended to get married by the end of the month. My client, having served in public service in a prestigious position, had been accustomed to always being accompanied by subordinates who treasured his presence. Now, being alone and reflecting upon his son’s future wedding, he experiences anxiety accompanied by a sad mood. I suggested that he encounter with the Archetype of Every-Person. In the Jungian Coaching KIT, we offer the 24-Leadership archetypes. In the domain of “People”, along with the Lover and Trickster archetypes stands the Every-Person.
Having read the values and what this archetype is good at, I encouraged my coachee to hold a truthful, heartfelt dialogue with the archetype. In this session, my coachee experienced a huge transformation. The Every-Person archetype urged him to face his narcissism and self-centered approach to life. This state of mind that he used to live with, always needing to be the center of events, was acting from a solid attractive Persona which turned out to be useless and empty as he imagined the modest wedding of his son.
If we turn back to C.G. Jung’s reference in relating to the “child archetype”, we can read the following: “It is a striking paradox in all child myths that the “child” is on the one hand delivered helpless into the power of terrible enemies and in continual danger of extinction, while on the other he possesses powers far exceeding those of ordinary humanity. This is closely related to the psychological fact that though the child may be “insignificant”, unknown, “a mere child”, he is also divine. From the conscious standpoint we seem to be dealing with an insignificant content that has no releasing, let alone saving character.” pg. 170, C. G. Jung in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Bollingen Princeton (1968).
My coaching approach here is based on the “compensatory function” which is so typical of Jung’s approach to change and healing. While my coachee’s predisposition toward the wedding derived instinctually from an arrogant point of view, tending to possess the role of the hero, father and leader, the Every-Person archetype ushered my client into an innovative social position, into a different persona, where he could enjoy the event from a peripheral point of view, putting his son in the middle of the event and himself as a “good enough” father.