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The Warrior Archetype: Key Traits + Shadows

Let’s look at the Warrior archetype, which is one of the four main masculine archetypes, along with the Magician, Lover and King.

Let’s be clear: an archetype is a collection of behaviours, characteristics and emotions that together constitute a personality or a side of our personality. I like to think of it as a personality template.

We’re all familiar with the Warrior template thanks to history, film, music and culture, and we have a sense of what it means. I invite you to think about what this archetype signifies or represents to you before you read on.

It’s also crucial to reflect on how well you embody this archetype, whatever your gender. Do you lack it (allergy), cling to it (addiction), or find a healthy balance between the two?

That’s something to contemplate as you check out the key traits.

Key Traits of The Warrior Archetype

The defining attribute of this archetype is that it directs its aggression to a noble cause and does all it can to ensure it prevails.

The Warrior is courageous and if necessary will disregard its personal safety to bring a mission to completion. It’s aware of the finiteness of life and can face the cold the reality of death, meaning it has extra energy reserves to draw on when it matters most. It’s resilient and perseverant.

The Warrior’s cause is noble and transcends its own interests. Perhaps its cause is the safety of a city, or the freedom of a country, or a beneficial change in the law. In this sense, it’s different to the Hero, whose cause is self-centred. It stars in the role of protector or defender.

This archetype is an action taker. Buoyed by a strong sense of purpose, it’s able to persist and fight through obstacles when others would throw their purpose overboard. In this role, it doesn’t take no for an answer, and takes great risks in pursuit of its target.

The Warrior is strong physically, emotionally and mentally. It has the fortitude required to slay its enemies and see its cause to completion.

Skill, decisiveness and discipline enable the Warrior to dominate the terrain, avoid self-sabotage and take the right course of action. Though this archetype is action-oriented, if healthy it’s able to plan and strategise so that its efforts are optimally directed.

The Warrior Archetype in Culture

This archetype is celebrated in cultures all around the world, modern and old, in film, stories and allegories. It’s the character that sacrifices themselves for a cause, risks their safety, and embodies the greatest values of the culture. We honour this archetype in real-life warriors, war veterans, activists, and so forth.

Real-life examples of archetypal Warriors are Spartan soldiers and samurai fighters. They risk their lives in the throes of battle. Death is a constant possibility.

We also see the Warrior in the Hero archetype, which is a younger version of the Warrior. The Hero archetype appears in literally hundreds of stories, and shares many aspects with the warrior. As it begins its journey, it’s driven by a noble vision. Then it overcomes all kinds of obstacles, slays the dragon, and eventually takes home the prize.

But all of this is mostly for itself. The mission isn’t self-transcendent. On the other hand, The Warrior does it for a greater mission, for the greater good.

The Warrior archetype is a kind of energy or aspect of our personality that we all express to various degrees.

In our individual lives, it bursts forth at different periods. It brightens in early childhood as we develop our basic sense of self-identity and realise that we can impose ourselves on the world (correlating with Spiral Dynamics Stage Red). It returns in adolescence as we try to free ourselves from our family matrix and find our path in the world (correlating with Spiral Dynamics Stage Orange).

That said, it’s necessary for us to continue integrating and polishing the Warrior throughout our lives. For that, it’s crucial to know about its shadow expressions.

Shadow Expressions

These shadow expressions appear when we are either addicted or allergic to the Warrior. In the first case, we express it too strongly and it becomes malignant. In the latter case, the Warrior is weak or stifled, and we lack the verve and strength that it usually provides.

Addiction: The Sadist, The Villain

A healthy warrior directs its aggression to a noble cause. In its malignant expression, this aggression becomes warped and turns into outright violence decoupled from any cause or greater good.

The Sadist aims to conquer and defeat for selfish gain. It can become brutal and addicted to power, willing to destroy any obstacles in its path, regardless of consequences. Its action, once directed and willed, is now thoughtless and instinctual.

This is what happens when we’re addicted to the Warrior, but we must also be careful not to repress the Warrior.

Allergy: The Masochist

A repression or lack of integration of the Warrior leads to meakness, passivity and powerlessness. We’re unable to go after targets or impose ourselves.

Unfortunately, this is quite a common problem in modern times. We are taught to be nice, to be nice, always sweet and sensitive, placid, agreeable. This is particularly prevalent in spiritual circles, which are often dominated by the postmodern level of development, and which champion sensitive femininity. The Warrior archetype has gone into the subconscious.

Though not identical, repressing the Warrior is very similar to the problem of repressing our anger. It’s a psychoemotional disaster. This archetype becomes a shadow self, a self that is part of us but repressed, cut off, starved of air, rotten. It then directs its aggressive energy against us, as all shadow does, and we feel depressed, sad, attacked.

Covering up and denying these energies inside us is a recipe for a broken psyche, not an integrated, healthy personality.