Friday, 4 May 2012

My favourite coaching tools: Archetype Cards

How to use the Archetype Cards in various ways to help illuminate other perspectives with which to understand or act from for Self for others. Ancient civilisations all around the world have described archetypes in their mythology and religious systems. Carl Jung also contributed greatly to current thoughts about them in psychological studies.

The Caroline Myss archetype cards are easy to use by anyone, and are designed to help find and/or illuminate the sub-personalities / sub-personas / archetypes that are most active in the personalities - personal realities - of the people who use them. Cards like these are great for turning a lot of abstract and hard to grasp theory, into a practical approach to finding deeper personal truth and meaning.

This archetype cards writeup is about the understanding self perspective, before deciding a course of action to change some thing(s), when guiding self or others :)


With a deep enough commitment and explanation, sceptics do tolerate a sensible coach facilitating this exercise with the coachee with kindness, gentle humour and positivity. The archetype cards may look a little out-of-place in work environments (like tarot, oracle or angel cards to the uninformed). So, be sensitive and sensible when using them - more discretion in a safe environment is often beneficial for the coachee's experience.

Over the years I've attempted to define my value system, my principles, my motivations, my behaviours etc. And then understand them. And then feel better about my life. But I learned over time that the tools I was trying were not helpful to me - not fit for purpose nor for use. Then I was introduced to the Archetype Cards (UK) (or US) by my coach in 2011.

But let's go back in time a little, and share some stories!

My journey to discover my personal values started off with being given a blank piece of paper and told to "think hard", and "now write down your most important, or top 5-10, values" which left me with "writer's block" pretty much every time. Eventually as time ran out, I would scribble down things that sounded "good", and hope I would be able to live up to what I thought I wanted to be like. And not long after that I would feel guilty and wonder why I thought I had this value X but constantly broke it.

Then the tools got more sophisticated, and I was given a sheet of "values" and told to circle the top 10. Again, as time ran out, I would circle the ones that sounded "good". And have similar experiences as before - leading to guilt.

The tools got even more sophisticated and suddenly I had 60 odd cards in my hand with "all" the possible values, and I had to sort them, halve the pile, halve it again and again, until I had just 10 or 5. And inevitably I would reach a pile of 30, and really struggle to bring that down to 29, let alone 10. I could not tell which values were actually mine, and which did I want to be!

Every time, I felt I had just managed to pick some [semi-]random words that sounded good. Every time it was deeply unsatisfying to me. Over the years of working, I noticed a similar thing happening to my career - I do not fit into a box! (certainly not a small, typical org-chart box anyway)

So whilst pondering what this all meant in the background, another coach showed me Caroline Myss' Archetype Cards.

Quiet room
Big enough clean table
Archetype cards (Archetype Cards: An 80-card Deck with instruction booklet UK or US)
Pen and paper

Optional but not required:
  1. Read the instruction booklet that come with the archetype card set
  2. Read the Sacred Contracts book describing the archetypes in the card deck as well as more: 

Sacred Contracts?? Seriously? That title sounds "out of this world" weird! And, YES! Coaches (like me) read a lot of different things! The wise ones discover(ed) that fundamental human truth exist everywhere!! :-)

For the coach: Type all the card names, light attributes and shadow attributes into 3 columns in a spreadsheet

Step 0: Shuffle the archetype deck and make sure all cards are pointing the same way.

Step 1: Spread the archetype cards out, face down and let the coachee pick a random card. Make a note of the archetype.

Step 2: Put the random card back and shuffle the archetype deck again. Give the deck to the coachee to look through so that they get an understanding of what is really in it. Explain light attributes are typically considered "good indications" and shadow "warning indications". Explain that archetypes are a model, and that no model is 100% right, but it is valuable nevertheless at providing a few valid insights.

Step 3: Depending on how self-aware the coachee is, you need to do this part of the exercise in different ways and it takes longer/shorter. You're aiming for about 10-24 cards, but this is determined really by the coachee, not the coach or some rulebook. It is a sliding scale that will become visible only once begun.

Ask the coachee to now go through the entire archetype deck, look at each card's name especially, and briefly on the light attribute.

Very self-aware: ask for the coachee to pull out any archetype card that resonates with them

Not self-aware:
1. Ask the coachee to pull out all the cards they like, as fast as possible
2. Ask them to check the discard pile again and pull out cards they overlooked, as fast as possible
3. Now ask them to go through the "like" pile and discard any that are definitely not some aspect of "them" that they play/show at least once per day

Step 4: Ask the coachee to "cluster" the cards that they see are related/connected to each other in some way as quickly as possible. To ensure they're doing it correctly ask them to explain the relationship/theme/pattern they're interpreting when 1 cluster is 3 cards big.

Step 5: Once the affinity clustering is complete - looking for 4-8 clusters approximately, again this depends on the coachee. Ask the coachee to come up with a short sentence / a descriptive phrase for each of the clusters. Sometimes they might only choose 1 word, sometimes that is enough. It is their balance carefully what you know, what you think you know, what you think the coachee knows.

Step 6: Ask the coachee to write their own Light Attributes and Shadow Attributes for the clusters - using concise sentences or phrases. AVOID single words, comma separated.

Step 7: Record all the information - cluster names and card name members, all the Light Attributes, all the Shadow Attributes

* Tip copy the card names, Light Attributes and Shadow Attributes from a spreadsheet, into a spreadsheet just for this coachee.

Step 8: Now take a copy of the card names and their attributes. Ask the coachee to edit the attributes to better reflect themselves. It could mean deleting the entire attributes, or changing from multiple to single or from single to multiple. Changing from external to internal focus or vice-versa. Essentially change it to themselves.


This information is now in 4 categories:
1. Random
2. The "like" pile
3. The clusters, cluster members, and cluster attributes
4. The edited for self

You now have 3 categories (2-4) that can be used as reflections of the values and principles of the coachee!

Either or all of the 4 categories, or specific members of these categories, can be used to ground coaching goals and plans around. The Random card can be used as a beacon to draw attention to learn new skills, or as a mirror to compare against, or as a single card to represent the coachee.

1 comment:

Rob Brown said...

For an alternative approach to using the archetype cards for personal insights, Caroline Myss has an online guide of how she intended the archetypes to be used on her archetype resources website.

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