The Hidden Shadows That Block Our Purpose

Examining the four archetypes in Jungian psychology to understand the hidden shadows that prevent us from moving forward.

by Phil Poole, February 12, 2024
Jungian archetypes

Many people at work are desperately unhappy yet cannot or will not change. Why is this? What makes this change so hard?

It is easy to blame laziness and cowardliness. But the reality is far more nuanced. Often, there are strong primal forces inside us, forces that come from the shadow of our past that stop us from moving forward, and often, we don’t even know they are there.

Let’s split ourselves into four areas:

  • Magician
  • Warrior/Action Taker
  • Sovereign
  • Lover

These are based on the four archetypes in Jungian psychology. Examining each of these allows us to understand the hidden shadows that stop us from moving forward. This article will examine the first three: Magician, Warrior/Action Taker, and Sovereign.


The Magician Archetype is the part of us that is your objective problem solver and advises you in making decisions. It reserves judgment, allows you to see things from different perspectives, and, in doing so, generates new solutions.

The Magician’s shadow is that you are somehow flawed and deficient; something is wrong with you.

This can be the hard, stern voice inside you telling you that you are wrong. That what you want is wrong. It is our inner critic, and it can be harsh.

You can believe you are awful in some way when you listen to this voice. You often experience this feeling of being wrong and deficient as shame.

Shame is an emotion where we become something wrong. We don’t just feel it; we become it, an attack on our identity and our very way of being.

Many of us can face shame when we want to do something different, such as breaking out of a typical career track and choosing to do something different.

I have clients who have succeeded in their lives. They are successful at work; they have a flat/house that makes other people envious. But yet they are desperately unhappy. Their life, though labelled as successful, is not the life they want; they are not living their purpose.

And when they try and mention this to friends, family or even colleagues, what they can receive is veiled shaming.

  • “Why would you want to change, look at how successful you are?”
  • “Perhaps you should seek therapy if you’re unhappy.”
  • “Of course, you mustn’t change. Do you really want to give all this up?”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”

Or perhaps even the look they give before answering.

When we hear these comments from those we hope would affirm or validate us, we feel shame for wanting to do something different. And often, we learn to repress our desires.

But it is not only other people; we can do this to ourselves. Our internal voice of judgment shames us for wanting to do something different.

And this inner critic that shames us can be even more potent than the shame we hear from outside ourselves from other people.

A strong recommendation is to start writing down this inner voice on a paper or in a journal.

Although we hear that voice constantly - as it is inside our heads - it is only when we see this on paper we realise how devastating our inner voice can be.

Then, we can start to change that voice.

What can we do about shame?

I love this quote by Brene Brown:

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

Therefore, we must find others to talk to about these thoughts and feelings to overcome the shame. Find networking events and people who share your values, and go online and speak with people who celebrate who you want to be.

Find those who will validate you and transform that shame into pride for what you stand for and who you are.

Warrior/Action Taker

The Warrior is also known as the action taker. It is the part of yourself that allows you to move forward with purpose and mission in life. It is the part of yourself that gives you a sense of power and agency in the world and to take action.

The word warrior can provide many impressions, both positive and negative. Warriors are the people who go to war and kill. In societies, we have used warriors to idealise conflict and show masculinity’s more toxic side.

But when we speak about the archetypal warrior, we mean a person of integrity. A person who will give themselves to a higher cause – their purpose – and will train to become the best they can be for that purpose.

The gateway emotion to access our inner warrior is anger. When used well, anger allows you to know when your boundaries are crossed so you can defend yourself. Often, if someone struggles to feel anger, they struggle with their warrior.

If you find yourself getting frustrated daily with work, if your frustration is building to anger, and maybe even from anger to rage, it is a clear signal that you might not be working according to your values.

The culture and values of the company are such that they go against your own. Often, this is different from what the company says its values are, but in how it acts and behaves and treats its employers, stakeholders and clients.

Or you may not care about what the company does. You have discussions on things that you talk about, but in all honesty, you really don’t care about it; you are just pretending.

One of the leading shadow states of the warrior can be the thought or feeling that you have no right to exist. That you have no identity.

No right to exist can come from our past:

  • Shame of being different when you were growing up in childhood
  • Shame of your identity
  • Shame that although you are succeeding, you are not enjoying yourself.

This shame can impact you hugely and go into your shadow.

And so if we cannot embrace who we are if we have this shame, how can we move forward?

How to build the warrior

You can build the warrior through boundaries.

Think back to when you were angry with people in the past and objectively understand why you were angry and what boundary of yours did they break. For example, do you value fairness, and you felt someone’s action was unfair or they mistreated you? Or perhaps you prize integrity in someone and felt their actions were not in line with that?

If you feel frustrated where you work, what values are they breaking here? Does this signal what your boundaries are?

Once you explicitly know and understand your boundaries, you can enforce them. When someone goes over your boundaries, you can push back and correct the person.

But it does not matter how much we strengthen our warrior; unless we know our purpose, there is not much it can do. This is where our Sovereign comes in.


Sovereign, Queen, King - these words evoke leadership, a state of grace and dignity. But how often do we see people who hold this energy in real life? Not in our political leaders and not at work.

So, to move into sovereign energy is challenging as we have so few people to see as role models and good examples.

If you need help understanding the Sovereign, I recommend a fantastic movie called The Green Knight. In the movie’s first act, we see King Arthur and Queen Guinevere as the archetypal King and Queen, showing the behaviours of the archetypal king and what you can aim to become.

The primary emotion of the Sovereign is joy. You feel joy when you know your purpose and work towards it daily.

Some people dislike the word joy, so I also like to use the word flow. A flow state is when you do something, and time seems to stop. The work can be challenging and demanding, yet you are in the zone and your element working. This is also joy.

We can often become divorced from the joy in our lives. Many clients I have spoken to struggle initially to know what gives them joy.

A sovereign knows their purpose in life and works towards it. A sovereign living for their purpose uses their energy in the most constructive way possible to build and create their purpose and vision.

Therefore, the only way we can move into our sovereignty is to live our purpose. To fully accept the gold of who we are. The work that truly gives us joy. 

When we talk about the shadow of the sovereign, we must also talk about the golden shadow.

Often, when we have spoken about the shadow, we have talked about the trauma and hurts and that we had to repress part of ourselves.

Part of the shadow is the stuff that makes us extraordinary. This is called our golden shadow. It is our gold.

Often, we have learnt to repress it. Often, when we were young, we learned to hide our light when we received messages such as, ”Don’t get above yourself,” ” Stay small,” and ” Don’t think you are better than us.”

And so we learn to hide our abilities and the magnificence of who we are into our shadow.

And so the things we are good at, the things we like that lead us to our purpose, we have often blocked and repressed.

It might even be when someone compliments us and those things they see inside us that we ignore and forget them, or we become uncomfortable hearing the compliment.


How do we move from our shadows into our sovereign and purpose?

1) Develop integrity and know what you stand for (Warrior)

Part of being a strong sovereign is understanding yourself and acting with integrity. You can only do this when you understand yourself and know your beliefs.

In my coaching, I advise people to:

  • Understand their values and strengths
  • Understand their needs
  • Understand their beliefs

2) Find your purpose and mission (Sovereign)

Once you understand better, you can work towards understanding your purpose.

Three questions I use with clients that help are:

  • If I was to die in a year, what would I regret not doing?
  • What will you remember as having made your life worthwhile on your deathbed?
  • What is my legacy?

Often, our purpose is related to what we enjoy. Sometimes, what we enjoy is what we enjoyed when we were young. Or it can be what we always think about but are too scared to do.

If you want help to find your purpose, I also work as a coach to help people find meaningful life and their purpose.

In doing these first two steps, you can start to accept your gold and the things that make you unique and special, and in doing so, you can start to work towards your purpose.

3) Transform your shame into pride (Magician)

We can feel much shame for feeling different to those around us. Or for being successful but feeling unhappy with our success.

Be mindful of the shame when exploring your identity and purpose. Write this down. Once it’s out of your head on paper, it becomes easier to notice and change these thoughts.

Note down limiting beliefs and insecurities that stop you. Knowing they’re there is the first step in helping to transform them.

Find others to talk to about who share the same passions as you do. Find friends and people who will validate and affirm you!

And watch out for the gold that makes you exceptional, which you hide so well you don’t even realise you do it!

4) Start working towards your purpose and mission (Action Taker/Warrior)

Once you know your purpose, you need to start working towards this. Sometimes, we can have blockers and fears we need to overcome.

Every day, remind yourself of your purpose and what you will do today to move forward.

Set yourself actions and goals for the week that help you achieve your purpose.

Remind yourself of your purpose at the start of the day so you can move through your day with the right intention.

Own your gold

Follow these steps and you will find your purpose and vanquish those hidden shadows so you can start living a life of joy, a life of purpose and a life of impact. A life where you move from those hidden shadows into the light of your gold.

About Phil

Phil is a Coach, Educator and Entrepreneur.

In the past, Phil worked as an international executive in companies such as broadcasters in the UK and startups in Berlin. After moving to Berlin, he found himself depressed and burned out working in a career that, although successful, gave him no joy.

Now, he works as a coach, writer and entrepreneur, living his purpose and helping people find meaningful life and work.

You can find out more about Phil, along with a free download of 6 powerful questions to help you have a meaningful life at work, at