Archetypal Imagery Coaching for Wisdom

I recently did a webinar for Fielding Graduate University’s Evidence Based Coaching program on how coaches could use Archetypal Imagery to prompt clients to contact their deep wisdom.  It seemed to work really well. Participants liked it. These were my topics…

  • defining archetypes,
  • leading imagery,
  • picking an archetype, and
  • using an archetype to find wisdom for daily life.

I started with a story to show how the mind is full, flooded with perceptions, reactive from buried emotions, worries and more.  Because of this, coaches’ clients can’t connect their deep wisdom.  I often use the story of the six blind man and the elephant to emphasize this. In the story, there are six blind men. They are asked to feel what’s in front of them and say what it is.  One by one, they say the following after feeling:

the side, a “wall”;

the tusk, a “spear”;

the ears, “fan”;

the tail, a “rope”

the trunk, a “snake”;

the leg, a “tree”.

Not one could perceive the essence of the elephant.

In day to day life, coaching clients only perceive a small portion of reality.  However, coaches can help clients contact their deep wisdom so they can see clearly. Archetypal imagery can do this.

figure 7.6

An archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a given characteristic. Usually one recognizes an archetype right away.  The characteristic just pops out right away. For example, the Greek goddess Gaia conveys PROTECTION.  In Gaia’s story she protects life even when her mate, Ouranos, tells her to kill their deformed children the one-eyed cyclops, or when her son, Cronos, wants her to kill his son Zeus because of the prophecy that Zeus will take over Cronos’ throne.

In its quest for stability, the ego keeps consciousness tied up with a busy mind. But the ego likes archetypes since they are part of a natural psychodynamic for organizing personality. Visualizing an archetype quiets the ego to open the mind to deep wisdom.  Wisdom is lifeability, or making one’s life work. Coaches can help their clients gain this lifeability to solve problems.

It is not complicated to help coaching clients find an archetype, since it can happen in a playful and intuitive way. I have an archetype quiz on my blog, quizzes in my book, and cards available. Also, a 13-minute pod cast on the front page of my web site leads a person on an imagery exercise to find an archetype.

It is particularly powerful to image an archetype.  Imagery is a magical way to relax the mind. One participant at my webinar asked, “What do you do with clients who think imagery isn’t the thing for them?”    I think sharing data on its physiological effects is the way to encourage a client to try it.  According Martin Rossman M.D

“Whether it’s for relaxation, problem-solving, healing, or self-development, learning to use your imagination skillfully can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make with your time.”

After choosing an archetype a client can work with it.  Psychologists like me call this amplifying an archetype. Coachees can draw it, find stories about it and tell the coach its main characteristic.

Then, the coach can prompt the client to imagine a current stressful incident. The coach asks the client to tell about the incident in detail, telling about perceptual details of the scene, describing the scene blow by blow.  Eventually the coach prompts the client to find the main feeling that the scene evokes in the body.  After the feeling is named, then the scene is repeated, this time the client is asked to bring in the archetype.  What would happen in the scene, if the person embodied that archetype’s characteristic?  How would things change?  The coach then  has the client check in with their body again and see  what has happened to the feeling in the body?  What insight emerged? What wisdom did the client bring to the situation?

figure 6.49To show how this might work, I had the webinar participants pretend that their archetype was “The World.”  Its main characteristic is fulfillment.  I asked the participants to imagine a recent stressful situation in detail.  Then I asked them to imagine that they embodied this characteristic -fulfillment. What might they do differently, or how might they shift their perception? What might they do in a similar situation the next time?

Archetypal imagery can be a powerful tool for coaches to help clients contact their deep wisdom for transformation.


Imagery Quiz & Finding an Archetype & Relaxation Imagery Podcasts

Annabelle’s 60 min webinar on Using Archetypal Imagery for Accessing Deep Wisdom with Coaching Clients


Archetype Quiz: Insight About a Concern

Click below….

Check out the new simpler, smarter, more helpful archetype quiz!

inside_4-3020Archetypes are energy patterns in the collective unconscious that humans align with to organize their personalities.  When discovered, an archetype can release energy and create numinous clarity!  Focus on a current concern, read the statements, find the one that has resonance today, click and you will see an archetype and its characteristic.  Nurture that characteristic for the day, print the coloring page if you want to color a little to strengthen the  embodiment. Make the characteristic your own.   Bring new insight to the concern….

A few of the 27 statements… go to the page to see the rest… get your archetype of the day!

I feel things before they happen.

It feels like a new day.

I am able to right wrongs.

I can get the financial and legal resources I need.

I feel equilibrium.

Things are going my way.

I feel deeply connected to spirit.



Wisdom & Archetypes


Thomas Aquinas, 13th century theologian, said that wisdom could be defined as lifeability or making one’s life work. Often, this means figuring out how to map and face life’s adversity.  Unfortunately, this can happen frequently, issues to solve in one’s life that is.  However, there is hope. Even though negativity happens in life, there is way of fostering wisdom to roll with the punches, and come out adept at making one’s life work.  Visualizing archetypes is a tool to develop such wisdom.

Archetypes are the main characters in cultural stories. These archetypes embody a characteristic that can help solve our current issues. Stories show tried and true patterns of lifeability.

Usually the mind is full of worries, or sensations but visualizing an archetype quiets the mind and helps a person embody the characteristic of an archetype. This is important since the archetypes in stories hold characteristics of human wisdom built over centuries to create lifeability.

An archetype from a story may demonstrate this.  There is a Yoruba story, called “The Children”.  The Yoruba are a group of people in Western Africa, and many African Americans in the U.S. can trace their descent there.  The main character in this story is an older woman, representing the archetype of an elder.  Of course, elders embody wisdom.  In this story, the people in the village often helped the elder, fixing her house and bringing her food.  But they got tired of this, and decided they didn’t need to do it anymore.  The next year, many of their children became sick, and they realized that they had forgotten about the elder and her knowledge.  The people didn’t know what to do, but they decided to ask the elder for help.  They went to her house and asked for help, and she showed them how to make an herbal remedy. The children then became well.  They would never again forget to visit her, and clean her house, and fix leaks, and make her food.  They realized that it was essential to give respect to the elder, for the health of the community.  One of the elder’s characteristic was knowledge from experience Embodying this characteristic can people reflect and bring their experience to bear on life’s ups and downs.

I’ve chosen the archetype of a tree to represent the knowledge of the elder.  Just for a moment, try out the technique of visualizing an archetype. Think about a magnificent tree you have seen and maybe even touched, that represents knowledge to you. Now visualize that tree. In your mind’s eye, look at it carefully, the color of the leaves and the trunk.  Reach out in the visualization and touch the trunk. Look up at sky above it, and notice its color and if there are clouds. Can you hear the leaves rustling in the wind? What word comes to you for the characteristic you would give this tree?  Now imagine that you embody that characteristic, it is in your bones and courses through your blood. If you had that characteristic how might your face something important in your life, how you could create lifeability for yourself?


Solstice Stars

figure 6.40

 The star archetype is about self-healing. I’ve chosen it as the archetype for Winter Solstice, the longest night of year, when the stars are very bright in the very dark night sky.  I live in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is officially designed a “dark” city meaning that ambient light from street lamps, for example, are reduced

Flagstaff is home to the Lowell Observatory, where astronomers discovered Pluto.  Too bad Pluto is no longer a planet, but in Flagstaff we don’t believe this   Here on Winter Solstice night the Milky Way is a brilliant spray of diamonds.  I sit in awe and realize what a gift my life is. I’m thankful I can perceive this beauty. The Dalai Lama said, “you don’t realize what a gift it is to have a life.”  I do realize that, this gift of life, on Winter Solstice when I sit in the dark with the brilliance of the stars in my eyes.

Recall that an archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a primary characteristic, and in this case the primary characteristic of a star may be different to different people.  That is, one thing I love about archetypes, people bring their uniqueness and their deep self gives the meaning that is needed at the present time. For me the star is about being quiet and realizing the beauty in the universe. The long night encourages rest and reflection to sense this beauty.

I often have a solstice party or ceremony with my friends or family.  We sit in the dark, and if inside a house, we turn off all the lights, unplugging appliances, stopping the low hum of routers or refrigerators. We sit; we sense the dark.  I often ask people what they like about the dark, and there are so many answers: quiet, rest, being invisible, heightened senses, hearing the pulse of the universe, sensing magic….

I think the star works.  I enjoy the dark and rejoice in the paradox. This paradox that when people sit in the dark, they then can see the light a little brighter.


Sophia Redux

“female deities are metaphors for touching the creative spirit”


On my month-long sabbatical this September, 2018, in France and UK, I was struck by statues of female deities shown here as the Three Graces, on a square in Montpellier, France, and Aphrodite in London, the British Museum. This took me back to Sophia, the goddess of wisdom.  She started my work with story and archetypes years ago.

Those of you who have read my books, know my origin story of finding Sophia.  I wanted to be a workshop guru and travel the country. At that time my topic was psychoneuroimmunology, or how to increase immune cells through imagery or thinking in pictures. I made up a story to make the unconscious friendly, and the name of the female protagonist just popped into my mind.  The name was Sophia. People liked this story of Sophia and Claude, a vegetarian dragon. Sophia was on a search for wisdom which she found with the dragon in the ancient caves of the earth.  I decided to find out more about my main character. Years of research ensued. I found out many things. Sophia was based on the Greek word wisdom; she was Jehovah’s mother in some of the stories from Jewish tribes; and she was the creator in the Gnostic Gospels.

Basically, Sophia symbolized spirit in matter, including all matter, rocks, humans, animals.  Female deities are about the creation of life.  For example, the human spirit is there at the moment a baby emerges from the womb. To me Sophia and other female deities, like the Three Graces or Aphrodite are metaphors for the way to touch the spirit for creativity, healing, insight and most importantly awareness.  Instead of overcoming our human nature, Sophia prompts humans to go inside to touch spirit.

What goes around come around.  Or what my colleague, now passed, Charlie Seashore said, “We only have one book in us, and we write it over and over.”  For me, I might substitute the word story for book.  My one story is how to open up a space in the mind for awareness, this requires the release of emotional reactive patterns that usually fill up the mind. Listening to a story relaxes the mind to give space for this release. The storytelling that started with Sophia with nurses in Scottsdale in the early 90s, came back for me in 2018.

This October, I was giving a paper at Wembley Park, London on Indigenous Storytelling for Transformation of Health, Emotions and Spirituality. It brought me back to my Sophia storytelling experience.  I have been on a journey for 35 years to develop a practice using natural psychodynamics to helps humans open inside to develop awareness and eventually wisdom.  Out of my work with storytelling, I had moved to archetypal identification and visualization since in good stories people visualize the main characters or archetypes. I thought this might be more direct and accelerate the process of creating a spacious mind. However, my years of working with archetypes to help people create that spacious awareness inside might be over. When I try to explain archetypes, some people get it in a profound way, but for many I see faces of confusion. Silly me, maybe I’ve been too abstract or theoretical. It might be time to go back to telling story.

Gaia for PTSD Healing

Pic for Annabelle

Stacey Henline, a licensed counselor and doctoral student at Fielding Graduate University, used the quizzes in Archetypal Imagery and the Spiritual Self: Techniques for Coaches and Therapists for breakthroughs with her clients. Stacey says…

I have been able to help guide clients back to healing faster, and more thoroughly by using techniques from this book, and allowing my client to learn more about themselves by being aware of the Archetype that they connect with, and how this can be a connection they can make to find their way back within spirituality in their healing journey.

One of her clients was a paramedic who had struggled with finding meaning in her religion, This client suffered from PTSD because of the trauma she experienced in helping people who were near life and death from car accidents or heart attacks. Stacey, the counselor, felt if she could open to her spirituality it could activate her healing. Stacey tried the Archetypal Deity Quiz, and her client found Gaia. There was an immediate connection, since Gaia is the protectress of the Earth, and the client, as a paramedic, protected lifeGaia gave her a connection since her job was to was to protect people. She found strength in her job and her role as a paramedic. Once she had found the archetype, she did research and used the archetype to find strength and trust in herself and reawakened her mission to protect life. She found comfort and moved away from feeling empty, letting go of needing to find answers. Stacey reported that her work with the client in the framework of Emotional Transformation Therapy found traction after the identification with Gaia.

The Deity Archetype Quiz, has a variety of statements for a person to say they identify with. These are the statements in the quiz that belong to Gaia.

I would do anything to protect life.
I put myself out to help others.
I feel others use me to get what they what.
I consider myself powerful.
I am extremely creative.


Gaia’s characteristics are protective, earthly creative, sustaining, wise, everlasting. She is the Greek Earth goddess, and she and her mate Ouranos birthed many beings, including the Cyclops. Ouranos did not like the Cyclops and wanted to destroy them, so Gaia hid them in her depths. She asked her son Cronos to deal with Ouranos. Later, Cronos heard a prophesy that his son Zeus would dethrone him. Cronos wanted to kill Zeus, but Gaia protected Zeus, by pretending to help Cronos swallow him, but instead she had him swallow a stone. Zeus became a great god, and Gaia protected her children and her grandchildren and the Earth. Does Gaia spark your fancy? What would you do to protect life on the Earth?

Disruption & Comergent Wisdom

figure 6.38

The Tower: Disruption

One of the archetypes in my book, Archetypal Imagery, is The Tower, which I term disruption. The actual image in the book and my accompanying cards is a tower. In the image the tower is getting ready to break up. Recall an archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a given characteristic.  In this case it is disruption, the old is breaking up, making way for a new form to emerge.

Confusion: Making Others Wrong

 It is a timely archetype for the current U.S. zeitgeist. Each day a shocking piece of news shakes us. For me personally, I get so upset when people and politicians want to limit women’s health care. My thoughts are, “This is horrible, I don’t like this, these people are wrong.”  Or “Why can’t people see that it is better for all to have health care for all, and women to be able to be in charge of their health. Abortions go down when women have reproductive health care.”  I taught in India, and one morning I woke up screaming from a dream that the U.S. had turned into India. There were so many poor, and so many without health care, that nothing worked. At that time in India, people were more apt to die in hospitals than staying at home. Of course, this is an overstatement, and there are many fine doctors and hospitals in India. But maybe the point is made, if a society doesn’t take care of the poor, and provide health care for the sick, the whole of society degrades.

Health care particularly for women is my thing. For others, it is a different issue, but the feeling is the same, disruption regardless of being to the right or the left politically.

Out of Confusion: An Inclusive Perception

Things are shaken up, and there is a seismic change in the very core of people’s beings. It feels awful.  But not all is lost, out of this can come a transformed being. The result can be comergent wisdom, an idea coined by Thich Nhat Hahn, a Zen Buddhist teacher, who teaches peace.

When there is disruption, people are very confused and can’t figure things out. People think, “What is right or wrong, I can’t figure it out.” In the best possible outcome of this confused state, the ego which controls our conscious mind, has to let go of its delusion.  It can’t be in charge in any more. The ego likes to make things good and bad, right and wrong, but that isn’t the real world.  Reality isn’t about making others wrong. As the ego gives up defining reality, a more inclusive perception opens up.  Thich Nhat Hahn might call it a “right view”. Through the confusion, a right view emerges that actually perceives reality as it is. It allows a person to choose the right path. How are humans connected, and what is the  path that a person is uniquely gifted to travel?

Transforming to Comergent Wisdom with Compassion

Comergent wisdom is transforming knowledge through compassion. When people have compassion for themselves and others as they experience disruption, they see beyond the opposites of right and wrong, white and black.  Compassion brings the realization of the interconnection of all of life.  That’s what the word comergent conveys, people and life on the planet are interlinked and changes affect the whole of life.

As I experience disruption, and feel the anger to make others’ wrong, I can use my compassion to realize I am interconnected with all of life.  With this awareness, I can gain  awareness on how to act on my values. In my case I see how to move forward  towards health care for all. Instead of being angry at others who disagree, my energy shifts to what’s best for me to do.  It clears my perception, transforms my emotions and gives me clarity on my next actions.  I become wiser. I become unified with other life. The energy in making others wrong is redirected to give me the right view and the right action.  Comergent wisdom.