12 Character Archetypes and Their Meanings

All the people we see in our dreams can be connected to certain character archetypes. The term “archetype” means an original pattern in ancient Greek. The idea itself can be traced back to Plato. According to him, there were two realities – the world (where we live) and the non-physical realm (where Forms exist.) By Forms, he meant pre-existing ideals which consisted of certain characteristics like softness, darkness, roundness, etc. These Forms are just another word for Archetypes. 

Learning about character archetypes allows you to understand the symbolism behind people in your dream. It’s like putting puzzles together. Once you identify these archetypes, you’ll be able to connect the dream to your current waking life circumstances. Each archetype can appear as themselves, as a symbol or as an aspect of yourself. 

The 12 Most Common Dream Archetypes

Archetypes have been used for over a thousand years in literature. Most characters are built on attributes that are specific and easily distinguished. For instance, you don’t have to know a lot about archetypes to know that Romeo and Juliet are typical representations of the Lover, while Yoda is a classic Scholar. 

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung used this archetype concept for his human psyche theory. According to him, these sets of universal behaviors are part of our collective unconscious. In other words, they’re common to all humans. Now, this doesn’t mean that they’re entrenched into our DNA somehow. They’re simply character forms that persevere through generations. You’ll notice that some of them are gender-specific, but with a long history of gender roles, that’s logical. 

Our subconscious speaks to us in dreams. But this type of communication isn’t direct or even logical. The way our minds send messages is through symbols, and those symbols are nothing but archetype representations. Jung identified 12 primary archetypes seen in a dream. Our list is a simplified explanation of these archetypes that should help you understand characters from your dream. 

Here are the 12 Main Character Archetypes That Can Appear in Dreams:

  • The Authority
  • The Caregiver
  • The Child
  • The Creator
  • The Entertainer
  • The Helper
  • The Hero
  • The Hunter
  • The Lover
  • The Rebel
  • The Spiritualist
  • The Scholar

Archetype Summaries and Characteristics

Each of these archetypes has its own features. Here, we’ll analyze 12 main archetypes – how they appear in a dream, what’s their symbolism and what are their key strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that a certain person can represent more than one archetype.

The Authority

Dream Role: Leader, King or queen, Boss, Manager, Politician

Symbolism: You desire to control, or you’re being controlled by someone. 

Assets: Leadership, Responsibility, Authority 

Liabilities: Supremacy, Demanding

Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

The Caregiver

Dream Role: Parent, Doctor, Nurse, Helper, Altruist, Saint

Symbolism: You feel like you need to protect and care for others.

Assets: Compassion, Generosity, Empathy

Liabilities: Martyrdom

Motto: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The Child

Dream Role: Younger version of yourself, Child, Dreamer, Peter Pan

Symbolism: You’re either too dependent on other people around you, or you’re too distrustful.

Assets: Innocence, Optimism, Faith, Playfulness

Liabilities: Dependency, Distrust, Shyness, Fear of being alone

Motto: In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.

The Creator

Dream Role: Artist, Writer, Musician, Innovator, Photographer, Sculptor

Symbolism: You feel the need for creative expression, for creating things that last. 

Assets: Creativity, Expression, Imagination, Vision

Liabilities: Perfectionism, Micromanagement

Motto: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.

The Entertainer

Dream Role: Comedian, Fool, Trickster, Joker

Symbolism: Live in the moment. You could be either taking life too seriously or not enough. 

Assets: Sense of humor, Joy, Wit

Liabilities: Silliness, Insecurity, Irresponsibility

Motto: All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

The Helper

Dream Role: Friend, Neighbor, Healer, Emergency worker   

Symbolism: Either you’re in need of help, or you feel ready to aid others.

Assets: Devotion, Compassion, Realism, Lack of pretense

Liabilities: Being taken for granted

Motto: A problem well put is half solved.

The Hero

Dream Role: Warrior, Crusader, Savior, Superhero, Soldier, Winner

Symbolism: You need to overcome challenges and prove your worth.

Assets: Competence, Courage, Morality, Empathy

Liabilities: Arrogance

Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The Hunter

Dream Role: Hunter, Wanderer, Pilgrim

Symbolism: You’re searching for something to be your focus in life. 

Assets: Ambition, Free spirit, Loyalty

Liabilities: Rumbling, Inner emptiness

Motto: Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find.

The Lover

Dream Role: Partner, Spouse, Friend, Relative, the Love interest

Symbolism: You’re in need of commitment towards loved ones.

Assets: Passion, Intimacy, Gratitude, Commitment, Selflessness 

Liabilities: Loss of own identity 

Motto: You complete me.

The Scholar

Dream Role: Teacher, Scholar, Expert, Philosopher, Academic, Detective

Symbolism: You’re searching for knowledge and self-reflection.

Assets: Wisdom, Intelligence 

Liabilities: Ignorance, Being misinterpreted, Lack of action

Motto: The truth will set you free.

The Spiritualist

Dream Role: Angel, Jesus, Buddha, Spirit, Priest, Cleric

Symbolism: You need to be more mindful about things in waking life.

Assets: Intuition, Spiritualism, Piety, Humanity, Mercy

Liabilities: Tendency towards manipulation

Motto: We are all connected.

The Rebel

Dream Role: Enemy, Prisoner, Revolutionary, Outlaw

Symbolism: You want to change things that aren’t working.

Assets: Radical freedom, Rebellion, Passion

Liabilities: Insensibility, Depression, Exile

Motto: Rules are made to be broken.

Why Use Archetypes?

Learning the characteristics of each archetype will allow you to interpret your dreams. Here’s how. If you dream of a nurse or a doctor, for example, that’s a clear Caregiver archetype. Since you know that it symbolizes the need for caring about others, think about how that relates to your current life situation. Maybe your subconscious is telling you to help your elderly parents with certain things. It can also be a reminder to buy a new pack of diapers first thing in the morning.

Taking the time to learn about character archetypes not only helps us decipher our dreams, it also helps us become more mindful. Dream interpretation is the best way to gain insight into the depth of our subconscious. 

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